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Monthly Archives: August 2010

Meetings Rule

As a pastor, I used to spend an inordinate amount of time in meetings. I was lucky, because at my last church we had banned committees (we only had ministry teams) and most of our meetings were productive. (Generally, committees talk about things and teams do things… most churches would grow almost instantly, I believe, if they banned committees!)

Even so, we still had our share of unproductive or too long and unfocused meetings.  The truth is, most of what we accomplish at meetings can probably be better dealt with through email, phone calls or good project management software (like Basecamp, for example).

While meetings are unavoidable, bad and time-wasting meetings are avoidable. I have been reading the book Rework by Jason Fried and the team at 37Signals (creator of Basecamp, btw).  He has six simple rules for meetings that I think every organization could implement and would improve our meetings almost instantly:

1. Set a time. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period.

2. Invite as few people as possible.

3. Always have a clear agenda.

4. Begin with a specific problem.

5. Meet at the site of the problem instead of a conference room. Point to real things and suggest real changes.

6. End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementation.

What do you think?

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

When Jesus Confronted Homosexuality in the Gospels

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It is a common myth that Jesus never encountered the issue of homosexuality in the Gospels. In fact he did.  I have written before about Jesus’ teaching about sexual minorities (including LGBTs) here. But the most direct confrontation with homosexuality comes in Matthew 8 (with a parallel passage in Luke 7 and probably John 4):

MATHEW 8:5-13 (ESV)

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6“Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but((10When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

To understand the context of the passage, verse 6 is key (emphasis mine):

καὶ λέγων, Κύριε,  παῖς (pais) μου βέβληται ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ παραλυτικός, δεινῶς βασανιζόμενος. 

In the most common English translations, we read this passage and have no idea the context of this encounter between the Roman centurion and Jesus. The key word is “pais”, which is often translated as “servant” or “boy”.  However, most scholars believe that the term pais in the ancient world was a well-known idiom referring to a male concubine (often younger) and an explicitly homosexual relationship.

Kenneth J. Dover, noted authority on ancient Greece, in his book, Greek Homosexuality, tells us the younger partner in a homosexual relationship is called pais or paidika. 

Dr. Robert Gagnon, arguably the foremost anti-gay scholar of our day, writes that pais can refer to a partner in a homosexual relationship. He writes:

“boy” (pais) could be used of any junior partner in a homosexual relationship, even one who was fullgrown.” Dr. Robert Gagnon (The Bible And Homosexual Practice, p. 163, footnote 6.)

In fact, the overwhelming historical evidence (and perhaps, the implication of Luke 7:2, which literally translates as “had much love for”) is that the Centurion and his “pais” were likely involved in a homosexual relationship that was very common in the ancient world. It is worth noting that this kind of relationship is one that today, we would almost universally condemn since it was between and older man and a young pubescent boy. However, these relationships were very common.

So how does Jesus confront this issue?

Does he refuse to heal the pais until the Centurion repents and breaks off the relationship? Does he lecture or judge the man?

No.

He simply heals the pais and then publicly affirms the deep faith of this Roman Centurion.

Does this, then, count as a clear endorsement by Jesus of gay relationships?  No, of course not. That would be stretching the text to say something it doesn’t. We must take the text as it is and then wrestle with it as it is presented.  All we know is that the relationship was most likely a male-male relationship, Jesus would have been aware of this based on the self-description of the Centurion, and Jesus grants his request fully — and does so without any judgement or condemnation.

How we interpret the implication of this passage will certainly depend upon our pre-conceived biases.  Some will argue that “pais” cannot mean “male concubine” in this passage, simply because it causes problems for their pre-determined understanding of Jesus.  Others use this passage to argue for more than I think the passage allows.  We must be careful to simply let it (and Jesus) speak for themselves.

For me, the meaning of pais in historical context is pretty clear and obvious.  I also think that the juxtaposition of this passage in Matthew is powerful. In Matthew 7 we are warned against judgement, challenged to present our request to God directly (as the Centurion does),and then given the basic discipleship lessons of loving neighbor as self, a tree and its fruits, and the importance of trusting the Lordship of Jesus. Then, in chapter 8, we get the healing of the lepor (a picture of the radical and dangerous inclusivity of Jesus) and is healing of the pais and affirmation of the faith of the Centurion (Roman… aka not Jewish).  This is a powerful section in the Gospels!

