Archive for September, 2010

The Woman on the Roof

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 by James Flynn

This week’s news contains disturbing news of another potential scandal in the making involving a large church, a powerful ministry, and the lives of several young men who claim to be victims.  I won’t even mention names, because as is often the case, the individual is being tried in the court of popular media and opinion before all facts are known.  Several facts are clear.  We are fallible human beings that sometimes seem hopelessly broken.  People love to revel in hypocrisy and rub our Christian noses in it when they even get a hint we might deserve it.  We as Christians need to trust God for wisdom and mercy to keep our business straight because the world is very willing to give us a hand doing so!

Christians claim to have what the world is desperately seeking.  That makes them jealous sometime.  Because of our faith we understand that life is infused with meaning and purpose, and that each of us has a specific reason to live.  We are not just another species of animal placed on the earth to live, breathe, eat, and die.  The Master Architect has designed us for his purpose and if we chose to seek Him, He will reveal that purpose piece by piece throughout our lives (Isa. 46:9, 10).  This allows us to live a life of purpose and meaning, which so many are seeking.  One of the biggest dangers to realizing our full purpose and potential is that we will get distracted.

David had it all.  He had the good looks (1 Sam. 16:12).  He was young and courageous, able to defeat giants that left others trembling (1 Sam. 17:37).  He had friends in high places (1 Sam. 18:1), married the king’s daughter (1 Sam. 18:22), and had a very successful military career.  He was a “man after God’s own heart” and became the king of Israel.  Life was not always easy, but he had it pretty good until one day he got distracted.  It was the woman on the roof.

David was awake one evening and took a stroll on the roof top of his palace residence on top of Mt. Zion (1 Sam 11:1-17).  He could see the other roof tops from his vantage point and saw something beautiful that caught his attention – the figure of a woman bathing at night in the privacy of her own roof top residence.  He was taken by her beauty—he had to have her though she was the wife of another.  This desire led to adultery and murder.  It led to the death of an innocent child conceived by his lover and problems in his household that would never depart though out his lifetime (1 Sam. 12:9-16).  All this because David was distracted in a moment of weakness. Read the rest of this entry »

God does not do no math

Monday, September 27th, 2010 by Wolfgang Vondey

Okay, so you’re thinking: and you don’t know how to write English. But seriously. God is not a mathematician. Sure, God is perfect, and so we could think of God as perfect in math. But what I mean is that God chooses not to exercise mathematical skills. More precisely, when it comes to holding us accountable, this word “accountability” is the wrong word. It is an unhappy choice for expressing the basis for God’s judgment. Read the rest of this entry »

Macedonian Cry from the Urban Streets: ‘Come Over and Help Us!’

Monday, September 20th, 2010 by Antipas Harris

If twenty-first century ministry leaders take the divine call to ministry seriously,  in the words of John Perkins, “they must take the gospel to the streets.”[1] I have spent time on the streets, praying with people, talking to them about the problems they face, feeding the hungry, picking up drug-addicts and taking them to Teen Challenge, pulling men off the streets late at night to prevent them from vandalism and robbery, and helping the homeless find safe places to live. None of the people I have ever worked with wanted to be in the situation they were in. Situations and poor choices landed them there. Their deepest cry has been ”Please, please help us!” From the ravages of Katrina to what’s left of the earthquakes in Haiti, Cuba and China, people continue to cry, “Come over and help us!” From the urban war-zones of Los Angeles, the south side of Chicago, Boston and many places in-between, there is a cry from the streets, “Come over and help us!” From battered women to trafficked girls, there is a cry from every corner of the urban world, “Come over and help us!” From the brutally treated undocumented residents to the swollen bellies of the hungry children, the cry resonates, “Come over and help us!” I have seen the eyes of pain and have heard the cries of anguish. The hearts of people are bleeding and their souls are crying out. Read the rest of this entry »

Is the American Church Selling Out?

Friday, September 17th, 2010 by Diane Chandler

In a recent book entitled Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul (Basic Books, 2010), author G. Jeffrey MacDonald levels a caustic critique of the American church. 

As a former pastor and journalist, MacDonald offers a basic premise that the contemporary American church has lost its impact on contemporary society because it has sold out to consumerism. As a result, the church’s effectiveness has not only been diluted but it has lost its primary mission of providing a conduit of authentic spiritual growth for the church body and being a powerful witness in the world of moral formation.

MacDonald starts with three stark observations aimed at church leaders.  First, he notes the entertainment-orientation within the American church-at-large by citing the prevalence of hefty operating entertainment budgets, large projection screens, worship styles that are more worldly than God-honoring, and an emphasis on the cash collection devoid of a worshipful expression.  He comments, “Unfortunately, a church that functions like a fun house cannot fulfill religion’s central mission.  The Church can’t transform the desires of people it’s trying to titillate” (p. 36).

Second, MacDonald accuses the church of offering comfort to the exclusion of healthy confession, which has led to making church members happy at the exclusion of deep inner transformational change. He writes, “Small groups, organized around shared interests, offer indiscriminate affirmation rather than the rebuke or admonition that participants sometimes need” (p. 62).

