New Links

OK, now that I’ve trimmed the blogroll a bit, it’s time to add to it. Here are a few new sites to the list:
Stories about God
This site from Mike Boyink has enormous potential, I think. It’s in a bit of a slump right now, as Mike has admitted, but it’s a tremendous idea. Even though there’s been no new content since December, I’m linking it to show my support for the site and hoping that others will be inspired to go tell their stories. Not to mention to hopefully prod Mike to put some effort into it (hint, hint) We all have stories. Stories that will inspire others and shine the light on God’s amazing goodness. Those stories need to be told.
Boyink Interactive
Mike Boyink’s business site and blog about web design. Mike wrote an amazing piece at Heal Your Church Website on what a church web site should be a while back (which lead to Stories about God). I’ve been popping in his site occasionally ever since. He’s a car nut too, with a ’64 Jeep CJ6 and a ’66 Rambler.
Stephen Meeks
Stephen is a frequent contributer to the New Wineskins blog and I love his posts. So I looked him up and found that he had a blog of his own. He lives on a farm and writes a lot about the spiritual insights gained from that experience.
Preacher Mike
I’m probably one of the last Church of Christ bloggers to link to Mike Cope’s blog. I see his name everywhere on COC blogs and he’s always spoken of with respect. He’s the preaching minister (I think) at the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas.
Nothing Important
This is the blog of fellow ICOC member from the north east, Jeff Morris – aka Danny Kaye. Jeff’s his real name, but he tends to comment as Danny at different blogs. I came across Jeff’s blog not through any ICOC or COC channels, but from seeing his comments at the Thinklings.
Unveiled Face
Mick is from Australia and a member of an ICOC church, or at least what used to be one. He comes by here every now and again to leave a comment. What’s nice about his blog is that he’s blended into the blog community. His site does not (unlike mine to often) deal with ICOC issues nor does he talk about it much. He’s building bridges into the rest of the community, which is a good thing I think.
True Delta
I came across this via Autoblog and I love his blunt analysis of consumer automotive research like Consumer Reports and JD Power. He’s started an ambitious effort at a new way of gathering and analyzing automotive reliability data. Sounds promising. He’s also written over 400 reviews, mostly of cars, at epinions.
That’s enough for now.

Blogroll Update

Well, now that things are back to normal here with the new host, I need to do some house cleaning. Several sites on the blogroll are no longer active for various resaons, so I’ve removed them.
My friend Paul (pfredy) has given up on his personal blog. You can still find him at his poetry blog, The Pen Master. He’s been writing there since last July.
Paul’s buddy and long time JohnE, seems to have given up his blog. He hasn’t written anything there since mid-February. I hope I’m wrong and he’ll be back.
The Happy Husband is still at it, but he’s busier being a new dad than blogging about marraige. When I found his site, it sounded great, a blog that “celebrates marraige”. But shortly after I added them to the blogroll, he and his wife had a baby. His blog has, understandably, taken a back seat. IN fact, just today he announced that updates will be few, so I’m taking off the roll for now.
Lastly, I’ve taken down A Ministry of Reconcilliation. It seems that they’ve moved on to other things as they’ve had only two posts since late November.
I have some new links to put up, but that will have to wait until later.

Welcome, Part 2

OK, I guess I may have been a bit premature in declaring that everything was back to normal. I came home today and fired up my laptop and the old site appeared. Huh? Maria, on her laptop in the same room, on the same internet connection, fired up her browser and got the new one. OK, that’s weird, let’s reboot. After the re-boot, I got the new one again. It seems that there are still a few computers on the web that haven’t gotten the memo that has moved yet.
Anyway, if you are just now discovering that the site is up and running, make sure you scroll down to see what else is new. I thought it was live for a couple of days now, and I’ve been posting away. OK, well, I’ve posted twice, but they were good. Honest!

