Gone …

Today we’re off on our multi-state Holiday Tour. I will be be with family in three states (OH, IL & MO) and will have limited time and internet access, so no posts are likely until January.
If the site gets flooded with spam while I’m gone, I’ll clean it up when I get back. 😛
Have a Merry Chrstmas and a Happy New Year.

To The Church In Columbus

As we are going through this process of Corporate Repentance, we’ve looked a lot at Revelation 2-3. These letters to the churches were a wake up call to most of them, I bet. Nearly all were recipients of a serious reproof by God. I suspect none of them saw it coming. They did not know the serious sin they had allowed themselves to slide into.
As we open our eyes & ears to what the spirit is saying to our church, our minister has asked each of us to write our own ‘Letter to the Church in Columbus’, in the spirit of those in Revelation. These are short (not my writing style!) and direct. Jesus does not mince words. He also does not follow a strict formula. Some churches get praised others do not. Most, but not all get challenged. So, if He were to write us a letter, what would it be? Here are my thoughts:

To the angel of the church in Columbus write:
These are the words of Him who is both grace and truth, man and God, word and flesh. I know your deeds, how you give of your wealth and time when there is a need. You rise to the occasion when there is an outcry for help. I see that you have a reputation of love, yet one on one you are distant and isolated. Your relationships are polite and pleasant rather than honest, vulnerable and challenging. Wake up! Remember how deeply you once loved, how you gave of yourselves, how you held nothing back and sacrificed to strengthen each other. Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your love complete in the sight of my God. Therefore repent! Give of yourselves completely to one another again, get involved in each others lives. Speak the truth in love to each other that you may save each other from a multitude of sins. To him who overcomes I will give life to the full, in fact it is already there for the taking, if you would only love deeply. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

This is a little hard to do for several reasons. First of all, I am not God nor do I have the direct line the Apostle John did when he penned Revelation. This is from the Bible, my observations and discussion with others, yet filtered through my perspective, emotions and whatnot. So this is perhaps closer to what Doug says to the church than what the Spirit says. Others may not feel this way. They may feel that they personally have given much and loved deeply. I feel that I have on some levels, but held back on others. I am confident that what I’ve written does not apply to some individuals in the church, but from my perspective it is accurate for the church as a whole. We have become shallow.
I’m interested in hearing tonight what some others have written.

The Press Conference

Whenever three or more are gathered, a critic is always there among them. This is just as true in heaven as on earth. The critic stood up and said, “Now wait a minute. You are telling us that you’re going to leave heaven and go down there and be born like every other person. I was watching this kid be born the other day and it was a bloody mess. You don’t have to put yourself through that.”
The Word said, “I know. Sit down. Next question.”

Jesus calls a press conference to announce to the Angels his plans “to turn the rebels back to the Father”, as told by Wade Hodges.

Do you really think they will let you be their King?”
The Word gave the critic’s question a thoughtful pause before he said, “Most won’t, but some will. All I need is a few.”

Go and be a fly on the wall of heaven and listen to what it might have sounded like as Jesus laid out his outlandish plans.

Get Your Jesus Junk

I realize that I haven’t put a list out there and you loyal salguod.net readers are probably wondering what to get your favorite blogger. In consideration, I refer you to this list at Bogs4God. An excerpt:

Nothing says “I’m faithful” than by bustn’ a move (in the Spirit) to a ‘Fiddy Cent’ tune while sporting your hip cool not-so Mediterranean, Wonder White Bread-o-life, happy heart-o-Jesus Ipod Skin bling. Word-up dude!

Come to think of it, I don’t have an ipod so that’s not a good idea.
Actually, none of those things are a good idea, but they are a good laugh.
If you still feel compelled, I could use a new Mazda3 5 door or a new set of leather seat covers for the old ‘Bird. 🙂

Corporate Repentance

The union between the Father and the Son is such a live, concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person. I know that’s almost inconceivable, but look at it this way. You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trades union, people talk about the ‘spirit’ of that family, or club, or trades union. They talk about its ‘spirit’ because the individual members, when they’re together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they wouldn’t have if they were apart. It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course it isn’t a real person: it is only like a person.

