Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Own Personal Reformation Day

Three years ago today was my final day as a professional pastor. I still find it somewhat ironic that my last day in that capacity falls on Reformation Day. I didn't plan it that way, but I'm glad it happened.

Reformation Day, of course, celebrates in particular the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany. It's also a day to celebrate the Reformation in general.

My own reaction to the Protestant Reformation is a mixed one. On the one hand, I'm thrilled that the Reformers were willing to take a stand for the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a dangerous time that required much courage in their part. We owe much to them. On the other hand, I can't get past the thought that the Reformation didn't go far enough. While the Reformers did much to promote a biblical understanding of salvation, they did not do so for the church. The Reformation model of church life remains very similar to that of Roman Catholicism.

Regarding the church, I'm sort of a protester against at least some Protestant ideas. That should be obvious from reading this blog. However, I don't want to be all about protesting. Despite its faults, there is still a great deal of good that stems from churches that function according to the Protestant model.

My resignation signals a bit of reform in my life. It points to a time when God opened my eyes to what his church can be. At the most basic level, I read in the bible about what the church looked like. I saw the apostles, as part of the early church, giving approval to certain church forms and practices. The Holy Spirit showed me that God has given us a plan for church life. This unavoidably led to my resignation.

I imagine you have had moments like this. I'm guessing that God has from time to time brought about reform in your life when it comes to the church. This probably looks different from person to person, but in the end it comes from the Spirit's conviction. You may not have had a personal Reformation Day, but you likely have had times of reform in your life.

The main reason my last day as a salaried pastor was October 31st was because the local church asked me to stay that long. I actually announced my resignation in mid-September. They asked me to remain to help with some of the transition. I decided to stay another month and a half because I loved them and wanted to serve them as best I could. I'm happy to say that our family departed on good terms with the church body.

Each year as October 31st rolls around I'm reminded of God's great grace in our lives. He gradually reveals to us what his plans are. It marks a crossing of the Rubicon for me. After all, once you resign from being a pastor because you can't find any biblical evidence for it (and tell the church this), it's not likely that any other church will hire you at a later date.

Do you have a personal Reformation day, week, month, year, moment, etc.? I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Christians Should Not Fly This Flag

I live in the South of the U.S.A. My home (Savannah, GA) is a beautiful city with many positives. However, one negative is that some folks who live here have never gotten over the South losing the civil war to the North. Some of these people choose to voice their displeasure by flying the Confederate Battle Flag (see above) at their homes, on their cars (bumper stickers), on their T-shirts, etc. The excuse I often hear is that, for them, this flag stands for Southern heritage.

The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensures that people can fly this flag basically wherever they want to. It is considered a form of free speech. Some take full advantage of this.

The problem with this flag is that for many Americans it stands for something far different than Southern Heritage. To many American blacks it is a reminder that their ancestors were kept in slavery for all their lives. To them it is a sign of hatred and inhumanity.

I'm not surprised that secularists cannot agree on what to do and think about this flag. Satan loves to cause hardship and strife in people's lives. Since he controls the minds of those apart from Christ, the arguments and angst will continue over the Confederate Battle flag.

I'm not a politically correct guy. Anyone who knows me will testify to this. However, my view on this issue happens to fall in line with political correctness. I firmly do not believe that Christians should fly this flag in any way, shape, or form.

The reason I believe this is that the flag is so incredibly offensive to many people. Blacks compose anywhere from 12-14% of the U.S. population. That's a large number of people.

Those who fly this flag say they have the right to do so. At a political level they do. However, we Christians live by a different standard. We are called upon to surrender our rights for the sake of the gospel. The apostle Paul discusses this in detail in I Corinthians chapters 8-9. In I Cor. 9:12 Paul writes, "Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ." The context of these chapters is food sacrificed to idols and financial support for church planters. However, the general principle is clear. We should do nothing that hinders the proclamation of the gospel.

Let's return to the Confederate Battle flag. Why would any Christian fly it? Because it offends so many people, it could easily get in the way of any sort of gospel proclamation to those offended. That is enough of a reason to jettison any connection with this particular flag.

