Thursday, November 20, 2008

Let the tyrant die for it!

I haven't forgotten this. This blog hasn't gone to virtual moth balls. I find community at its best when it is united against a challenge. I find my Christian community to be most powerful when I am personally focused upon what Christ was focused upon--Loving God and loving others. I don't need Christian community to keep my flesh happy--in fact my flesh would rather do without them.

Yet, in a time alone, I found community in a brother in Christ who has been with Christ for a long time already. Thomas Brooks was a Puritan Pastor almost 400 years ago and penned the following:

"Sin cannot say of a believer as the centuion said fo his servants, 'I bid one, Go0, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to another, Do this, and he doeth' (Mat 8:9). No! the hear tof a saint riseth agaisntg the commands of sin; and when sin would carry his sould to the devil, he hales his sin before the Lord, and cries out for justice. Lord! saith the believing sould, sin plays the tyrant, the devil in me; it would have me to do that which makes against thy holiness as well as against my happiness; against thy honour and glory, as my comfort and peace; therefore do me justice, thou righteous Judge of heaven adn earht, and let the tyrant sin die for it!"

Try that prayer in the face of sin next time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I believe in groups becaues I believe in individuals

I believe we need to be in community because I believe in the importance of an individual person.

When I was in college I had a period where I was part of a ROTC program. Part of that deal was that I needed to run a 1.5 mile race and had to do it in a certain amount of time. I have never been that much of a runner but was young and had an ego so I thought I would try to win.
Shortly after the race started one guy ran ahead of me and I decided that second place wouldn't be so bad. But i did decide to keep up with him. And I did, until the last quarter mile when he ran ahead. It turns out that he was a runner or something.

The point is that I ran faster than I ever have (and probably ever will). I was under nine minutes for the whole thing! That is under a six minute mile. On the sheet that marks my time, my name was next to that time and no one else's name was recorded there. However, I never would have run that fast if I wasn't running with someone who could push me to run faster.

There is potential in us that cannot be tapped into unless we are in community. I particularly believe this when it comes to men. We are made to "not be alone" but our community usually has a lot more to do with the lowest common denominator than it does with challenging and spurring each other on.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Why do I see more in the Gospel of John this time than I have seen in the last five times I have read it? I am not reading it alone. I am reading with others in my church. Our church is reading one chapter a day from the Gospel of John over 21 days (see the link in my last post). I am not thinking about particular people in my church as I read, but when I read I am just seeing more. Why?

Maybe I am paying attention better? Maybe I just know that I am not alone. Maybe it reminds me that my Spiritual life isn't just about me, my Bible and the Holy Spirit. I don't know. I do know that following Christ with others is just better.

Friday, August 15, 2008

In the garden

As a church we are going through a 21 day challenge where we are reading through the gospel of John one chapter a day ( This has led me to look deeper at John 15. Jesus' heart for his disciples and his concern for them in his impending departure is clearly evident. He gets them centered on who he is as the vine and who they are as branches. "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing."

But Jesus must speak to the painful experience of being pruned. The disciples will experience pruning from the hand of the father. That is the cutting back of growth that is not aligned with the father. This can take an unlimited number of forms of sufferings, hardship or set back--at least in our eyes. Yet, the rose gardener knoww that unless the rose bush is pruned, it will choke itself on its own branches and thorns and will never reach its full potential of beauty. It is easy to be the pruner on a rose bush, but hard to be the one under the pruner's scissor. I believe that out of the pain of pruning comes the temptation to disconnect from the vine. That drives Jesus repeated calls for his followers to remain.

He says remain in me and then breaks it down into two categories: remain in my words and remain in my love--remain in my grace and remain in my truth. We remain in his words by listening to his words through our experience of pruning. We remain in his love by obeying (trusting his love through faith), and in particular, obeying his command for us to love one another.

