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Whose Burden?

I was a high school debater for four years (we won States three times — for other debate geeks out there, I did 2-person policy debate, and had no patience for LD or Speech).  One of the basic principles of debate is the idea of “burden of proof” or “presumption”.  In other words, whose burden is it to prove something?

The general principle is that the person/team asserting something are the one’s that must prove it.  

Makes sense.

In Christianity today (and for the last 2000 years!) about inclusion and exclusion.  That is, who gets included at the Great Banquet Table and who gets left out (or left behind)?  Who is in?  Who is out?

The irony is that while Jesus’ mission was one of RADICAL INCLUSIVITY, his followers have spent the better part of 2000 years debating WHO CAN WE EXCLUDE FROM THE KINGDOM?

Given that Jesus modeled, taught and lived an ethic of including all (see Luke 14, for example), I believe that the burden of proof is on those who want to exclude anybody.

I don’t know about you, but I want as many people at the Banquet as possible — I believe Jesus’ heart is to include as many as possible.  Our job, as his followers, is to try and include as many as possible within our sphere of influence.

To those that want to exclude, the burden of proof is on you — not the other way around.  The presumption is that someone is included — you need to make a compelling argument for exclusion.

So you want to exclude gays?  Or people with different theology than yours?

The burden of proof is on you.  Not the other way around.

Want to exclude women from leadership?  The burden of proof is on you.

Want to exclude anyone from His Banquet Table?  The burden of proof is on you.

IMHO.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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@Table w/Jesus #2, Lessons in Grace: Banquet

Here is part #2 of the series I am currently preaching at Riverfront Family Church.  We are exploring the topic of GRACE: what is it, what difference does it make, and what does it reveal about our Heavenly Father?

This message comes out of Luke 14.

After listening, I would love to hear your thoughts.

This Sunday I will be continuing the series with a message called “Block Party” out of Luke 15.

During the summers, Riverfront Family Church meets for worship at Wickham Park in Manchester, CT at 10:30 AM.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Please Lord, Protect Us From Your Followers…

[WARNING… angry rant to follow…]

I am an EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN.  I don’t deny it.  In fact, I have been an out-of-the-closet evangelical for 19 years.

I am not a FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIAN in any sense of the word. 

It is worth noting that almost all FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIANS would probably be considered EVANGELICALS, but ALL EVANGELICALS ARE NOT FUNDAMENTALISTS.

That said, you should know that I am deeply embarrassed by some of the bullshit crap that passes as teaching/theology/leadership out there these days.  In fact, I am not only embarrassed, I am angry.  I am angry because these kinds of people actually KEEP PEOPLE FROM JESUS.  Trust me, it is true.  Not only to they PREACH NONSENSE, but they MUDDY THE GOSPEL with their nonsense.

Most of the time I let this stuff just go.  I don’t make a big deal out of it and don’t publicly criticize it.  But sometimes I am pushed over the edge.  The rejection of these people and the false gospel they preach is not the result of an anti-Christian bias among the mainstream media as much as the fact that these people SOUND INSANE.

Let’s be clear… claiming that OPRAH WINFREY IS THE ANTI-CHRIST and TALKING ABOUT SEX WITH DEMONS… this is as crazy as claiming that the end of the world was to come this past May.

I don’t doubt these people love Jesus and are saved and will be at the heavenly banquet… I just wish they would shut up in the mean time.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, watch this video:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

[End of Rant…]

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Is the End Near? Should We Care? What Difference Does It Make?

I have to confess that I am a bit more than surprised how much attention is being paid — both by the media and just regular folks — to the “rapture on May 21, 2011” prediction.  I don’t actually know anyone who thinks the rapture will happen tomorrow, but they do seem intrigued by the whole question of end-times.  

So what is it that Christians should be doing in terms of preparing for the end?  And when will the end be?

Luckily, the Jesus answers both these questions rather clearly in the Bible.

