Bible Study

What Does A Relevant Church Look Like?

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While leading a discussion of Dirty Faith at a local adult VBS this week, the topic of the Church and its relevance came up. It’s been a year since I wrote the below post, but Christians are still having the same discussion. Still asking the same questions. Perhaps it’s a good time to revisit these thoughts for those of you who are new here— and for those of us who need to re-evaluate.   (Originally published June 2, 2014) Three Things That Don’t Happen at a Relevant Church (Stained Glass and Relevance, Part 2) When I see followers of Christ …

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Grace and Works

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Talking about grace and works in Sunday school, using Peterson’s book on Ephesians. I get the struggle. I understand that guilt and self-reliance push us to try to earn God’s favor by our good deeds.  But at the same time, I also think we set up a false dichotomy between the spiritual (grace) and the physical (works) to the point that we want to dismiss the physical as irrelevant to our lives of faith. But the lesson from the New Testament is that the Lord of Eternity is also Lord of the Present. Remember the story of the healing of …

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The Face of True Religion

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Reading Micah 6 this week.  Really glad he is a minor prophet.  I don’t think we would have been friends. . . . what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? I like the formalities of my religion, the stained glass, the order of service, the readings, the hymns. Especially the hymns. First growing up in the church of the south, and then living within her embrace as an adult, I find meaning in the rituals of southern churchhood, both deep and sometimes mundane. From Wednesday-night …

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The House Rules: Five Essentials for Your Mission Trip

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It’s that time of year again. Yesterday our church commissioned the youth summer mission trip team. Nine teenagers, three adult leaders, headed to Atlanta for a few days of work. Good kids, good sponsors, and a really good project practicing dirty faith among the kind of people Jesus loved. They will join thousands of other churches on the ubiquitous Mission Trip that is standard summer fare for church youth groups throughout North America. If you’ve followed this blog for awhile, read Dirty Faith, or heard any of my radio interviews, you know I’m kind of on the fence about short-term …

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When Jesus messes up our plans, Part 2 (Or, perhaps, Peripheral People 1)

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I have asked this before, and I probably will again, because it is a really good start-thinking-about-what-it-means-to-be-a-follower question. Yes, that sentence did set a record for most hyphens in one compound adjective. What does your Jesus look like? Not the stained-glass guy behind the baptistery, but the one who walked this earth 2,000 years ago. What did he look like? How did he sound? Did he like the foods you like? How did he smell? Would he have fit in with your friends? At your church? Did he have good manners? Think about it for a minute while we go …

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When Jesus messes up our plans

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I guess post-Mother’s Day, it’s okay to write this one. My Mom had an interesting relationship with God, or, at least, an interesting understanding of her relationship with God. Perhaps it was a little shy on the grace measure of things. She had this great fear that God was going to spring the big one on her, the demand that she would have to do something she really did not want to do. Jonah became the operative story for her—and China her Nineveh. She passed away with fears unrealized; God let her live out her life as a pastor’s wife …

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Fences

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I’ve spent a significant amount of time lately thinking about fences. Far too much, actually. Susan and I have a few acres outside of town, and it’s just about time to put fall calves on the pasture. So most weekends—and many evenings—for the last month or two have been spent setting posts and stretching wire. Barbed wire and I are not good friends. No matter how I prepare, how good my gloves are, or how careful I am, the end of a fence-building day means a session with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a tube of ointment. That’s just …

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Privilege, Peripheral People, Rising Lights, and Two Emails

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As I write this, I am sitting in my comfortable East Tennessee home.  My reality is safe, secure, well-fed. But then an email comes from Brazil, telling the story of a family of children brought to our campus, chilling in its matter-of-fact recital of the children’s condition. This group of seven siblings, ages 3 to 17, were discovered in a shack near the City of Youth living in conditions of wretched poverty and malnutrition. The youngest sibling, now a 3-year-old, was a baby who the family ‘adopted’ after he was abandoned by his mother and left to fend on his …

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God of the Shadows (Part 2)

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 He restores my soul.  (Psalm 23:3) I want God to look like me. Not physically, of course, but to share my values, to reaffirm the way I see myself, to make me comfortable with who I am. As I said last week, “To restore my soul.” I want my soul to be restored—especially the way I define it. Restored. It means that our hearts are not heavy, that we feel good about the world and ourselves. You know… generally upbeat and positive, blessed. It means we and our God live in a place of light and brightness Or does it? …

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God of the Shadows

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This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)   I did not expect to meet God there. At least not my God. My God is the God of light. Of purity. Of beauty. Of Sunday mornings in contemporary cathedrals. My God is the God of 1 John 1:5—and I encounter Him in places of light. In the words of the Psalmist, He restores my soul—and He does it in places that feed my soul. And none of those descriptors fit that …

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