Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

“I love the church!” Isn’t it a profound thing to say. It seems like such a given, right? Yet today, it seems that more than ever the church is under attack from even her members. Perhaps, I should qualify this and say, the church in America is under attack even by her members. Things like, the problem with the church is… Or if I had it my way, I would…

Truth is, I have been one to have speak in less than honorable ways about the church as well. Now, I want to confess and say I am sorry to all who listened to my moaning and groaning, as though I knew the direction better than those called to cast vision and move the church into Christian formation. To my youth ministers, I am sorry for thinking you didn’t know what you were talking about, though I chalk that up more to, my teenage mentality. To the ministers overseeing the Seekers class at University CofC in Abilene, to the shepherds and ministers (and my mentor, Doug Peters) at North Davis CofC in Arlington, to my professors/shepherds at Minter Lane CofC and finally to the Singing Oaks shepherds and ministers, though only with you for a short time, I AM SORRY FOR MY ARROGANCE AND LACK OF HUMILITY. I was seeking to manage the unmanageable. For Christ gave up His power, he relinquished his equality with God. While, I sought to bring it to success. The notion is laughable considering the two thousand years of growth and survival.

Please pray for your family at VineLife for God is moving powerfully among us and yet the evil one is seeking to destroy what God has already set in motion. I believe he has a plan for this body that is huge and magnificent but evil is lurking around every corner. May we not succumb to the management of Christ’s body, for He has had a plan since the beginning of time. I believe that in the management of the body we are serving the destructive ambitions of the evil one. May we all remember that when we speak ill of the body and it’s members, we speak ill of Christ, himself. In Matthew 25.31-46 Jesus says…

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Our goal is not the management of the body of Christ. Our job is to live as Jesus out loud and for the world to see. To submit to His love so that we may love. To grow in his image so that others may see Him. To see in others the face of Christ, who was born of a virgin, lived among us, died on a cross and was raised to the newness of life so that we may enter into His glory by the power of His Spirit Holy. When we speak against the church, we speak against Christ. When we speak or tear down our brothers and sisters, we in turn are crucifying our Savior yet again. But when we build up the body and serve the “least of these” we in turn serve Christ himself. I long to hear our Savior say to his church, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Won’t that be a grand and glorious day.

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WARNING! All tangents, rants and meaningless opinions (which this is) are barely edited and typically thrown out there without a concern for correct spelling, punctuation or grammar.

Perhaps you are concerned that I would even ask such a question. However, I felt compelled to ask this today because I am amazed how fearful of times we live in. We are quite frankly seemingly afraid of our own shadow. Then again, perhaps it is just me. Perhaps, I am the only one who wants God to make things simplistic for me. I try to define him, to control him, to excuse him, to defend him, to protect him, to make him sound big (as opposed to realizing he is big) and the list could go on. So I ask you, how big is your God?

Well, I must admit for sometime there is another closely connected idea that has been troubling me. It is the idea that people love God but hate religion OR that they love Christ but hate the church. Now, these words at first may bite us a bit, if not make us cringe but let’s really listen to what people are saying when they make such claims. As such, there must be a realization that, while we would rightly say that as the bible defines the church that one cannot possibly hate it and love Christ. Yet, this is not necessarily what I think people are saying. It is my own humble opinion that what they are really saying is that they love what Christ stands for but are extremely questionable about how distinctly different the church (Christ’s body) lives that out. Hence, you hear things like the church is full of a bunch of hypocrites. What I have found this to mean is, they say that we are to be Christlike and yet instead of being sent ones “like sheep among wolves,” they have built bigger and more expensive sheep pens to keep the wolves out. (more…)