When we moved Georgia seventeen years ago my wife Alice and I were both employed in the public school system. The high school she worked at had as its mascot a confederate soldier (no joke). At football games whenever the home team would score a touchdown a canon was fired. This was quickly followed by the band playing Dixie. The sad irony was that the player scoring the touchdown was usually black. The first line of the song says, "I wish I was in the land of cotton." A black woman standing next to my wife at a game told us that she very much does not wish she was back in the land of cotton.

As followers of Christ we must be willing to surrender any and all rights for the sake of the gospel. Jesus gave up his life for the gospel. The least we Christians can do in the South is not fly a flag that offends millions of people.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Courtship Anyone?

Many years ago my wife Alice and I decided that our children weren't going to do the "dating thing." We'd seen far too much heartache come from dating and wanted to save our kids from this. At the time it was an easy decision; our children were very young.

Fast forward to the present. Our older daughter is now nineteen. I still don't know where the years went. Regardless, she likes a young man and he likes her. He is one of the few non-troll twenty-year-old males in the Savannah area. If he had shown any troll-like tendencies, he'd already be long gone. Amazingly, I actually like him.

They began as friends. After it became clear to all involved that this was more than friendship, Alice and I sat them down to discuss parameters going forward. Basically, we told them that they weren't going to date by modern standards. This was no surprise to our daughter, but it may have shocked the young man a little. Instead of dating, they would be courting. It was that way or no way.

The key to courting is that it has the possibility of marriage as an end goal. It's not just for amusement. It has long-term implications, not simply present time fun. I wondered if the word "marriage" would scare him off. It didn't. Good for him.

For clarification, two people who are courting will not necessarily get married. It might not work out for various reasons. However, that possibility is in place, is discussed, and is a goal. On the other hand, dating is temporal.

Like most things in life, courting can take various forms. I've seen some courtships that seemed too restrictive to me. I've looked at others and wondered how it was any different from dating. I hope Alice and I have hit an appropriate middle point.

Five solid reasons for courting come to mind. Some of these could apply to dating as well, but courting makes it much more feasible:

1. Courting lets everyone get to know everyone. One of the main places our daughter sees her boyfriend (we agreed that "boyfriend" was an acceptable term) is in our living room. We get to see him, too. We don't hover (at least not all the time). Instead of going out on dates alone, they see each other in houses (ours or his family's) where people can spend time talking.

2. Courting takes things slowly. In our society the tendency is for young people to get attached very quickly. Courtship, on the other hand, allows things to progress more slowly and naturally. This is good because if things don't work out (marriage), then the parties involved won't get as hurt.

3. Courting allows for expectations to be made clear. This one can apply easily to dating as well. The parents and the young people can discuss what is involved and what is not. There will be no confusion.

4. Courting gives opportunity for discipleship. Since much of the activity takes place in the home, there is time for discipleship to take place. This can take many different forms, but the end goal is that both young people grow closer to Christ. Actually, the goal is that everyone involved (including parents, siblings, etc.) grows closer to Christ.

5. Courting reduces temptation. Since the young people are together only when others are around, it automatically reduces temptation. When young people go out on dates alone, all sorts of things can happen. We want our children to avoid these types of situations. It will lead to less heartache going forward into marriage.

The word courtship tends to scare some people away. It brings up images of ultra-strict fundamentalist families who lock their daughters away until age twenty-five. I want nothing to do with that. Frankly, I'm not even hung up on using the word courtship. Alice and I choose to use it because it differentiates from today's dating practices.

It is God's decision whether or not he wants our children to get married. He obviously knows what is best for them. Alice and I want to help them reach adulthood with no regrets when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. We also want to help them get to know and possibly marry other Christian young people.

So far, by the grace of God, things are going well in our family's first courtship. I praise God for that.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

25 Things That Will Occur in the American Church During the Next 25 Years

As I think about the church in this country, I am optimistic. That may seem surprising since a good number of my posts have a negative tone (I'm working on changing that). I'm optimistic for two reasons. First, the church belongs to Jesus Christ. He is going to accomplish his will for his church and nothing is going to hinder that. Second, Christendom is rapidly disintegrating. It's basically gone in Europe, and we're nearing the end in the USA. The church is always healthier when it doesn't have preferred status in secular society.

