Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Double Devotions for The High Calling

I was asked by The High Calling to write two devotions for this week on the topic of "What holds you back at work?"  If you would like to see the posts in their entirety go to their website.  Below are small excerpts of what you will find there.  Thanks to The High Calling for asking and for actually posting the devotions. While you're visiting them sign up for their daily reflections.  Blessings.
"Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 
When one agrees to become an employee or start their own business they say Yes to many things. Yes to the invitation to be present at the workplace. Yes to the hours. Yes to the salary. Yes to work with the people employed there. Yes to being capable and willing to do the tasks of the employment. We may not know every detail when we agree to a place of employment, but we say Yes to the things we know. 
But, what do you do when what you agreed to becomes more than you bargained for? What do you do when you feel trapped, held back, or even downright misled?....
2.  Life Springs up from Within
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”  John 4:13-15

Sitting by a well with a woman desperate for acceptance and love that Jesus makes a very startling statement.  “The water that I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” While it is true in our human condition no water will satisfy forever, we will all need to drink again and again less we become dehydrated.  But Jesus is talking about something more sustaining and eternal life giving.  There is a big difference between a well and a spring.  In a well, you have to go get the water and draw it out of the depths of the earth.  A spring is different.  Spring water comes from the earth just as well water, but it has found a place to surface.  It is there for all to enjoy.  Spring water has been filtered by the earth and permeable rocks before breaking forth from the earth so it is very clean and drinkable.
Jesus is saying that the life he gives is not like a well.  We do not have to go and get it.  Instead the life Jesus gives is a “spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” It comes from Christ and resides in us and gushes up to eternal life.....

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Whole Story

There are many who complain about the local church.  There are blogs, books, and speakers galore to fill anyone's appetite for the many things wrong with local churches and the Church.  Many of the observations are merited and I agree with man of them.  The topic that most often strike a chord with me are those who title their books, blogs, and speaking engagements with some version of "Why I am leaving the local church."  These have been common in the last year, I am not going to link to them, just google it if you want to read for a few days.  They have their reasons, from personal pains to theology, equality issues to injustices, and worship styles to just simple bad experiences.

I however have chosen to again share why I am staying with the local church. I recently re-read Dr.Scot McKnight's book  "A Community Called Atonement" and was reminded of the importance of a complete atonement.  I came to faith in a conservative baptist tradition that really emphasized salvation through forgiveness of sin because of the cross.  I still agree with this, however, like McKnight (see also King Jesus Gospel) and many others these days, I find this to be incomplete.  It is only a very small portion of the story.  It is no wonder people are not coming into the church they have not heard the whole gospel!  They have only heard the small middle part with no context and no explanation of real future, or what NT Wright calls, "life after life after death" (Surprised by Hope).  The whole gospel story (in a sentence) begins with a good creation, a God who is in the process of redeeming a fallen world, a Christ who fulfilled all OT promises and "atoned" for all sin, was resurrected, sent the Holy Spirit, established the church, and will some day create a new Heaven and new Earth where all will be as God intends.  While it remains true that atonement is only something God can do it is also something we do with God for others (McKnight 117) in being part of this larger story.

This is exactly why I am staying with the church.   The community we call church is how atonement is put into practice.  McKnight tracks it like this: Father-->Son-->Spirit-->Church-->Scripture.  He does this to emphasize the correct order in which we understand the atonement. It is started by the Father, through the Son, empowered by the Spirit, worked out in the Church, and the story is told in Scripture.

Alan Hirsch in "The Shaping of Things to Come" emphasizes getting the order of church correct by placing our understanding of Christology and Missiology ahead of Ecclesiology.  I would humbly suggest that Hirsches order is good but is actually less linear and more cyclical because we learn Christology in our churches and practices that Christology in our churches as they engage their local communities.  This is another reason I am sticking with the local church, we need the community of faith to have people help us along the the way as we seek to engage our communities with Christ.

The point of all this is that the Church is the very place where the complete story of God's saving work is worked out, exercised, and put into practice.  The church is not a gathering place, it is not my goal to get people into a church.  It is my goal to get the church to be the sending agent God designed it to be.  To be the place where things like fellowship, justice, mission, the reading of scripture, baptism, communion, prayer, questions, and love are practiced.  To be sure how we practice church today has its faults, no doubt, but I still stand by my belief that it is better to reform from within, rather than to cast stones from afar.  It is my goal to share this more whole gospel with the churches I have been blessed to work with. To motivate them and encourage them to embrace the larger gospel narrative.