10. I have used it primarily as a forum for the airing of grievances.
9. It has been a forum of judgement rather than an environment of grace.
8. It has been man-centered, rather than Spirit-inspired.
7. I have been more interested in blog traffic than quality writing.
6. It has been a showcase for widgets, rather than a prophetic voice.
5. It has been a pedestal for me, rather than a means of bringing glory to Jesus Christ.
4. I never made a custom design.
3. I've let it become a source of distraction from my wife, my work, and my ministry.
2. It is cluttered with too much irrelevant content.
1. It no longer reflects what God is doing in my heart and mind
All of that to say, watch for something new coming to the blogosphere; something that will honor Christ, inspire you, and uphold the values of simplicity, beauty, and kindness. An announcement will be made in the next post.
“No, the church’s existence does not always have to possess the same form in the future that it possessed in the past as though this were the only possible pattern.
“No, the continuance and victory of the cause of God which the Christian Church is to serve with her witness, is not unconditionally linked with the forms of existence which it has had until now.
“Yes, the hour may strike, and perhaps has already struck when God, to our discomfiture, but to his glory and for the salvation of mankind, will put an end to this mode of existence because it lacks integrity.
“Yes, it could be our duty to free ourselves inwardly from our dependency on that mode of existence even while it still lasts. Indeed, on the assumption that it may one day entirely disappear, we should look about us for new ventures in new directions.
“Yes, as the Church of God we may depend on it that if only we are attentive, God will show us such new ways as we can hardly anticipate now. And as the people who are bound to God, we may even now claim unconquerably security for ourselves through him. For his name is above all names…” Letter to a Pastor in the German Democratic Republic, in How to Serve God in a Marxist Land (New York: Association Press, 1959) 45-80
Yesterday was Valentines Day. Yesterday was also the day on which a lengthy troubling of my soul reached it's zenith. I find it ironic that on this calendarized "day of love" my own questions about knowing the love of God seemed to consume me.
In a few days it will be 21 years since I accepted Christ and became a Christian. Recently, and gradually, I have been coming to the realization that for most of those years my "relationship" with God has been strictly academic. Everything that I know about God, I know about because I read it in a book or heard it preached in a sermon. Everything that I know about God's love, I know about on a theological level. Yet I've been startled as I've come to realize that I have never really KNOWN God's love for me.
Oh, there was the "spiritual honeymoon" that first year or so when I was 18; a honeymoon that quickly faded into nothing more than doctrines and debates and left me wondering "Were did God go?" There were those moments when I got caught up in the theatrical frenzy of some charismatic church environments. But for nearly all of these 21 years, my heart has never really been captivated by God. I have never experienced from Him love like a father would have for his son, or like a groom would have for his bride.
My relationship with God for all of these years has been a utilitarian arrangement. God did some good stuff for me, like saving me and making sure I have enough food, clothing, and shelter, and bringing my wife safely through cancer. And in return I have striven to do some good stuff for him; like giving food to the poor, street-preaching at Mardi Gras, and getting ordained so I can plant a church.
Yet in the midst of this my heart has ached for something more. On too many occassions to count over the years I have pleaded with God to capture and transform my heart. He has captured and transformed my mind. I think about God and ministry stuff continuously throughout the day. The only books I read are books about God, theology, and church. But my heart remains cold and alone. The lyrics of my mind are desperately crying out to be accompanied by a melody from my heart; a heart that has been ravaged by the love of a passionate God who claims to love me so much he would endure the cross for me.
Which leads me to another thought. I've nearly become convinced that God merely tolerates my existence. It's easy for me to imagine God saying to me, "Yes, I love you because I said it in my word therefore I have to...and yes you'll get to come to Heaven, but I'd rather you just stay over in the corner and be quiet." I guess it's easy for me to think these thoughts because of the many, many times over the years that I've pleaded with God to let me know His love more intimately...all to no avail.
I don't believe there is anything wrong with God. I believe that He is everthing the Bible says He is and I believe that He does indeed love people just as He says He does. I believe the problem rests in the apparent reality that I do not have the capacity to experience love from others. That part of me is broken. I know what it is to feel love for other people. I love my wife very, very much. But on the receiving end, like I said earlier, It's easy for me to believe that my existence in this world is merely tolerated by God and others. Which in itself leaves me wondering how much interest God may really have in "fixing" this broken part of me.
