Institutionalized Education

I watched a thought provoking video on education over at Nathan's blog this morning. Nathan asked us this question:
My question, as you watch, is how does this apply to the church? Does it have relevance to the way we should do things at all? Now or in the future, how do you transition? If schools teach from a 19th century paradigm in the 21st century, what about the church?
Here is the way that I sort-of answered:
I have believed for a very long time that our school system is targeted at a small minority.. most of the folks who are successful in school have a style of learning that is very compatible with the manner of teaching in "institutionalized education" ... hey, I liked saying that ... usually it is someone who is unhappy with church that says "institutionalized church" :)

Seriously, the problems in US education far outshadow that of church in America.. I wonder why we never hear about this? Maybe it is because the "institutionalized church" has bought into "institutionalized education" ... hmmm ... I wonder how many of us in church like to be "taught" by Doctor Jones or Reverend Smith instead of being ministered to by brother Joe ... hmmm ... some interesting thoughts.
I think that US education has impacted the evangelical church much more that we want to admit. In our search for acceptance we have gravitated to unhealthy desires to be led by "educated" people.. we seem to now want teachers rather than shepherds.. we seem to want people who are brain-smart rather than heart-smart.. I have to wonder where this journey will end. What do you think? Is the church being overly influenced by academia?

When you forgive....

This morning I commend you to the reading of a post with the same name as this one at Julie's place. Here is an excerpt from this very beautiful accounting of her journey of forgiveness:
I joined Campus Crusade in the usual way: within minutes, I was sharing the Four Spiritual Laws with unbelievers. I had determined in college that I'd do it all differently, all rightly, all better. My Bible study leaders taught us about sin. I wanted truth. They tried to get me to see my own sin. All I could see were the sins of others against me.

It would have been incredibly helpful, in looking back, if someone had simply mentioned that Jesus died not just for my sins (sins I couldn't see, identify or feel), but that he died for the sins against - for those sins committed against victims. It would have been even more helpful if I hadn't been admonished to forgive my parents, but had rather been told how important my pain was to God, how proud God was of me for caring that much about truth, justice and suffering... and had then shown me a way to use that pain to create a more just and compassionate world (not just a tiny, in-grown sense of personal revenge-as-justice that I had adopted).

I don't blame anyone for this oversight. It's taken me twenty-five years to tease apart all the threads that make me who I am today.
Please read Julie's whole beautiful story.. you will be gld that you did.

Hope and Expectations

I came across these quotes today and had to update this post:
"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem." - Theodore Rubin

"The greatest test of courage on the earth is to bear defeat without losing heart." - R. G. Ingersoll
Don't you love that last part? Really, having problems is not problem.. Jesus put it this way:
"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
I love that Jesus tells us to expect problems and encourages us to take courage when they come.. courage.. just what I need today!

Lately I have been meditating on what it means to have hope. The scripture that I have been thinking about is:
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Many times in my life I have thought that my hopes have brought me disappointment. In retrospect it wasn't hope but expectations.

I remember a time about 10 years ago when my heart was in a very dark place. My son was having troubles and I spoke to my pastor Jeff about it hoping he could help. Little happened that summer and I started resenting my pastor.. I expected him to follow-up with me.. I expected him to do something. Late that summer the Holy Spirit began to deal with me and asked me this question:
Why do you expect Jeff to act when you have not communicated that expectation to him?
I began to realize that an expectation that is not communicated is unrealistic and foolish. I think that we do this with God. We read a scripture, we personalize it and then we expect God to act on our expectation. We are sick.. we read about healing in the scriptures.. and we expect that he will heal us. We are disappointed when He doesn't heal us.

Hope is different. For one thing.. as the scripture says.. hope does not disappoint.. a test of whether we are hoping or expecting is what the result is. One key idea about hope is that it is based on God's promises. Here are a few scriptures out of the eighth chapter of Romans that inspire hope in me:
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (v1)

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (v16-17)

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (v28)

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (v38-39)
These verses speak to me about the hope of knowing Jesus. They tell me that God accepts me.. He includes me in His family.. He uses everything in my life for my good.. and nothing can separate me from Him or his love! These are the types of things that we can place our hope in.. these are the things that inspire hope in me.. they give me confidence. They don't create a false expectation in me.. they allow me to rest where I am.. they help me to be still and know that He is in control.

