Monthly Archives: May 2014

Women Near and Far

WARNING — this is a lot longer than my normal modest posting. It is also a complex and troubling issue worth commentary.

The questions of woman and men, violence against women, patriarchy, equality vs. complementarity, have beenon my radar recently. The world still waits to see what will happen to the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. Closer to home people are grappling with the violence perpetrated by Eliot Rodgers against women and men but in the context of a manifesto against women that has echoed around the world. My Twitter feed has been filled with heart-breaking, soul-baring, and shocking revelations by women about the violence and misogyny they have experienced (If you are on Twitter, the hashtag for these posts was #YesAllWomen. If you didn’t see it, you need to take a look).

As a husband and the father of both young adult women and a teenage boy I have a conflicting mix of emotions and thoughts. We have taught our girls to be independent and stand up for themselves. Both of them have faced violence from boys they dated who thought it was fine to behave in such a way. Thankfully nothing like the things I have seen and heard on Twitter of late. But a frightening and troubling in and of themselves.

As the father of  a son I am convicted that I have not been more forceful and clear with our thirteen-year old about this issue. Or as a pastor and a Christian. A friend and colleague posted on Facebook yesterday (which I am quoting at some length here with her permission):

“Men who are raising sons: where is your voice?  in the news

What are you teaching your sons in word and example, so no women is ever speaking of them when they tell their stories of harassment, fear, danger and violence?

Women are fully human people. They are in charge of their bodies and their lives. They owe you nothing just because you are a man. Women are not objects for your self-gratification. My sons grew up in a household of equal human partners as parents. “

I couldn’t have said it better myself… but I have not said it myself enough. Nor, and this is where I feel the conviction of  the Holy Spirit, have I examined my life and marriage and parenting and relationships for these insidious and corrupting ideas. Where have I perpetuated in humor, for instance, these beliefs that lead to violence? Where do the things I say and do reinforce the views that allow men to do such horrible things to women? Have I done them myself ? Not at the same level of violence but in word and silence? I am not sure I like the answers.

There is more to consider here and I thank the aforementioned colleague and friend for dialoguing with me a bit this morning. She always makes me think and I am seeing where some of these issues of power, position, control, etc. are bigger than this question alone.

My personal theology is grounded in a large degree in Genesis 1 where we hear these words:

God created humanity in God’s own image,
        in the divine image God created them,
            male and female God created them.” (Genesis 1:27 CEB)

This glorious beginning very quickly falls to pieces. Far too often we have lived in the story that follows rather than into God’s desire to renew and redeem and restore this heritage that comes from our very being made in the divine images – men and women, male and female. God spoke and it was so. Too ofter we – I – have lived out of the Old Adam’s tale rather than the New Adam of Christ.

It is past time we speak and seek more to make it so. More on this one later…

 

 

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Memorial Day Thoughts

Memorial Day is not a Christian or spiritual holiday but rather a civil one. It does not mean, however, that is has no spiritual significance.

I don’t usually post other people’s stuff but today I post something from someone whose work and writing I admire, Ed Stetzer. Last Memorial Day he posted the following —

 

“At times like this, I’m always struck by the teaching of Jesus where he said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And, yes, I immediately connect that to Christ. In other words, on a day when we remember those who gave their lives I’m drawn to dwell on the fact that Christ laid down his life.

So, thank you soldiers– past and present– for the freedoms you protect. And, thank you that because of those freedoms, we can tell the good news of the gospel of the perfect one who laid down His life.”

(It comes from this blog post — Memorial Day:Bought with a Price, May 27, 2013. It is worth reading the entire post!)

At our best, we as human beings reflect in our character the image of God in which we are made (Genesis 1:27). The sacrifice of human beings for the good of others, as Ed Stetzer so well articulates, reminds me of the sacrifice of Christ. In our fallen, broken world the lives of some are often lost that others may live and thrive. Our Christian faith tells of One who gave his life for all and not for any one nation or cause.

I thank God for those whose sacrifices allow me to live, worship, preach, and pastor in freedom.