When we are being pruned, it is so tempting for us to disengage and to isolate. Yet, the only way through the experience is faith and faith in action. So, in the pruning season, we must lean into his word even more and lean into our fellowship with others even more. That is NOT easy--yet it is the call to discipleship. We trust the love of the father to allow him to remove parts of our lives without our permission knowing the pruning will make us more fruitful.

Yet, none of us have enough faith for this. When we are in the vine, we are grafted into a community. We must always be on the look out to be sure that no one among us begins to disconnect under the weight of the pruning (Heb 3:13). Depression, addiction, despair, distraction are all awaiting the attention of those who want to avoid the pruning hand of the father. So when we follow Christ in community we are not just remaining in his word for the sake of our own obedience, but we remain in his love for one another, loving each other and reminding one another of the gently, kind hand of the Father.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More thoughts on Facebook, part 2

Is Facebook just an extension of how I already view community? If I duck real relationships in person, Facebook will probably become this shallow play land with me in the middle. But if I have built real relationships over time, Facebook could keep me in touch with those real relationships and even suppport the ongoing influence of those relationships in my life.

Take Edwin Tennefoss for example. He just found me and now we are friends on Facebook. Edwin and I met in 1992 when I was learning about God and Christ was becoming more and more real to me. That was the year when Ed and I met and we saw God do amazing things. This is a connection that transcends time. Ed and I haven't been in touch really for fifteen years and he only really knows me from back then. My friendship with him transcends a few seasons of my life.

My connection Ed reminds me how real God is because it reminds me of what God has done in the past when I met Ed. When I interact with Ed through Facebook I am brought back to remember all that I saw God do in, through and with me and Ed that year. That is a good thing if I allow it to be. It could be a bad thing if I allow it to be. Does this mean that Facebook and technology like it is morally neutral?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What do you think of Facebook? Part 1

All right. I got into Facebook because everyone else was doing it. It was really cool when I got connected with people I hadn't seen since my wedding. I have actually looked at a couple of their pictures of their kids and looked at what they are doing at times. I even got in contact with my cousin which is awesome. We never really got on the phone with each other and live too far away. But I have mixed feelings.
My home page tells me that I have 80 friends--that is particularly affirming and certainly 80 more than I think I had in Middle School. But are they really my friends? Who are they and what role do they play in my life? Obviously I keep in touch with some of them more than others, but who are these people and how do I categorize them? Forgive me for over-engineering this thing (can't you just enjoy this?). Seriously, what expectations ought we have of our friends on facebook.
I think I would like to listen to you on this one and then weigh in a week later. My thinking right now leads me to lean on my last blog entry ("Are you in my personal space?") and think that Facebook is a unique social circle with me in the middle.
What do you think?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Are you in my personal space?

Joseph Myers in his book, The Search to Belong wrote about the different kinds of ways we find belonging. He used the concept developed in the sixties called proxemics to put this together. You know this concept because you use the phrase, "you are in my personal space, please get out!"

Myers defines belonging this way: "Belonging happens when you identify with another entity--a person or organization, or perhaps a species, cluture, or ethnic group." The Search to Belong, p. 25

How do the different spaces of belonging work out?
Public Belonging--a large community that we each find a sense of belonging from. I am an Eagles fan and have a sense of belonging with other Eagles fans that I don't know. I belong to Willowdale Chapel though I don't know everyone who attends there. I find belonging as a Blue Hen, a UD grad. From the proxemics point of view, this parallels public space--when there is generally 12'+ space. That is why people generally don't want to be in the front row at church. Too close for public space! Now, you might not think that this connection is very powerful, but don't tell that to the 65,000 people who spend unreal money to belong at each Eagles home game. A football stadium event is an event in belonging. Nobody knows anything else about anybody in that stadium except that they are crazy for the Eagles. Many of these people bend their lives around this community. Myers puts it this way: "They connect because of the outside influence, not because of shared personal information." p.41