Well I meant to write about a recent trip I had to the Carmelite Retreat Center. However, it’s been a long while since I took that retreat. But even so, the effects are still evident and this time with my new friends at the retreat center and found myself engulfed in a Catholic world that felt so familiar. It was like visiting a family member that you have been out of touch with for sometime. You come together and remember all the wonderful things we have in common as family. I know, many in the church of Christ heritage might disagree with me for even going on a retreat let alone consorting with the “enemy.” I must say, I could not disagree more. God was present and working in powerful ways through two friars, my brothers in Christ, Father Stephen and Father Jerome. I have NEVER come to discern the Way more fully than during my time with these brothers of mine. Late nights with Father Stephen, talking theology and life, turned into one of the most meaningful moments and transitionary times of my life. It reminds me of Peter’s proclamation of Christ as Lord, Son of the Living God. The awareness was evident and yet, even now, I am only partially able to understand the full magnitude of the mission of Jesus. There are many days where I imagine Jesus looking at my struggle with the Way and saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Yet, it cannot be taken away from me that Jesus, the Son of the Living God is more predominantly the Lord of my Life. Father’s love stand as the precipice of my delight and joy. His love, daily reaches deep into my unworthy heart and touches the core of my life. Often, I find myself joyfully tearful and unable to speak. Yes, for me that is quite the feat.

The truth is, I am not wanting to share the deepest moments of my journey with the Carmelite order. Rather, what I hope is that someon reading this might be encouraged to begin seeking this love and joy that I speak of mor fully. To remember that life is not about serving the system of religiosity and doctrinal demands. For God loves us the same no matter what path we choose and Christ’s blood is still spilled for all who claim him as their Lord and Savior. The point is seeking God. It is to see David’s quest as our own.

Psalms 27
Of David.

The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

(emphasis mine)

For more information about the Carmelite Order I highly recommend checking out these sites…

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:  Carmelite Order

Carmelite Website

Mount Carmel Retreat Center

You can check out all of Willard’s articles here. However, the article I really thought relevant to this weeks lesson in Matthew 16 is here. Here is something to wet your appetite.

How the disciple lives naturally comes out of who the disciple is.

As Jesus’ disciple, I am his apprentice in kingdom living. I am learning from him how to lead my life in the Kingdom of the Heavens as he would lead my life if he were I. It is my faith in him that led me to become his disciple. My confidence in him simply means that I believe that he is right about everything: that all that he is and says shows what life is at its best, what it was intended by God to be. “In him was life and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4 NAS)

Being his apprentice is, therefore, not a matter of special “religious” activities, but an orientation and quality of my entire existence. This is what is meant by Jesus when he says that those who do not forsake all cannot be his disciple. (Luke 14:26 & 33) The emphasis is upon the all. There must be nothing held of greater value than Jesus and his kingdom. He must be clearly seen as the most important thing in human life, and being his apprentice as the greatest opportunity any human being ever has.

The article goes on to suggest three dimensions of learning to be a disciple of Jesus. 1) Obedience to the Lord,otherwise, why call him Lord. 2) Imitation of Christ in all areas of life becomes our own existence. 3) “Learning to exercise the power of the kingdom –of Christ in his Word and Spirit– to minister good and defeat evil in all of the connections of earthly existence.” These are all very powerful ideas and beautifully laid out. I was incredibly convicted, challenged and moved by this article. It makes me excited and hopeful for a greater day. May it bless you as well.

The Word of the Lord from Ezekiel 34.1-11.

The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.

“‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.

“‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.

Blessed be the Word of the Lord.

In this democratically charged age, I wonder if we as Servants (Leaders) can see ourselves in this light. I wonder if we are really willing to deal with the hard questions about our roles and to truly see ourselves shepherds, servants, even to the removal of our Leadership title. Can we serve and die for the wayward soul? Can we serve and die for the disgruntle follower of Christ? Can we leave the fold to go after the one who continually gets lost in the darkness and distrusts that our fields are the greenest to be had? I do not propose a swinging of the pendulum and really I do not even suggest anything, except to propose questions, Are we ever hearing or can we not hear anything from our high places? Are we seeing or are we blind guides unable to see the flock from our mountain? Can we shepherds follow the great Shepherd or have we lost our Guide on the journey to the kingdom of God? My hope is that we are ever hearing, ever seeing, ever longing to be transformed into the fullness of the Great Shepherd who is our head. May Ezekiel challenge you as he has challenged me.

Check out this website. Listen to the MP3’s, especially Exclusivity. In my opinion, it is very important to listen to.

Let me know your thoughts.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

– Martin Luther King, JR.

You know when I hear the “I have a dream” and the “Let freedom ring section of MLK, JR. famous speech I am moved deeply by the drive that calls humanity to humility before their (more…)