Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How far is too far... (pt. 2)

As I write this, I am 5 days away from our SS class on the church in the culture vs. the culture in the church discussion after watching the debate in The Elephant Room last Sunday. I have watched the debate 5 times now and each time I am pushed in a new way.

One of the key distinctions left out of the ER debate is the difference between how we, as individual Christians, are led and/or choose to engage the cultural divide and what is and is not appropriate to bring into a Sunday morning worship service.

To me, the difference is huge. There are a lot of topics and tools that I might bring into a conversation with an individual or group that I would not bring into a worship service. Does that make me inconsistent? I don't believe so. I think it makes me like Jesus. Over and over again in the Gospels we see Jesus engaging people in a variety of setting and ways and yet Jesus "went to the synagogue as was his custom." The great silence we have from Scripture is not how Jesus engaged people but what Jesus views as appropriate within a worship service context.

We know that Jesus read and taught from the scroll of Isaiah one of the times he went to worship/ We know that Jesus and the apostles sang hymns (granted not in a "worship service"). We know Paul has some guiding principles in Corinthians about certain aspects of a service. But overall what we really have is Jesus interacting with individuals and groups outside of a set worship service.

We need to take that into account when having a discussion about what is and is not appropriate to use from our culture. Right?

Because of His goodness,

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

So where is the Line? (Intro)

Topic shift ahead...

This week on The Elephant Room our SS class is going to watch Mark Driscoll, Perry Noble, and James McDonald hash it out. The topic? Culture. Let's be honest. What they really mean is "the world" but in Christian circles "the world" is always and easily known to be negative so using a word like culture softens it a little bit and makes for a real discussion.

Ex: If I were to say, "How much of the world should we use in the church today?" Everyone would say none. BUT if I were to say, "How much of the culture should we use in the church today?" We would get a wide range of feedback. Thus, the reason why The Elephant Room used the word culture.

So, how should we answer that question?

The tricky thing about this question is that most of us want to answer it from the negative...or to put it another way. We have a better idea of what we are UNcomfortable with than what we are simply comfortable with. If I were to list a set of specific examples, then, we could say yes or no pretty easily. Still a wide range of answers but it would be relatively easy. Now, if I were to give a list of broad categories the answers would instantly get harder.

Ex: Should we use movie clips in church? Allow skits? Allow modern instruments? Allow songs other than hymns? Use books as starting points for sermons? Allow poems? etc.

If those were the questions I was asking, everyone would say....well what kind of_______? which______? etc.

See, we like specifics because we can up or down vote them based on our preference, conviction, or personal history. What we don't like is broad categories.

With all that said, I think we have it all backwards. We should start with Scripture, right? I mean, right? Shouldn't that dictate what kind of things we are or are not going to use from the "culture"? But that would take a lot of work! Yep. It would. It should. See, once again, we need to rise to the occasion. We have to stop getting together with our friends, our SS classes, our church leaders and simply saying yes or no to specifics and instead start with a foundational, Biblical understanding of what God says.

So, this entry will be a work in progress. As I have time, I will begin to compile a list of Scriptural understandings. I will start at the beginning (Genesis). It would be great to have some help. So, if you want to join this type of heavy duty work then please do. If you just want to say, I think this or that...well you can, but I've already said it: We need to do better.

Because of His Kindness,


Thursday, September 13, 2012

So, what now then?

That, I'm afraid, I can not answer for each of you. All I can say is that, for me, I have no real option that I currently know of or can see taking but one.

As of right now, early September of 2012, I will not be voting in the Presidential election this fall.

I am sure some of you are horrified with that statement. I can hear all of your reasons screaming at me even as I type this. I know. I know. I've said them all to myself already.

"Voting is a privilege that most people in the world don't have! How could you even consider not voting!?"

"A non-vote is a vote for ________" (fill it in)

"As a Christian, you should use your God given vote, not waste it."

"You know, if you don't vote, you can't complain about the outcome..."

Believe me. I know. But all of these fall flat when faced with the choice that I see before me.

Voting is a privilege that most people don't have. That is why I must use this privilege carefully.

A non-vote is not a yes vote for _________. It sounds right and good and persuasive, but it is totally untrue. A non-vote for __________ is simply that a non-vote for ________. Just like when I say, no, I don't want a drink, I mean, no, I don't want a drink. What I do or don't do speaks to that issue not the flip side.