Social Community--These are my friends that tend to be acquaintances. I hang out with them at work and may have lunch with them. These are not people you will share the intimate details of your life, but they will often hear (though maybe not remember) what you did last weekend. I belong to my small group in this way. Often times these are the friendships that get kicked around because they are "shallow" and only concern "superficial" things. Yet, they are powerful because they draw us into neighbor-like relationships. Neighborhoods have always provided safety and care throughout the centuries. This could be geographical neighborhoods or the neighborhoods that come into being through small groups and Sunday Schools. One family in my small group are going through a very challenging time as the wife has undergone two surgeries in a week. She has never really bore any personal intimate details of her life and we haven't asked her to, yet. But she is experiencing community as she is recieving, meals, visits, phone calls, babysitting, etc. from these very powerful and at times "superficial" friendships. She belongs to our small group, and doggonit, we are going to care for her!

Personal Belonging--Myers describes it this way, "Personal space is where we connect through sharing private--although not "naked"--experiences, feelings, and thoughts... These are the relationships that most people mention when they think of "community."" p. 49-50 I have found these kind of friendships consistently through the years in two-three other men to whom I am accountable to in my walk with Christ. I don't "nakedly dump" by stuff on them, but I open myself up to them in a disciplined and authentic way for the purpose of being known and challenged to grow.

Intimate Belonging-- "In intimate space, we share "naked" experiences, feelings, and thoughts. Very few relationships are intimate. Intimate relationships are those in which anothe rperson know the "naked truth" about us and yet the tow of us are "not ashamed." Myers p. 50-51 Nakedness and lack of shame mark this kind of belonging. This is quite often a spouse and/or a best friend.

Sometimes intimate belonging is thought to be the "goal of community". Myers suggest that someone with a healthy experience of belonging hold a harmonious set of connections within the four spaces. What do you think?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What happens when we get rid of the Intolerable Burden

I found this outstanding quote that follows up on the topic from the earlier posting entitled, "An Explaining Mechanism Kicks in."

"Luther, Calvin and those who followed them inisted that the fruit of justification is faith active in love. A living faith expresses itself in works of love, in service to the neighbor.... Such love is directed in the first instance not toward God in hope of attaining some merit toward salvation, but toward one's neighbor, for "the Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and his neighbor." Luther urged Christians to perform good works out of spontaneous love in obedience to God for the sake of others. To put it in other words, justification by faith alone frees me to love my neighbor disinterestedly, for his or her own sake, as my sister or brother, not as the calculated means to my own desired ends.

Since we no longer have to carry around the intolerable burden of self-justification, we are free "to be Christs unto one another," as Luther put it, to expend ourselves on behalf of one another, even as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us.

From The Mark of Jesus by Timothy George and John Woodbridge p. 41

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What do we talk about?

I talk a lot with people. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing a good job at it. I can chat all day about most things and only on few occasions have people fallen asleep on me. What I really mean is—do the topics of conversation I wander to reflect God’s concerns? Or, another way to put this is; “If community is going to be genuinely Christian, what will we talk about? We will talk about following Christ.” Paul put it this way:

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men, who will also be qualified to teach others….Remember my gospel…” 2 Timothy 2:2, 8

What did he want Timothy to talk about? The things he said in front of many witnesses. From the rest of his writings, his central message and the overall teaching that holds everything together is the gospel (Col 1:6-8): The good news.

This is what gives Christian community teeth. It is the only thing that sets it apart as Christian. Mormons, Jews, Jehovah Witnesses all talk about the Bible and so should we. But the gospel is the message over which Paul said, if somebody teaches you something contrary, let them be condemned (Gal 1). In other words, it is the Christian interpretation of scripture. It sees the entire scripture through the lens of the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. These historical events bear upon our every minute life. It is the message that teaches and the teaching that calls me to a response.

My fear is that it is easy for us to unknowingly teach something else—not by directly teaching against the gospel, but—by ignoring its importance in our conversation.

So, how are you responding in faith to the gospel today? I am by writing this. Ask me tomorrow.

I found the quote

I found the quote that I mentioned in the last posting:

It was from an episode of the sitcom, Coach in February of 1995:
“When one man talks about loving another man, an explaining mechanism kicks in.”