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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Upcoming Speaking/Preaching Schedule

For those interested… two upcoming speaking/preaching dates:

Sunday, April 10th – Second Congregational Church of Manchester
10:00 AM Worship Service
"Tikkun Olam: Repairing the World"
385 North Main Street,?Central Manchester, CT

Sunday, april 17th – Riverfront Family Church (Palm Sunday)
10:30 AM Worship Service
"From Palms to the Cross"
960 Main Street, Hartford CT

Hope to see some of you there. And I appreciate your prayers as I prepare. ?Also, if your church needs any pulpit supply, I am often available. ?I am also available for retreats, special events, etc. ?Just let me know.

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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

I Preached Against homosexuality, But I Was Wrong – (via Salon.com)

A recent poll shows a huge shift in American attitudes toward gay marriage, from a 32 percent approval in 2004 to 53 percent today.

I am one of those people who changed their minds.

In 1989 when I was ordained as a minister to serve a small church in North Carolina, homosexuality was an invisible issue. Gay rights were barely on the radar of mainstream churches. The idea of an openly gay pastor was beyond the pale. ? I knew there were “gay churches,” of course, but I did not believe one could be a practicing homosexual and a Christian. The Bible was straightforward on this issue. It all seemed incredibly obvious to me.

But over the next five years, homosexuality not only became an issue — it became The Issue. Sides were drawn, and those of us in the middle were pulled to either end. I was a biblical Christian, of the “hate the sin, love the sinner” crowd. And so it seemed clear that I could not fully accept, ordain and marry gays. If I was going to be forced to choose a side, that was mine.

The truth is, I was put out that this was an issue. Feeding the hungry, preaching the gospel, comforting the afflicted, standing up to racial intolerance — these were the struggles I signed up for, not determining the morality of what adults did in their bedrooms.

But the debate would not go away. It came up, again and again, year after year, pushed by activists on either end. Each time, I grudgingly voted to hold the traditional line and limit the role of gays in the church. But I felt increasingly uncomfortable.

I thought this a really interesting article… click on the link above to finish reading it. Then come back here and let me know what you think.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Happy Days

I have to confess, I am pretty happy these days. Life is good.

I have a job I like and values me, I have good friends, great family, go to a good church, am involved with some great ministries/causes, have a good living situation and a future that looks bright and wide open. And most importantly, my faith is alive, vibrant, strong and growing.

And I feel guilty about all of that.

One of my struggles these days is a sense that I shouldn't be happy, that life shouldn't be good, that I shouldn't be blessed by God.

I feel this both because of lingering guilt over what I did and what happened almost two years ago with the church. And I feel it because there are plenty of people who are willing to say that to me pretty regularly — sometimes explicitly and sometimes in subtle ways. But the message is clear. ?

"You shouldn't be happy. You shouldn't be blessed. You shouldn't be allowed to move on… accomplish anything new… be used by God."

And sometimes it is really easy to buy into those lies. To listen too much.

But the truth is that my life is good and I am happy. ?And this is because of God's presence and blessing. ?

I am learning about the power of grace these days — and that it is greater than I ever recognized.

The Bible insists that not only does God forgive all sins, he also bears them on himself. They are no longer mine and have been fully removed and taken care of. God doesn't even remember them. ? In Christ, we are made white as snow and our sins are as far from us as the east is from the west. ?God restores and reconciles all things.?

God is all about second chances and changed lives.?

I am not a?disappointment?to God; I am his prized?possession. ?And so are you. ?His love is boundless and irrational and lavish. For me and for you.

Do I have regrets? ?Sure.

Are there things I miss about my "old life"? ?You bet — and mostly it's relationships.

Are there things I wish I could change? Of course.

But all that said, I am happy — and I think that is actually a good thing.

Sunday in church, we sang these words from the Book of Job:

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow

Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name

When I'm found in the

desert place

Though I walk through the wilderness

Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out

I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord,
Still I will say…

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

I used to sing that song a lot in worship — and I understood it intellectually. I now sing it and totally get it in my soul.

So today, I bless the name of the Lord… and tomorrow — no matter what may come — I will do the same.

And maybe that is the key to HAPPY DAYS.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Hermeneutics & What the Bible Says

A while ago I wrote a 9-part series on Biblical Hermeneutics and a 12-part series on What the Bible Does (and Does Not) Say About Homosexuality.

When I switched over the blog, a lot of the archives became harder to navigate.  I have created some quick links to both those series as it is the question I get more often than any other and I think (hope) that some of what I have written will contribute to the broader conversation. The quick links are on the bottom right of the blog or you can click the links below.

Let me know if there are other posts or series you want me to quick link to.  And if you are looking for something specific, the search box (top right) is actually very effective.

QUICK LINKS:

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Goal Achievement Update

I am a big goal setter.  I love setting goals and achieving goals.  I set goals in most areas of my life, including my finances.

Each year when I prepare my taxes is the time that I can evaluate how I did on my financial goals. You can read about my goal achievement from last year here.