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Step by Step… Can’t Turn Back

Continuing my thoughts from this original post, I have been thinking about the journey of faith. It is always a step-by-step progress. A day, a step, a moment at a time.

Recently my thoughts have turned to the reality that journeying with Christ does not include an escape plan, a route by which we can return to where we were. There is no going back. Jesus says, for instance, to one man “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 NIV) 

It’s hard to admit but sometimes I want to go back. I want an easier way, one with fewer demands, more centered on me and what I want. (Full-time ministry complicates this reality to be sure but it is more about being a Christian than a pastor). I wish that I could just do what I want.

But the path of Christian discipleship doesn’t have a U-turn. Following God never has. The people of Israel couldn’t go back to Egypt – but they sure wanted to return.

But we can’t go back because we aren’t the people we were when we started. We can’t unthink, unexperience, undo what has brought us to the next step.

And God is not behind us. God does not live in the past but in the present. In the next step. Not always comforting and sometimes overwhelming. But true.

Take the next step… God is there.

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Spiritual Orienteering

In a world before GPS (and still in Boy Scouting and other outdoor groups), people learned to navigate in steps. In orienteering, for instance, you would navigate using a compass and map from point to point. No electronic map to show the route from start to finish… no rerouting on your phone if you get off course.event_75121022

There is no spiritual GPS – God has not upgraded. The journey of faith is a step-by-step one. A journey that demands we focus on the steps before us. We know the destination (which is, by the way,  a Person rather than a place – more on this later) but at the moment we aren’t there. We only know the points that we have traveled and the point toward which we are traveling next.

For Christians, the Bible, the traditions of the church, our faith communities, the still small voice of God’s Spirit are all spiritual orienteering tools. Our compasses and maps. Our destination is God Himself.

This metaphor humbles me. I can’t know where others are on the map. They may be following a different set of points. Their map may be different even if the destination is the same. They didn’t start where I did (nor did I start where they did).

It also means that the journey right now matters. I can’t get to where God leads me without traveling point-to-point-to-point on the route. Shortcuts end up leaving me lost or confused.

Wherever you find yourself today on this journey, attend to the steps you are taking. To the next point you are trying to reach.

 

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him… (Psalm 37:23 NIV)

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Sometimes by Step (Aldergate Newsletter)

For a variety of reasons, I am going to start posting my monthly church newsletter pieces. In this case because I want to do some reflections in future blogs on the metaphor I am using here… enjoy!

 

                     SOMETIMES BY STEP

 

The late Rich Mullins wrote these words (and if you don’t know this song you should find and listen to it!) –

 

Oh God, You are my God,
And I will ever praise You.
Oh God, You are my God,
And I will ever praise You.
I will seek You in the morning,
And I will learn to walk in Your ways;
And step by step, You’ll lead me,
And I will follow You all of my days.

Step by step… so much of the Christian journey (whether we mean our individual walk of faith or our church’s history) is one step at a time. Abraham journeyed from his home to modern day Iraq step by step. The children of Israel walked from Egypt to the promised land step by step. Jesus and his followers walked up and down the countryside step by step. The earliest followers of Jesus after the Resurrection spread the Good News – you guessed it – step by step into the world.

For us, the step by step isn’t so literal most of the time. But the image holds. We take step after faithful step, not always knowing what lies between us and our next destination. Sometimes we don’t know what or where the destination is! But we can see the next step, perhaps even the one after that.

Our church is always in motion, always stepping toward something (whether we know it or not). We don’t sit still. On Sunday, April 27, I shared a next step for our church called Live Free (see more elsewhere in this issue of our newsletter). It came from following some earlier steps. And there will be other steps beyond it as we seek to be faithful in making disciples of Jesus Christ, faithful in reaching our neighborhood and transforming our community, faithful to the Risen Lord.

These steps are not steps we take alone or unguided. The Risen Christ leads us as we step forth in faith. The God and Father of that Christ has purposes and plans for us and for our community. The Spirit of God gives us the courage, the power, and the love to take one more step in faith.

Keep walking with me as we seek to step into Christ’s future together!

 

 

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