[Ephesians] – Chapter 6

Ephesians 6:4 – “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Fits with what Patrick said. Teach them that God’s way is good and how to follow it.
Ephesians 6:6-8 – If this is how slaves were to act, how then should I act as a mere employee? Or as a spouse? A church member? Sometimes it can be hard to do the right thing, to obey and authority or to respond with sincere respect and submission. But, it is good to remind ourselves, God is watching and he will reward me. Of course, truly following this passage would mean not doing the good looking for reward from God, but think it’s OK in the spirit of the passage to be comforted by its expectation.
I never noticed before, as I do now, the pairs of relationships addressed here in Ephesians 5-6. Paul has instructions, and challenging ones, both both wives and husbands, parents and children, slaves and masters. Their instructions are complimentary – wives must submit, but husbands better love them on the same level as Christ did the church; children obey, but fathers, don’t provoke them; slaves obey, but masters, remember they serve the same God in heaven. there is more responsibility laid on the leader’ to create and environment where the obedience is possible and even easy.
In both Ephesians 6:11 & Ephesians 6:13, Paul says to put on the full armor of God. Don’t leave any piece off. Though it may seem that your burden is lighter, you are left exposed. That involves truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, the word of God and prayer. It’s too easy to leave one of these behind, or to put one down in order to pick up another.
In Ephesians 6:12 he reminds us that we are fighting a battle that is largely hidden in another realm. The battle s within our hearts and souls. Who will we be there, where no one but God can see?

Patrick Mead’s Parenting Philosophy

Patrick Mead is the proprietor of Tent Pegs. While I was up to my eyeballs in changing hosts, he was writing two excellent posts about his parenting philosophy. He has successfully navigated his two kids (a 17 year old man and 23 year old woman) into adulthood and offers some of his concepts for raising “faithful, happy children”.
First, go read The Safety Valve. Here’s a quote to entice you to read:

[H]ere is the payoff: because they were allowed to release steam in small amounts, they never felt the need to blow up. Did we disagree with some of their decisions? Yes (but, to be honest, that didn’t happen a lot). But if Kami and I were to die today we know that Duncan has all the skills he needs — even at 17 — to make his way forward from here without us. Kara is already a godly woman, and a very wise one, who would miss us terribly… but she has all the skills she needs to move on without us.

That’s something that I want to be able to say, that I’ve prepared them to live without me. Not by leaving instructions for every eventuality, but by teaching them to think and find their own way.
After you’ve wrapped your mind around his first post, read the follow-up, God is Smart… or… the “duh” factor… where Patrick lays out some practicals to back up his theories.

We instilled very early in our children the concept of consequences. Within age appropriate limits, they were able to make decisions but they also had to bear the consequences. Consequences have largely been removed from our children’s actions and that is a shame. Once upon a time if the child responsible for maintaining the fire failed at his duty, the house was cold, food was uncooked, and he had to deal with the disapproval of his family until the situation was rectified. Bring consequences and God back into the mix.
When God is entered into the equation, children learn that there is a metaphysical as well as a physical component to every decision made.

There are some very thought provoking things in there (like no bedtimes after 6 years old, and no curfews!), but I think he’s onto something. Maria and I haven’t really talked this through and decided how it might fit into our family. On some levels it’s not far from what we are already doing, on others it seems like another universe. I will say that it has changed how I aproach our kids and how reactionary I am to their mis-behaviors.

Welcome Back

(Subscribers: This link won’t work when you get this. Be patient and keep trying.)
Well, I’m back. The migration is complete and comments are open again. With the new host, there should be no more 500 errors when making comments, trackbacks should work and the right hand menu will update automatically again.
Changing hosts is a rather daunting job. Based on my experience with this move, I can’t recommend Total Choice Hosting highly enough. I asked a ton of basic, stupid questions on their family forums, and they responded quickly and graciously. I had to create a couple help tickets as well and they were resolved quickly. I’m much, much happier than I was with the old guys.
Hopefully everything will go smoothly, but let me know if you find any issues.

