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Happy Resurrection Sunday!

I would like to wish all of my readers a wonderful Resurrection Sunday! May you take the time today to reflect on the Risen Messiah and the love and peace he intended to bring to the world. Take that love and peace and carry it to the far parts of the world as His ambassadors.

Take a moment to listen to Chris Tomlin sing “I Will Rise.”

Life from Death –My Messy Beautiful

anafalz:

This is an amazing piece written by Carlee Lane who I frequently reblog. Here she shares a piece of her testimony which is powerful and tender all at once. She is full of spiritual wisdom. If you have lost someone and still mourn, read this now! Don’t wait.

Originally posted on love.joy.peace.:

At the beginning of the week I spend time with a sweet 2-year-old boy who said goodbye to his baby sister a month ago. The baby he prayed for and loved on, the baby that would get to grow old with him, lived for only 40 minutes on this Earth. The other day he pointed up to Heaven and sang to me about his “baby thitthy.” Tell me, how do you grasp grief as a 2-year-old? How do you understand death?

I remember being tucked into bed by family and dear friends the night that my mom died. I prayed that I wouldn’t dream that night, because I just wanted to rest. I was scared of what my dreams may hold. How do you grasp grief as a 9-year-old? How do you understand death?

I can still recall the one-sided conversation I overheard of the phone call to my family explaining…

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Modesty

I have seen the word “modesty” being thrown around frequently again. Then the other day I heard a radio interview where a lady was imploring young women to dress modestly so men will not lust after them and sin. She then continued to reason that if a young woman does not dress modestly and a man lusts after her, she is guilty of his lust. (I am sorry I do not remember who the people were in the conversation, but I was driving and seeing red by this point.)

Who gets to define modesty? This is a sticky point. Each church tradition has a certain idea what modesty is. Who is correct?

This particular radio guest made men sound like an animal that lacks self-control over their being. That offends me. I am pretty sure my sin belongs to me and me alone. My eyes and my thoughts are controlled by me, not someone else. I am responsible for myself. Therefore, no one is responsible for my sin except for me.

So, who gets to define modesty? I believe each person, man and woman alike, need to determine their own modesty. How do they do this: by searching in their soul for what God desires for them. What makes them feel as if they are honoring God in their appearance? In the end, they are accountable for it.

Men, we need to step up and quit pawning off our faults on others. Quit making others feel guilty for our failures. Instead, go before the Throne of God and repent of the sin, accept forgiveness, and start again in the newness of grace and mercy.

Bottle, Blanket, and a Bible

I heard a story the other day about a homeless man and a rookie police officer. The homeless man was frequently arrested and the whole police force knew of him. When being arrested he would be confrontational, or even violent, with the arresting officer. Each time they encountered him he had a bottle of booze, a blanket, and a Bible.

As the rookie officer took to the beat for the first time on her own, they warned her of this man and his erratic behavior. At some point she encountered the man and she was going to have to take him to jail. She told him she had to pour out the bottle of booze, but told him he could take the blanket and Bible with him to the jail where he would get it back after he was released. He was stunned to hear this. During every previous arrest they made him leave his stuff with someone else who then disposed of it. He was confused by this officer’s behavior. Needless to say, this young officer has had to arrest this gentleman multiple times. Never has he been belligerent or violent towards her.

Why has he not been belligerent or violent? Because she treated him as a human being who had value. She accepted him for who he was and treated him with respect. She saw the blanket and Bible were his sole valued possessions. This got me thinking about church life and how this applies to our lives in the church.

So often we are like the seasoned officers. We prejudge people. Where those officers thought he was a homeless drunk who disrespected them and assaulted them, many times the church prejudges people in the same way. We judge by appearance, smell, noises, size, and the list goes on. After prejudging these people, we then behave like the other officers and make our visitors leave their things behind. We tell them they need to dress differently, take out their piercings, cover their tattoos, and sober up before we welcome them.

When you hear church described like that, why would you want to attend? Why would anyone want to attend? Why do we expect them to dress and act appropriately, whatever appropriately means, before we will accept them? If we believe in sanctification, a word that talks about the ongoing process a believer goes through during their lifetime to become more holy, none of us act completely appropriately. We are all working towards our future perfection and until we get there we are still flawed.