Over the next twenty-five years many changes will occur within the church in this country. For the most part those changes will, I believe, be for the better. The following is a list of twenty-five things we will see as we move forward. The list is a mix of positive and negative, and is in no particular order:

1. Churches will get bigger (mega-churches) and smaller (simple churches).

2. Church attendance will decline.

3. More and more Christians will not attend anywhere.

4. Christians will increasingly search for real, meaningful relationships.

5. For an increasing number of believers, relationships will trump doctrine.

6. The gospel will be viewed as primary, with other doctrines taking on less and less importance.

7. Women will play an ever increasing and important role in the life of the church.

8. The definition of discipleship will shift from head knowledge to obedience.

9. Persecution will increase; religious liberty will continue to erode.

10. Churches will become more and more technology-driven.

11. Because of cost the USA will send fewer missionaries overseas.

12. American churches will fund an increasing number of national missionaries in their home countries.

13. More missionaries from other countries will come to the USA.

14. Denominational lines will blur.

15. Numerous seminaries will close; those remaining will grow larger.

16. Clergy will decrease in significance, while the laity rises.

17. More and more paid pastors will become bi-vocational.

18. The Republican Party will distance itself from conservative Christians.

19. Churches will lose financial breaks from the government.

20. False teaching will increase.

21. Churches will gather in increasingly non-traditional locations.

22. Good works will increase.

23. Churches will increasingly care more for the poor and needy.

24. Churches will become more and more ethnically diverse.

25. Unity within the Christ's church as a whole will increase significantly.

What do you think? Am I wrong about anything? Did I leave anything out?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Blogging the Truth in Love

It's fairly easy to blog about the truth. It's also fairly easy to blog in a loving manner. The challenge is to blog about the truth in loving manner.

In Ephesians chapter 4 we run into that famous little phrase, "speaking the truth in love." (Click here to read it in context.) Speaking is a form of communication that has potential to build up and tear down. Blogging, in our electronic age, is much the same as speaking. We convey messages. We send information out for all to see. We either build up or we tear down.

Ephesians 4 applies to blogging just as much as it does to speaking.

How, then, can we follow the Ephesians 4 principle for communication when it comes to blogging? We could take the easy way out and just stop blogging about anything of significance. This, however, misses the point. Paul didn't tell us to stop speaking the truth. We should be able to blog about important issues in a loving manner. Even when it comes to controversial and often emotional topics (such as the church), we Christian bloggers must find a way to write in a compassionate, caring manner.

How can we do this? Let me make a suggestion.

I suggest looking to scripture as a model for how to deal with tough issues.  Look at how Jesus talked. Look at how the writers of the epistles wrote. Jesus and the biblical writers all communicated about difficult issues but did so in a respectful, loving manner. Two of Paul's letters stand out as prime examples. First, Paul directly but lovingly challenged the Galatians about their understanding of the true gospel. Several years later Paul wrote to the Philippian church due to their problem with disunity. In that epistle Paul goes so far as to call out by name two ladies who were involved in the problem. Despite this, Paul still does it in such a way that his message comes across as a loving one.

This is how we must blog. Especially when we are discussing the things of God, we have no choice but to write about the truth lovingly. This is, of course, easy to do when we are talking about things we like and/or agree with. I could easily and lovingly write for hours about simple church concepts, ideas, forms, practices, etc. I have a much harder time writing in a loving way about things I don't believe in. In particular, it is tough to lovingly and gracefully blog about institutional church ways of doing things. Despite the challenge, there is no option.

When blogging on church issues, it is important that we remember that all believers are part of the one body of Christ. This means that the One who unites us is greater than anything that divides us. Therefore, when writing about the institution we must recall that we are writing about our brothers and sisters in Christ. We've been repeatedly charged in scripture to speak words that build up. Blogging has the power to do this.

The Ephesians 4 passage is ultimately about edification and Christian maturity. Our goal as Christian bloggers can and should be to build up the body through our writing. We must find a way to discuss difficult issues in a manner that is gracious, loving, and edifying. If we cannot do this, we should stop blogging.