Mark chapter five chronicles a mission trip to a region called The Decapolis, which means "Ten Towns." Twelve men piled into a boat with Jesus and made a difficult journey across the stormy Sea of Galilee.
Upon arriving ashore, their greeting party was a demon-possessed man who lived among the tombs and regularly terrified the locals. With great compassion, Jesus demanded that the demons leave him and enter into a herd of swine which then threw themselves into the sea. After the herdsmen ran to report what had happened, many of the locals came and pleaded with Jesus to go away and leave them alone.
Honoring their request, the missionaries boarded the boat and began to depart. The man now freed from his torment begged Jesus to let him enter the clergy by joining them in the boat. Instead Jesus lovingly commissioned him with an equally important task by saying, "Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you." The man embraced his mission, went away, and began proclaiming throughout the Decapolis the story of God's great love for him, and everyone marveled!
Jesus later returned to the Decapolis. This time, instead of being asked to leave, Mark seven tells us that a great multitude came to him to be healed. The crowd was utterly astonished, saying, "Everything he does is wonderful. He even heals those who are deaf and mute." Many believe that this spiritual awakening began earlier with the simple yet powerful testimony of a man fully alive who once knew nothing but demonic oppression.
This story is a celebration of God's invitation to join Him in His love for the world. It's a celebration of those who, like the men in the boat, respond and give their lives to the call of vocational ministry. And it's a celebration of those who bring spiritual awakening to their neighborhoods and cities by proclaiming through the natural rhythm of their daily lives, "What great things Jesus has done!"
Three of these kids belong together Three of these kids are kind of the same But one of these kids is doing his own thing It's time to play our game
These are the lyrics to one of the songs on my favorite childhood television show, Sesame Street. A coworker in Augusta, GA told me not long ago that I "seem more the type to create molds rather than filling them." Her words came as no surprise to me. I've known that about myself for much of my life.
When I was a little kid my dad worked at a printing company. I had a pretty steady stream of comic books and magazines like "Mad" and "Cracked" coming into my possession. I remembe quickly reading them but then moving on to using them for something that I enjoyed even more. I would take several sheets of blank paper and staple them together in book form. Then I would spread my comics and magazines out on the floor and with scissors I would cut out different parts of them. I would then reassemble and glue all of the different clippings onto the blank pages in front of me and make my own "book."
Getting my first tape recorder was a huge catalyst in my "career" as an individualist. Listening to the radio was okay. But what was even better was creating my own taped programs. I would make tape after tape of "radio programs" complete with music (recorded from my record player), commentary, D.J. banter (me being the bantering D.J. of course), interviews with my friends, and commercials (recorded off the radio).
For as long as I can remember I have always loathed uniformity. I remember as a kid my credo being something like, "Don't ever tell me I can't do something because doing so will drive me to do it at all costs just to prove to you that I can." I doubt that I articulated it that well back then. I probably just shouted, "shut up!"
As an adult I have always approached every job, every project, and every responsibility I've ever had with a desire to find new and different ways of doing things. I don't want to do things the way other people do them. Not that there's anything wrong with the ways other people do things; I just believe that the world would be a drab, boring, unchanging place to live if everyone just did things the way everyone else does them. If that had been the only approach to life through the centuries, how many inventions would not have been invented? How many voyages would never have been taken? How many works of art or musical scores or literary masterpieces would never have been created?
I have found, however, that people don't tend to appreciate people like me being around. We get a lot of blank stares. We get a lot of polite, patronizing nods. We get a lot of obstacles placed in our way. We are often told to just follow the rules, color within the lines, don't confuse people, and don't disrupt the status quo.
I think the people who react as I just described are simply afraid that our individualsim will in some way threaten their stability. They like things to remain calm and uneventful. They don't want there to be even the possibility that our way of doing things will create ripples that eventually reach the placid serenity of their waters.
I don't think the answer is for me to repress my nature. And I don't think the answer is for me to expect others to become like me. I think the answer lies in a mutual pact. In this pact, I need to be patient, kind, and understanding with those who need sameness and stability. And others need to become more open to the new hues of color that people like me may be able to bring into their world, yet patient and gracious with us when we do manage to create nothing but chaos. That happens a lot. But every so often, something beautiful emerges.
"One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea. It makes you think that after all, your favorite notions may be wrong, your firmest beliefs ill founded. Naturally, therefore, common men hate a new idea and are disposed more or less to ill-treat the original man who brings it." ~Walter Bagehot