Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Your Strong Suit in Sharing Your Faith

An Inkling
I like this video.  It’s not sophisticated.  It’s not logically compelling.  But it is fetching.  Why?  It’s genuine.
What is it about sharing our story that connects with people?  It’s not our sophistication or logic.  Few of us have either as a strong suit, be we teens or seasoned adults.  That’s why many of us are reticent to share our faith. 
But we do have a strong suit.  It’s the genuineness in our stories.  That and the fact that we’re not the center of our own stories.  That’s what makes them different.  That’s what piques curiosity – which opens the way for us to introduce someone to the One who is at the center.
Pray for the right moment to play to your strong suit.  Share your story.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What Does Java Have to do with Jesus?

An Inkling
Last week I connected you with the fun video about welcoming folks to church.  What if you do?  What if they come?  Are we ready to receive them?  St. Giles is a truly friendly church.  But maybe there’s more to it…
Fair warning – the satire here makes for strong brew.  But maybe with a little cream and sugar you’ll be prompted to reflect a bit on just how welcoming our welcome is.  It prompted me.
Learning as we go…

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hey, Wanna Come With Me?

An Inkling,
I didn’t know there was such a thing as National Welcome Back to Church Sunday.  But indeed there is, as I discovered through this cool video someone shared with me.  Whom might you invite?
But wait!  Before you answer, consider whom you know that might be open to an invitation.  Do you have a friend who is not already connected with a church, but is interested in the Lord, or at least in learning more about the Lord?  That would be a good one to invite.  Forget the store clerk you just met, or the co-worker who makes fun of your faith.  Unless God directs you by writing in the sky, now is not the right time to welcome them to church.  A different type of outreach is best suited for them.  We’ll be considering such outreach moments for the next few Sundays.
But for this Sunday, how about that friend who does wonder about the Lord, or who used to be part of a church?  Might this be the time for “Hey, you wanna come with me?”  And if you think the video might help them with their questions, pass it on.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


An Inkling
There are some things I’ve wanted to do for a long time: parachute, learn guitar better, go to Africa, walk the Virginia part of the Appalachian Trail, figure out the Hill family genealogy, lose five more pounds, see a President, and make more time to read.  Do you know what I’ve done in the last year to make any of those happen?  Nothing. 
I’ve also wanted for a long time to lead a tour group to Greece and Turkey through the course of Paul’s journeys.  But with this I’m actually taking some steps to make it happen.  It’s moving from want to intentionality – setting a date, talking with Barbi Partlow about travel options, etc.  That will lead to action.
Almost every Christian I know wants to be used by God to welcome others to know Jesus.  And yet most of those Christians are not intentional about doing so – including me.  We want to; we just don’t do anything that actually leads to action.  Wanting and intentionality are not the same.
So if you want to be used by God to welcome others to faith, what would it take for you to move from wanting to intentionality to action?  We’ll be talking about that some in various settings over the next few weeks.  And as we do, you can think and pray about it yourself – do you really want to be used by God to welcome others to know Jesus?  Okay – how might you move from wanting to intentionality?

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Gospel for Tiger

An Inkling
This is the final blog in a series I commenced on August 16 about our denomination’s unfaithful choice to change ordination standards.  It’s not just a minor adjustment of church government.  It’s a matter of whether the leadership of the church will embody the gospel or the spirit of the age.  And I’ve saved the most important reason till last.
I once heard Tom Gillespie (President of Princeton Seminary at the time) say that we must not celebrate what God would redeem.  The revisionists have persuaded a voting majority in our denomination that homosexual behavior is to be celebrated, not redeemed.  This despite the list in 1 Corinthians 6 of those God had redeemed:  “fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, robbers.”  Paul’s list includes some of the behaviors he had seen God redeem in the lives of the Corinthian Christians.  Thus the happy conclusion to his list:  “and such were some of you.”  Past tense.  Redeemed!
What does redemption entail?  Is it just a “get out of jail free” card for the next life?  Or does it offer real hope for changed lives?  I’ve heard no one in the church making the case that idolaters, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, or robbers are beyond transformation.  But we have now singled out sexuality as immutable.  Really?
Then what would we say to Tiger Woods, had he come to our church when he was beginning to deal with his compulsive sexual patterns?  Would we have had anything to offer him?  When he made his public statement he said that it was up to him to change.  That’s commendable.  But given the power of sin’s compulsions in sexuality and many other areas of life, it’s not very hopeful.  What a tragedy to exclude a whole range of dysfunction (be it homosexual or heterosexual) from the transformational power of the gospel!
We must not!  And that message is spoken most winsomely by those who have been redeemed themselves from various patterns of sexual brokenness.  Check out the testimonies on the One by One website (http://www.oneby1.org/).  They have come out of all manner of sexual dysfunction, and are a living example of “such were some of you.”  Frequently their testimonies include gratitude that their congregations neither condemned them, nor celebrated what God would redeem.  And wisely they offer their ministry only to those who want to deal with their sexuality – i.e., they are not out crusading against anyone, but simply offering the full gospel hope to those who want it.
I wish we as a whole denomination had a gospel for Tiger.  But we can trust that God’s faithfulness and transforming work will continue through those who do avail themselves of his full redemption power.  And let it begin with us.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Both Halves of Grace

An Inkling
I’ve been writing blogs since August 16 describing why I believe our denomination has crossed a line toward unfaithfulness through its decision to change ordination standards.  I’ve offered these reasons in no particular order – just a stream of consciousness theologizing – till now.  I’ve saved the two main reasons for last with today’s and tomorrow’s blogs.
So, let’s see:  I’m up to eight reasons why I think we’ve crossed a line.  Isn’t that making a bit much of a sexual ethics debate?  It would be if it were just that.  As important as biblical sexual ethics are, they are clearly not essential tenets of our faith.  But in our generation they are one of the main stages on which we are playing out our understanding of some essential tenets, namely the nature of grace and forgiveness.
The best single gospel story I can think of for grasping the full nature of grace and forgiveness is that of the woman caught in adultery in John 8.  Even people who don’t follow Jesus quote these red letter words – at least in part. 
Let the one without sin cast the first stone.  Wow!  With a single phrase Jesus makes plain what the accusers have in common with the accused.  The point is not that we’re to forego all judgments.  Many scripture passages direct us to judge.  The point is that we are to enter such conversations, in this case our sexual ethics debates, with a full awareness that all of us have our own sinful patterns in this area of life.  That totally changes the conversation.
Neither do I condemn you.  The only one present who had the right to condemn did not.  Wow again!  There is grace demonstrated – but only part of it.  Jesus wasn’t done.
Go and do not sin again.  This is the red letter phrase in the story that somehow goes unquoted.  It’s the other half of grace, which is not biblical unless the loving acceptance of neither do I condemn is inseparably joined with the call to accountability and change in do not sin again
Notice the order.  If we’re to embody grace we must speak first what Jesus spoke first – loving acceptance.  Otherwise even a grace-full message sounds condemning.  Only then, but essentially then, do we speak the call to accountability and change.  For without the last half forgiveness is rendered mere indulgence.  And the last thing we need in our brokenness is indulgence. 
And the last thing the church needs in its leadership standards is truncated grace.  Let those who lead do so with full awareness that they have no right to cast stones.  Let them receive in full God’s loving acceptance, which is tied inseparably to a call to turn from sinful patterns.  Let them demonstrate in their way of life, including their sexuality, the full-orbed grace of the gospel.
That postures our leaders, like those they lead, in readiness for God’s transforming work, to which I’ll return in tomorrow’s post.