Third, MacDonald identifies the weak moral character of the church, noting the financial indebtedness and mismanagement, evidence of rampant personal addictions, and unresolved relational conflicts that provide anything but a positive witness.

In summary, MacDonald attacks the religious consumerism that he observes running rampant in the American church as indicative of the consumerism in the American culture, which caters to a “feel-good” mentality in order to appease church-goers. He cites as an example of consumerism the practice of mega-churches opening their doors to corporate sponsors. Anyone seen Starbucks coffee available in church lobbies? 

MacDonald’s admonishes, “The Church must overcome both its baggage and its present tendency to pander in order to become a character-shaping force in the twenty-first century” (p. 87).  So I pose these questions ~

  • Is MacDonald’s critique of the contemporary American church valid?  Why or why not?
  • What specific counter arguments might you offer in response to MacDonald’s criticism? 
  • How can the American church remain culturally sensitive without losing her soul and central mission?

The Great Experiment

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 by James Flynn

Have you ever met someone who was terrified of making mistakes?  We have that fear in us to some degree—no one likes to mess up.  You get laughed at.  You feel like a fool.  Your face turns several shades of red and you get all choked up.  You know what it feels like, because you have been there just like me.  But for some, it goes far beyond that.  Fear of failure can literally paralyze you. You feel frozen and unable to make decisions.  The cure?  An attitude adjustment.  Life is meant to be an adventure, and any good adventure gets its thrill from things not going exactly as planned.  God never designed life to work perfectly or even to be predictable.  As my friend Pastor Mark Batterson at National Community Church say “Everything is an experiment.”  Life is a Spirit-led experiment to discover more about God each day.  Jesus said life would be just that.

At the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would be daily at work in the life of the believer, gently leading and guiding us (John 17:17; 14:21,26). Jesus made the disciples aware of God’s master plan to send the Holy Spirit to dwell with each of us so that He, the Spirit, could translate life, circumstances, and their context into meaning. This kind of experimental living was advocated by Henry Blackaby and Claude King in their book “Experiencing God.”  Blackaby and King outline seven essential “realities” of experiencing God in our daily lives:

  • God is always at work around you;
  • God pursues a love relationship with you that is real and personal;
  • God invites you to become involved with Him in His work;
  • God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways;
  • God’s invitation to work with Him always leads you a crisis of belief that requires faith and action;
  • You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing;
  • You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.

 Blackaby and King’s theology is experimental Christianity at its best. It takes into account the sovereignty of God and His lordship by conceiving of a God who takes the initiative in executing His purpose in our lives before we are even aware. Purpose is grounded in His love for us. This experimental approach to living is not an invitation issued by us to God, asking Him to bless our work, but rather an invitation extended to us by God to join Him in what He is already at work doing, thus requiring our submission and obedience.             

Life is unpredictable because God has made it that way.  You can spend your life trying to control things so they will turn out “just right.” Or, you can make provision in your heart to realize that things often will not work out how you expected and that is what gives life its zest.  Stop being so uptight about the way life is.  Learn to relax and yield control to God.  When the wind blows, it is the oak tree that snaps because of its rigidity, but the more humble palm tree that bows low and bends, still standing after the wind is gone.  Bend or be broken.  Bow when the wind blows.  Approach life this way, and you might just rediscover the wonder of your relationship with God, forgive yourself for mistakes God forgave long ago, and look forward to the next “adventure” that comes your way!

Globalophobia: We are afraid of the world

Monday, September 13th, 2010 by Wolfgang Vondey

Let’s admit it, we really just want to be by ourselves. We are comfortable with ourselves, our houses, spouses, and children, our jobs, and the demands we can comfortably meet by next Thursday. We have enough on our plate thinking from here to the front yard. Our job demands enough from us without having to think globally, the world, the planet, the earth, or whatever they call it. There is no need to engage the whole globe! Who can handle the whole world?

Underlying this resentment is really a fear of getting lost; an uncertainty of what the world has to offer, why we should engage the world and on what terms. We disagree with the statement that the world is getting smaller. All this information overflow is not getting the world closer together; it adds more and more on top of everything until there is no knowledge of who wants what and why. This symptom is called globalophobia.

Okay, I made this up. The term globalophibia does not really exist. But it should. Because most of us are afraid of the world.

We are not afraid of any specific place, or country, or culture, or ritual. We do not mind going to Haiti, or Nairobi, or Shanghai. We can handle concise places. We can survive for a week in a country whose language we do not speak or understand. We can eat food we have never tasted, and worship with people we never met. At least once.

What we cannot handle is globalization. To be honest, we do not really know what that means. Who are we? Who can tell us who we are? Who can we trust?

Globalization is the monster that triggers our fear of the world. We do not want to be globalized. We don’t even want to be “global”. Even “international” is not an adjective with which we are truly comfortable. We don’t really even know who we are. We know what we are called. But we don’t know how to think of ourselves in terms of the world. We have learned to think of ourselves in terms of this building, that sanctuary, those people, last Sunday, or tomorrow’s baptism. But beyond those isolated coordinates we dare not see ourselves. We have lost our sense of history and what was once called the communion of saints. We are in the world but not of the world. We are afraid of the world. We are — the church.