Some Thoughts on What Is Happening at The Village Church

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If you do not know what is going on, you need to go read the documentation.

1. At this point, there are very few facts to debate. The story comes from official documentation from The Village Church and the missions agency, SIM. To ask for another side of the story is to simply bury your head in the sand and not want to deal with the uncomfortable facts of the actual story.

2. A church (and its leaders) that places itself in the position of teaching and instructing men and women all over the world through conferences and resources will not be and should not be able to enjoy the luxury of avoiding criticism in its practice of discipline, especially when some of that instruction is on the subject of discipline itself.

3. One question The Village Church and its defenders will have to answer is, “Why is this not a biblical grounds for divorce if they do in fact have the biblical grounds to remove him from ministry indefinitely and feel the need to warn the parents of the church about this man and his exposure to children?”

4. If the use of child pornography is in fact pedophilia, then Karen, the wife has the biblical grounds to divorce/annul the marriage according to most evangelical position papers. The job of the elders is not to validate that decision but to support her.

5. The Lead Pastor of The Village Church is Matt Chandler, is also the President of Acts 29. To assume this kind of thinking has not and will not be exported to other Acts 29 churches is naive. If you support what The Village Church is doing to Karen, then you will think it is a good thing. If you do not, then this should worry you.

6. What I cannot understand is why they would be so clear in their communication about the pedophile husband not being under discipline and how the wife emphatically is under discipline.This would have to assume the best about his repentance and then assume the worst about her motives.

7. There will be many voices calling for “grace” for the husband caught in his sin. I agree with those voices. But I do not agree with all the addendum to that call for grace that would deprive the same for the wife/victim. Grace for him does not mean she, the church, and law enforcement have no recourse for action against him.

8. In the end, I cannot imagine anyone at The Village Church admitting they blew it. I hope I am wrong. I want to believe the best about them. But they have no real outside accountability since they are a SBC church and they are now the flagship of Acts 29. Matt Chandler is among the elite of the celebrity preachers in the Evangelical Industrial Complex. He and his fellow pastors will not have to worry about being marked by this. That is, until it happens again.

9. And it will happen again. And again and again. The dude-bro will get a pass and his wife will be expected to fall in line. This is exactly what happened with SGM. The wife was expected to stay with the pedophile husband and if they did not, the wife was disciplined. And it kept happening.

10. I think it is a good thing when husbands and wives can reconcile after adultery. But the most cynical part of me thinks the desire of churches to see husbands and wives reconcile in situations like this is marketing. I may need to repent of that but I fear also I may be right.

11. Many will ask, “Why do you care?” The short is answer is that I was once on staff at an Acts 29 church.

“Another Good Lie Coming Down On Your Daddy’s Soul”

SecondHand

Another Good Lie

Darling when I was your age 
I could do anything 
There were days of rock ‘n roll 
And lunar strolls and friendship rings 
And baby I told myself 
I’d follow my deepest dreams 
Knowing if I did my best 
Success would always follow me

It was another good lie 
Coming down like a freezing rain 
From a hot blue sky 
Another good lie 
Coming in like a crosstown hurricane on fire 
Another good lie 
Coming down on your Daddy’s soul 
‘Til it made him old 
Another good lie

Darling they all told me 
That they would do anything 
Climb the highest mountain 
Swim the ocean 
Do the damnedest things 
And baby then they took my heart 
And vanished like a memory 
Leaving it to time and circumstance 
To come deliver me

It was another good lie 
Coming down like a freezing rain 
From a hot blue sky 
Another good lie 
Coming in like a crosstown hurricane on fire 
Another good lie 
Coming down on your Daddy’s soul 
‘Til it made him old 
Another good lie 

Baby I’m just one man 
And my world fell apart long ago 
I guess I’m still in shock 
It shouldn’t have been like that 
I guess I still hope for deliverance

Darling when I was your age 
I could do anything 
I could be a restless heart 
A social force 
Or just genuine 
And baby don’t our dreams die hard 
In the ashes of destiny 
I wish that I could lay to rest 
The bitterness that keeps telling me

About another good lie 
Coming down like a freezing rain 
From a hot blue sky 
Another good lie 
Coming in like a crosstown hurricane on fire 
Another good lie 
Coming down on your Daddy’s soul 
‘Til it made him old 
Another good lie 

– Mark Heard

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

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1. Every news story you hear should be listened to with ears attuned to the story of Redemption.