In contrast to hope expectations cause us to never rest.. they torment us with questions about why things are the way that they are. Expectations generally focus on what we do not have.. what could be if God would answer our prayers according to our expectations.

It is difficult to embrace hope because it involves yielding control of our lives and our expectations to the Lord. When we hold on to our expectations we embrace the illusion of control. Laying down our expectations is the heart of having hope. As long as we cling to expectations we will keep hope at arms length.

My invitation to you today is to lay down your expectations of God and embrace the hope that He so liberally offers.

A Jesus for Real Men

This great Christianity Today article (of the same name as this post) written by Brandon O'Brien is subtitled:

What the new masculinity movement gets right and wrong.

Here are a few excerpts that I liked:
Besides offering an extremely narrow view of masculinity, this framework totally excludes women from real discipleship. To begin with, it blames them for neutering the gospel. Left in their hands, the church became nice and affirming and lost its vision to reach the world. Perhaps worse, if Christ is the model of masculinity, then women can't imitate him. They can pursue him as the lover of their souls. They can imitate his devotion to the Father in their relationships with their husbands. But they can't become like him in any essential way.

Most importantly, Scripture gives no indication that Jesus came to earth to model masculinity. He is the "image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" (Col. 1:15). As such, he is not simply the perfect male; he is the perfect human being. Through his obedience to the Father, Christ exhibited the qualities that should characterize all believers, both male and female.

Jesus' triumphal entry is commonly considered evidence of his essential maleness. It seems reasonable: Angered by the blasphemy of the temple officials, Jesus topples tables and whips moneychangers in a demonstration of righteous aggression. But the story must be understood in the context of Luke's entire gospel. Earlier in Luke (13:34), Jesus describes his love for Jerusalem in maternal terms; he has longed to gather Israel to himself "as a hen gathers her brood under her wings." Anticipating his final entrance into Jerusalem, he says that he will visit Jerusalem's house (the temple) when the people proclaim, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" As he approaches the city in Luke 19, he weeps at their stubbornness. Only then does he chase the merchants from the temple. In other words, the temple cleansing was premeditated—not a manly burst of anger, but a passionate and symbolic display of God's judgment.

My point is this: If Adam and Eve illustrate the essential differences between men and women, Christ highlights their essential unity. All believers are called to imitate Christ by exhibiting the same qualities; Paul makes no distinction between masculine and feminine fruits of the Spirit. In fact, the evidence of the Spirit's work looks very different from the qualities the masculinity movement suggests typify a "real" man. Instead of "brash, offensive" (Stine), "self-reliant, competitive" (Murrow), "punch-you-in-the-nose dudes" (Driscoll), Paul says that those who are filled with the Holy Spirit will be loving, patient, peaceful, kind, and gentle.

The masculinity movement would have us emulate the glorified Jesus—the one who will return on horseback and brandish the sword of judgment. That is certainly the Jesus we worship. But it is not the Jesus we are commanded to imitate. The only times Jesus appears in Scripture as a warrior are in his pre-incarnate debuts in the Old Testament and post-resurrection glory. Our model of behavior, then, is the suffering Son, not the glorified one. Humanity in the image of Christ is not aggressive and combative; it is humble and poor (Phil. 2:5ff). We are most like Christ not when we win a fight, but when we suffer for righteousness' sake (Eph. 5:1-2; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14).
I recommend this four page article to you. I think that it is a balanced treatment of the subject and gives you some food for thought - men and women alike. Please let me know if you read it and what you thought of it.

Repentance from Religion

My blog friend Sarah has written a really great post this week.
Here is an appetizer:
I used to believe the only way to follow God wholeheartedly 100% was to either be a missionary or to be in "full-time ministry" or to "have a ministry" (a paid or fundraising-supported function within a Christian organization, ministry or church). I wouldn't have articulated it that way, and if someone had articulated it to me that way, I wouldn't have intellectually agreed. But deep down, this was my functional paradigm. This belief was affected by Hellenistic dualism and its false dichotomization of sacred from secular.
Please check out her whole post. You will be glad that you did!