CS Lewis from Mere Christianity

A few weeks ago I posted about the renewed cooperation among the deacons and our minister. It has been an exiting turn of events as we’ve continued to meet and talk about the direction of the church. I had feared that we would be starting over, rebuilding the level of trust we had acquired a year ago before we could move forward. While that’s been true to a small degree, we have been making some rather significant and exciting plans, which I’ve been hinting at as well.
Well, for some reason, though I’m excited about what’s been started and what’s to come, I can’t seem to write about it. Maybe it’s the business of the season or the difficulty in describing what it is, but I keep coming back to tweaking the layout on my site. (Did you notice the now look on blockquotes?)
What’s happening is the title of this post – Corporate Repentance. It’s something new to me in practice, but makes so much sense I can’t believe I haven’t seen it before. Actually I’ve seen a version of it before, but not this version.
What it’s not is the old ICOC ‘reconstruction’ or church wide sweep when things weren’t going well. In the early days of the ICOC, entire churches were reconstructed. The theory was to make sure the church was only fully committed disciples. Actually in the day they just said ‘disciples’, I think. Later it was ‘fully committed disciples’ now some are using the term ‘sold out disciples’. Whatever. The idea was to rid the church of the uncommitted, either by attrition or change. The result was if you weren’t ready to bare your soul, deal with your sin and start ‘being a disciple’, which usually meant evangelism, you were rode pretty hard until you fell in line or left. Good riddance, they’d just slow us down. A simplistic representation, but all too accurate. Not very Christ like either.
If that’s what this new Corporate Repentance isn’t, then what is it? In some ways the goals are the same – restoration, revival, change – but the focus is different. Before we had identified the problem (lack of growth and baptisms) and we knew how to fix it (evangelism and Bible studies) so we just needed to get back to work. In this Corporate Repentance there’s the realization, by looking plainly at the evidence in the church around us, that we’ve fallen short of God’s desire for us. There’s no presupposition that we know how we’ve blown it or how we can fix it. We simply acknowledge that we’ve fallen short, and then await for the spirit to work, leading us and revealing our sin. We’ve prayed individually and gathered in small groups to talk and confess. We will talk in our families about how they stand before God. We will meet in our small house churches to talk about it and get open. It will culminate in a meeting of the church, a Solemn Assembly to stand together before God to confess our shortcomings to him, to repent (return to Him) and to take communion (more on that later).
In the old days one of the goals was to weed out the uncommitted. We didn’t actually state it as a goal, but it was clear that if you weren’t on board, you’d be left behind. In fact, it was often stated that “you’re either with us or against us” or something similar. In what we are doing now, one of the stated goals is that no one will be left behind. We are going forward, but we are mindful that the pace be set by the Spirit. Our sister church in Dayton went through this very quickly, but they were in a different place than we are. I think it will be slower for us. We are committed to listening to the God and His Spirit and giving this process the time that it needs.
This isn’t just about finally dealing with the things that Henry Kriete showed us nearly three years ago. (Although, frankly, this is what those open forums should have been after the letter came out, not the attack session that too many of them became.) That must be a part of it, but it’s also about what we’ve become in the absence of the old ICOC structure. It’s not as if Henry wrote a letter and then everything was new and good. Post HKL has brought it’s own problems and sins. What we must do is deal with who we are today. We are where we are today is a result of both pre-HKL and post-HKL culture.
This entire idea hinges on the concept that the church as a corporate entity has a personality and culture of its own, like C.S. Lewis said in the quote above. Just as an individual can sin, a church, due to the culture created within it, can sin too. We can set up an environment that fosters, encourages or hides sin allowing it to prosper unchecked. These kind of things cannot be fixed one on one very successfully. This is a very new concept, but one that seems so obvious now. Over the past couple of years, as the sins of our church, locally and worldwide, have been exposed, there’s been a certain level of denial on the part of individuals that has been difficult to deal with. They protest that they never believed that we were the one true church or that they never lorded over their disciples or whatever else so they will not take responsibility for those things. On one level, they are right. There are many who didn’t take part in the sins of our fellowship in their own lives. But the sins were there nonetheless, and prevalent. In the sense that that was the culture and personality of our church, we all bear the burden of that sin collectively even if we didn’t practice it individually. The same is true of who we are today.
Looking at the Bible, Ed Anton pointed out that more calls for repentance go to groups than to individuals. I think he said around 85%. Throughout the Old Testament, Nations (primarily Israel) were called to repent. In the New Testament it’s churches. A particular focus in this study has been Revelation 2-3. There God calls out these churches, some rather hard others lightly, to repent. One of the questions our minister has asked us is if God were to write us, the Columbus Church of Christ, a letter like in Revelation, what would he say? He’s asked us all to write one.
Aside from the general excitement I feel about the concept and the process itself, I’m particularly excited that it is our minister that is driving this process forward. I’ve seen a marked difference in him over the last weeks. He’s looking at his leadership and the state of the church lately quite differently. The level of cooperation between him and the deacons has been heartwarming. I’ve been rather frank about my disappointment on occasion with him here on my site, so I figure it’s only right that when I am encouraged – and I am – that I mention it as well.
And yet, I have not been eager to write about it though I managed to, I guess). I think it has more to do with what I wrote about last week. I’m frankly not excited to change. I’ve grown comfortable in my life and the boundaries I’ve drawn for myself, and I don’t want them challenged. They must be, however, and I cannot just sit by and wait to feel good about change. I feel as though, on some levels, this is exactly what I’ve been longing for, but now that it’s here, I want to hide from it. God help me pursue you and let me stand and hear your reproof.