As to when, Jesus is abundantly clear: NO ONE KNOWS, EXCEPT FOR THE FATHER.(Matthew 24:36).  So pretty much, I think it is safe to say that anyone who claims to know doesn’t and they are a false prophet.  Period.  The quickest way to reveal yourself as a religious fraud is to try and predict when the end times will come.

So what are Christians to do?

Again, Jesus and the Bible are pretty clear.

We are supposed to live BOTH as if Jesus might come at any moment (“like a thief in the night”) and live as if he is not returning for 1000 years.  In other words, we should be prepared, but we should also be continually investing in bringing forth Kingdom values here and now — our prayer is to bring heaven down here, not us to heaven.

What does this look like in practical ways?

In terms of being prepared as if it could happen at any moment:
  1. Keep short accounts with other people and with God.  Confess sin, seek forgiveness, and as much as it is possible, live at peace with each other.
  2. Make your relationship with God a priority — don’t put it off.
  3. Invest in what will count for eternity: relationships. Money, titles, luxury cars, big houses, prestige — these things don’t ultimately matter very much.
  4. Prepare for eternity.  In many respects, this life is preparation for the next.  So prepare well by living out your primary purposes well: worship, community, discipleship, ministry and mission.
In terms of living as Jesus will not return for 1000 years (or 10,000 years):
  1. Gain a long term perspective on what matters: justice, people, relationships.
  2. Make your relationship with God a priority — eternity is a long time… we need to get the big things right.
  3. Be part of God’s ongoing plan to bring forth his Kingdom, build His church, and push back the gates of Hell.
  4. Invest in big God-honoring visions.  Give your life to something that matters.
  5. Work well, live well, love well.  St. Paul has to remind the Thessalonian church the importance of working, being good citizens, etc.  They thought Jesus would return at any moment and had stopped doing the basic things of life because of that.  Paul tells them to essentially get a job, earn money, take care of their families, and to live life well.  This is good advice.
The challenge for us is not to choose one way over the other — but to live in the tension of both.

Why?  Because no one knows the day or hour that the end will come… 

This is the basic, straightforward and abundantly clear teachings of the scriptures.

THOUGHTS? 
 
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Posted by on May 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Plan B People

Some people think that when you become a Christian your life is going to be perfect — or if not at least perfect, without major trouble or suffering.  Of course, the folks who believe that have probably not read the Bible yet nor spent much time studying church history.  Christians are not exempt from the troubles and suffering of this world — not at all.  We face the same troubles, tribulations and suffering — but we do not do so alone and I think we have a different perspective on it.  But it is real.

Part of the idea of PLAN B — which I have written about here and here — is that brokenness, trouble and suffering are realities for all of us. The world is broken and not as it should be. The consequences of SIN have corrupted pretty much every aspect of life.  This is the reality we live in.  While Christ has victory over all SIN (and sins) and its consequences, we live in the tension of the already and the not yet.  Jesus has already defeated sin once and for all; but until His return we will not fully experience that new reality. “PLAN B”, as I call it, is a simple acknowledgment of this tension — and the call to live well in the midst of it.

I think a lot of people who want to deny the reality of PLAN B have simply not experienced the kind of brokenness that many others have.  It is far easier to hold up ideals about the perfect marriage — and why divorce is never a Christian option — when your own marriage is really good.  But that is not the experience for many people.

So meet some PLAN B people… these are all folks I consider friends, and all devoted followers of Jesus.

