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A Little Fire, a Great Forest

Ever since there have been people, there have been opinions. And ever since there has been more than one person, there have been diverse opinions. Diverse opinions often clash. Harsh language is as old as the Fall. Debates are nothing new. Believers have always been urged to guard our speech, and few (if any) of us have ever maintained a clean record in that regard. It is unbelievably easy to let careless words slip now and then. History is full of well-intentioned people who needed to learn when to put a sock in it. So really, this is a very old topic.

But now we have smartphones. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in James

 

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A Better Reference Point for Modesty

I’m writing this post as part of the #ModestyRules Synchroblog. (Image source)

So many voices, so little clarity, so much needless hurt

Modesty is, and always has been, important to me. Perhaps it’s because of my cautious nature and reserved personality. Perhaps we could find a more spiritual cause. In any case, as young as two and three years old, I was averse to showing my belly button. When I became a teenager, and a whole new world of clothing options opened to me, I was petrified of ending up in something indecent. As an adult, I now minister in contexts that regularly put me on a stage, in front of a class, or even in front of cameras — all of which require a conservative dress code.

I say this to affirm: I like dressing modestly. It’s my default. I find no “freedom” in the idea of wearing skimpier, flashier things.

Yet even so, as I think back over the messages I was taught about modesty in my teens, and the sort of messages that get blogged and reblogged today, I’m troubled. Any teaching about modesty must, of course, first define what it is. When you strip away all the lists of rules, the hemlines, the necklines, and the spaghetti straps, what exactly is modesty, and why do we care about it?

The answer to that question, almost universally, has been this: Modesty means adequately covering up your body so that you don’t cause your brothers to stumble.

I would suggest — in fact, I would insist – that this definition is a problem. A big one. There’s a lot that could be said about this, but for the sake of time, I want to focus on four reasons we need to change our reference point:

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Easter: It’s More

Every year around this time, we can count on bumper-sticker-worthy quips and sermonettes reminding us that Easter is about more than egg-laying bunnies and candy. Most people–even if they don’t believe it–have heard this. So I’ll trust that we’re all on the same page here, and move on to what’s been occupying my heart this pre-dawn Easter morning.

Easter is more.

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Mine! Mine!

Alternatively titled, “What you won’t hear the Apostle Paul say.”

I’ve been chewing on this for a little while as I work my way through Paul’s epistles. During this project, I’ve discovered a funny side effect of getting to know the biblical authors better: I get annoyed when people say things about them that I don’t think are true. In this case, I found myself chafing at a rather pervasive idea commentators seem to have have about Paul. Many of them consider him to be quite possessive of the churches he planted.

At one level, I can see how they could arrive at this conclusion. With texts like these…

Ga 4:16-17; 5:12 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. …I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!

2Co 10:13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us–a sphere which especially includes you.

2Co 11:5 For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles…

2Co 12:11 …I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles…

…it’s easy to walk away with the idea that Paul was a little jumpy about losing his ministry base. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians

 

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?-ianity

I saw an article on the BBC News website last week that described the church service of Klaas Hendrikse, an agnostic reverend in the Netherlands.

Go back and re-read that if you like. Agnostic. Reverend. Yes. Seriously. As in an agnostic who is a preacher. As in, a man who runs a church but does not believe that we can know that God is real. He also doesn’t believe in any kind of afterlife.

According to this article, 1 in 6 Dutch ministers in the Protestant Church of the Netherlands self-identify as either agnostic or atheist.

One of these ministers, a lady named Kirsten Slettenaar, does not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Yet she defends this stance by claiming that, while she may be going against what the church has historically said, this position is not not changing the “real meaning of Christianity” [source].

I was flummoxed. I mean, surely it doesn’t take a doctorate-level theologian to realize that changing our understanding of Christ changes the real meaning of Christianity. But here it was, by two separate people in one article — the claim that Christianity is only tangentially related to Jesus Himself. There is even a third person interviewed whose two cents are that “The Church has to be alert to what is going on in society[...] it has to change to stay Christian.”

I couldn’t help but gawp at the article. People are seriously trying to practice Christianity while denying Christ — and not in the subtle sense of confessing one thing while secretly believing another, but in the outright, explicit denial that He was the Son of God, or that He ever existed at all, while claiming to adhere to His religion anyway.

Have we really become so dull that we don’t see the non-sequiturs we’re spouting in order to try to stay relevant?

