Head First: February 2006

Friday, February 24, 2006

Calling All Youth Pastors!

If the idea of another lock-in leaves you flat, and your kids just won't get behind an evangelism outreach, then take a cue from the Christian youth of Nigeria. These kids have put a new twist on the old hayride/bonfire scenario that's sure to bring visitors out of the woodwork (just ignore the shaved heads and swastika tattoos). With some creative sponsorship, you could even turn it into a fundraiser!

ONITSHA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Christian youths burned the corpses of Muslims on Thursday on the streets of Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria, the city worst hit by religious riots that have killed at least 146 people across the country in five days.

Christian mobs, seeking revenge for the killings of Christians in the north, attacked Muslims with machetes, set fire to them, destroyed their houses and torched mosques in two days of violence in Onitsha, where 93 people died.

"We are very happy that this thing is happening so that the north will learn their lesson," said Anthony Umai, a motorcycle taxi rider, standing close to where Christian youths had piled up the corpses of 10 Muslims and were burning them.

Dozens more corpses had been thrown into the back of pick-up trucks by security services overnight, residents said.

I searched the web, but could not find an instance where this story was reported without the use of "Christian" to describe the perpetrators of this retaliatory massacre. It really bugs the hell out of me when the word "Christian" is reduced to a socio-political moniker. I watched Kingdom of Heaven the other night, disgusted by the Crusaders' misappropriation of the word to justify their decidedly anti-Christian behavior.

Someone commented elsewhere recently on a statistic that referred to Alabama as being "90% Christian." Now, I enjoy me some free-grace teaching as much as the next guy, and nothing against you, uh, Alabam-ians, but I think that stat allows for a much broader definition of Christianity than I feel comfortable with.

I wish I had a clever way to tie this post up, but the more I think about this, the more tragic it becomes on so many levels. It's just sad.

Has "Christian" lost its meaning altogether?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Can Any Good Thing Come Out Of San Diego?


Apparently, it's possible. This week, Zondervan, in partnership with Leadership and Intervarsity Press, is holding its annual National Pastors Convention. To be honest, I've seen some information about it, but shrugged it off, assuming it was just another clever way for a publisher to pimp its wares to pastors, and in turn, get them to pimp those products to the masses (can't blame a brother for trying to make a living).

It seems, though, that this might turn out to be more than a What-Would-Jesus-Retail?-type of gathering. Out of Ur put up this post about Wednesday's opening session. Will Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, spoke about the propensity of ministers to want to control and hamper the work of the Holy Spirit.

From the Our of Ur article:

...Jesus irritates us by not sharing our passion for pragmatic answers. Jesus responds to Nicodemus' question, "How can a man be born again," with an unashamedly ambiguous answer. He says, "The wind blows where it wishes ...you do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Willimon says that like Nicodemus many pastors have a desire to control, manage, stabilize, and harness God. But we serve a Living God, and this God does not yield to the desires of men. His Spirit goes where he chooses, blowing freely like the wind. This, said Willimon, "is why we nail down our pews." We don't want the Spirit to blow in and disrupt our perfectly managed ministries.

I've seen this controlling tendency in myself, and my church--maybe you have too. We assemble boards, committees, and task forces to manufacture policies by which our ministries function. These policies determine the what, when, and how of ministry. They constrain the Living God and his people to minister within a bureaucratic framework that keeps us comfortably in control. The wind of the Spirit may be blowing outside, but we'd never know it behind church walls sealed shut with policies and procedures.

I'm curious to see how the comment thread develops over there. I'd also be interested in hearing the full content of Willimon's presentation. Mind you, I don't really hold out much hope that substantial change will occur as a result of this one sermon, but I'm relieved 1) to hear a church leader acknowledge that "the wind of the Spirit" could be "blowing outside" the walls of organized religion; and 2) to hear that someone's saying this out loud in the presence of people who have the means and authority to change things.

Now if they only had the guts...

Monday, February 13, 2006

The God of the Quid Pro Quo.