[Ephesians] – Chapter 5

Ephesians 5:1 sums up the previous section – Imitate God, not the world. Don’t do as everyone else does, as you used to do, but do as God would do, as Jesus did.
Ephesians 5:3 in the NIV has been used more literally than the ESV would allow. The NIV speaks of “not be even a hint of sexual immorality” which has often been used to dis-allow things like being alone with your boyfriend / girlfriend, living with the opposite sex, etc. (The NIV say the same thing about impurity and greed, but I don’t recall that being emphasized. Applying the same standard, my new car might be “a hint of greed” I guess. But I digress.)
In the ESV the same passage says “sexual immorality … must not even be named among you”. This comes across more as emphasis than command on behavior. In other words, this is so unbecoming a disciple of Jesus, we shouldn’t even speak of it! The application may be similar, i.e. double dating, but the ‘feel’ of it is very different. It speaks to the heart, the mindset, whereas the traditional view of ‘not a hint’ was more focused on behavior.
Ephesians 5:5 speaks of an inheritance, or rather a lack of one for those who live in immorality, impurity or greed. Back in Ephesians 3:6 Paul talked about being heirs as well, equally for both Jews and Gentiles. What’s also interesting is that Paul declares in no uncertain terms that a life characterized by sexual sin (immorality and impurity) or by greed (the ESV says ‘covetous’) will result in no inheritance. It seems that American Christianity rails against the sexual lifestyle, but turns a blind eye to greed & materialism. In fact, many ministries even preach that God wants you to be wealthy or successful.
What does Paul mean in verse 11 when he says to expose deeds of darkness? The easy interpretation of searching out sin and exposing it does not fit with the rest of the gospel, but I cannot think of what he may mean. Any ideas?
It’s easy to get bogged down in these specifics when the point is a continuation of Paul’s theme from chapter 4, that is for us to be different people, called out and separate. For us to think about who we are and what we do. He does not set out to give us rules and guidelines for every situation. Instead, he longs for the people of God to be able to live wisely, carefully, to understand God’s will. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
It is in that spirit that we should read Ephesians 5:22-33. Not as commands to be carried out, but as a calling to a new level of love and respect, a new mindset for marriage. It occurs to me that these two directives, for wives to submit and for husbands to love like Jesus, are in both tension and harmony. When both are practiced, each is easier to do, when one is missing the other is profoundly more difficult. For example, if a man is not laying his life down for his wife, how difficult is it for her to submit to him? And if she fights him every step of the way, how much more difficult is it for him to love her like Jesus?
But when the man is respected, his love for the wife soars and when the wife is loved, her respect for her man soars. God’s plan is good.

[Ephesians] – Chapters 3 & 4

Ephesians 3:1-13 – I love how this entire passage is sort of an aside. Paul starts in verse 1 “For this reason I, Paul, ..” and then interrupts himself a few words later in verse 2 ” – assuming that you have heard of …”. He picks it back up again in verse 14 “For this reason I …”
The aside is simply to reiterate to these gentiles that God was watching out for them. So much so that he picked out Paul specifically to preach to them. God gave Paul, and the other apostles, access to a profound mystery. Not any of the mysteries that you and I would think of – what is the trinity, how was Jesus God and Man, how are we reborn at baptism. This “mystery of Christ” was “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Doesn’t sound to mysterious to you and I, does it? In fact, we take this truth for granted, but in that culture I suspect it would be profound. It had been for centuries, Gods people and the rest, the Jews and the Gentiles. This separation was right and proper and God ordained. How could it be that these two could be made one? Only God could do o and he did in Christ, giving both the same inheritance.
What’s really cool is in Ephesians 3:9-10, that the church would make known the power of reconciliation. That we would “bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known …” (ESV) Not only the intangible reconciliation of God to man, but the very real, visible and touchable reconciliation of Jew and Gentile. At the foot of the cross Jew and Gentile are one.
Perhaps the church today can do this same thing, revealing the reconciliation of God in our own fellowships. Can we bring the instrumental and non-instrumental together? How about the ICOC and the ‘mainline’? Are we not all “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”?
Paul goes on and makes his point in Ephesians 3:14-19, which is this. Don’t settle for a shallow gospel. He nearly begs God that the Ephesians would understand how grand this faith that they have is. He says it is rich, broad, long, high and deep and that it surpasses knowledge. Paul’s amazement with God and his love and his plan is obvious in this passage. It’s as if he’s saying “See it’s like this. No,no, that’s not good enough, it’s like THIS! No, I don’t think you understand it! It is so amazing! See, it’s like … ”
After all those superlatives, after nearly wearing himself out trying to get them to understand, Paul goes on in Ephesians 4:1 to call them to live “in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”. What does that look like? Verses 2-3: Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, love and “eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” This is in the context of Paul’s continual reminder throughout the letter that God has made Jew and gentile one. Two who were separate and who did not understand or know each other. If God has gone to all this work to unite Jew and Gentile, shouldn’t they be eager to maintain it? Since they are different people with different histories and a history of division, what would it tale to maintain this unity that God had established through his Spirit? Just what Paul calls for: humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, and love. You were tow, and now are one. Resist becoming two again, after all there is only one body, spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism and God.
In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul indirectly charges the leaders with the unending work of striving toward perfect unity. Each of us leaders have been established by God to equip the members for the work of ministry and build them up until we are mature, not subject to the schemes of men and doctrinal fads. “When each part is working properly, he says, the body as a whole will grow.
As I read this, I feel as though we in the US are far to individual in our faith. Paul, as seen here, saw the the health, growth and maturity of the saints collectively, not individually. We tend to see our faith as a personal, individual thing. I think we deprive the Spirit of opportunities to work and our vision is shortsighted. Look at verses 15-16 in the ESV (emphasis added):