New J. Brian Craig Music

One of my favorite artists, J. Brian Craig, has released a new CD of Worship Music. It has 74 minutes of music, 19 songs in all. It’s called “Be With Me Lord” and it’s availabe here. You can also listen to samples of nine of them there.
There are 6 of his songs in our church’s songbook, and they are among my favorites, and new versions of 5 of them are on this CD. I don’t have the CD (yet) but I’ve heard different versions of many of several of them and it’s great stuff.
Be sure to visit his website too for some other MP3 downloads.

Bleh., Part II

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James 11:19-21 (emphasis added)

There’s been more than a blogging funk in my life, there’s been a real, personal funk in the past week or so. In reality, it’s been building for some time now, it just hit me last week.
As a church, I mentioned before, we’ve been reading Ed Anton’s new book titled Repentance: A Cosmic Shift of Mind and Heart. It’s an excellent book that’s given me a fresh look at one of the most fundamental parts of Christianity – repentance. The church is nearly done with the book and the messages associated with it, but through our minister’s relationship with Ed, we’ve moved on to some bigger related things. It’s what I’ve been teasing you with – Corporate Repentance. That’s the idea that, not only can & do we sin as individuals, but a church has a culture, and enviromnent and a personality that can be sinful as well. Just as an individual needs to return to God and His ways, so does a church. But before I get into describing this exciting development in my congregation, I need to talk about me.
As a part of the teaching on the subject, Ed came into town and spoke to our leaders meeting of the Evangelist, the Deacons and the family group leaders. He was in the state meeting with the Dayton ICOC church on the same subject, and stopped by our meeting on the way to the airport. As he spoke about how God brought his reproof to the churches in Revelation and how that God has done that with His people forever and will do so today, if we let Him, he said something that hit me like a ton of bricks. “The question is how do you get ready for this? You get prepared to hear God’s reproof.”
You see, this idea that we need to repent as a church was a powerful one to me. It was at once brand new and exactly what I’d lomged for at the same time. But in the couple of weeks that the leaders had been talking about it, I hadn’t once thought that this repentance would need to hit me square in the heart. What would God say to me? It was terrifying. I honestly didn’t want to know, but the thought of not knowing was scarier. I left that meeting two Sundays ago feeling quite uneasy.
The next two nights I took long (cold) prayer walks. I asked God to show me what ever He saw in me, yet I was could feel my heart holding back. Or was I just trying to manufacture conviction? I didn’t know, and to some degree still don’t. I’m frankly frightened more by how hard this time of soul searching has been than what might be uncovered in my heart. Why has it been so hard this time around to just surrender to God and listen to His rebuke? How far had I drifte? I don’t honestly know, except to say that I’m a prideful, self reliant man. I take some measure of pride in being able to figure things out, and I’ve been relying on my own wisdom and analytical powers for answers too long. The result of this me focus instead of God focus is that when I looked up for God, he wasn’t as close as I expected He would be. I had fallen asleep and drifted away. The answer to this conundrum was not going to come from my careful thinking or study, only from falling at the feet of my God, being still and listening. It wasn’t, evidently, going to come quickly either.
