Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Radical Forgiveness, Scandalous Grace

Often, when we think of the forgiveness that we are supposed to have as Christians, we think of how we are to react to the guy that cuts us off on the freeway, or the coworker that says something negative behind our back. Are those good examples of the kind of radical forgiveness that Jesus lived and espoused? Or should we be looking for something more... severe?

This news story caught my eye a few months back. Years ago, Raymond Guay abducted and killed a 12-year old boy. Recently, he was paroled from prison. By order of the judge, he had to remain in New Hampshire to serve his three-year parole.

It will come as no shock to most of us that the tiny, peaceful, rural community of Chichester didn't want him living there.

But that didn't stop a local pastor -- David Pinckney -- from taking him in, to live with his family.

The town didn't like that one bit. Hundreds of people gathered in a town meeting to ask Guay to go live somewhere else.
    But now many locals feel like prisoners in their own homes. Smith said he will not allow his 11-year-old daughter to feed her pony, Wilma, alone anymore. Ingram, who lives near Pinckney, has blocked her back deck with the family's gas grill, a barrier to make sure the children do not go wandering.

    "To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't want Mr. Guay to be living in my town," said the county sheriff. "I'm a parent, too."

    "We were warned," said Pinckney, who has four children, ages 13 to 18, living at home and a fifth, age 19, away at school. "It was said this could disrupt life. People wouldn't like it. He's not liked. But at the end of the day, this is what Jesus did. He defended the defenseless. He was a friend of sinners."
In case you missed that, yes, Pinckney has four children living at home. The youngest is close to the same age as the boy that, 25 years ago, was shot in the head and found a month later, dead in the woods, wearing nothing but his socks, underwear, and eyeglasses.


In the conversations we had about this story, the common theme seemed to be something like, "Sure, that's cool that he did that. But geez, I've got young kids. I don't think I'd trust a guy like that around MY kids."

The story of the killing is, indeed, tragic. The final paragraph of the news story is a quote from the mother of the boy that was killed by Mr. Guay.
    "The worst part is the winters, when the wind is howling outside and you're curled up in bed, nice and cozy," she said. "That's when I think about my poor little son out there in the freezing cold in his underpants. Can you imagine?"
No, I can't imagine. I hesitate to even think about it. Is this really the kind of man Jesus wants us to love and forgive?

Would YOU take him into your home?

Friday, June 19, 2009

A New Sect, or an unSect?

Is the unChurch a SECT?? Our last article spoke of how men remake God to suit their taste, then hold everyone else to that standard. But how is the unChurch any different? Isn't The unChurch just one more calf-worshipping sect among many? Friar Joe B goes way out on a limb to answer that.

I have to speak only for myself on this, but I will point out that our faithful critics do not criticize us for being specific or narrow, rather for being too inclusive and fuzzy. Our critics ask "what Jesus are you following", as though it were a difficult question. But honestly I think that anyone who reads the gospels has a marvelous view of who Jesus is. It is only by applying layer upon layer of interpretive frameworks that the picture gets obscured.

That is why we are clearly not a sect, we are clearly an "unSect"!

I believe Jesus is utterly accessible and knowable to us who believe, whether we be learned or ignorant. The spirit of God himself dwells in our hearts and minds through faith. It is this faith and love that entwines us securely in his being. It is not knowing correct facts and adhering to abstract "beliefs" that secures our place in his communion, nor is it strict adherence to certain manners, nor is it the approval of any particular religious authority.

I believe that that all the complexity and esoterica of religion: faith, truth, ethics, and spirituality...are all summed up in Jesus himself, that real guy in sandals who stood up among us and proclaimed "God's Kingdom is Here!" He is knowable. I know him. And I absolutely love him, because he positively rocks.

Jesus once criticized the scholarly authorities of his day saying "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering." (Lk 11:52)

Contrast this "Way of the Experts" with the wonderful way of Jesus described by St. Peter. This is long, but read it long and slow--it's God's word:

"Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. Therefore, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Generations of ambitious men have clamored over their claims to be St. Peter’s Rightful Successor, but it is sometimes hard to oserve how the religion hammered out by the Calf-Sculpting Department of the Religious-Industrial Complex is even remotely related to the wonderful, powerful Word of Jesus that brings light and life to Man.

St. Pete continues: “And we hold a more-sure prophetic word,* and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Why is the Word of Prophecy "more sure" for us? Because, the same spirit who lived in the prophets lives in us, through faith in Jesus Christ who calls us.