This past year (2010), my gross earnings were down 62% from when I was a pastor. The only way I am able to make this work financially has been through lifestyle changes and tapping into significant savings. My giving, as a percentage of my income, was 16% of my gross income (up 3% from last year). Here were my goals/predictions from last year:

  • I expect my income to drop another 20-25% this year. (Sad, but true).
  • My goal is to increase my giving by another 1% this year.
  • My goal is to remain debt free (except for student loans).
  • My goal is to rebuild a 6-month emergency fund. (I can do this now that my credit cards are paid off by applying my “debt snowball” to my emergency fund. And given my new income level, I need a smaller emergency fund, lol).

 

I was accurate in my predictions and achieved my goals.

My financial goals for the coming year include:

  1. Increase my giving by 1% as a percentage of my income (this is my goal every year).
  2. Increase my income by 50% this coming year (and 50% again the following year).
  3. Remain debt free (except for student loans).
  4. Maintain my current emergency fund and stop draining savings.
  5. Within 2 years… establish a car fund and be able to replace my current vehicle without any debt (that is, pay cash). My current vehicle is running well, but has 140,000 miles on it.
  6. Within 3 years… restore my income to 2009 levels.
  7. Within 3 years… pay off all my student loans and remain debt free for life after that.

The truth is that financial health is only one area to focus on — and not the most important.  But how we handle our finances does reveal a lot about our spiritual health.  Plus, I love to give and want to give more.  So I take the stewardship of the resources God has entrusted to me very seriously.  By writing these goals down — and sharing them publicly — I believe I increase the likelihood of achieving them.

I feel good about how I have handles my finances these last two years.  I have done less well with goals relating to personal health and excercise.  Last year I lost a fair amount of weight; this year I have regained all of the weight I lost.  That is discouraging.  But not giving up … time for a new plan and new approach.

HOW ARE YOU DOING ON YOUR GOALS?

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Celibacy or Fidelity

My view is that whatever our sexual orientation (a complex and disputed concept in itself, I know), I think we have two options: celibacy or fidelity. Contrary to what some people wrongly conclude, I reached that position not because of a carelessness towards what the Bible says, or through disregard of Christian tradition, but through careful study of the Bible and reflection on the trajectory of tradition. All this took place within my context as a pastor to, friend of, and family member with many gay people.

Brian Mclaren hits the nail on the head in terms of understanding Biblical Christian ethics — for both straight people and LGBT people: celibacy or fidelity. That’s it.

What do you think?

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

When Christianity Becomes Grotesque

Christianity is most beautiful when we enter the story and embrace the mystery.

At its core, following Jesus is about recognizing the grand narrative that He authors and finding our place in it. 

What genre is the story?

Part comedy. Part love story. Part mystery.

In the classic sense, the only difference between a comedy and a tragedy is that a comedy ends well, while a tragedy doesn’t.  We know that the story of Christianity ends well! It is not without its conflict and tragic elements, but in the end love triumphs.

Much of the story is about relationships — we make a terrible mistake if we think of the Bible as primarily a “user’s manual for living”.  It is not.  It is a record of how God interacts with specific real people — with real issues, hardships, challenges, hopes, dreams and contexts.  Can we learn from this?  Absolutely. And it is the story of a love-sick Father in search of his lost children. It is indeed a love story.

And it is a mystery. What is the mystery?  I think it is about who this God really is.  Much of our faith — and the Bible — is about learning and discovering the heart and character of God.  

In the Catholic church, they talk about the mystery of our faith as “mystagogia” and an important part of ones discipleship and spiritual formation is reflection upon these mystagogia or mysteries.

Mystery is beautiful and all faith acknowledges mystery.

What we know about our faith will only take us so far; true faith is when we enter the mystery, embrace the mystery, and affirm the mystery.  We don’t need to answer all the questions; mystery is a good place to be.

But when we try to erase the mystery, OUR FAITH BECOMES GROTESQUE.

For example, there is great beauty in the mystery of communion.  There is something about the bread and the wine that is powerful, and yet always mysterious. However, when we try and erase the mystery and fully understand and explain it — then it becomes both a caracicature of itself and grotesque.

I fully affirm the real presence of Christ in the sacrament. But I am also okay calling it mystery. For me, when we get into trying to explain exactly what happens when (or doesn’t happen when) not only to we erase the mystery but what we replace it with can be rather grotestque.

The same is true when we try to answer the mystery of who is saved, what heaven will be like, what hell will be like, etc.  It is mystery and I think it is meant to be.

One of the disturbing things about the recent barage of attacks on Rob Bell and his new book LOVE WINS has been the obsessive desire to clearly define hell, state with cocky assurance who will be there (and for how long and why) and who will experience nothing but eternal bliss.  The seeming joy in which people are willing to theologically condemn some to eternal damnation — well, it is indeed grotesque.

Some will argue that they are merely teaching/reflecting upon what the Bible teaches.

That is simply not true.

The Bible does not answer these questions with precision. It leaves it as mystery.  And what God leaves as mystery I believe we should embrace as mystery.

Those who insist on removing the mystery through mere speculation and postulating have truly embraced a grotesque caracicature of the Christian faith.

THOUGHTS? AGREE?  DISAGREE?

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2011 in Uncategorized