Sunday, April 06, 2008

Isn't She Beautiful

Isn’t She Beautiful

In the Bible God refers often to his people, the church, as His bride. It is a beautiful picture of how we relate as a community, the beloved of God. The scriptures often describe how beautiful this bride is for her bridegroom. Which if you ask any true bridegroom, his bride is always beautiful.

The unfortunate thing is that sometimes the church is just ugly. Politics, power plays, sin, and just down right rudeness and meanness can plague the beloved of God. Some days it makes you want to give up and throw in the towel. Except to give up on God’s bride is really to give up on the one who betrothed her, which includes you and me. It just happens, we are broken messed up people trying to emerge into our new identity as God’s beloved, as God’s chosen bride.

Today, I saw how beautiful God’s bride is. I announced to my own church that I felt it was time to move on from this calling, and seek God’s will for the future. I told them how much I loved them, but would be leaving them in a month and half.

Grace abounded. I was awestruck at the maturity and joy that people displayed to Michelle and I. Everyone just wanted to bless us as we followed God. Everyone was very understanding. Their joy was not for us departing from them, but their joy was to see us follow God. Genuine words of encouragement were exchanged all morning. Even those who had trouble understanding graciously approached me and asked for greater clarity. It was a chance for grace to abound for all of us, and it did.

Grace really is the beauty of who God has made us. When grace abounds the beauty of God’s bride abounds.

Today I am in awe of how beautiful she is, and even more how beautiful is the one who has bestowed his beauty to us.

Isn’t she beautiful.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

One: Scripture vs. tradition.

I have been in a lot of conversations of late about Catholic theology versus Protestant, and I wish to weigh in on a few of the “dividing” issues to help us see that we are a lot closer than we all thing. Jesus asked us to be one as he and the father are one, so it maybe it is time we started highlighting our similarities more than our difference.

Today I wish to take on the hotly debated topic of scripture and tradition. It is important to know that the two co-exist, and like so many of our debates become false distinctions. Scripture is tradition and tradition is scripture.

Protestants often rail against the Catholic Church for elevating the status of tradition to be on par with scripture. Thus Protestants proclaim sola scriptoria apart from tradition. Protestants proclaim there is no authority other than scripture. To an extent no Christian would disagree with the authority of scripture, but the interpretation of that authority can only be interpreted through tradition.

It is foolish and dangerous to believe one can interpret the Bible in a vacuum. The scriptures were written in a particular context, and an important tool for interpreting that context is the use of historical teaching (i.e. tradition). To come along 2000 years after Christ and believe only now are we rightly understanding scripture is dangerous. The creeds, confessions, and councils of Church history must always direct and shape the lens we use to read scripture.

Catholic teaching stresses that the New Testament in particular was recognized as scripture because of the way it preserved the apostolic teaching that had been passed on Jesus Christ himself. It was the church that formed these writings as scripture because the church recognized that preservation of the traditional teachings of Christ present in them.

Tradition in the Catholic church does not subtract from scripture but more fully illuminates that authority preserved within it. Tradition is not contrary to scripture, but rather helps us rightly understand scripture.

Protestants, Orthodox, evangelicals,, Pentecostals, etc. also bring their own traditional to the text. Luther interpreted the Bible through a particular traditional understanding. All great theologians have. This is a good thing. Debate is also good and should occur as we hammer out what we believe. But I wish our debates where based the merit of friendship and unity, not that of pride and anger. Perhaps we should not break fellowship with someone who holds a different view that ourselves.

The problem lies when one person or one group interprets in reaction to another, as it to proclaim we have understood rightly, you have not. All groups highlight particular aspects of Christianity over others in their interpretive lens.

The point being that we all have strengths and blind spots in reading scripture because of our particular tradition. Instead of fighting and accusing one another let us affirm our common beliefs in the major tenants of Christian faith.

Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant all affirm the Apostle’s Creed. Perhaps the most important creed from our history affirm that we all believe in One Lord, Jesus Christ, buried and raised to life ascended to heaven to judge the world. We all believe this Jesus has provided the forgiveness of sins, the hope for the resurrection of our bodies, and eternal life with God.

There is One Lord, help us to be One church.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Psalms - 1

How well God must like you –
You don’t hang out at sin saloon,
You don’t slink along Dead-end Road
You don’t go to Smart-mouth college.

Instead you thrill to God’s Word,
You chew on Scripture day and night
You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
Bearing fresh fruit every month.
Never dropping a leaf
Always in blossom.

You’re not at all like the wicked,
Who are mere windblown dust-
Without defense in court,
Unfit company for innocent people.

God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row.
- The Message

I was struck by the imagery of a tree replanted in Eden. A life devoted to scripture – living and breathing scripture. That is a life devoted to God’s way in this world makes a bold stand in the world that is a reminder of Eden. When we allow our lives to be transformed by scripture we remind the world what life was like in Eden – and what life will be like in the coming Garden city. Personal holiness then is not private – just between God and me, but is a public declaration that there is a better way to be human, a way full of love mercy and hope. Faithfully living to God’s word, is faithfully living as God always desired.

