Monthly Archives: July 2010

Lordship Salvation, Trinity Reinforcement, & Minkowski Space

Some random thoughts taken from Mark 12: 35-37

As Jesus was teaching in the temple area he said,
“How do the scribes claim that the Christ is the son of David?
David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said:
The Lord said to my lord,
‘Sit at my right hand
until I place your enemies under your feet.’
David himself calls him ‘lord’;
so how is he his son?”
The great crowd heard this with delight.

Wrench Tossing

Lordship Salvation depends on our own personal works*… then what about Jesus pre-existance? What about Davids not so cool works with Bathsheba and Urriah the Hittite?

Trinity Reinforcement

This is majorly profound… normally John is trinity intensive, this section from Mark is way cool too, it takes things out of the temporal realm, into the eternal one.

Delighted Crowds…?

I heard such, and was unaware of the space/time four vector, rather than being delighted, I’d be going ??? Then again, if Jesus told the crowds back then about Minkowski space, they would likewise not be any too delighted and be going ??? as well. Then again, it might well be the enemies under feet thing too.

*John MacArthur has an excellent book where he explains that Lordship Salvation is not salvation by works… on the other hand, I read it four times, and it seemed more so to indicate salvation was by works. The early church fathers condemned Pelagianism, as did the Council of Trent… yet history seems to repeat itself just with slightly different verbiage. Go figure

Hunger in the Gut, Dog food and Gold

Some weeks back I wrote about fire in the gut for Christ, and how it often manifest’s itself in the young. Sadly though, it seems so much of the same hunger in much of the rest of Christian society is lacking. In some cases, I’ve even seen Christian society go so far as to throw spiritual food away, or mix it with dog food so as to make it less palatable for the youngsters. In other cases, I’ve seen society serve up gold bars to serve as a distraction.

I sort of wonder if its a fear and self protection thing that is showing up. The dogfood mixers and gold servers may have the best intentions in their actions… they dont want to see the young get hurt, so they try to mitigate any and all risk and avoid challenge at nearly all costs. They dont want to see the young following Christ as the apostles did, ie being content with only food, and the clothes on their back, rather they want to see the young become the next Warren Buffet, or at least possess a Mercedes, a home in suburbia, a successful spouse, and a couple kids.

I read the following comment some time back as concerns a scandal, and I think it makes a lot of sense in describing Christian society. Since the scandal is not the issue, but more so the response to it, I’m making some edits to make the following pretty generic.

Such a mystery, how God used even xxxx’s evil intent to generate much good. Makes me feel like I don’t have near as much good to show for my life as the evil xxxx. What is the difference between us? I am perhaps not as great a sinner, but I am also not as great an apostle for Christ (even if his greatness as an apostle was inadvertant).

It would be tragic if Christians draw the conclusion from the xxxx mess that they must be timid, lest they be tempted. It would be tragic if Christians draw the conclusion from the xxxx mess that they had best not stick their necks out, lest their heads be lopped off.

Busy-ness, Distraction or Zeal, Thoughts on Mary & Martha

My last blog entry was on fire in the gut… and to keep if from becoming a novel, I left off a couple key bits. There is fire in the gut for Christ, and there are disguises of such which can be pretty counterproductive. On the surface, it can be pretty hard to distinguish between the two, but internally… a little discernment can go a long way.

Mary and Martha

Sometime the USCCB lectionary, and the RCL line up… a couple weeks was one of those, so I heard about Mary and Martha over four services! In 15 second elevator speech summary mode, Jesus was hanging out with Mary and Martha. While Mary focused on Jesus, Martha, was so busy getting all the ducks in a row with worry and distraction, she sort of blew hospitality 101, ie focus on your guest(s). Martha also wasnt too gung ho on Mary not helping, so she asked Jesus to intervene. Jesus then explained that Martha was missing the point.

4 messages… and busy-ness

Whats cool is… I heard four very distinct messages all on the same text, albeit differing pastors varied as to how much of the other texts were included, but the Gospel lesson was very common amongst all of them.

I want to focus on BUSY-ness, as it goes back to the fire in the gut thing, but also may help us discern as to what might be trouble.

We’ve all seen the over scheduled, every day in some church activity individuals. (fwiw, I’ve been one) It may well be such folks have a zeal for Christ approaching the giants of the faith, or it may be they are so wound up with distraction (even good distractions), they end up in the same boat as Martha. Ie, they are so busy, they dont have time to stop at Jesus feet. So lets look at some scenarios that set the stage for Martha mode.