2. My new glasses are a pain behind the ears.

3. I don’t like the protest culture of the left or the boycott culture of right.

4. I miss being at the beach surrounded by friends and food.

5. There is something to be said for listening to artists/musicians you can personally communicate with.

6. I love how much Flannery O’Connor leaned on C.S. Lewis’ writing as she was dying.

7. I see you not caring about Baltimore any longer…

8. I’ve never thought of myself as a magician but when I think about how many applications for jobs I’ve sent into the ether only for them to disappear, I think again.

9. What if the signs of the decline of our culture are just as much about how much we spend on TV as sexual ethics? What if we ushered it all in by preferring sitcoms to books?

10. I’m sitting outside listening to Sandra McCracken’s new album Psalms, waiting on my wife to get home. The air is pleasant. The Privet is fragrant. A few stars flicker gently. The crickets sing in time and I wonder how such grace is mine.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

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1. Baseball is poetry.

2. (unmentionable thought about my wife on her birthday)

3. Allow me to say it again, when you hear someone say “Every Christian needs to read this book,” you are dealing with a legalism, expressed in hyperbolic marketing. There are no must read books.

4. I can truly say, “my wife makes the world a better place.” Through unnoticed and often unappreciated (by me) deeds done wholly for others.

5. I’m reading Law & Gospel again. And in the midst are the shootings of police officers and a lot of negative feelings towards them. And I’m wondering who they’d call for help. What about me? The very law I despise I will use against others.

6. (Looks forward to seeing wife in bathing suit at the beach)

7. If you pay attention, the marketing of Christian books has a certain legalism and optimism built-in. Add the celebrity endorsements and…

8. Listening to Bethany laugh till she can’t breath and/or snorts is one of my absolute favorite things.

9. On vacation I plan to eat all the shrimps.

10. Everyone is marching all over the world trying to have all these incredible experiences because they’ve never sat next to my wife in our front yard just before dusk and watched the sunlight push through her hair and seen the reddish hues.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

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1. I have not said anything about Baltimore because Neil Postman.

2. The only way to fight our sinful craving for our culture’s version of perfection and acceptance is the gospel of grace which frees us to laugh at our inadequacies and smile at our failures.

3. Our public registrations of outrage and self-righteous opinion on the newest news generated by those paid to get us worked up are barely indistinguishable from the same that happened months ago which we no longer care about.

4. The church needs to stand firm in its belief that a tree falling in the woods does indeed make a sound even if no one hears it.

5. We assume we know enough and can speak intelligently about issues far from us experientially and geographically because we have read about them on the Internet. We are no different than our parents who kept sending us conspiracy theories via their aol address.

6.  I’ve never eaten a pizza I didn’t think was worth my time.

7. Once you realize the news is designed to entertain you and that you want to be entertained by it, then you can be free.

8. And just like that, the Cardinals have the best record in baseball. And that is objectively true news.

9. Many of you prayed for my wife to find a job. And it worked. Please feel free to do the same for me.

10. You can admit to all our culture’s agreed upon sins and still be the biggest jerk in the room.

The Best Thing I’ve Ever Read From John Calvin

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A couple of weeks ago, I preached at my church from 1 Samuel on King Saul’s defeat of the Ammonites. My main goal was for my hearers to hear how Christ, our King, defeats our enemies. I also wanted them to see how now, under the New Covenant, this passage, and all other passages, is about Jesus.

I remembered a quote by Calvin about Jesus as King. So I went and looked in vain to find it. But I did find something else. And it’s a passage of Calvin I have now read over a dozen times or more. The following comes from John Calvin’s Preface to Olvetan’s New Testament.

