Down to Earth

We just had our third child yesterday. Asher David. We attempted to deliver naturally at a birthing center, but ended up in the hospital. Baby Asher was taken out via c-section. Everyone is healthy and we’re not disappointed that our VBAC didn’t work out.

A lot has changed in five years. We had essentially the same experience with our first child, Reuben, but our response to it was totally different. We had watched so many documentaries on the tradition of home birth and the advent of hospital birth. We knew that in the hospital we wouldn’t be able to try different birthing positions, and we would be less likely to be able to deliver naturally. We knew about the hormones that Mom produces when Baby comes out the “right” way. We knew about the importance of early skin-to-skin contact. We didn’t want a bunch of tests run right away and we didn’t want Baby to think its mother was a heating lamp or a gaggle of nurses. We knew, we knew, we knew.

And we were proud of these things. We were proud of what we knew and we were proud of the decision we had made. We were going to have a home birth because we had done the research and we were smarter and better than everyone else.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t implicate my wife in sharing that sense of pride. But that is how I felt five years ago, a month before Reuben was born, though I wouldn’t have admitted it. And when we had to go to the hospital, we tried everything to get Reuben out the “right” way before we finally gave up the fight.

We were angry that things didn’t go the way we planned–angry at the hospital, the doctors, the midwife, and even Reuben. Maybe even angry at God. We were confused and hurt.

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Why Sunday Worship?

Why Sunday Worship?

I know all of the standard answers to this question.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

“On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” (1 Corinthians 16:2)

“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” (Acts 20:7)

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” (John 20:1)

Jesus rose on the first day, so we commemorate the first day, and we continue to meet together as the early believers did… I know this.

But why Sunday Worship?

Why Sunday Morning Worship Service with the building and the chairs and the programming and the carefully thought out sermon and the diligently practiced songs?

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Growing Pains

Since my mom was in the Air Force, I grew up on different military bases all over the world. But since I got married five and a half years ago, I have been working at the same place and living in the same house.

Seeing the world was a broadening experience for me. But seeing one church for almost six years has been a different kind of experience—a deepening experience. And it hasn’t come without some growing pains.

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History Worth Preserving

Yesterday I saw the movie Monuments Men with my wife. It will probably be our last date before our next baby comes. (All in good time.)

One of the lines delivered (and, I guess, written) by George Clooney really seemed to speak to this. Speaking to his men of the stolen artwork they were trying to recover from the Nazis, he reminded them of cultures that had bounced back from war and calamity, though their populations were decimated and their belongings destroyed. But, he said, “If you destroy their achievements, their history, it’s like they never existed.”

I think this is where the traditional Protestant church is at today. Each denomination and each local church wants to celebrate its achievements. It wants to celebrate its history. But the mainline Protestant churches are dying–at least in America. And as I have watched and learned from the mainline church over the past half a decade, I am starting to think that the closer to death a church gets, the more important its history becomes to it.

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Negative Energy

Sometimes I feel like a downer.

In the oldest personality classification I know of, Hippocrates’ four temperaments (developed 2500 years ago and based on preexisting ideas), I am “melancholy.” The ancient Greek physician would have diagnosed me with an imbalance of bodily fluids, and he’d be wrong. But “melancholy” isn’t really a bad word to describe me. It seems much easier for me to bring negative energy into a room than it is to being positive energy.

I don’t even really know what I mean by that. It’s just an observation. I find myself more comfortable sobering people up, rather than cheering them up, although I probably actually do more of the latter, as a leader and a pastor.

Sometimes I feel bad about being melancholy. After all, negative energy can be harmful. Gossip, slander, mean-spirited comments, and worse things all seem to spring from this negative, or darker side of the human spirit.

And in Christian theology, or at least the popular version of it, we try to avoid negativity. Negativity is associated with sin. Positive energy is associated with faith.

Being unsure of where God is in a situation is negative, it’s sad, it implies a lack of faith. Being completely sure that God is directing a situation in a certain way is positive, it’s a demonstration of faith.

I’m not sure though. I think we need both. Continue reading

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Holy Insulters

In my small group this past week, our facilitator (not me–I’m in charge of enough stuff already) showed us some videos from the Messy Mondays series, by YouTube content creator Blimey Cow. It got us started on a discussion of spiritual language that I found thought-provoking and I wanted to share my thoughts. And since that is what this blog is here for, I thought–why not.

My controversial thesis, based only on experience, is that past a certain point, the more spiritual someone sounds, the less spiritual they are. Continue reading

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Strange Fire

I recently wrote a blog for First Fruits of Zion about John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” conference:

While I was surprised to find that there would be so much support for an anti-charismatic conference outside the most conservative fringes of fundamentalist Christianity… I was not surprised to find John MacArthur at the helm.

My first encounter with John MacArthur’s work was many years ago, during my undergraduate education, when I was assigned a book called Fool’s Gold: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error, a collection of articles he edited and which was published under his name.

Under the banner of “discernment,” MacArthur and his contributors criticized a hodgepodge of popular Christian books and practices. While the charismatic movement was not in MacArthur’s sights in this particular project, he did lambast Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven series of resources, John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, and contemporary worship music, among other things. Perhaps the most interesting contribution to Fool’s Gold was a denunciation of N. T. Wright’s contributions to the New Perspective on Paul.

So MacArthur has been at this for a while.

You can read the whole article here:

http://ffoz.org/blogs/2013/10/strange_fire.html

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A Long-Traveled Road

It’s been a while since I did anything with this blog… So long, in fact, that I had to reset my login information to be able to get back in.

There were over twenty thousand spam comments waiting for approval. Not one of them made it through the “must be approved by administrator” firewall. You’d think that at some point the spammers would notice that their efforts have born no fruit.

Why haven’t I been blogging?

I guess it’s kind of a long story.

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Depression and Pessimistic Anthropology

Growing up somewhere in between fundamentalist and Evangelical Chrisitanity, I was taught that depression was a sin. Depression was the end result of self-focus. Someone who claimed to hate himself was really in love with himself. Someone who wanted to die or commit suicide represented the pinnacle of selfishness.

I think this attitude must come from the elevation of “total depravity”–one of the five points of Calvinism–from a theological formula to a practical, everyday observation. I’m not convinced that this is a healthy idea or even that it represents the ideals of the early followers of Calvin.

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Every man is not a theologian

One of the first things they teach you at the Baptist seminary I am attending is that every man must be a theologian. This wording is taken from John H. Gerstner, who really believed that every person must be a theologian. To Gerstner, everyone must be an amateur theologian who believes something about God, even if this knowledge doesn’t take the form of academic or precise terms.

I appreciate what Gerstner was trying to communicate, and I agree on this level: that everyone should think about God and have beliefs about God that are grounded in reality. However, I have come to see that the idea that everyone should be a theologian isn’t quite as great as it seems. For one, I think it dilutes the meaning of the term “theologian.”

For example, I could cut someone open and remove an organ. I wouldn’t be able to do it professionally or according to textbooks on surgery, but I could do it. So am I an amateur surgeon? Must every man be an amateur surgeon?

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