Misguided Sin Avoidance Busy-ness

No youth leader wants to ring up millstones by causing a young one to stumble… and by anti-stumbling, often times the first thing that comes to mind is sin avoidance. Ie, if you schedule enough busy type activities when running a lock-in or even summer camp, the kids will be so tired, they will fall sound asleep, and the probability of having a couple characters sneak off to raid the kitchen or worse etc when you think the group is sleeping (and you and your peers are exhausted and your guard is down) is drastically reduced. Yet, overscheduling is almost setting the stage for stumbling by encouraging Martha type behavior rather than Mary type behavior. Worse, is that such overscheduling prevents, rather than encouraging sitting at Jesus feet, and just listening to Him.

Fleeing from Temptation via Busy-ness

I tend to align with the old saying, albeit it has rather lame scriptural support, is that an idle mind is the devils workshop. Put folks at idle… and it seems bad things start to multiply. I’ll also concede, if one goes into distraction seeking mode (even church or ministry distraction mode), rather than sitting at Jesus feet… thats not cool either. Fleeing from temptation, while a good thing in and of itself, if it results in faith activity busy-ness alone and no time for Jesus is insanely counterproductive.

Pride and Competition via Busy-ness

Pride and competition can also serve to foster business, especially when measurements are involved. If competition or pride get involved, even the best intentions can end up going south pretty fast, exponentially so if Jesus is left out of the picture.

Bad Stewardship via Busy-ness

I fully believe Parkinson’s law applies to nearly any ministry context. Ie ministry needs will expand to consumer all available time plus 20%… and it can be a real killer if one isn’t careful. Granted, sometimes such is just the way things roll. If a youngster attempts suicide at 11PM… its not like you can just blow him and his family off. Same deal with tragic car accidents… yet, other situations are often the result of hosed up stewardship, either not enough resources, or not enough planning. The work of the Kingdom has to go on… but if it takes out the ministers time to sit in front of Jesus, then we have a major problem.

A possible answer?

So whats an answer… Ecclesiastes says there is a time for all seasons… and if one just adds a tiny bit of human reason, the creation of hard decks becomes a logical outcome. In simplest terms, rigorous scheduling, such that there is always time to sit at Jesus feet, works. The early apostles knew this, and they followed it to a T, just look at the scheduled prayer times called out throughout the book of Acts. In today’s society, we may think we are too busy for such rigor and discipline… and for some folks, that may well be the case… but then, how do such go about slowing down to sit at Jesus feet.

Scripture Alone…. too literally

The study of scripture alone apart from the assembly of the believers and the Sacraments can lead to a pietistic shift. Without great care, the focus can shift from Christ to the Christian, from His holy life to our holy living, from objective sacraments to our subjective feelings. From Christ and His gifts to the Christian and his gifts. Study of the word separated from the pure Gospel of the Sacrament can turn the Scriptures which testify of Christ into a “golden rule book.”

Many of the concepts for the above should be credited to Rev. Fr. John W. Berg’s paper from the National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts 1999.

7 Rants and 3 suggestions on Church Website Design

1. Churches often no longer take out ads in the newspaper, or the yellow pages, as they can use the web for free or little cost…so why dont they publish the times of their services, AND keep them up to date? It does no good for a visitor to show up on Thursday, only to find the summer schedule does not include Thursday services.

2. In looking at church website source code, SEO is anathema, yet no ecumenical council has ever ruled on it. I think church sites are the only ones who like to rank way below spammy type community info sites. It does not take a SEO consultant to build a SEO friendly site… google is your friend and works for free… plus some of your youth if given the task can often run with things as well.

3. A Church is a place you visit in 3d, but you may choose to use google maps to assist. A 25 mile error in location is not acceptable, nor is a virtual church located in the middle of a ravine. Google maps is not infallible nor inerrant.

4. I understand the need to maintain some level of privacy online… but for sure, not to include at least the city where the church is located is anything but helpful. And yes, the spam community sites already have your street address, as does the phone company listing. Be upfront with your location, make it easy for people to find you.

5. Showing photos of kids on your church website can make it seem more inviting. However, there are seedy types online.. if you wish to use children in your church website photography, find a photoshop guru, to remove identifying features. A bit of blurryness here or there is understandable. Some sicko stealing a childs photo off of a churches website is not.

6. Navigation should be simple… if you use a third party to provide your bulletin listings or sermon podcasts, make sure folks dont get lost in la la land trying to navigate to it, or worse now that they want to check you out further and visit in 3d, they find that your church site has disappeared into the ethernet never to be found again.