So let's talk about tough issues. Let's discuss what we don't agree upon. Let's sort through all kinds of church related stuff. And let's do it in a gracious, caring, loving manner that displays our unity as God's family.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Out of the Cage

I once heard it said that when a person becomes a Calvinist, he needs to be locked in a cage for a couple of years. This is designed to cure him of being so annoying. Confession time: I could have used some time in a cage after I first embraced the doctrines of grace. Yes, I was kind of a pain. Mercifully, that lasted for only a couple of years. I'm no longer consumed with Calvinism.

It could also be said that when a person becomes convinced of simple church principles he should, like the new Calvinist, be placed in a cage for a few years. As mentioned above, this is to help him get over his new arrogance. It's to keep him from bludgeoning other believers with his new convictions about church. Sad to say, I probably should have been sent to a cage. I cringe a bit over some of what I've written on this blog. Some has been too harsh. Some was foolish.

This is not to say that I no longer hold strongly to simple church principles and practices. I most certainly do. However, going forward I intend to write (and live) in a more positive manner. When it comes to conversations about the church, I hope to listen more and try to convince less. I'm over trying to be an ambassador for simple church. I just want to be an ambassador for Christ.

I think, by the grace of God, that it's finally O.K. for me to come out of the cage.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Some Kind of Wonderful

The church both is and can be a wonderful thing.

The church is wonderful because God has made it so. It is all of his redeemed. It is his creation. Since God has done it, it can be nothing other than amazing. When looking at it this way, we see that it is God who is wonderful in and of himself. The church is only wonderful as a connection to God's wonderfulness (not really a word, but it conveys the meaning I'm looking for).

God's church also has the potential to be a wonderful thing. This is the living out part of being who we already are in Christ. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you've probably seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of church life. The potential for much good is there. So is the potential for much of the opposite.

What does it look like, then, when the church acts in a wonderful way?

Quite simply, the church is some kind of wonderful when we love the people around us as Jesus did. At first, that may sound cliche. However, it is anything but. It is a very profound and rare thing for people to actually live and act like Jesus toward others. Jesus Christ consistently gave of himself for the betterment of others. He looked to their good before his own. God in the flesh lived an essentially homeless existence for three years, constantly relieving the pain and suffering of others. He also taught life-changing truths. As a culmination, he sacrificed his own life in a horrendous manner so that we can know him.

The church, then, is most wonderful when we act like Christ. It's when we serve others instead of ourselves. We should not be surprised by this. Jesus told us that it is the servants who are great in his kingdom:

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

Let's all make a conscious decision to live out our part as Christ's church. It is not ultimately the form of the church that makes it wonderful (although this certainly matters). Rather, it is first our connection to Christ. Second, it is our servanthood to each other and to the world. When we live like Jesus, it is a rare and wonderful thing indeed.

(Credit for this post title goes here.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cease Arguing

Can we as the body of Christ stop arguing about cessationism and continualism? Please?

Many Christians exist on both sides of this issue. Many great teachers within the faith fall on both sides. We could probably all find a decent amount of biblical support for both positions.

In light of this, will the church please stop arguing about it?

Now that John MacArthur's conference is concluded (I didn't watch or listen to it), let's get back to being a united body of Christ. We've been charged with edifying other believers, relieving the suffering of the hurting, and proclaiming the gospel to the lost. These things are critical.

Quite frankly, it's just not that important whether or not we believe, for example, that speaking in tongues is still valid. We can discuss it, but let's not fight about it. Too much is at stake to divide the bride of Christ over something so insignificant.

FYI: I'm a continualist. However, it's not something I think about a whole lot. I'm much more concerned that you love Jesus Christ than that you think a certain way about spiritual gifts.

This is not an issue to argue about. Civil discussion is great, but the name calling and questioning of salvation must cease and desist. We have too much work to do for the kingdom to spend time dividing the body.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Not All Mission Trips Are Created Equal

Mission trips have the potential for much good. However, not all mission trips are created equal.

While mission trips almost always begin with good intentions, the end results vary quite a bit. Some mission trips leave much accomplished in the area visited. Others leave no visible imprint. Because mission trips often require quite a bit of time and money, it's important that much thought goes into the trips prior to departure.