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We are the joints that equip the church, if we take our faith as our own, as personal, we deprive the church of what may be an essential ligament and therefore limit her growth. Of course we, as only a ligament, are very limited in what we can do on our own as well.
It’s interesting to me that after all that attention to telling these Gentiles that they are no different than the Jews in Christ, Paul then calls them in Ephesians 4:17 to “no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” I suspect, if he were to write to a primarily Jewish audience, he would tell them to “no longer walk as the Jews do, in the futility of their minds.” His point is to leave the old ways behind and embrace the new live in the likeness of Christ. And he goes on in verses 25-32 to describe some of the new ways they should live.

Slow Going Ahead

This is just a post to say that there likely won’t be many posts in the near future. I’ve signed up with TCH and need to spend some time migrating my blog to their servers. I’ve gotta re-install Moveable Type and all my plug ins, back up my database and import it into the new blog and then make sure it all works. Any time I would have spent blogging will go into that.
I plan on keeping up my [Ephesians] series, although as Monday comes to a close I’m now two chapters behind, but maybe not much else. I’m going to do chapters 3-4 tomorrow, I promise.
I’m off to play with MySQL, cmod, FTP, CGI and the like. Wish me luck.

The Stories That We Could Tell

A few weeks ago I learned of an incredible story about how one person’s love provided God an opportunity to transform another’s life. It was amazing and I wanted to share it, so I wrote up the story and sent it to the individual who had made it happen to see if I could publish it here. I was crushed when the answer came back a firm “No”.
Though it was disappointing, they were absolutely right. The story was too personal, to intimate, involving another’s sin and the resulting hurt. The victory was in how the hurt was overcome, but to share it meant too much would be revealed. Those who knew were very encouraged, but had to remain quiet.
That story made me think a lot about how God works so many times in silence. Lives are transformed, relationships rescued, salvation happens a very few know. I think that too few of those stories that can be told, are told, but so many simply cannot be shared:

  • To share the victory over addiction, you must expose the addict.
  • To share the marriage saved from infidelity, you must reveal the adulterer.
  • To share the share the victory over abuse, you must expose the abused (and often the abuser).

To share the powerful ways that God works to save people from sin, their own and others, reveals the sin. That is simply not appropriate many times. Yet it is God at His best, fixing the hardest things the man has tried to cure and failed. I want to shout from the mountain, “HEY! Look what God did!” but in doing so, I expose the sin, the hurt, the trauma that was healing and being forgotten.
It seems that God is satisfied with the Glory gained from those in the inner circle of the situation, those “in the know”. He doesn’t need our widespread praise and mountaintop proclamations. Actually, I suspect that he isn’t much interested in the praise of those intimately involved as much as he is in the saving of the one who was wounded. He knows only he is good. He knows only he can fix it. He knows it was his doing and that man could not. He rejoices, not in our praises of his works, but in the life renewed and in how it draws those involved a little closer.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:3-7

I wonder, as I look around my church and just in life, what ways is God at work in these lives? What stories of repentance, transformation and salvation could be told? I imagine there are many, and even in ignorance, I am encouraged.
BTW – If you have a story you can tell, why not go on over to Mike Boyink’s Stories About God and tell it? Too few of these stories get told to wider audience when they can, and Mike’s web site is one way to do so.

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