About this time, morbid curiosity kicked in and I navigated over to Google, wondering what the general tone of the interwebs was about this subject. I typed in “Christianity is all about”, and let autocomplete suggest the rest of the sentence for me, just to see. The first three suggestions were: “love // relationship // forgiveness”.

So according to Professor Google, Christianity is all about love. Christianity is all about relationship. Christianity is all about forgiveness.

Except it isn’t, because it’s not called Lovianity, Relationshipianity, or Forgivnianity.

I’m glad Professor Google does not teach at seminaries. But at the same time, I feel worried that his intellectual buddies might be.

Christianity doesn’t mean anything without Christ as its beginning and end. Yes, He loves us and empowers us to love Him and one another. Yes, He wants to be in real relationship with us. Yes, He forgives us of our sins. But those things are all conditional on Him being who He is. If He’s not God, He has no authority to forgive us for our iniquities committed against God. If He never rose from the dead, or if He never really existed, it doesn’t matter if we think He loved us or not. If He failed to live up to the shocking and exclusive things He said about Himself, then He is not a teacher to be followed.

Without Christ, Christianity becomes meaningless. There’s literally nothing left. You can’t redefine or dismiss Jesus without cutting yourself off from the Head from whom the whole body of Christ grows (Eph 4:15-16).

In an age where “common ground” is sought at all costs, where absolute truth is frowned upon, and where popular moral relativity trumps religious conviction, we have got to be sure of not just what we believe, but whom we believe. Christianity is not about living a good life and being nice to people. It’s about Jesus the Messiah — the Anointed One — the Christ — fully God and fully Man, who really was born, really lived, was crucified, buried and resurrected. And there can be no compromise about that.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Real Life According to Paul: Your Conscience is My Problem

Some of you might remember that I’m on a journey of actively trying to make friends with the Apostle Paul. It’s going well. Paul is great. He’s spiritually deep. He’s got a servant’s heart. He has a really sharp wit. He loves to burst into praise of the greatness of God in the middle of his theological expositions.

I’m also finding that a lot of people have a wrong first impression of Paul. Over years of modern proof-texting, Paul has accrued the reputation of being a lofty spiritualist. While he certainly is godly, and has intelligence and spiritual insight to spare, he is not lofty. He’s very down to earth, and he knows how to grapple with the nitty-gritty of everyday life. His pastoral heart shines through in his epistles. He’s not just writing theory — he’s dealing with the real lives of real people. To him, Christianity doesn’t need to be reconciled with “real life” — he expects it to transform and dictate the way that life takes place.

Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than in the book of 1 Corinthians. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2011 in 1 Corinthians, Bible

 

Going Gaga* for False Justice (and Digital Farms, Apparently)

So I was going about my own business the other day, clicking a link to YouTube, when — as often happens on YouTube these days — a commercial began playing. Before I had any indication of what I was in for, I first noticed that this commercial was several minutes long. I thought that surely nothing on earth could be so awesome that some advertising company should presume that people would actually be willing to sit through almost two and a half minutes of YouTube commercial for it. Ha ha. Silly advertising company.

So, naturally, I proceeded to watch the whole thing.

Score one for the marketing team.

At first, I wasn’t clear on what the commercial was for. There was a very pleasant, homey feel about the opening scenes. There was an interview of a pleasant, laid-back farmer, a man who seemed to emanate the down-to-earth simple wisdom of someone who’s spent a lot of time behind a plow making an honest living. “I’m John,” he says. “I have lived here my whole life.”

Aww, that’s nice. At this point, I’m anticipating an ad for either butter, sausage, biscuits, organic foods, or a documentary about organic food.

John proceeds to tell us that he and the neighbors weren’t exactly too sure what to think of Lady Gaga when she first came to town.

Hang on, what?

Now I haven’t the slightest clue what to do with what I’m seeing and hearing. Maybe Lady Gaga is releasing a new album. Like, a country album. Maybe she’s trying to prove she’s not just for the young, crazy teens. Maybe she’s doing a concert tour of rural America. Maybe farm folk are trying to prove that they really can run with the hip young kids. Maybe Lady Gaga did some kind of community outreach thing in a small town where she helped pick soy beans and milk cows and pose with a tractor or something to support local growers.

Oh, how wrong I was. How very, very wrong. Nothing could have prepared me for the fact that what I was watching was an ad for…

GagaVille.

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Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
 
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