I received the same forwarded email from about six different people, and I'm not entirely certain of everyone's intent in sending it. The subject line read "What If...?" Ok, actually it read, "FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: What if...?"

-What if God decided to stop leading us tomorrow because we didn't follow Him today?

-What if God couldn't take the time to bless us today because we couldn't take the time to thank Him yesterday?

-What if God took away the Bible tomorrow because we would not read it today?

-What if the door of the church was closed because we did not open the door of our heart?

-What if God stopped loving and caring for us because we failed to love and care for others?

-What if God would not hear us today because we would not listen to Him?

-What if God answered our prayers he way we answer His call to service?

-What if God met our needs the way we give Him our lives?


Now, before you go crazy on this, I think I understand that many people would forward this message with a great big "Thank God we don't serve a god like that." But this message also bears a certain tone that says, "It would serve us right if..." A great many people would forward this message with the attitude that "You had better shape up! Jesus is coming, and boy, are you gonna get it!" All around us, there are people who offer us a god who expects us to perform in a manner worthy of his blessing. It seems as if we've beaten this subject to death, but my inbox continues to fill up with this kind of thing. At what point do I give up talking about it and just write those folks off?

Don't dismiss me as a do-what-I-wanna-do-God-loves-me-anyway type. It is my desire to do and be all those things--listen to Him, love and care for others, answer His call, give my life, etc.--but not because I'm afraid of what He'll do if I don't. There's a story about Abraham Lincoln that's recounted in "A Scandalous Freedom" by Steve Brown (buy this book or God will rightly turn His back on you.).

Outraged and helpless at the sight of a slave girl being sold at auction, Lincoln did the only thing he could. He bought her. Seeing the hatred in her eyes at her expectations of abuse at his hands, he turned to "his property," handed her the bill of sale and told her "You're free."

"What do you mean?" she asked, puzzled.

"I mean, you're free."

"You mean I can say whatever I want to say?"

"Yep."

"And I can do whatever I want to do?"

"Yep."

"You're telling me that I can go wherever I want to go?"

"You're free. You can go wherever you want."

"Well, then," she said, tears in her eyes, "I think I shall go with you."

Ours is a Christ who says, "Nothing you've done or will do changes how much I care for you. There's no way you could repay me, so I won't require it. But, if you love me, just do the things I said--Love God, love each other, even if it hurts." Now that's a God I want to follow. And He's a far cry from the god that keeps showing up in my inbox.

If you're not ashamed of Jesus, send this to ten people. (heehee!)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Has Anyone Seen My Brother?


He's wandered off again, and he figured out a way to get the tracking ankle-bracelet off this time. Crap, I'm going to lose my deposit on that thing.

If anyone sees Jeff, please return him to demerging.com. Sorry for the trouble. He does this sometimes.

**** UPDATE **** UPDATE **** UPDATE **** UPDATE **** UPDATE ****
Feb. 08, 10:15 am

Jeff has been returned. We thank God for bringing him safely through this ordeal and that he seems to be in good spirits. He recalls little of the events of the last 24 hours, although an alert reader spotted him participating in an all-night Christian "Dance Dance Revolution" competition at a local youth group meeting. Upon his return, Jeff's first words to me were, "My comment count! My comment count!" indicating that his first thoughts were of you all.

Jeff's family wishes to thank the resourceful folks at the Without A Trace discussion forum for their assistance in bringing Jeff home. God bless us, every one.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Sweet Freedom

"Good news! Now that you've repeated the prayer after me, you're free!"

"Really?"

"Absolutely!"

"You mean I can do whatever I want?"

"Uh...well, you're now free to be obedient."

"You mean I wasn't free to obey before?"

"Er, no...well, sort of."

(fast forward 20 minutes)

"...so I'm free to come to church every time the doors are open..."

"Right."

"...and I'm free not to use bad language or drink alcohol..."

"Yep."

"...and I'm free to submit myself to the authority of the pastor and do whatever he tells me..."

"Now you're getting it. Doesn't it feel good to be free?."