Therefore, when you hear that the gospel presents you Jesus Christ in whom all the promises and gifts of God have been accomplished; and when it declares that he was sent by the Father, has descended to the earth and spoken among men perfectly all that concerns our salvation, as it was foretold in the Law and to the Prophets — it ought to be most certain and obvious to you that the treasures of Paradise have been opened to you in the gospel; that the riches of God have been exhibited and eternal life itself revealed. For, this is eternal life; to know one, only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, whom he has established as the beginning, the middle, and the end of our salvation. He [Christ] is Isaac, the beloved Son of the Father who was offered as a sacrifice, but nevertheless did not succumb to the power of death. He is Jacob the watchful shepherd, who has such great care for the sheep which he guards. He is the good and compassionate brother Joseph, who in his glory was not ashamed to acknowledge his brothers, however lowly and abject their condition. He is the great sacrificer and bishop Melchizedek, who has offered an eternal sacrifice once for all. He is the sovereign lawgiver Moses, writing his law on the tables of our hearts by his Spirit. He is the faithful captain and guide Joshua, to lead us to the Promised Land. He is the victorious and noble king David, bringing by his hand all rebellious power to subjection. He is the magnificent and triumphant king Solomon, governing his kingdom in peace and prosperity. He is the strong and powerful Samson, who by his death has overwhelmed all his enemies.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for Our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune. For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under vituperation, abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death.

This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father. If one were to sift thoroughly the Law and the Prophets, he would not find a single word which would not draw and bring us to him. And for a fact, since all the treasures of wisdom and understanding are hidden in him, there is not the least question of having, or turning toward, another goal; not unless we would deliberately turn aside from the light of truth, to lose ourselves in the darkness of lies. Therefore, rightly does Saint Paul say in another passage that he would know nothing except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

HT: Tides and Turning

The Sharpie As A Fig Leaf

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“i’ve traded naked and unashamed                                                                           for a better place to hide                                                                                       for a righteous mask,                                                                                             a suit of fig leaves and lies”

I had to borrow a Sharpie at work. But not for a document or anything having to do with the dignity of work. A few months ago the pocket of my suit coat got caught on the corner of a desk and ripped a little. My wife stitched it up but there is still a little bit of white internal material showing. Contrasted against even a fading blue, people notice enough to comment. So I borrowed the sharpie as a fig leaf.

This 12 year old suit, bought by my parents a few days before I graduated from Seminary is not my only one. I have another but the pants are too tight in the waist and a moth got hold of them anyway.

The Sharpie was borrowed just 10 minutes after clocking in at 8:09. If I had clocked in at 8:07, it would have counted for 8:00, but as it is, I am clocking in at 8:15 unless I send an email to my boss explaining to him I was here earlier but I was not able to clock in then.

There are countless ways to deprive a man of his dignity.

“What did you need the sharpie for?”

“I needed to cover something up.”

Two days ago my wife and I decided she needed to quit working. A couple years ago, we were desperate for more income. She started cleaning houses which sounds more dignified than calling her a maid. The money she made was a life-changer. We went from not even making it paycheck to paycheck to actually going on a short family vacation. But her shoulder hurts and it’s become chronic pain.

So, the Sharpie.

The whole morning my age has become a constant specter at my elbow every moment. The lost income. I’m 43. Clocking in later. I’m 43. The Sharpie. 43.

Behind all of this is the stark reality of my own work and how little it pays and how much I don’t like my job and the smallness. I’ve gotten pretty good at what I do. But the guy next to me is better. And he is new. And he is 21 years old. And English is not his first language.

43.

It just dawned on me he is closer to my daughter’s age than I am to his.

When I wrote The God of the Mundane I wrote it because of what I saw in the lives of others. The original blog posts were written during a time when if anything, my star was rising. My writing was garnering more and more attention. But the God I was writing about was not humored. He wanted to make sure I believed what I was asking so many others to believe. Whether mercilessly or mercifully, I cannot give an easy answer, but I have been forced to answer the questions I asked others to consider. Forced to consider my own counsel.