  • The 30-something wife and mother of two who wakes up one day to discover that her husband has never really loved her and has been having a relationship with another woman at church.  
  • The 50-something husband who’s wife of 25+ years comes out to him.
  • The 50-something wife who has been holding a secret for her whole life — and now has to come out to her husband.
  • The couple, who despite everything, simply cannot get pregant.
  • The 40-something husband and father of two who knows he is gay but cannot figure out how to tell his wife or what might come next.
  • The 20-something guy who is struggling to understand his own sexuality and has pretty much been chased out of his church because of it.
  • The young pastor who discovers his wife has had an affair — but is committed to saving the marriage.
  • The 50-something couple who discover that their marriage died years ago and that they are making each other miserable.
  • The 40-something couple who have been living a sexless mariage resulting from abuse that she experienced years ago; resulting in his porn addiction.
  • The 60-something woman who gets the call from her doctor and is told it is cancer.
  • The 50-something who shows up at work one day and is told he no longer has a job.
  • The 19-year old college student who has to drop out because there is no money to pay tuition.

This list could go on and on.  And this list is just random in terms of people I know and am thinking about and praying for this morning.

The PLAN A approach would be to tell them that EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT, that the MARRIAGE WILL BE SAVED, that SOMEHOW THIS IS ALL GOD’S WILL.

But this, of course, is both a lie and wrong theologically.

In our world, not everything works out, not all relationships can be reconciled, and it is NOT THE CASE EVERYTHING THAT IS, IS HIS WILL.

Why?

Because the world is broken and the WORLD IS NOT HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE.

So what do we say to these people?

Do we give up? Give in?

No.

We embrace the reality of PLAN B.

And PLAN B says “given the cards you are dealt, how do you follow Jesus with as much integrity as you possibly can?

And following Jesus means:

  • Choosing joy in all things.
  • Praying ceaslessly.
  • Loving God and loving our neighbors.
  • Praying for and loving our enemies.
  • Choosing what is right no matter what the consequence is.
  • Trusting God — and His word — above all else.
  • Trusting that God works all things for good for those who love him (Rom 8:28)
  • Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

Plan B is not an excuse from any of these things — but it provides a realistic context for who we live these things out, without being held hostage to some idealized picture of what “the perfect Christian” looks like.

And the answers in Plan B are not easy.  A sexless marriage may be the cross one must bare to love their wives as Christ loved the church — and the porn addiction has to go.  But figuring out how to live into that reality — as opposed to clinging to some idealized fantasy — is the key to authentically following Jesus.

And here is the trick: AUTHENTICALLY FOLLOWING JESUS is the KEY to discovering HEALING, JOY, LOVE & HOPE.  In fact, there is no other pathway that will get you there.

The mystery is that embracing PLAN B allows God to work miracles in a way that clinging to PLAN A might not.

That is my prayer for all those folks above.  Each of which I love and respect.

And that is my journey too.  I am a PLAN B guy.  I would never script my life this way.  And part of coming to grips with who I really am and beginning to experience real healing and grace in Christ, was giving up the idealized picture of who I thought I should be, and instead accepting who I actually am — with all my faults, follies and foibles.  And all my gifts, charms and passions.

PLAN B has allowed me to be MORE WHO GOD CREATED ME TO BE IN THE MIDST OF A WORLD THAT IS NOT HOW HE INTENDED.

That is the irony, of course.  PLAN B — the way of the cross — is the only possible pathway to life.  

PLAN A existed in Eden.  It also failed.

PLAN B is the result of the fall. Yet in Christ, ultimately will return us to Eden… a new Jerusalem… a renewed reality. 

PLAN A relied on our pure obedience.  PLAN B relies on HIS.

PLAN A relied on our goodness and righteousness.  PLAN B relies on HIS.

PLAN A relied on us.  PLAN B relies on HIM.

Given the choice, I’ll trust in PLAN B every time.

I will trust in HIM.

And that is why all the trouble and tribulation in the world never leads us to despair — because HE IS OUR HOPE.

So WELCOME TO PLAN B.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Plan B

I have written before about the idea of “Plan B”.  This idea is central to my understanding of the Christian life, Christian ethics, and Christian discipleship. In my previous post, I wrote about Plan B and how it impacts my thinking on homosexuality. A lot of people didn’t like the conclusions I came to in that post.  But I think that if people are honest, there is no other way to live life than to live in Plan B.