My wife Alice and I took part in a two week mission trip to India in 2005. I've also been on trips to Huntington, WV and Rochester, NY. Having been in the church almost all my life, I've seen and heard about many, many different mission trips. Below I've listed seven principles that, if followed, can help almost any mission trip do much good.

1. Understand the culture. A mission trip to India will look different from a trip to Tanzania. A trip to England will not be the same as a trip to the Czech Republic. Additionally, tribal groups within countries often have vast differences between them. The best way to handle this is to learn as much as possible before the trip, and then engage the culture with humility when arriving. Be willing to learn from the moment you reach your destination.

2. Determine a specific purpose. Trips differ widely based on why they are occurring. Ensure that a clear definition is in place before making the trip. Wasted time is a terrible thing once on the ground in another part of the world.

3. Assist the missionaries already in country. Follow their lead. If Christian missionaries are already on the ground, they will know far more about the needs of the people than will anyone back here. The best mission trips ask the missionaries how they can be helped, and then do exactly what the missionaries say. Be willing to work across denominational lines. Those differences matter little when the gospel is at stake.

4. Partner with local churches. If possible, partner with Christians in the place where you are headed (if you know of any there). The nationals will know infinitely more about the culture than anyone else. They may have specific, concrete needs that can be met. Take their advice.

5. Set a goal of lasting service. Determine to do something that matters. Serve in a real way. Ask for ideas from the missionaries and/or national Christians. Try to relieve suffering. While doing these things, proclaim the gospel whenever the Spirit leads.

6. Remember that a mission trip is not a sightseeing venture. Mission trips are times of hard work, semi-discomfort, and potential tummy trouble. They are are full of spiritual warfare. Be on guard spiritually, and be ready to work hard. You can sleep a lot after getting home. Set aside some limited time for visiting somewhere fun (if available), but the rest of the time should be full of serving others.

7. Avoid creating dependency. We in the West live fairly comfortable, wealthy lives (at least compared to the majority of the world's population). When serving overseas, we must avoid doing anything to create dependency. The local believers must be able to sustain any changes by themselves. This can be complicated. However, it is a must.

Not all mission trips are created equal. Following the above seven principles will help do some lasting good.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

One Reason We Fail to Show Compassion to Those Struggling With Homosexuality

All human beings are sinners. Some of us have been saved by the grace of God. Despite this, we all still sin. When we reach heaven some day it will be easy to not sin. For now, however, the struggle continues.

Since we are all sinners, it seems that we would show compassion to other people struggling with sin. We do this, but not equally. While the church (the body of Christ) in general sympathizes with some sin struggles, it doesn't with others. Sins are not treated equally. Sexual sins are seen as the worst. Homosexuality in particular is viewed as a sort of "king of all sins." Why is this?

(I'd like to clarify something for a moment. I'm not suggesting that homosexual behavior is acceptable. It is in fact sinful. In this post I'm not talking about people who have fully embraced the homosexual lifestyle. Instead, I'm specifically talking about folks who struggle with homosexual temptations and may even engage in homosexual behavior from time to time. These people are struggling with it, fighting against, but occasionally give in to temptation.)

I believe we fail to show compassion to those struggling with homosexuality because most of us have never faced that kind of temptation.

We like to say that we are against homosexuality because the bible condemns it. However, let's be honest for a moment. We speak harshly against homosexuality because we are grossed out by it. It just seems yucky to us. Therefore, we show little compassion toward people who struggle with it.

Let's take a different example. What about bitterness? Ephesians 4:31 says, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." How do we treat those who tend to be bitter? We show them all sorts of grace. We rarely speak out against it. Why? The reason is that almost all of us are tempted toward bitterness about something in our lives. We understand the temptation. It doesn't seem so vile to us because we fall prey to the same sin.

As we think about how to respond to those with homosexual temptations, we must be truthful with ourselves. We have a problem. That problem is lack of compassion. We must speak the truth in love. Our tendency is to speak about homosexuality with no love whatsoever. Who set us up as judge and jury? God is the judge.