7.Flash can be very artistic and cool, but too much can crash older machines… do you really want to shoot potential visitors in the foot, as they dont have enough computing horsepower? Also, avoid platform specific messages. Ie getting a “this website is best viewed on IE6” or a scrambled text/graphics on a phone browser is not cool.

Some suggestions as to how to improve your websites ministry.

1. If you are into contemporary Christian music, then tell me about it. If you are into big time organ music, tell me about it. If you are into Gregorian chants, I want to know. If your pastor does a 3-5 minute homily, tell me about it. If he does a 200 minute exposition, tell me about it, same with the stuff in the middle. Often times folks look for a particular worship style, either as an attraction, or as a detraction. Save them time, tell them upfront, and if you have both, let folks know that as well.

2. Be proud of your beliefs… do you focus on the kingdom of God on earth more than the eternal one, or is the focus the reverse, or are they balanced? Are you into hellfire and brimstone, or feel good positive thinking? Is the prosperity Gospel preached, or one of humility and sacrifice? Often times a plain language approach is more inviting than a more rigorous, albeit more theologically correct method. By the same token, dont use canned belief text or gadgets, especially if your theology is counter to them. Ie, a Lutheran church should not have a 4 spiritual laws widget on its website.

3. How do you view children? Are they an integral part of worship or are they split off into their own groups? Do you have unique ministries apart from worship, ie childrens, youth, young adult? Tell visitors what you are up to. This is not high tech intellectual property you must keep only within the circle of bonafide members.

Fire in the Gut

I picked the following up off a comment off of James Madrid’s blog and thought it pretty cool…

The command is “Go.”We cannot wait for the world that needs Christ to come to our door. Letting opportunities where we can serve pass by, hoping someone else will take the initiative, is simply a “no” to Christ’s command. “Go” means sensitizing our heart and eyes to those who are hungry for Christ, seeing in the faces of our family members and co-workers a hunger for his power and grace. In this culture that is sick and waning, “go” means reaching out to those who need to know Christ, so that his Kingdom will expand. We cannot take the easy route of preaching to the choir….

Jesus, I wish to ignite my own zeal for your Kingdom from the furnace of divine love which burns in your heart. I offer you the promise of a soldier in combat: to be courageous, honorable, persevering, and worthy of the name I bear – “Apostle of the Kingdom of Christ.” I work aware of the fact that I have only one life to live on this earth. Not one minute must be wasted in comfort-seeking and selfishness. My heart is ready for the mission, Lord; please sustain it today with the strength of your own.

Sure seems like a fire in the gut deal… and along that line of thought, Shaun Groves wrote a great post on eating in front of the hungry. He used a story of his daughter not wanting to eat breakfast… at least not until he is eating, and then her hunger is stirred up, and now she wants to eat.

She sees my bowl full of cereal, or hears an omelet sizzling in the skillet, smells her brother’s breakfast and her own hunger is amplified to the point that it can no longer go unnoticed and unsatisfied.

He parallels this story with our as Christians thirst to do God’s will, and that we need to be stirred up, or have someone eat in front of us to realize we do hunger to do God’s will, and that we can no longer ignore it.

The Spirit lives in us and moves us to obey God’s laws now written on our heart. We are now able to discern the will of God, want the will of God, and accomplish the will of God.

We fail, of course. We aim for perfection and miss. In my own life I see this happen again and again and I hate it. That hatred is evidence enough that my deepest desire is to think, believe and behave like Christ. Not my only desire, but my deepest.

That desire needs stirring. It needs to be fanned into ravenous hunger that can’t be ignored, one that causes me to pull over, change course and satisfy it.

I see this hunger expressed in a lot of youth… Derek and Tati come to mind, but there are multitudes of others. I bet they have one or more people eating in front of them, keeping that hunger stirred up, alive, and unignorable.

Prooftexting – Interesting Quote from Rich Mullins

It starts off so beautifully and then at the end of that Psalm, the last verse of that Psalm is “How very blessed is the man who dashes the little one’s heads against the rocks.” This is not the sort of scripture you read at a pro-life meeting. But it’s in there none the less. Which is the thing about the Bible that’s why it always cracks me up when people say ‘Well in Dududududududududududududu it says’ you kinda go ‘Wow it says a lot of things in there.’ Proof texting is a very dangerous thing. I think if we were given the scriptures it was not so that we could prove that we were right about everything. If we were given the scriptures it was to humble us into realizing that God is right and the rest of us are just guessing. Which is what makes them so much fun to read, especially if you are not a fundamentalist.