Too spiritual? Too scary? Who knows. But I ain't skeered.

* I think this is a more literal and accurate translation of the Greek text of 2 Peter 1:19. Permission, The Joe B Version (JBV) New Testament, 2009.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Of Golden Calves

Sure, I know. You are right. Everything you think you know about God is exactly, precisely right. What you think you know = what you actually know, 100% of the time. In his 1952 book, Your God is Too Small, J.B. Phillips raised eyebrows as he confronted the tendency to attribute human-like limitations to our eternal, almighty God (for instance the arrogant notion that you have God all figured out, and you can anticipate his every move.)

Let me add my voice. Many Christians, even biblically literate and seminary trained, are prone to over-emphasizing certain attributes of God, to the diminution of others. The result is always a scaled-down, wee little god. One more to our liking. Maybe one that bears a passing resmblance to...you.

Calvinists tend to favor the facets of God that are disciplinarian, righteous, vengeful, selectively merciful, deterministic, and sometimes generous. Charismatics emphasize the intimate, fatherly, forgiving, merciful, friendly, joyful, and always generous. And shall we speak of conservatives and liberals?

Bottom line: Excluding or diminishing facets of our Father that are supernaturally revealed in Scripture is a flaw that cultivates error, lack of love, division and carnal living. The Lord our God is One. Let us pray to the One True God to open the eyes of our understanding so we may know Him better. In all his brilliance, glory and life-changing power.

NOTE: This article was written by Chris Bradford (Exec Pastor of Discipleship, Fellowship Bible Church, McKinney TX) and published on his modest-but-profound blog. It was stolen from his wee little blog, and had a stinging intro added, in an act of villainy not equalled since the burning of the fabled library of Alexandria. Comment on his blog page to voice your outrage!!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Transgenders and Jesus

Here's the "ethics dilemma" that Dr. Russell Moore of Southern Seminary presented to his ethics class for pastors:

Joan is a fifty year-old woman who has been visiting your church for a little over a year. She sits on the third row from the back, and usually exits during the closing hymn, often with tears in her eyes. Joan approaches you after the service on Sunday to tell you that she wants to follow Jesus as her Lord.

You ask Joan a series of diagnostic questions about her faith, and it is clear she understands the gospel. She still seems distressed though. When you ask if she’s repented of her sin, she starts to cry and grit her teeth.

“I don’t know,” she says. “I don’t know how…I don’t know where to start…Can I meet with you privately?”

You, Joan, and a godly Titus 2-type women’s ministry leader in your church meet in your office right away, and Joan tells you her story.

She wasn’t born Joan. She was born John. From early on in John’s life, though, he felt as though he was “a woman trapped in a man’s body.” Joan says, “I don’t mean to repeat that old shopworn cliché, but it really is what I felt like.”

Joan tells you that when she was twenty she began the process of “transitioning” from life as a man to life as a woman. She underwent extensive hormone therapy, followed by extensive plastic surgery—including so-called “gender reassignment surgery.” She has lived for the past thirty years—physically and socially—as a woman.

“I want to do whatever it takes to follow Jesus,” Joan tells you. “I want to repent…I just, I don’t know how to do it.”

“I am surgically now a woman. I’ve taken hormones that give me the appearance and physical makeup of a woman,” she says. “Even if I were to put on a suit and tie right now, I’d just look like a woman with a suit and tie. Not to mention the fact that, well, I am physically…a woman.”

“To complicate matters further,” Joan says through tears, “I adopted my daughter, Clarissa, when she was eight months old and she’s ten years old now. She doesn’t know about my past life as…as a man. She just knows me as her Mom.”

“I know the sex change surgery was wrong. I know that my life is twisted. I’m willing to do whatever Jesus would have me to do to make it right,” she says. “But what would Jesus have me to do?”

Joan asks you, “Am I too messed up to repent and be saved? If not, what does it mean for me to repent and live my life as a follower of Jesus? What is right for me to do?”

You see, the scenario about “Joan” isn’t really all that hypothetical. Chances are in your town right now, there are people in that situation. Why don’t they show up in our churches? Is it because they doubt if our gospel is really addressed to them? Or is it because we doubt it?

Not another word from me. What do you think? What's the dilemma? What's the solution?

For Dr. Moore's article and conclusions, CLICK HERE. If you have no opinions about the dilemma, you definitely will about his conclusions!