Two Things That Make Me Sad

I’ve been reading a string of items on two subjects lately that have saddened me.
The first is a series of posts by Kristen at Walking Circumspectly (Three of them: here, here and here.). I only know her from her blog and I only found my way there from one of my readers. Kristen’s been writing about her experiences in the ICOC in college back in the early 90’s. She was a part of the Atlanta ICOC church for around a month. She calls the ICOC a cult, and frankly I don’t blame her (though I don’t agree). In the month she was a part of the campus ministry there, she was exposed to the worst of the ICOC of those days. The performance mindset, judgementalism, high evangelism expectations, warnings about spending any time with, or even contact, her family and more. I can remember the warnings about my family when I was in campus, and they were in fact scary and intimidating. I too had strong a strong family which saved our relationship (in ways I would only learn of in the past couple of years.)
Her story saddens me for a couple of reasons. First, of course, is the sadness that anyone should come to a church looking for God and be told that to find Him means to abandon the most important folks in your life. All too many over the years have found elitism, arrogance and high expectations instead of grace and forgiveness. To be told that the ICOC was the only church and everyone else was not. She says that the month long experience over 10 years ago still impacts her today.
The other thing that saddens me about it is how one sided it is. I don’t fault Kristen for that, it’s what she knows. After she left, as was common, those who she had thought were her friends didn’t want to talk to her anymore. She was a ‘fall away’, a casualty of the war to save souls. She had made her choice and they had more souls to find. That’s the result of the lopsided, evangelism focused ministry the ICOC practiced. (I am not saying that evangelism isn’t important, just that it is not the most important thing.) She still wanted to know what the ICOC was and to learn more. With no one from the ICOC talking to her to keep her informed, she got her news on the ICOC from anti-ICOC organizations like Reveal. (Frankly, I am speculating here a bit, making assumptions from her posts. Kristen, if you’re reading, please correct me if I’m wrong.)
In contrast, my 17 year experience with the ICOC has been overwhelmingly positive. I have seen much of the things she talks about in her posts, even (shamefully) participated in some. But they did not have the negative impact on me they did on her. Over the years I was able to have an amazing and pure dating life in college (how many guys have a date nearly every week with a variety of wonderful women?), to meet the woman of my dreams, court her and marry her, to have relationships that would help me to become the husband I wanted to be, to help my marriage shine, to help me learn to not stop questioning things, to take sin seriously and seriously pursue repentance and more. My point is not to say, “See Kristen, you’ve got it all wrong.” Rather, I’m saying that my perspective without hers or hers without mine is an incomplete picture of the ICOC. We’ve had our faults and we’ve had our successes. We should look at both.
The second thing that has saddened me lately is both unrelated and completely related. Pinakidion has been writing about the teachings coming from the Portland ICOC church. Portland is where Kip McKean, the former leader of the ICOC, is currently leading. Pinakidion has been chronicling some of the things said and comparing them to things said years ago (Have a read: here, here, here, here and here.) The talk out of the NW (and there’s been a lot) sounds familiar. There’s lots of talk about how many great things they’re doing there in Portland, how folks have been coming from miles around to see how they’re doing it, how they’ve heard the other churches aren’t discipling anymore and have forgotten the mission to evangelize and grow and there’s even been talk of how they’re targeting cities where churches have abandoned discipling and evangelism. Pinakidion points out, and I agree, that it sounds a lot like 1979 all over again.
It makes me sad because I thought, hoped, that we had learned something in the past couple of years of re-evaluating and reconsidering our practices. Perhaps not. Now certainly, Portland does not speak for the whole of the ICOC, but not many are speaking against what is being taught there. I may disagree with Mr. McKean’s teachings and priorities in his message, but I will give him credit for knowing what he believes and speaking passionately about it. He’s an amazing man, with amazing passion and charisma. Where are the charismatic, passionate and outspoken men to make a difference teaching the radical grace and love that Jesus taught rather than works, performance and growth?
It’s sad to see so many papers and apologies written, so many relationships strained or broken, so many churches split and so much hurting over the last couple of years to perhaps end up, collectively, right back where we were. If we do, it will not be because that’s where we decided to go, but instead because we didn’t really decide to go anywhere else.