The bible is filled with people who overcame some of the most outrageous obstacles. I thought I'd take a few minutes while I sit here in my wife's hospital room.. speaking about persevering!.. to talk about a few of these people and comment about what they teach me about perseverance. I'll start with one of my favorites: Joseph. Here is what he said when he reflected on his brothers' betrayal; his false imprisonment and his life separated from his family:
"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." (Genesis 50:20)
One aspect of persevering is the ability to see your past with an eye for redemption. This viewpoint will cause you to see God's fingerprints in your life.. it will keep bitterness from grabbing hold of you.. it will help you have a kingdom view of your life. This view kept Joseph in a place where God could use him to interpret dreams and find favor with Pharaoh.

King David was an amazing man. Who can think of him and not consider his persevering loyalty to King Saul. Though he was anointed king when he was a teenager.. and he could have thought that the kingdom was his for the taking.. he was amazingly patient with Saul.. even when he spent years hiding in caves from a somewhat insane Saul.. sparing Saul's life on several occasions. We get a glimpse of David's heart when he speaks this to Saul:
"The LORD therefore be judge and decide between you and me; and may He see and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand." (1 Samuel 24:15)
David was an amazing example of patience - he trusted God to make him king in God's time. From this we see that endurance requires us to believe that God pleads our cause when we simply stay faithful to Him and wait on His timing. It is much easier to do than to say - watching my wife suffer this past week tempts me to think otherwise - David speaks to me and challenges me to be patient.

Job is another person that I think of when I think about persevering. After losing all ten of his children his initial attitude was one of praise and understanding. His initial reaction was good even though his heartsick wife counseled him to curse God and die. As he began to deeply grieve the loss of all of his children we see a man who seemed to hang in there with God when he said:
"As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. "Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27)
Job seemed to have an eternal perspective on his suffering. This to me is so important if we are to persevere. If we suffer all of our lives it is still a small part of our eternal life.. a life that will go on forever with God. I believe that this is what The Blessed Hope is all about.. our hope is not wrapped up in this life.

Lastly, I have to talk about the apostle Paul. A cursory glance at 2Corinthians 11-12 gives us an amazing view about how Paul persevered in suffering. I think about the time in the book of Acts when Paul was imprisoned.. how he and Silas sang.. how the jail shook and the shackles fell - but Paul did not run.. he stayed in jail voicing concern for his jailers soul. He was an amazing picture of perseverance. He writes this about a time when God said no to his prayers:
"Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
I think that perseverance is all about contentment. You know most people can be content when things are going well. Suffering and trials cause our faith to be tested in ways that we never imagined.. but they also produce endurance when they are accompanied by contentment. James puts it this way:
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)
When we are content we can endure trials with joy. When we endure this way we experience an endurance that causes us to be complete. This kind of endurance matures us like nothing else will. I pray that you will hang in there today.. endure.. you will be glad that you did :)

Being "right" isn't enough

Pearlie referred me to this Christianity Today article titled:

Brian McLaren on the Homosexual Question:
Finding a Pastoral Response

The article speaks about Brian's conversation with a young couple wanting to know about the church and homosexuality. Here is an excerpt that I loved from the article:
I hesitate in answering "the homosexual question" not because I'm a cowardly flip-flopper who wants to tickle ears, but because I am a pastor, and pastors have learned from Jesus that there is more to answering a question than being right or even honest: we must also be . . . pastoral. That means understanding the question beneath the question, the need or fear or hope or assumption that motivates the question.

We pastors want to frame our answer around that need; we want to fit in with the Holy Spirit's work in that person's life at that particular moment. To put it biblically, we want to be sure our answers are "seasoned with salt" and appropriate to "the need of the moment" (Col. 4; Eph. 4).
Brian ends the brief article speaking about how we should dialog with people that ask us questions:
Being "right" isn't enough. We also need to be wise. And loving. And patient. Perhaps nothing short of that should "seem good to the Holy Spirit and us."
I think that we, more times than not, shut down conversation when we believe that we are "right". Regardless of the topic.. ultimate gracers often shut down the dialog.. as do Calvinists.. Arminians.. Evangelicals.. all kind of ISM followers simply are uncomfortable with framing the dialog in terms that are not right or wrong. I encourage you to read the article.. it is very short. I am with Brian on this one.. then again I am a pastor :)