I now see that God has been at work in me, preparing me for this from some time. That first passage above has been ringing in my head for weeks now. “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” I come from a long line, at least as long as I know of, of angry men. My grandfather, Dad’s Dad, was constantly spouting off about something. Not much patience, tolerance or understanding. Dad’s got the same character, although he’s better than Granddad, it doesn’t take much for him to blow his top. Growing up, I had a horrible temper, and my parents took my to psychologists and bought me punching bags to try to calm me. My parent’s home bore witness in holes in drywall and doors from my High School years. (I think the last of those got fixed just recently.)
When I became a Christian in 1988, that all but disappeared. Mom has commented that she knew I had met God because she could see the change in my temper. In recent months, however, I’ve noted that it has slowly crept back in, but as a Christian I’m good at masking it. I’ve caught myself swearing under my breath or in my head at times. I’ve wanted to and have thrown things in a rage or just banged them around a bit. I’ve shouted at my kids more times than I want to think about. Just the other day, Emily turned to me in tears and asked “Daddy, why are you angry?” I’ve prayed under my breath and out loud for patience in dealing with them, and all the while that verse from James 2 was playing in my head.
It wasn’t until this week, after the words from Ed and the cold prayer walks around the neighborhood that a clearer picture began to emerge. The anger wasn’t my trouble, it was only a symptom of the underlying issue. It wasn’t James 2 I needed, but James 4.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

James 4:1-4 (emphasis added)

I have become selfish and worldly. I wanted things my way, and when they didn’t go that way I was angry. I’ve been looking at everything as the woorld does – selfishly. Is it furthering my agenda? Does it help me get what I want? Stupid computer or Christmas lights, I don’t want to deal with you now, I want to play on the web. Maria, don’t bother me with household projects, I want to work on my car. Kids? Not a blessing and a joy, but a pain and in the way. Just shut up, obey and get in bed now so I can go blog. DIDN’T YOU HEAR ME? GO TO BED! Then the tears. The sigh from Dad. An apology, but not a change of heart.
The most important things in my life, my wife and kids, were merely in the way unless I needed them. Maria’s quietly taken on more and more responsibility that I have just been ignoring, not wanting to be bothered, and I can now see the burden it’s put on her. The joy she once had is largely gone, replaced by a load that she wasn’t to bear alone. So, while there have been things that I’ve wanted to share, to blog about, I just couldn’t. Each time I went to sit down and write, there was this elephant in the room that I had to deal with first, and I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I’m not sure I am yet ready, but at least I can write about it.
But God’s getting me ready, I don’t understand how but He is. I know because now I see what I deparately wanted to avoid. I know because I’m getting the strength to talk and write about what I wanted to keep hidden. I know because I’m beginning to look forward to next week. That’s when the leadership group, the four deacons and our minster, will sit down and talk about how this idea of Corporate Repentance is hitting us and how we together and idividually have sinned and how that has effected the church. I need to talk about it, but even more profound is that I want to talk about it. I want to deal with it, to get some help, and to finally shake it off, and return my focus to God.
More about the church developments soon, I promise.

Bleh.

I’ve been threatening for a week or two to post on some significant news – good news, I think – in my church and some other stuff that’s been on my mind. I still intend to, but every time I get an opportunity to do so, I just don’t feel inspired to do it.
I’m in some sort of blogging funk where I just don’t want to. Hence all the tinkering with my site templates and whatnot. 🙂
Hopefully I’ll get over it soon.

On This Day

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Categories

Archives

Meta