I believe the right to vote is a gift, and by not voting this fall, I believe God is honored in that stand not frustrated that I didn't do it. Sometimes the best thing you can do with a gift is treasure it and not just use it at every turn.

"You can't complain about the outcome..." Fairly said. But as a Disciple of Jesus I'm not permitted to complain anyway. Will this be hard? Yes. Will it be tempting to complain? Yes. Will it make me pray more? I hope so.

These are the types of reasons I wanted to have a blog. To express what I am thinking and why. Do I want to have a conversation about stuff? Sure. But my driver is to be thoughtful about the intersection of faith and life. Don't just do something, go somewhere, say something because of _________. Be better than that! We owe God more than a routine and ritual. We owe Him our intentionality.

As with most things, this could change in the next two months. If it does. I'll be sure to let you know. ;-)

Bearing with Him in Patience,


The Obama Vote

Ok. So, now we need to flip the coin. There is still a large segment of the Christian population that is going to vote for Obama this November. Most of them are returning Obama fans in that they voted for him in 2008. Unlike Romney, Obama doesn't have that murky cult thing to worry about, but that doesn't mean voting for him becomes instantly easier.

The largest thing I gained politically over the last 12 months is a much broader and deeper understanding of what the Bible says about those who would hold office in the civil magistrate (government). I didn't talk a whole lot about it in the Romney post because it was mostly a non-issue since Romney doesn't claim to be a Christian. Obama does.

That, being the case, opens Obama up to a whole list of standards. Now, there is no way I can do an exhaustive study on a blog about this issue. Nor can I hope to answer all the standard objections people raise about trying to look at the government of Biblical Israel vs. the government of the USA. So I won't try. All I will say is that in principle you can make direct parallels in both the right to choose your leaders, the character qualities God lays out for those in office, and the responsibilities of those in office and those being "led" by those elected/appointed.

These character qualities are important. Some deal with being able to handle money correctly, not be enticed to take bribes and be swayed by money, defending the cause of the innocent, protecting and honoring life, being a person of conviction, and being willing to make the hard choices (just to name a few).

Then there is the faith component. They should know the Lord, be growing in the Lord, are submitted to the Lord, understand that they are appointed by and answer to the Lord. They should bear the responsibility of being God's agent in the civil magistrate with humility and reliance upon the God who made them.

Again, these are only some of the details from Scripture about this topic. So, if you are at all like me, the list is overwhelming. Who could possibly live up to this kind of list? Well, perfectly? Other than Jesus? None of us. But with the help of and dependence on the Holy Spirit of God? Most disciples of Jesus could do a fair job of living up to this high calling. That bring us back to the question:

Has self-proclaimed christian Barack Obama shown us over the last 4 years that he is committed to the above ideals and requirements? (Notice I didn't go back to 2008....that is over, let it go) We have had four years to evaluate his character, see what is important to him, watch the way he has governed, and see what matters most to him. Do our observations confirm and support the above listed characteristics and qualities or do they show massive failings and differences?

I believe he has failed to even come close to meeting them. I say this with frustration because, although I did not and do not agree with many "policy" related views of Obama, I wanted him to do well as a President. I wanted him to lead well. Bring a measure of hope and change to the tone and fighting in Washington. To try and bring some unity to our country. I also was extremely glad to have the first black President. I thought it was a wonderful move forward for our country to break the race barrier. But with all that said, the last four years have not shown a man committed to living up to Biblical principles and requirements.

I am going to resit the urge to validate my last point by listing what I consider the failings of Obama. I am resisting because I believe that if any Christian were to evaluate Obama's last four years as President in light of the things I listed at the beginning of this blog they would come to the same conclusion as I have. I am also resisting because 1 Peter tells us we should honor those in office. Honor. So, I will not rip apart our President, but just because I am not attacking him doesn't mean I do not have the right to evaluate his call to govern in light of Biblical standards.

See, this isn't about whether you or I think Obama is or isn't the right man for the job. It isn't about certain issues. It is about the Biblical guidelines that qualify or disqualify someone from office. On just those, Obama doesn't pass the bar (sorry for the pun). Can things drift into topics like marriage, abortion, and the national debt? Sure they can. But I want us to be better than that. I want us to see the heart of the matter not the way the heart fleshes itself out.

I am sure this post is woefully incomplete for most of you and for that I apologize. I would challenge you to do this. Read about the civil leaders in the Bible. Look at their character. Look for places where God lays out qualifications. You will see what I see. If we are going to be a people that claim the Bible guides the way we live in and understand the world around us, then, we need to include this area. We can't just vote by issue or preference. We have to be better than that!