The image of the tree is one of sturdiness and life, contrasted to that of windblown dust. All life is from “dust”, but lives not lived as God desired are a waste – they are not living as the image bearers of God and not really living. The point though is not the dust – it is the beautiful tree of life that is a faithful to one whose image they bear.

I can say I thrill to God’s word. More than a manual on right living it is a beautiful story that I am being asked to live in, participate in, and act out in this world. Let us all thrill to God’s word and in doing so be sturdy trees of Eden in this despairing world.

May the tree of life people reflect the image of God.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Parents and Youth Ministry

I had the privilege of leading a seminar yesterday about involving parents in youth ministry. The seminar involved mostly volunteer youth workers so the goal was to help them work with the parents of the teens they are serving.

My intention was to explore the tension that often exists between parents and youth workers. Parents will always be the most significant influence on teens good or bad, but youth workers have an important role to play in shepherding and loving students to connect with Christ.

I find a simple case study really struck a chord to explore the tension so I pose it to all of you to see your response.

You are a youth worker and a student you are working with is a good hearted kid who basically sits on the fence of following Christ. Sometimes he/she is really interested other days not so much. One day he/she confesses that they smoked marijuana one time. What do you do in relation to working with their parent(s)? Do you call the parents and tell them what happened, or do you do nothing at all? How do you respond and why?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My inspiration

Can you believe this is even possible. I give you the Wooten Brothers

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Youth Ministry: Emotional manipulation v. geniue conversion

I work primarily in youth or student ministry, and at times I often find myself facing a crisis about my work. I love what I do, I love the people I work with, but sometimes I find myself terrified at that possibility that I am simply manipulating teenager’s emotions to respond to a teaching, and they are not actually responding to the person of God.

Adolescence is just an awkward phase. What teen does not feel depressed from time to time? What teen doesn’t feel alone, imperfect, or even un-cool? My fear is that youth ministry manipulates these very natural feelings, and promises teens a simple solution in Christ. When really the solution is one of growing up…developing into an adult. Christ is the solution for the sin and shame we all experience. Christ is the one bringing redemption to the world, but is Christ the solution to teen angst? Maybe they are all wrapped together?

I also realize teen angst can be quite destrucitve, so we do not simply want to abandon them to their emotions and figure they will work it out in a few years. But I fear we communicate that sometimes what they are feeling is abnormal and wrong, or even sinful, when really they are just growing up. Who wouldn't feel anxiety growing up in this world?

If you know me, you probably know that I actually error to far from emotional manipulation. Good theology and good living tells us that are emotions are wrapped up in who we are and how we relate to God. So, what should youth ministry focus on?

My real passion in youth ministry surrounds itself around faith development, and helping students connect with the person of Christ and his church. I could care less if they say a prayer, but hope and pray they discover the love of God and begin to live in the story of redemption we that is the Bible.

What helped you as a youth connect to God and develop your own faith? What are the real needs of teenagers and how do we appropriately minister to them?

Friday, January 05, 2007

What Can we hope for?

I got trapped in an interesting conversation this morning in the locker room. It was a much older man then I, who has been retired from the MPD for over 30 years. It is unusual to hearing complaining at that time in the morning because the early birds are typically optimistic people. This man however felt the need to lament to me about the ills of society. He complained about everything from hippie activists trying to save the trees and the butterflies, to uncontrolled violence in the city and gun control. The conversation ended on a sour note, “we’ve had our best times, nothing we can do about it.”

It might just be the ranting of an elderly man coming to grips with the end of his life. However, his pattern of thinking seems to be prevalent in all of us. In conversations with people I often hear a lament of what once was, and I have to ask, where is the hope?

Hope seems to me to be one of the core characteristics of what it means to be a Christian. I so badly want to shake people when they lament about what once was, and remind them of what will be. The past is not as bright as we might want to think it was. The past is full of as much violence and hatred as the present. The past has its fair share of injustice and downright evil. Do we not worship a God who has promised to make all things new?

Maybe we need to remember that Jesus and his mission are not just about saving individuals for heaven. Ephesians tells us that our personal salvation is really just step one in God’s great dream for recreating all of creation. For all things in heaven and earth have been brought together under one head, that is Christ (Eph 1:10). We can be assured that once again all things, all things, are under the rule of Christ, and will be brought into alignment with the character of Christ, or be destroyed. And this is a reason for hope, because there will come a day when injustices are brought to justice, when tears will cease, when peace will conquer war, when love and mercy win.

If we believe this, let us begin to live like it. Let us seek to be the agents of redemption of hope this world that is so hungry for. Let us not just accept the way of the world and say there is nothing that can be done, because something was done at the cross of Calvary. Hope has come and we should live as people of hope.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind me and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).

What do you think? How can we proclaim hope? How should hope affect our day to day activities?