One of the lessons I’ve learned is there are two kinds of mundane. There is mundane compared to vocational ministry. A successful business owner needs to believe his work is inherently spiritual. He may be tempted to believe his work is nothing compared to the work of a pastor. But there is another kind of mundane. The successful business owner will at least have the consolation of “success” and the rightful spoils thereof. But what about the little guy in the dead-end job?

You know, like me.

This is a whole different ballgame. Back when I was doing youth ministry, we always had less money than our friends and the people I worked with. But I was doing ministry. There is a certain dignity in not having a lot of money in ministry. You (and others) can justify and spiritualize the lack in the name of Jesus. But not having a lot of money in the business world feels more like leprosy.

I know what you’re thinking. This guy is talking about dignity and money a lot. And you’re right. But that is why the question of whether there is a God of the mundane matters. Does my work matter in the absence of those things? Because I ask that very question all the time. If I have dignity through working in vocational ministry or chartable work, then money is not quite as important. And if I at least have enough money to get by, even though I don’t have dignity, we can go on a nice vacation and I can forget about my work for a few days.

Right now one of you is trying to figure out how to get money to me. Please don’t, see dignity above. Seriously, please don’t. That is not what this is about. This is my answer as to whether or not I believe my work matters before God on a day when I need a Sharpie for a threadbare suit. Because I’m not the only one asking the question. Someone somewhere is asking the question in a harder situation than I am.

Banking is an industry famous for cold hard numbers and bottom lines. An unhealthy amount of people start their conversations with me in anger or sadness. The angry people are hard. Sometimes I can’t even guess as to why they are so mad. But there have been enough times where I’ve been able to peel back the layers and get to know them and where they hurt. And it’s usually that spot on their soul hurting, where the pressures of life, and sometimes death, have made them angry.

The sad ones are countless. A couple of weeks ago I talked with a 23 year old mother of a 2 year old who had been a widow for a week. And then there’s the man whose wife drained the bank account and left with another.  And the executor of an estate watching his once peaceful family fight like Nazis over his parent’s estate. Or a woman gathered into loneliness, on social security wondering how she will get to the next month’s check.  A mother worried that her disabled daughter with a constant smile will make me uncomfortable. The alien among us, who speaks and understands just enough English.

Whether anger or sadness, the issues are usually money and dignity. They all come with their own personal sharpie to cover the vulnerable places. The places they are ashamed of. The tender places.

On the same day I used the Sharpie and clocked in at 8:08, I had my first book event related to The God of the Mundane. I was taken out for a nice dinner beforehand. I signed books while others sipped wine. And I had to talk about how even in my own work I have to push back against the Fall. It was a surreal experience, the event juxtaposed to the Sharpie.

One of the questions I keep asking is “Why?” Why all this?

Until I had to explain what the “pushing back against the Fall” looked like for me in front of a couple dozen other people, it didn’t dawn on me that I needed to feel the sharpie in my own hand for the sake of all those on the other side of desk. The grace of the gospel of Jesus dying naked and uncovered to cover my real shame is what I need when lacking money and dignity.

The angry and sad ones? Them too.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. I looked at a few youth ministry positions last week. What’s amazing is how many I’ve seen before. Meaning, after a couple of years, they are once again looking for someone. There are a number of reasons this happens. But you should always expect it when you look for a minister of the gospel in the same way you look for a PR guy.

2. You can now read old statuses from the same day on Facebook. It was two years ago today, my dad was dying in ICU and then my car died.

3. I suppose when your book is called, The God of the Mundane, it is fitting the first book event is 2.5 years after being published.

4. There needs to be a way/place to critique christian teachers while still  esteeming what they’ve contributed.

5. Fantasy baseball will teach you about the sovereignty of God and your own control issues.

6. I’d rather be on the couch with my wife than the beach with anyone else.

7. Anytime I’ve ever disagreed with J.I. Packer, I’ve assumed I’m wrong. And then realized I was right. About being wrong.

8. I’ve gotten to a point where the most satisfying writing I’m doing may never be for public consumption. I can’t figure that out. But Anne Lamott is right about the negative effects on your psyche of getting published.