I challenge every Christian to reevaluate how we treat people. Do we treat them like the seasoned officers? If we do and continue to do so, we should shut the churches down now and save time and money. If we transform our way of thinking to behave like that rookie officer, we will have churches that are accepting of people of all walks of life and at all stages of their lives. The rookie showed grace, mercy, and love. I challenge the church to step up and show that same grace, mercy, and love to everyone.

The Remnant Evangelicals

I have read a number of blog posts recently about an exodus of Christians from the evangelical denominations to mainline denominations. The issues they cite for their decisions are not only valid, but quite compelling. The issues are varied, but the underlying issue is the leadership, more specifically the talking heads of the denominations under the evangelical flag. Their “my way or the highway” attitude has turned many away. The talking heads present themselves as the highest authorities on Biblical interpretation and anyone who disagrees with them is wrong. Again, I understand why people are leaving.

The thing I have seen that disturbs me is the negative attitude towards those of us who have chosen to stay in a denomination which is identified as evangelical. Not all of us subscribe to the ideas of the major figureheads of the evangelical-political movement. For example, I find myself agreeing more with Peter Enns, Walter Brueggemann, and Gregory Boyd than I do John Piper, Al Mohler, and Russell Moore. In other words, I theologically lean towards the former and not the later. So why do I stay in the camp?

I stay in the camp because I believe there is still a difference to be made. There are still people learn wanting to learn and grow. There are still young adults who need better than previous generations received. There is a place in these denominations for pastors and teachers who are willing to challenge people to think independently, to research what they are taught and ask difficult questions. I am not saying you should challenge the authority structure for no reason, but you should verify everything taught and preached to you. Learn the material for yourself.

What am I asking those who have left the evangelical camp? Consider your words carefully when you critique those of us who have stayed behind as a remnant in the evangelical church. We are teaching and preaching to people. We are asking people to think and research for on their own. We want them to verify the accuracy of our preaching and teaching. We ask them to service the communities around them, and to love the stranger and the downtrodden. We are a group who is teaching grace, mercy, and hope. We would like to hear the support and encouragement from those who have moved on to other denominations. After all, we are all still working to further the kingdom of God.

Fragments

anafalz:

Check out this wonderful post. It is the perfect words for a Sunday morning. Unity of the Church is something to strive for, not denomination exclusion. Open and inclusive, not closed and exclusive.

Originally posted on lost in wonder, love, and praise...:

Today’s post is going to be brief, as I not only have to put the finishing touches on a sermon, but also need to watch ( need! ) a very close national semifinal game between the Florida Gators and the Connecticut Huskies (go UConn!).

imgresThough I’ve been watching the game on TBS, I’ve noticed that there are two other broadcasts available: one for Florida fans and one for UConn fans.  Presumably, the Florida broadcast will include commentators with a rooting interest in the Gators, while the UConn broadcast will feature people transparently supporting the Huskies.  It occurs to me that the existence of these team-specific options is symptomatic of a wider trend in our culture today.  Our society has become fragmented; we tend to spend time only with people we agree with and listen only to people who share our worldview.  This is part of the reason for the proliferation of news networks…

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His Wounds Heal

As we prepare for the coming of the week of Easter, the week where we remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, I felt this was a great Friday video. This song is a reminder the coming weeks is necessary, even critical, to the restoration of our relationship with God our Abba.

Take time to listen, and worship as Mac Powell, Brian Littrell, and others from “Glory Revealed Tour” sing “By His Wounds.”

Church Idols – Church Bank Account

The church bank account is an idol in many churches. Some churches relish in saving every nickel and dime, making sure not a cent is spent on anything frivolous – or anything at all except regular bills. It is an interesting phenomenon. Most churches are non-profits. To think they want to amass tens of thousands of dollars and grip onto it like their life depends on it is interesting to me. It is not a sense of good stewardship they are practicing, it is greed and fear.