The Final Journey

Matthew 19:3-30, 20:17-34, 26:6-13, Mark 10:2-52, 14:3-9, Luke 18:15-43, 19:1-28, John 11:55-57, 12:1-11
Matthew 19:3-12 – Jesus’ stance on divorce is radical. How do churches get away with looking the other way? Certainly divorce is easier that staying together in may cases. A case could be made for divorce in circumstances of abuse or neglect. Jesus here says plainly that divorce and remarriage is adultery. He also says plainly that divorce is condemned by God. I’m also amazed by the disciples’ response. It’s as if they’re saying, “Gee, if I’m gong to be stuck with her forever, I better not get married.” I like Jesus’ response: “Marriage is not for everyone.” We look at people who are not married with pity. I know that I am not cut out to be unmarried, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t those who equally find married life unfathomable.
Mark 10:13-16 – I sometimes wonder what it means to receive the kingdom like a child. Innocence, trust, yes, but how would a child receive the kingdom? I just can’t quite get it, I’m missing something.
Mark 10:21-22 – I wonder if Jesus is thinking, “Dude, you’ve got a lot to learn about yourself.” I wonder what this rich young man did with the insight into his heart that Jesus gave him? Was he eventually changed? Or did it haunt him until his death.
Mark 10:23-27 – This passage, perhaps more than any other, should scare the bejeebez out of us in the USA. We are so stinkin wealthy, yet we are a ‘Christian Nation.’ Jesus tells us it hard for the rich to enter God’s kingdom. Yet most Christians in the US wouldn’t agree, I think.
Matthew 19:29 – This verse has been twisted to justify neglect of one’s family. In the context of the rich young ruler, is he really saying we must leave our family? Or he simply encouraging the disciples that those who have put their priorities in the right place, and given up many things to pursue God, will be rewarded. It’s an encouragement, in case you need it, not an admonishment to turn your back on those you ought to love.
Luke 18:34 – Intellectual Inertia again. The idea of Jesus being tortured and killed was unthinkable, so even when told plainly, they didn’t believe it.
Matthew 20:23 – I just now got that she was probably thinking of an earthly kingdom. I always wondered how she could be so arrogant to ask for those spots in heaven. She’s trying to secure her sons a prominent place in the new government!
Mark 10:41-45 – Give yourself to my people …
Luke 19:1-10 – Another Rich Young Ruler.
Mark 10:46-52 – Look at how this man’s faith makes him act. He is convinced that Jesus holds hope for him, so he ignores the jeers of the crown and shouts out for him. Then, when Jesus responds, he throw aside his cloak to go meet Him. His cloak was likely one of his only possessions, and his most valuable. Being blind, it would be difficult for him to ind it again in the crowd if it were lost. Yet he tosses it aside like an empty soda can to get to Jesus. I need that kind of faith again. Faith that runs to Jesus with little concern for anything else.
John 12:11 – Here’s an idea, let’s kill the guy who was dead already to stop folks from believing in Jesus. Were they banking that Jesus couldn’t do it twice?

MT Notifier

Well folks, I’ve fixed my notifications by installing MT Notifier. If you were subscribed to my notifications before, you should have gotten a notice about this entry. Installation was pretty straightforward, although it didn’t seem like it would be. Frankly, I should have done this weeks ago.
There are several very cool things about MT Notifier:

  1. I don’t have to do anything to get notifications sent out, they’re automatic.
  2. There’s a user management system for subscriptions. Each person can access their subscriptions and change them as they wish.
  3. You can subscribe to the entire blog, a specific category, by entry and you can choose to receive notice of both entries and comments or just entries.

I’m going to have to figure out how to create a form to add subscriptions like I had before. The old form calls the old (broken) notification system, so I’ve removed it. I’ll also have to figure out how to add a subscription checkbox to the comment form so folks can subscribe to comments.
If you haven’t been here since the notifications stopped, the last entry that you were probably notified about was just before the upgrade to MT 3.15. If you’d like to catch up, start here.

Salguod QuickTags with Preview 0.1

I’ve implemented an upgrade to my commenting form that I’ve been working on.
It starts with the Quicktags I first saw at Arvid’s Movalog site. He tweaked Alex King’s JavaScript Quick Tags that I guess are built into WordPress. I took Alex’s files and hacked my way through them until I ended up with a 2 line series of buttons with different labeling.
I added to that the instant previewing that I stole from Greg’s blog. It was part of the equix theme for the WP 1.5 theme competition.
So, now you can add bold, italics, underline, strike through,


links and

  • bulleted


  1. numbered

lists to your comments at the touch of a button! All while watching it magically appear at the bottom of the page.
Now, to work on those notifications …

Raising Lazarus

John 11:1-54
John 11:5-16 – Jesus tries to speak of deeper things, but the disciples cannot see beyond the surface. Thomas’ comments are indicative of his complete respect and trust in Jesus (If Jesus said that it was good that Lazarus died, then it would be good for us to die too!), but also his inability to see what Jesus saw.
John 11:20 – Was this after Luke 10? If so, Martha has learned something since then. Before, she was busy making preparations while Mary ignored those responsibilities to be with Jesus. Now that tables are tuned. With visitors from out of town showing sympathy, there was much to do. Yet it is Martha, not Mary, who leaves all of that to greet Jesus.
John 11:25-26 – Was Jesus referring to our physical death and then going to heaven, or the transformation that takes place when we die to ourselves when we become Christians?
John 11:45-48 – What sort of mind looks at a man raised from the dead and thinks that it’s trouble, something that must be reported to the authorities. And then they are distressed that folks might believe in him! It’s amazing how powerful a preconceived notion can be. It’s something I’ve called intellectual inertia. We approach an analysis with the end result already in mind, therefore the facts are of no use to us. The urge to believe what we already believe is so powerful and overwhelming.

