Friday, March 27, 2009

Wow, are boys different!

Having four girls right in a row makes you think you are the perfect parent. You think you are ready for anything, and then you get thrown an errant curve ball. Boys are incredibly different. My son just likes to take things apart for no good reason. It isn't uncommon for him to tear something up without blinking an eye. He can get into the most unusual predicaments. To find him sitting on the kitchen table is commonplace. What is it about boys that make them want to flush the toilet? Over and over? Henry seems to be having the same problem, and he linked a great cartoon that explains it really well.

The Lord be with us, Henry!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Deserves to be read

I have not linked one of my favorite Internet authors in a good while, so here goes. I wrote some similar thoughts when I used to contribute for sbcImpact nearly a year ago. This is some dangerous thinking and Dan carries the ball a lot farther than I did when I wrote this post.

Why I Don't Understand Church Planting
by Dan Edelen

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Heresy at a funeral?

I had the blessed privilege of officiating a church member's funeral this past Friday afternoon. I worked alongside of a Methodist minister from the deceased's past. In my experience, I have always been a bit leery of preaching funerals with men whom I have never met. It always proves to be an interesting experience.

Not the first time it has happened to me, but the minister made a pointedly unorthodox statement in the course of his message. He said, "God is neither male nor female; He is simply Spirit." The statement quite literally came out of nowhere, with very little context. Talking about the comfort of God, appropriate at a funeral service, he went from there to make that statement, and the only additional explanation was that "God is just as much a mother as He is Father."

I would hazard to say it is something he must believe, else he would not have made the statement. Perhaps he felt comfortable making such a statement at a funeral, when people tend to have their guards down. I don't know. I had considered talking with each of the folks who are members of the church I serve to correct his statement, but then with funerals, people tend to have short memories anyway.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Are You a Peacemaker?

In Genesis 21:22-34, we see a much different Abraham. We see an Abraham that is confident in his faith, an Abraham who no longer deceives to achieve the ends God would have for him, and an Abraham who would rather make peace than go to war. And why shouldn't he be that way? Isaac, the child of promise, has been born. There is no longer any lingering doubt or uncertainty wrapped up in how the promises of God are going to come about. The threats to the promises have been removed, painful as it was. Hagar and Ishmael were sent away.

Given an opportunity to reclaim his reputation, Abraham is offered a treaty of peace from neighboring Abimelech. This is the same Abimelech from chapter twenty, the Abimelech Abraham deceived. It is interesting to note that the two key things Abimemelch knows about Abraham is that "God is with him" and that Abraham has dealt falsely in the past.

However, after the oaths are taken, Abraham discovers that Abimelech has dealt falsely with him. The army of Abimelech has seized control of Abraham's wells. Even today, water is a precious commodity in the ancient near east. This is a justifiable offense in that Abraham ought to go to war; he should go to war. However, Abraham, having met this Everlasting God (verse thirty-three), rather makes peace with Abimelech instead of going to war.

When you are offended by someone, is it your custom to go to war rather than make peace? Abraham had a formidable army; chapter fourteen showed us that. Abraham probably could have overwhelmed Abimelech's army (it is telling that the commander of Abimelech's army attended the ratification of their peace agreement in verse twenty-two). Abraham reflects the character of God in that when he was justified in making war, he chose to make peace instead.

(Taken from my sermon, A Good Neighbor, preached this past Sunday night)

Friday, March 13, 2009

More Americans giving up on religion

A church member pointed me to this article in the Asheville newspaper. There are some interesting statistics about mainline denominations and the obvious decline of organized religion. The quote that caught my attention was:
The current survey, being released today, found traditional organized religion playing less of a role in many lives.
Being part of "organized religion" this strikes pretty close to home. Nobody likes being told they are irrelevant, but that seems to be more and more the case. Don't get me wrong, I love pastoring and I love the work of the ministry. In the future, though, it looks like the role of the traditional minister will look a lot different than what it does now, if the role continues to exist.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Book Quote

I just finished a wonderful little book by Phillip Gulley entitled Home to Harmony. This is one of my favorite quotes from the book (p. 177), which aptly sums up so much of church life, pastor and church member alike.
When I became pastor, it was Dale Hinshaw who called to say it would be my job to shovel the walk and spread the salt. I told him I hadn't gone to seminary so I could shovel snow. That was when he quoted from the book of James that faith without works is dead. Dale Hinshaw knew just enough Scripture to be annoying but not enough to be transformed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Evangelists on the Playground

This evening we took the children to the awesomely cool "rec park" in Waynesville. Playing tag with my second daughter, I wiped out trying to clear the tongue of a slide. It was quite a sight to behold as the preacher went down into the mulch, skinning his elbow. One fellow near me, though he didn't offer to help me up, did offer a word of consolation; "At least you're enjoying it." Heh. Yeah, I guess.

