clarity

ClarityI listened to part of a powerful sermon the other day. The message seemed to be reflective of scripture although no obvious reference to scripture was given.

This seems to be a trend in preaching today. A preacher becomes enamored with an idea they have picked up from the Word and after reflecting on the meaning of the scripture they have read or studied, a sermon is born.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

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the modern church?

PlaneI wrote about them before on my blog.

And yes, I've probably been too snarky about them, and should probably just ignore them.

But it bothers me when a church seems to go too far to scratch people where they itch - or seem to say, "Hey, we're no different than anyone else and we're certainly not as stuffy as that old-fashioned gathering of persimmons down the road."

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his favorite song of all

One of the great American choirs singing one of my favorite songs... Turn it up, and sing it out!

He loves to hear the wind sing
As it whistles through the pines on mountain peaks
He loves to hear the raindrops
As they splash to the ground in a magic melody
He smiles in sweet approval
As the waves crash to the rocks in harmony
Creation joins in unity to sing in majestic symphonies

[Chorus:]
But His favorite song of all
Is the song of the redeemed
When lost sinners now made clean
Lift their voices loud and strong
When those purchased by His blood
Lift to Him a song of love
Nothing more He'd rather hear
Nor so pleasing to His ear
As His favorite song of all

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/b/brooklyntabernaclechoirlyrics/favoritesongofalllyrics.html

three strikes

Batball2A Facebook article this morning reminded me of some dark days in my life.

The seminarian who dropped by my room one evening to tell me that he didn't want to be my friend.

The pastor who informed me that being absent from special meetings was reasoning for rejecting my application to join the church's pastor staff - and that I wasn't "personable" enough.

Others. Spilled milk. Scabs that need not be picked.

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seeing, believing, and lost keys

Key"I don’t see why faith should be seen as inconsistent with science. There is nothing illogical about miracles if a Creator God exists. If a God exists who is big enough to create the universe in all its complexity and vastness, why should a mere miracle be such a mental stretch? To prove that miracles could not happen, you would have to know beyond a doubt that God does not exist. But that is not something anyone can prove.

"Science must always assume that an effect has a repeatable, natural cause. That is its methodology. Imagine, then, for the sake of argument that a miracle actually occurred. Science would have no way to confirm a nonrepeatable, supernatural cause. Alvin Plantinga argued that to say that there must be a scientific cause for any apparently miraculous phenomenon is like insisting that your lost keys must be under the streetlight because that’s the only place you can see."

- Pastor Tim Keller from a NYTimes interview with Nicholas Kristof


The Encouraging Assembly

1churchMy past history in relation to the local church has been disappointing, to say the least. It has left me a bit shell-shocked – so much so that returning to a physical church is daunting.

In dealing with the past, I remind myself of the lessons I have learned.  I regularly employ such questions as “What if…?” and “So what…?” in finding a way forward.  But just as I find a sense of satisfaction with the resolution I have found for the tension within, a verse plucked from God’s Word threatens the calm I thought I had found:

Hebrews 10:25 – “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

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I Was Afraid of That

ChurchsmallA friend recently shared with me about witnessing some of our local churches’ attempts at their displays during a local public event. What was relayed to me was funny, but it was also troubling. Such public displays over and above the weekly church service could be powerful, but sometimes such attempts seem to end up being either hilarious or embarrassing in my humble opinion.

When I hear of things like this, and end up shaking my head and thinking how foolish or impractical or humiliating they are, am I being overly critical? Maybe. Judgmental? I imagine so. Does it justify my staying away from and out of involvement in a local church? Now that’s a tough question.

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Failure

I have come to be suspicious of invitations to lunch, especially from authority figures. One in particular has haunted me for years:

The Scene: A Chinese restaurant in a town not far from my home.

Him: The Board of Elders has reviewed your resume’.

ME: (My heart flips, then starts racing. I had applied for a pastoral position at this church, but had no idea that this lunch was to discuss my application.)

Him: We wanted to thank you for submitting your resume’. (He’s talking to me while pulling out his DayTimer, flipping to a certain page. It seems obvious he has written down his remarks to me.)

ME: (I stare across the table at him, at his DayTimer, then back up to him. I begin to have a bad feeling. I feel my face start to flush.)

Him: After careful consideration, the Board of Elders has decided your resume’ does not reflect enough experience to serve as a pastor of (church name).

ME: (I feel my stomach turn; I feel tears start to bubble up in the bottoms of my eyelids.)

Him: The Board of Elders also believes that because you do not attend special services at (church name) and because you rarely come to special events at (church name), we believe you are not personable enough to be a pastor.

ME: (I feel like someone has just publicly slapped me in my face. I cannot look at him. I can’t find Winter_sadness_1 any place to let my eyes rest. I want to run home to my dad, and hold onto him until the hurting stopped, but realize he’s not there, having died just a few weeks earlier.)

Him: (Speaking words, cannot hear him; seeing his lips move but cannot understand his words. Something about closing in prayer. I bow my head but I only hear the word “Amen.”)

ME: (I raise my head. Get up to leave with him. I’m numb. I can’t even remember paying for lunch.)

I walked back to my car, tears burning in my eyes. I got in my car and begin the drive home. I never felt more alone in all my life. Tears fell from my eyes like huge rain drops. The only thought in my mind is one word: FAILURE.

The announcement couldn't have been more horribly timed. Dad's death from cancer was still fresh on my heart. I had been heavily involved in various ministries at the church: choir, solos, special projects for the church leadership/pastors, teaching in the Sunday School as well as a Moody Adult elective on Wednesday evenings. Yet because I was "absent" from "special" meetings, I was deemed "inexperienced" and "unpersonable". I was crushed. I felt like the fat kid on the playground wanting so much to join the other guys playing the games they were playing, only to have them turn to me and spit out, "Go home. You're not good enough to play with us."

My spirit and joy seemed to shrivel up like summer fruit left out in the sun. Years earlier one of the pastors of the church had been called to serve as the senior pastor of the church with NO experience as a senior pastor. I was a member of this church for a decade, and only applying for the LOWEST position on the pastoral staff, but even for that I wasn't good enough. And now I wasn't even going to get a chance. What I had been doing for the church now seemed to count for nothing. No one even seemed to consider that because I was trying to serve while at the same time help my dad who was dying from cancer, I was considered "unpersonable". I swam around the emotional pool for weeks, going from deep despair, to anger, to finally emerge on the shores of depression.

In the weeks that followed, I tried picking up the pieces of what remained of my heart. With dad gone, I had placed so much hope of ministering alongside cherished brothers in Christ. Now I was a reject. Unwanted. I felt that years spent at seminary were a waste. I felt my life was over. There were days I wanted to die. I can remember nights when I would rest my head upon my pillow, feel it grow wet from silent tears, and fall asleep hoping I would never wake up.

Luckily there was Mom. I poured my life into caring for her.

And yet, over a decade after the event, there are days when I still feel like a failure.