With a Peace the Surpasses all Understanding,


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Romney Vote

"Most Christians are going to vote for a cult leader to become President this November."

Well, there it is. The elephant in the room for this fall. Now, I know some of you are going to vote for Obama, but let's be honest MOST evangelical Christians are planning on voting for Romney this November (especially the white ones). I will have another post about Christians voting for Obama later.

I have been through the range of emotions, desires, and hopes this last year heading towards November. I have been praying and asking the Lord to help me understand how to use my God-given American right of a vote to bring Him glory this year. I have done a study on the "civil magistrate" in Scripture to see what the Bible says about the character and qualifications of a person who would seek to be a civil leader. And what has all that study gotten me? The fact listed at the top of this post.

Let me put this another way:
As a disciple of Jesus, who am I to represent when I am with my family? Jesus.
" " " " ", who am I to represent when I go to work? Jesus.
" " " " ", who am I to represent when I go shopping? Jesus.
" " " " ", who am I to represent when I go out to eat? Jesus.
" " " " ", who am I to represent when I go to church? Jesus.

OK. So, if all of those are true, then why is it that I answer this question differently:

As a disciple of Jesus, who am I to represent when I go to vote? My American self.

I mean, honestly, isn't that what we do? Because if we are being honest. I mean really honest. There is no way we could vote for a cult leader and be representing Jesus. There is no way we could read the Bible (any of it, Old or New Testaments) and see that taking place. But hear is what I hear:

We simply can't have 4 more years of Obama!
Obama is ruining this country!
But Mitt Romney is Pro-life, Pro-Marriage, and a good man.
I agree with Romney on everything but his faith.
We need a businessman in the white house to fix this mess.

So, let me ask you Christian (sorry but I am limiting this question to just those who claim the name of Jesus), are you really comfortable representing Jesus as you vote for a cult leader? Do you see how stark that question is? I mean wow, right?

You see, I have been trying to get around this thing to find a way to vote but if the Spirit of God is the one leading me and if I am to represent the Son of God on this earth as a Child of God, then I have to look at things this way. Even if it means that I put Jesus before what I think is best for America. It's what Isaiah 26:8 is all about.

And that dear reader is the uncomfortable and unspoken truth about the Romney vote.

You see, this isn't about policy. It isn't even about issues. It's about faith. And not just faith but who we as followers of Jesus are to put first in our lives. And honestly, it isn't even about Mitt Romney. It's about the deception that he is ensnared in. I imagine that if I sat down with Mitt Romney we could talk about a wide range of issues and agree about most of them, but are all of those agreements enough to make me overlook the one that should be most important?

I can already observe that blogging is very risky. Some of you are already reading between the lines and taking things a way I don't mean. Not because you are trying to...but because the written word fails at communicating our heart sometimes. I don't write this because I am angry. I don't write it because I am against Romney or Obama or for Romney or Obama. I write it because I am for Jesus and against a pragmatist choice that doesn't see the important thing. I write this because I believe the Church needs to hear this. If the backlash comes because of it, then I am honestly sorry for offending but (said with a resigned sigh) "here I stand and I can do no other."

With Unquenchable Joy,

(I am pretty sure that if this blog goes up and out people are going to flip out over this one...honestly not my intention)

What's in a name...

Well. Here I am. I have finally started a blog. It has been a long time coming. I'm not the first and I guess I won't be the last. Why now? Cause I want a place to say stuff. Work stuff out. Say what I think needs to be said but I don't hear being said.

Why Highway 268? Well, I thought that title was the broadest of those I was kicking around. Some others? The Round Table. Uncomfortable Truth. The Road Less Traveled. I hope this blog is all of those things.

A place for everyone to pull up a chair to the table of truth and speak AND be heard.

A place to say what plenty of people are thinking but no one wants to say.

A place to explore the roads most don't travel down.

And a place that makes Isaiah 26:8 the central call and goal of my life:

"Yes, Lord. Walking in the way of your truth, we wait eagerly for you. For your name and your renown are the desire of our souls."

I write this blog not as a pastor but as a disciple of Jesus. Please understand that. What I say in these blog entries are my words, my thoughts, and they do NOT necessarily represent the views of the church where I serve or the denomination I am ordained by but they might indeed get me in trouble....but hey, words matter. Truth is important. And getting in trouble? It happens.

In His Love,