Let's first take the plank out of our own eyes. Only then can we speak both truthfully and lovingly. We ought to treat sins the same, and respond to them as led by scripture. Homosexuality is a sin, but so is bitterness. Do we condemn the one but give the other a free pass? Ironically, bitterness may actually do more damage to the church than homosexuality.

We must be careful not to lump together those who are struggling with homosexual feelings with those who embrace the homosexual lifestyle. Both groups need the grace of God. Both need to repent. However, there is a significant difference.

To sum up, let's not let our own gross out tendencies determine how we respond to sin. Let's speak truthfully and compassionately to those struggling with homosexuality. Let's show them the love of Christ. Only through him will they overcome this temptation.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A New Category

I've added a new category to this blog. The name is simply Nothing To Do With Church. Occasionally I run into something I want to share just for the fun of it. The following short video is a good example of this:

Books of the Bible as the Periodic Table

This chart's design is based on this chart.  Thanks again to Tim Challies for putting this together.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Problem With Christ

We use the term "Jesus Christ" all the time. We know who Jesus of Nazareth was and is. However, do we know what "Christ" means?

Does it mean anointed? Does it mean Messiah? Is it simply Jesus' last name? Or, does it mean something else altogether? The author of this book, Christopher Gorton, has a very high view of Jesus. It is our understanding of the word Christ that he has a problem with. Gorton's main point in this book is that most English speaking Christians do not know what Christ truly means. According to Gorton, this is due to poor bible translation and transliteration. The author states that Christ should actually be translated as "King."

Gorton puts a solid amount of information into a relatively short book (about 100 pages). This text is a quick and enjoyable read. While you may not agree with the author's conclusions, his arguments will make you think. I'm still not sure what I believe on this issue. The fact that I'm still thinking about it tells me that this is a book worth reading.

I highly recommend this book to all Christians. You can purchase it here for less than ten bucks.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Beware the Opposite Syndrome

The Opposite Syndrome is something we all have to avoid. It's a theological and ecclesiological illness that can attack and sicken any of us. If we are not on guard, it has the potential to render all our church-related decision making predictable and pointless.

What is the Opposite Syndrome? It's a condition that causes a Christian to make decisions, come to conclusions, and/or take actions simply because they are the opposite of what others have done. This condition in particular impacts those believers who embrace simple/church/organic church principles. Too often these folks slide into decisions simply because they are opposite of what they see in the institutional church.

Some examples:

-Rejecting human leadership because the institution embraces multiple levels of human leadership.
-Ignoring giving to the church (the body) because the institution collect tithes and offerings.
-Meeting only in homes because the institution gets together in huge buildings.
-Rejecting any form of monologue teaching because the institution loves monologue sermons.
-Keeping families together at all times because the institution separates by age.
-Abhorring programs because the institution thrives on them.
-Ignoring the relevance of church history because the institution cherishes it.

These are just a few examples. There are many, many more.

My concern is that many of us who are trying to follow the biblical model for church life are, in fact, failing to do so. Some of this failure stems from how we make decisions. Because it is easy to do, we fall into the trap of just doing the opposite of what we see in institutional churches. A much wiser course of action is searching the scriptures to find out what we should do. This, of course, is what we say we do all the time. However, we know better. Sometimes we take the easy way out.

What can we do about this? My suggestion is that, as much as is possible, we simply ignore what we see occurring in institutional churches. When it comes to any issue let's turn a blind eye. Then we need to open our bibles and diligently search. We may find, much to our surprise, that we should end up doing some things much like institutional churches already do. In many ways we won't. Regardless, let's try to always let scripture drive our decision making.

Beware the Opposite Syndrome. It's a real danger that can wreak havoc in the simple church.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The One Anothers in Visual Form

I copied (with permission) this graphic from Tim Challies' excellent blog. According to Tim, "The New Testament contains at least 40 passages that contain the words one another and each one points to a way that Christians are to treat, or are not to treat, each other. This graphic seeks to display the whole lot of them."

Monday, October 7, 2013

No Beer Before Noon

On Sunday mornings we frequently drive to friends' homes to gather as the body of Christ. While on the way, our family usually stops at a nearby convenience mart for drinks. For me it's almost always a Coke (hey, I live in Georgia).

