Monday, January 24, 2011

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 1/24/2011 Edition

More fun and frivolity. Or, at least, more links.
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For fans of "Dead Parrot" and geeks, I refer you to this (warning: some comments have some less than uplifting words)

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Ever want an interactive tool that shows you how large, and how small, stuff is? Well now your wish has come true.
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Okay, I love Poe, but I'm not sure if that's the feel I was going for in my last post.

I write like
Edgar Allan Poe

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!


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Is your life average too?
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And finally, my first recipe recommendation: Yum.

God bless,
Ron

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Values of the Church 2: Unity Part Three

Last time I looked at this subject here in the ol' northern 'burbs, I left off with a promise to talk about my view on the "valid" reasons for disunity. Intriguing concept, that, as up until then I'd been promoting the (very biblical) notion that unity is of utmost importance in a church.

So...how do I reconcile the idea that unity is paramount, but disunity may be permissible? Basically, I expand the definition of "disunity." Disruptions, divisiveness, and unloving behavior have no place in the church. And when disunity exists, it must be repented of and relational restoration must be restored.

But what if it's not? What if the divisive person is unrepentant? What if he or she persists in sowing the seeds of discord?

Then "disunity" must happen. The divisive person has to be, for the good of the church and of the divisive person, be removed from the church. The divider must be, ironically, divided from the body.

In Matthew 8:17 Jesus tell us to treat the unrepentant "as you would a pagan or a tax collector." Paul instructs in Titus 3 that we should "warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned." Harsh.

But necessary. If unity is so vital (and it is), then we must be willing to break off the divisive.

We do so, of course, with eye toward our highest value: love. The separation of the sinner (in all cases) is done with the hope they will repent and be restored to relationship. As Mark Driscoll writes in his excellent book Vintage Church, "There is a sense in which you never really let the unrepentant sinner go. Though you don't associate with him, you keep calling him back. He is put out for the purity of the church but is always admonished to come back." Indeed. We separate, but pray, love and admonish in order that one day redemption of unity is attained, and that God is glorified by making whole what was divided.

Next up, freedom, then selflessness. After that, the series moves from the values guiding our discussion into the actual issues surrounding the "megachurch" question itself - the "how" questions.

God bless,
Ron

Friday, January 21, 2011

An Overdue Christmas Thought

It's getting toward late January, I know, but I still wanted to share a lesson God impressed on me this past Christmas.

Christmas is a somewhat strange time for me. I love the season, the lights, the tree, the music (except for the most horrid Christmas songs ever written) and the uptick in church attendance. I'm bored, though, with the commercialism, the kitschy movies, the materialism and the ever present battle over Christmas. The intellectual side of me (yes, I have one) even thinks we fight too hard over this one day when it's not even the date on which Jesus was really born. I like the simplicity and the Christmas message: God incarnate, Immanuel. Anything on top of that is unnecessary.

But I also fight boredom, at times, with the Christmas story. The boredom of which I speak is not about the story: it's endlessly beautiful. Nor is it about the truth of it, which is something I'm happy to ponder and discuss at any time. It's the routine of it. We read the same passages, in the same services, with the same C&E Christians every year. And that's fine insofar as repetition helps us remember. But I find it hard to glean new insights in oft-traversed material.

So the last few years I've tried to make my Christmas devotionals about the more obscure, less talked about passages. This past December, God used that to remind me of the following.

God's story unfolds through people - flawed, imperfect, diverse people.

Start with the aforementioned obscure scripture. In Matthew 1 we find that often ignored, usually skipped, fairly shiny from all the glossing over genealogy of Jesus. To modern readers such lists of names seem like a prelude to the real story, something of minimal importance. It's not something recited by Linus.

But the list is very important, and a crucial part of the story. Every name on the list is part of the story of Jesus. Every person was selected to be part of the lineage of the creator of the universe. That's kind of a big deal, no?

And oh what a list! The names range from the somewhat obscure (Hezron, Ram) to the well-known (David, Solomon, Ruth, Mary, Joseph.) Virgin (Mary) and prostitute (Rahab.) Men & women. Jews and a gentile. Carpenters, widows, kings. Adulterers, the semi-incestuous. A man after God's own heart. The wise king. A remarried widow.

God worked through all of these lives. He redeemed the wrongdoing and set a line of ancestry through imperfect people who needed a savior - all the way to the very savior they needed. It is a family tree which culminates in the very person his predecessors most needed. Suffering, sin, tragedy, success, power - you find all of these in the list - and all of these were used by God to become one of us. The creator, born.

Every name is a person, a life, a story. Every name is someone Jesus loved enough that He would die to pay his or her debt. Every name matters to God so much that Jesus came to earth, that Christmas happened.

Through these names we find a savior. Through the savior, we can find our own names written in a list in the book of life.

Next time you read the genealogy, think for a bit about the names, the stories. Be amazed at how God used the frail to bring the incarnation. And rejoice that you can have your name in such a list too; not a boring list to skip over, but a list of those saved by God.

Merry (late) Christmas