Here is what I mean:

  1. PLAN A can be described as God’s intended perfect plan for the world. PLAN A existed in Eden, was destroyed by Sin, and will be restored someday with the return of Jesus and the restoration of new heavens and the earth.  
  2. Our broken world is really PLAN B. It is not how things are supposed to be.
  3. Jesus is victorious over all sin, brokenness and despair. But we will not fully experience this victory, reconciliation and restoration this side of heaven. In other words, the restoration of the Kingdom of God is ALREADY and NOT YET.  It is ALREADY achieved, but NOT YET fully realized. 
  4. In the tension of living in the reality of ALREADY & NOT YET is a call to PLAN B.
  5. PLAN B is simply this: given the cards that we have been dealt, how do we BEST FOLLOW JESUS?  In other words, how do we live our lives with integrity (wholeness, from the root idea in the Hebrew of “shalom”) given the reality of brokenness in our own lives and in the world we live?

Simply put: PLAN A is perfect SHALOM — how things are supposed to be.

PLAN B is the reality of living in a broken world, broken shalom — how things are not supposed to be.

Like it or not, we live in PLAN B.  It is our only choice.  It is our reality.

So the question we must ask, then, is NOW WHAT?

And those that have the courage to ask that question, in the midst of brokenness, are the ones who are truly living out the Christian faith — “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

There are two major objections I hear to this PLAN B theology:

  1. We shouldn’t surrender to brokenness, but must cling to the hope/vision of SHALOM and Plan A.  
  2. Why must we say that the world is broken at all? God is sovereign and the world we have is as he intends it to be.

To the first group, all I can say is that while their piety is admirable, pious dreaming of pie-in-the-sky victory is neither Christian nor wise. Jesus calls us to live in the reality of the world. Paul admomishes the same thing in his letters. Our prayer and hope is to bring heaven down here (“thy will be done on earth as in heaven”) not to just bring us up to heaven. We recognize that brokenness is real and we must live with it.  Someday shalom will be realized, but not yet.  To declare “peace, peace” when there is no peace is not faithfulness but folly.  So while we cling to the hope of a restored PLAN A, today we must learn to live in the reality of PLAN B.

To the second group, all I can say is that I fear that in your desire to reconciled to the realities of this world you have missed two basic truths: (1) our world is indeed broken; and (2) God longs for it to be fixed.  This, indeed, is the underlying narrative of scriptures, Genesis to Revelation.  The story really is about the return to Eden.  While this stage may be necessary, it is not the end of the story and we shouldn’t pretend that it is.

So what are the implications of this PLAN B theology?

I want to explore that in some future posts, but I think more than anything, it is FREEDOM.

Freedom to pursue God as we are.

Freedom to allow ourselves ro believe that we are loved by God as we are.

Freedom to long for shalom, wholeness, peace, reconciliation.

Freedom to give up the need for perfectionism and all the judgement and guilt that come with it.

Freedom to simply follow Jesus today — as faithfully as you.

Freedom to be.

And I think this kind of freedom is indeed GOOD NEWS.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Inerant? Infallible? Inspired? Authoritative?

Nehemiah

I am an evangelical Christian.  I also align myself with historic, orthodox (lowercase “o”), catholic (lower case “c”), Christianity (upper case “C”).  This means that, among other things, I affirm the innerancy, infallibility, inspiration and authority of scripture.

But what does that mean?

Whatever it means, it should mean the same thing no matter what parts of the biblical canon we are talking about.  

Last Sunday, I preached a message at my church out of Nehemiah 1-2.  I also preached out of this section of chapter 7.

Here is my question:

IF THE BIBLE IS INERANT, INFALLIBLE, INSPIRED and AUTHORITATIVE… what does that mean in terms of these two passages?

In other words, in what ways are these passages AUTHORITATIVE?  Or INERANT? etc?

For this discussion, I am particularly interested in those willing to allow for the “if” assumption above… but of course, all are welcomed to comment!

So comment away…

 

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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