When does the church bank account become an idol? That is a tricky question. I would say it is an idol when the church cannot let go of money for any reason other than paying bills. I understand there is a responsibility to have some type of emergency fund available for major repairs. Good stewardship with the money the congregation has provided is God honoring. But the reality is churches, and their programming, have to change with the times and that costs money. Churches need supplies, electronics, paint, carpet, and the list goes on and on. None of this is free.

Money is given to a church through tithes, gifts, and offerings. There is an imperative to spend this money wisely. That means saving when appropriate, and spending when appropriate. In a time of emergency, say a major disaster in a neighboring state, it would be prudent to gift a sizeable amount of money to a reputable agency that will perform recovery services there. When the media devices in the church go out of date, which is typically long before they stop working, they need to be updated.

Money causes all sorts of issues in churches and should be handled in a God honoring way. But to idolize that money and save it in the coffers forever is not honoring the donors or God. Destroy the idol and put God’s money to work.

Book Review – Fight

I have read a wealth of material over the past three years covering the topic of war and Christian ethics and philosophies surrounding the topic. Books, journal articles, documentaries – all of these have allowed me to have a breadth of material to compare this book to. That being said, I would consider Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence[1] one of the best contemporary treatments of the topic.

Preston Sprinkle approaches the topic from the position of nonviolence. He is not shy about that – after all, it is on the cover as the subtitle. He does not ignore other positions, but boldly addresses them quite thoroughly. He admits what many may consider weak points in his position – an example being he is a gun owner – to be transparent. It is this boldness which earns credibility from the reader.

Sprinkle walks the reader through the Old Testament acknowledging the darkness of many of the narratives in it. He looks at both sides of the issue and examines whether the text is literal or if there is some type of cultural nuance involved. He examines the prophets and their approach to the violence that surrounded them. He believes this combined material will lead the believer to a more nuanced view of the death and destruction.

Then the New Testament is tackled. His examination there is quite predictable as he discusses the passages about love and forgiveness. I am not downplaying this examination, as he does an excellent job is laying his case out, but this is the predictable direction for a peacemaker to take. Where Sprinkle breaks from the typical mold is his work on Revelation. Sprinkle does an excellent job providing an alternate view to the Revelation of John. The best thing about it is he does it well and provides a defendable case for his view.

The last thing Sprinkle confronts the reader with is what I will call the “practical theology” section. Here he discusses his view on defending your home and family. He moves on to answer questions people have posed to him in the past and address the Cruciform King. This is where he ties his Old Testament and New Testament views together and puts it in action.

I provide little detail in my review and I am well aware of that and it was intentional. This is a book which must be read and processed one page at a time. It took a little longer than normal to read this book because it demands greater reflection than many books. Sprinkle does not provide an entertaining book; he crafted a book which will transform the reader if they are willing to put the effort into it. Considering the world and all of the violence it contains, I recommend you buy this book and get to work on it immediately.

[1] Preston Sprinkle. Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence. (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2013).

The Missing Airliner

The missing Malaysian aircraft has captured the news for several weeks now. Speculation is running wild on the news outlets. The Malaysian government has claimed to have found the aircraft, yet offers no proof. With all the search aircraft and ships working the area how is there not one shred of physical evidence to date? Everyone has an opinion, and so far little in the way of facts has surfaced. Family and friends of the passengers are suffering in the abyss of the unknown. Even this tragedy is slipping away into the background of the media, only popping up when a new potential lead is announced.

We have become a people of short attention spans. We fail to complete tasks we set out on. We want our food faster and faster. We cannot cover a critical story until the families get relief or until the search is terminated. Why is that? We have failed to value the long-term. When you think about this, it makes sense why so few are interested in hearing about the eternal.

To talk about eternity is so ungraspable for many that they shut down when we speak of it. They are not sure what they will be doing next week, let alone ten years from now. So to them, the eternal is useless. Our churches must talk about the eternal in a way that will draw the connection between now and forever. To skip that step would be an incomplete message.

Back to the missing airliner: As of this writing, it is still missing. Despite Malaysian claims to the contrary, there has been no recovery of pieces of the aircraft or passengers. We need to practice long-term thinking and commitment and focus on prayer for the families involved and the searchers who tirelessly work at the task of finding the aircraft and people on board.

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