A few Sundays ago as I was getting a Coke out of a refrigerator I noticed something odd. The coolers nearby that contain the beer were locked. Specifically, some sort of rod was placed across the handles to keep the coolers closed. No one was allowed to buy alcohol at that time. When I've gone in that store at other times of the week the coolers have appeared to be open (nothing blocking them).

I asked at the counter about this. In our county no alcohol can be bought between midnight and noon on Sundays. Any other day of the week is fine, just not Sundays.

This particular law is one of those blue laws that I'm still amazed exists in the USA. This law is based on the mistaken idea that people should not be drinking, but instead should be in church on Sunday morning. Remember that I live in the Bible Belt.

Laws of this type are a last holdover of Christendom. They are an attempt by some to impose their own Christian-ish morality upon secular society. The intent is to force unbelievers to act like believers (as if buying alcohol or attending worship services has anything to do with biblical Christianity anyway).

As followers of Christ, we are not called to fight culture wars. Jesus never expected the secular world to act like members of his kingdom. Instead, Christ desires people who will give all to follow him. Culture is changed one person at a time through the gospel of Christ. It is gospel, not law, that saves.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Quick Life Update

I haven't given an update in a while, so here's a brief one:

We are doing well. I continue to work at JCB here in Savannah as a Quality Team Leader. My wife Alice homeschools our two younger children, who are now both in highschool. Our oldest attends AASU and lives at home. Both our daughters work at Chick-fil-A part time (yum!). Various homeschool activities keep us busy as well; for example, we're going on a family campout in November. Additionally, we like to go to the beach, walk around the historic district, and read a lot.

Regarding church stuff, we are in a constant learning process. Alice and I continue to find out new things about what the church is, what it is not, and what it can and should be. Like many of you, we've moved way past the institutional phase. We simply want to be an active part of the organism. We desire to continuously grow closer to Jesus Christ and help our brothers and sisters do the same.

We gather with a small group of other families. This doesn't happen every week, but does as the schedule permits. We meet in a simple manner, trying to follow the biblical model. Alice and I don't view this small group as our church. Rather, we see all Christians as part of Christ's church. Therefore, we enjoy fellowship with all brothers and sisters whenever we have the opportunity.

To sum up: we're doing well, we're busy, and we're still learning.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Six Blog Posts Worth Your Time

Here's a quick list of some excellent blog posts that I've stumbled upon recently. Some are older than others, but all are worth reading. In no particular order:

What IS an Anabaptist?!?!

Listening to our Anabaptist Brethren

Do simple/organic churches need a “covering”?

How to Sustain a Healthy Simple Church Community

Tithing $50,000,000,000

Jerry Rankin Receives Lifetime Achievement Award
-When my wife Alice and I were appointed as IMB missionaries we got to know Dr. Rankin a little bit. He and his wife Bobbye are sweet and gracious people. They were kind and encouraging to us as we began our venture. Dr. Rankin accomplished much as head of the IMB. He is deserving of this award.

A Danger We Must All Avoid

Thanks to Frank Viola for this one.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Something Different This Thanksgiving

We usually have a big family gathering on Thanksgiving. My parents live here in Savannah. My sister and her family do as well. We do many of the usual things on Thanksgiving: talk, eat, talk, eat, watch football, talk, nap, talk, eat, and talk. It's pretty typical stuff.

This year we've decided to do something different for our family gathering. Instead of the norm described above, this year's will have more planning. While we usually sit wherever we want, this year the seating will be in rows. My daughter, who's good with computers, will put together a bulletin of sorts to tell us what's going to happen when. As we sit quietly, my mother will welcome us all to my parents' home. My wife Alice, who is talented musically, will then lead us all in singing some songs. Next, we'll take up an offering to cover the utility costs of our time together. Finally, I will speak for about thirty minutes about whatever I'm led to say. Afterward, we'll talk for five or ten minutes. Then we'll all hurry back to our own homes to eat.

I'm not sure whether or not we'll like this new idea for a family get-together on Thanksgiving. I guess we'll just see what happens.