9. I don’t want to be part of the evangelical industrial machine.

10. Sometimes God will take you to a low point so can look into the eyes of others who are also there, and then you will understand God’s goodness.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

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1. I read every tweet on Joel Osteen’s timeline all the way back to before Christmas. And after vomiting, it was clear his ministry is not a Christian ministry. You see, for something to be a Christian Ministry, there must be some discussion about the person and work of Christ. Not one statement referenced Jesus. Not even on Christmas.

2. Our vacation is almost over and the best part was worshipping at our old church in Greenwood, MS.

3.  The Bible, particularly The Psalms, dignifies undignified complaints.

4.  Jesus said persecution was a reason for rejoicing and the result would be blessing. America does not understand. America believes in defense attorneys and the courts.

5. My wife and I watched no TV while on vacation. But we watched the sun set for three days straight.

6. I would not attend a gay wedding even if it did have pizza.

7. Pastor over writer.

8. Tomorrow night I’ll see The War on Drugs in concert. Hard to imagine looking forward to another show like this one.

9. Three days till baseball/fantasy baseball. And ignoring my wife and kids for six months. #kiddingnotkidding

10. I’m never bored if my wife is present.

The Bad and the Good of a “Messy” Christian Life

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Everywhere I turn these days, the descriptor of “messy” is being used. The church is messy. Discipleship is messy. Our lives are messy. Friendship is messy. Marriage is messy.

Everything is messy.

Much like the word “missional,” the word is used a lot without actually being defined. What are we saying when we say something is messy?

Last night , we asked our boys to clean up the den because it was messy. Legos were everywhere. Their socks and shoes were scattered across the room. Library books covered one area. So they cleaned it up.

An hour later it was all back.

A couple days ago, I read yet another blog post about the messiness of the Christian life. And this is what triggered my thinking about these things. As my boys were cleaning a second time, I had the humorous thought of one of them turning to me and dignifying the messiness of the den with poetic flair.

Now look, I’ll be the first one to defend a messy den. It means our kids have been there and been playing with toys. My mom once said to me as I was apologizing for the mess our kids had made something along the lines of, “a messy home is a happy home.” That’s some good wisdom. But she knows and I know and even the kids know that some point the mess has to be cleaned up.

I believe there is some good and some bad in our seeing the Christian life as “messy.” The difference is *why* we are calling the Christian life messy.

First, the bad – Far too often “messiness” is an excuse for ourselves. We use it to excuse wrong behavior and a defiant bare honesty without repentance in it’s wake. We aren’t unrepentant, selfish jerks with addictive behaviors, we are “messy.” There is a whole genre of blog posts now about the messiness in the author’s life. I’ve probably contributed a few myself. I’m afraid to look. The language of grace is used but I cannot help but get the feeling, no one wants to clean up the den. It’s a true statement and needs to be acknowledged. But it’s kinda like saying a a battlefield is bloody.

Now, the good – The Christian life is never, no matter who is living it, a straight line. The grace we think we are showing ourselves when our following of Jesus gets “messy” is harder to extend to others. But when we do get glimpses into other’s lives and see the starts and stops and triumphs followed by epic failures, and see the messy parts up close and love them anyway without writing them off, that’s a good thing. Part of that love will be reminding them they are loved in spite of the mess, even if they are covered in the mess. But another part of the love is helping clean the mess up and off.

It’s true Jesus loved messy people. He seemed to go out of his way for them. Smelly fisherman. Hated tax collectors. Prostitutes. Lepers. Half-breeds who had rejected God’s law. This is good news for us.  And a great example for us. When we feel like our lives are a mess and hope seems to be just beyond arm’s length, we know that God has sent Jesus into the mess of this world and then became a mess for us. And it helps us see the need to extend the hope of the gospel to those whose lives seem hopelessly a mess.

But we need to also see Jesus’ coming as a rescue mission to slowly clean up the mess. And sometimes it is painfully slow. Slow in us and slow in others. But this is where the hope is, the removal of the mess.

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