I try to stay close by the children as they make friends; call me overprotective. My two oldest daughters had made two little friends and had been playing pretty hard with them. As my oldest was resting on some of the equipment chatting with her new friend, she began to talk about faith in Christ.

My second oldest was playing on the balance beam with another little girl and she asked the little girl where she attends church. She then asked her to join us at our church.

We either make evangelism too hard or we have turned it into something it ought not be. Out of the course of natural relationships, my little girls started conversations about Jesus and His church. They didn't use a conversation guide, a canned presentation, or a formal approach. Perhaps this is the element we are missing in our evangelism methodology; the personal touch.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sending Ishmael Away

I just preached this evening on, at least to me, a very difficult passage, Genesis 21:8-21. This is the narrative about Abraham's and Sarah's sending Hagar and Ishmael away after the birth of Isaac. I don't pretend to know all there is to know about any given Scripture, and preaching is a very humbling experience for me. This passage pushed me to really understand it; reconciling the incongruence of the necessity of sending Ishmael away and how hard this must have been for Abraham with the necessity of safeguarding the promises of God and Sarah's callousness toward the boy overwhelmed me with emotion and anxiety.

I spent a great deal of time struggling through this passage trying to get it "right" and preached it in fear of "overspiritualizing." I simply could not produce an outline to my satisfaction. Eventually I gave way and preached it the same way Paul applied it in Galatians 4, teaching that there are terrible spiritual consequences for the believer who doesn't "send Ishmael away." I almost felt like I was somewhat unfaithful to the entire text of Genesis 21:8-21, not really dealing with the entire passage and focusing on verses nine and ten.

However, I concluded with a challenge; Amy Carmichael who was a missionary to India, is quoted as saying, "Oh, that Ishmael might die within me!" We all have our "Ishmaels" that trouble us from day to day, and just as Abraham and Sarah tried to procure God's promises through the flesh, so we try to accomplish the will of God devoid of the Spirit of God. That Ishmael might die within me is a worthy endeavor.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Calvin on Ritalin

I just read this post at Dan Edelen's blog and I can't believe it hasn't generated more discussion. Click through to see a most likely unoriginal Calvin and Hobbes comic strip of Calvin on some psychotropic drug. The strip is sad yet spot-on. I left Dan this comment:


I have always felt like Calvin was the poster boy for homeschooling. We love C & H at our house (we homeschool three) and I know several other homeschooling families that love the strip.

Calvin has nothing but utter contempt for school as multiple strips show him daydreaming and doodling while he is in school. I would hazard to say that all the strips where Calvin is at school he is bored, unhappy, anxious, disgusted, hopeless, or aggravated. The only times he is happy is at lunch when he is grossing Susie Derkins out or at recess (that is when Moe the bully isn’t after him). His teacher is named Miss Wormwood after the apprentice devil in Lewis’ classic Screwtape Letters. That isn’t a joke the average reader of the strip likely will get. I just wonder what Watterson was trying to say about the institution?

I’m not trying to make an ugly connection between psychotropic drugs and public school, but I don’t know of any homeschooled kids that are on them. If you’re looking for a broader societal application, I missed it. :)

Why would anyone want to rob their child of imagination just for a book report?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Back in the Blogging Business

I'm opening the RP back up for business. It has been quite some time since I last posted here. I devoted a good bit of blogging energy to the blog I just recently deleted, the RP2, and though I learned a lot and appreciated the community that I cultivated over there, it was necessary to let it go. It was a lot of fun and I value all the friendships I developed there. I doubt much of that crowd will comment over here because the nature of the posts are so radically different.

Why did I delete the other blog? Well, for one primary reason; to preserve relationships. Tension seemed to run really high over there and though I thrive in that kind of blogging environment, it began to upset some relationships that are very important to me.

I have been meaning to get back over here for a long time but just have not. I want this blog to still follow the topics in the header; "rambling thoughts about theology and ministry," but more just to maintain connection with some online friendships and to keep in touch. I also want a place to connect with some other bloggers I have wanted to get to know.

So, if you still have me in your reader, I hope to hear from you. I doubt many folks stop by here much anymore if at all, so perhaps the community will evolve once again.