One last note… as I said, I don’t think that we can over-state this passage to suggest, for example, that this passage means Jesus endorses modern-day same-sex marriage. That is a more complicated issue in which this passage — along with many others — need to be considered before coming to a theological and Biblical conclusion.  Also, we should not erroneously assume that this is the only (or one of two if you include the eunuchs passage) dealing with homosexuals. In fact, in 99% of the cases in the Gospels (and throughout the scriptures) people’s sexual orientation is simply not identified because it is irrelevant to the narrative.  There is no logical reason to believe that there weren’t gays and lesbians
amongst the masses who followed Jesus, amongst those who were fed by him (in the story of the 5,000), amongst those who had life-changing encounters with Jesus, or even amongst the disciples.  The text is simply silent on this issue… and generally, when the text is silent, we should be too.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Remembering Katrina

Today is the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  Let us remember that the work of rebuilding is not yet done and the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Region still need our prayers and thoughts.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Weird Flashbacks & Good Memories

I came across this old video on an old YouTube Channel from the church I left. It was from our first year.  A weird flashback and good memories — and made continually thankful for what God has done, is doing, and will do through His church.  I always said, “It isn’t about me or any of us. He doesn’t need me or any of us. It is His church… and it will prevail.”

I still believe that today.

For His glory alone…

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

08.28.63

Saturday, August 28th, marks the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr’s, game-changing “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

This weekend is a good time to reflect upon the work, ministry and legacy of Dr. King — and the entire civil rights movement.

I hope you will take some time to listen to, watch or read the speech this weekend.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Happy 100th Birthday Agnes? Gonxhe Bojaxhiu

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One hundred years ago today, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, who would become known to the world as Mother Teresa, was born. 

If you know me, you know that she is one of my faith heroes.  In fact, as part of an Advent/Christmas series I preached in 2009, I gave a sermon about her life as a disciple of Jesus. If you are interested, you can check it out below.

Happy Birthday Mother Teresa!

Click here to watch the sermon.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

God is a Jerk

A real conversation I had not-so-long-ago with “Harry” (not his real name):

Harry: “So yeah, gay people can’t be Christians. You can’t be a continual sinner and call yourself a Christian. I guess it is okay for gay people to go to church, but they shouldn’t be members or serve or anything like that.”

Me: “Really? You honestly think that I’m not a Christ-follower and should not be allowed to be part of God’s family, use my gifts, and be part of a church?”

Harry: “Well it is not me that thinks that. It is God. It is in His word. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t care who you sleep with. Your issue is with God, not me.”

Besides for the obvious problems with Harry’s argument — for example, that I am not “sleeping with anyone”, that He has no scriptural basis for excluding people with gay orientations from the church community, etc — it seems to me that the greatest problem is that Harry is convinced that God is a jerk.

I am always disturbed by the argument (which I hear often) that “It’s not me, it’s Him who is at fault!” In other words, what Harry wants me to believe — and wants to believe himself — is that he (Harry) is actually a good guy — not judgmental, open-minded, accepting, etc — but that God is the one who is judgmental, close-minded and rejecting.  In other words, for Harry, God is the jerk.

“I love you and accept you as you are,” Harry says. “It is God who rejects you.”

“If it were up to me, you’d be fine… but God is angry with you.”

“I’m a good guy. Your issue isn’t with me (or my church) but with God.”

Conservative Christians like to blame God for their own judgementalism, close-mindedness and rejection. Just like atheists like to blame God for poverty, starvation and war. Both groups are wrong.  It is people who are cause of all of this: judgementalism, close-mindedness, rejection, poverty, starvation and war.

We are the jerks. Not God.

That is a theological truth that is important to remember.

And another one: DON’T MAKE GOD INTO A JERK TO JUSTIFY YOUR OWN JUNK.

God is love. His character is good. He personifies radical inclusivity, irrational and unconditional love, and amazing unmerited favor and grace. Anything that denies these Bible-revealed characteristics of God are heretical.

God is not a jerk.  Ever. So stop making him look like one.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

 
 
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