Perean Ministry

Matthew 20:1-16, Luke 14:1-35, 15:1-32, 16:1-31, 17:20-37, 18:1-14
Luke 14:12-14 – I this really about ‘payment’ for good deeds, as it suggests on the surface?
Luke 14:15 – This man makes a comment about eating at the feast in God’s kingdom. Then Jesus tells this parable of all these folks giving silly excuses for why they cannot come to a man’s banquet. They were all so absorbed in themselves, their own lives, that they wouldn’t even let this man serve them.
Luke 14:25-33 – I’ve always wondered what ‘carry your cross’ was here. The traditional ICOC discipleship study twist on it was that it referred to evangelism. But that simply doesn’t jive with the passage. In the prior verses Jesus talks about setting priorities in our lives, God comes before everything and everyone else, to the point that our love for our family seems like hate in comparison. And after he talks about the same thing, giving up everything we have. In that context, it makes more sense that this is referring to death to ourselves. Taking up our cross is to put ourselves down, to die to our dreams, ideas and desires and live for God’s. If we are to be reconciled to God, this is not optional.
Luke 14:35 – Do you get it? Are you listening?
Luke 17:30-37 – Jesus is talking about what sounds like His future return, and then this comment on about where the vultures gather. I don’t understand that at all. What’s the connection?
Luke 18:6-8 – I must not stop believing and praying and trying to be righteous. It sometimes seems impossible, insurmountable. There’s so much sin in the world, relationships are so hard, it’s so difficult to know yourself and to fight sin. But Jesus promises us that we will “get justice, and quickly.” Just don’t give up.
Luke 18:9-14 – A parable to the ICOC. 🙂

The Narrow Road

I am determined to do better with my Bible reading. Several things have brought this to mind of late.

  1. A posting at Radical Congruency about stagnation in one’s faith. I could relate to Justin’s nagging feeling that I should do more reading. Justin and I made a brief attempt last year at reading accountability.
  2. A discussion in our new Sunday School with folks sharing about their shortcomings in the Bible reading. Most everyone there shared how they longed for more and they all were doing significantly more than I.
  3. Douglas Jacoby starting a new feature of posting a weekly Bible Study tips on his site each Wednesday.
  4. Lastly, I just plain have decided that it is finally time for me to become serious about learning about God. I need and want to know Him, and a consistent Bible study habit is one of the best ways to achieve that. It was clear that the “when I felt like it” method wasn’t cutting it.

I’m not deceived into thinking that I will suddenly feel like it more, but I am more serious about it than I have been in a long time. So I’m committing to a goal of getting into my Bible at least 3 times a week. Perhaps it doesn’t seem like much of a goal, then you need to check my pattern over the last few months. Twice a month is what I’ve managed. I invite and welcome all of you to monitor my progress here and hold me acountable to this goal. I will need help.
John 10:22-42, Luke 13:22-35
John 10:22-30 – Jesus is not afraid to offend. Here he plainly tells them, at their request, that they are not of Him, and He’s one with God, so therefore they are not with God. In our society, it is very rude to tell someone they aren’t right with God. Of course,we are not Jesus and cannot say such a thing with the kind of certainty that he can (after all, He is the judge.) We can, and should if we love each other, point out where we don’t measure up to what God expects. Jesus said that many – many – will thing they are right with God and be surprise don the last day (Luke 13:22-30). What a shame if we are too polite to tell folks around us that they are not what they think they are.
John 10:33 – They ignored the truth – that Jesus was God – because of their preconceived notion that it was impossible for a mere man to actually be God. It’s been my experience that it’s when I am absolutely confident that I am in the greatest danger of being deceived.
Luke 13:22-30 – This is perhaps one of the scariest passages in all of the Bible. Imagine the feeling of the over-confident as they watch people stream in and they are excluded. I once was one of the over-confident.

The Law of the Vacuum Lady

Go check out this post at the Thinklings. It’s a very profound lesson learned from a door to door saleswoman:

We are granted by God the ability to choose. When we make the right choices early (at the door) there is less regret, less going back to correct, and less buyer’s remorse.
Our hearts are so important. What we allow in them is not to be taken for granted. Be wise, and be careful.

Very wise stuff indeed, go read it.

DJ on Church Discipline

Douglas Jacoby has an interesting article on Church Discipline posted on his web site. Since the Deacons of the church have spent some time on this and I’ve chronicled that and my thoughts here, I thought I’d link to it here.
It was written in 1994 and revised in 2005. It refers a lot to the practices of the CoC in general and the ICoC in particular. It does however, disagree with those practices and present a good summary of what the Bible says about the subject. The primary scriptures are Matthew 18, Luke 17, Titus 3, 1 Corinthians 5, 2 Thessalonians 3 and 3 John 10 although reference is made to several others.
It’s well worth the read and has caused me to rethink some of my ideas on the subject.

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