picture taken from 365atlantafamily.com
Now, sometimes I feel like I can go for weeks without some kind of contact from God, or a vision or a really strong feeling. That is partially the reason you haven’t seen many entries from me lately. I had a period of feeling like nothing I had to tell you seemed worthy of your time, and when it did I couldn’t find the right words. Well, worry no more!
I have been dealing with a new issue lately, one that in my 25 years of life I honestly can say I have never had a direct dealing with. Ready? It’s Racism. I am a 25 year old white woman who was raised to love anyone and everyone regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation and especially skin colour. But for the past 6 months I have been falling in love and starting to build a life with a man who has become my best friend, a man who I want to spend the rest of my life with. A man who is mixed race. His mother is Filipino and his father is Caucasian Canadian. Until this year no one has ever been able to say a really racist thing to me… What do you say to a blonde haired, blue eyed, chubby Canadian girl? Not much. What do they say now? Just you wait!
The following statements have been said to me in real life. “What does his mother think about you being white?” “Are you going to learn how to cook food from his homeland?” “He’s being baptized at your church? How mad is his mother? I thought all Filipinos were Catholic?” “Just you wait, you are going to have the cutest caramel coloured babies!” These are all things that no one has ever asked me when I was in a relationship with a white man. No one asked him how upset his mother was or if I was going to learn to cook the food from him homeland of Stony Plain.
I recently went to the show, Avenue Q. One of the first songs is called 'Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist':
“You're a little bit racist.
The whole show has these songs that are based on catchy lyrics and great jazz pick ups. As I sat there listening to songs like 'Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist' and 'What do you do with a B.A. in English?', I was caught off guard with how funny I thought they were but also how horrifically true they all were. I sat in a dark theatre and watched Muppets sing songs and had an Aha moment. Thanks Muppets!
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
I am a 25 year old girl and I am a woman who is in love and planning a life with a man of mixed race. It is 2015 and people still feel like they get to comment about it. It is casual, quaint, offhand comments that we have come to accept as normal. My Boyfriend doesn’t even pay attention to them because he grew up around them. I grew up knowing there were specific words for certain races you could never say. I remember being in grade 11 and directing a play and learning from my teacher that it was set in a time when people in the states were being derogatory towards Italian people. There was a word that was referenced multiple times and as I ran lines with the cast I had no Idea that I was saying racial slurs over and over. (We obviously changed it for the show). I was so embarrassed and never said it again.
I know that God created everyone in his image and you are person in the eyes of God. I know that. I know that there is no cultural or colour combination that can be deemed right or wrong and that none are any less worthy of love. People are people and when looking at them it should be with love. I would like to start the revolution so that song titles like 'Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist' are no longer valid and obsolete. So I’m still a white girl and my Boyfriend is still mixed race, and I am not sorry nor do I feel bad. I will continue to love him regardless of the ridiculous questions and offhand looks. Love is Love. Now go out into the world and spread of goodness!
picture taken from csl.edu
It breaks my heart as I read the headlines today about Tullian Tchividjian. I don't write these things solely because I have deeply appreciated Tullian and his voice of radical grace in the church world, but more so because of how his life has been put on public display for all to see and ultimately judge. What I am not saying is that we should simply pretend that such a thing didn't happen, or be surprised that such a thing is public as he was a public figure (though I will never understand why we feel the need to publicize it and am always bothered by how obsessed we are with dissecting the details of these public figures lives, especially when we don't even know them or anything about them really), but it has been the harsh response of people, on mass, to burn him at the stake and use him as the most recent scapegoat that troubles me the most. As you read the comments to any of the articles covering this story, it doesn't take long to realize that we as the human race love to eat our own. We love the gossip and are fuelled even more when we feel justified in our judgement of other peoples actions, forgetting that they too are only human.
It’s amazing how much more mercy I give to people who struggle with sins I understand. The further their sin is from my own personal struggles, the more judgmental and callous I become. I’m not proud of that. It’s just where I was at that time in my walk.
I think it is true that his celebrity pastor status does play a part, but truth be told, it isn't because he was a celebrity that he fell, but rather that his falling carries with it celebrity status. This kind of stuff happens all the time in every corner of society because we are all broken people needing to be made new daily by the grace of Jesus. We all screw up, big and small, while on this journey, but it is those who are in the public eye who have their screw-ups publicized.
As a pastor and preacher, I feel so fortunate that I don't have the same scrutiny in my life by the tabloids and complete strangers who know nothing of me or my story. I feel for Tullian and his family as they are paraded into public opinion and judgement. I appreciated this statement I read from someone who posted on one of these threads about Tullian:
Our problem as humans, we want our ministers to be perfect and they're not, never will be. We are all broken and would be better off accepting someone who stands before us and speaks of God as just a regular "Joe" with warts, pimples and yes ear rings, or nose piercings, tattoos. When we polish something, then it takes continual polishing, that will eventually tarnish. // J. Slinkard
Now I can understand how people who have an axe to grind would use situations like this as ammunition against those they oppose. Though, I think it is low hanging fruit and a horrible way to make a point (especially when these situations are much more complex then we make them to be for our argument), but I can see how this would be easy and tempting. We do it all the time--finding the people who stand for what we are against, and when they fall, we jump all over it.
What's worse is when we are the creators of our own heroes, putting them on pedestals. No person could ever live up to the standards that we put on people that we have built up so high in our minds. In one instant they are the untouchables that can do no wrong. We defend their ideas and words with fervour and passion while in an instance turn and attack when they break the mould of ideology we built for them.
IT IS IN THE DEEP REALIZATION OF OUR OWN BROKENNESS THAT WE CAN FIND THIS RADICAL GRACE TO BE ABLE TO SEE PEOPLE IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT
I write on occasion for expastors.com, which ministers to pastors and those in ministry that are burning out or burnt out. I have also had the privilege to walk with a few of these people who were courageous to reach out for help. It breaks my hearts to hear their stories and hear the pressure that is put on them, to be superhuman, to be Christ in their congregants' lives and given a responsibility that was not meant to be given them.
When you see the stats of why those in ministry quit, we realize that we have a systemic problem in our church culture. Now of course, many of these pressures are self-induced, and I even wrote on this at expastors.com a while back. Also, I am not saying that no one was hurt in all this; that what was done wasn't wrong or that there are no consequences to our actions- there definitely are. But the issue I wish to address here is more a systemic attitude and culture that is fuelling this. I am no sociologist or psychologist, so I am certainly not attempting to diagnose the issue, and I realize that this conversation about Tullian and other public figures that have fallen from grace is much more complex and multi-layered. I, by no means, wish to treat this article as a one-stop ultimate answer. What I hope for is that this can be a sort of rally cry to come back to a reality of radical grace as we continue forward into this conversation.
As a starting point, I would hope we would be grounded in the reality that we all need this grace and transforming work in our lives and that we all have our vices and shortcomings. Through the realization of the human condition, I pray we would love much, because we have been forgiven much:
I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love. // Luke 7:47
Let me add this as well: If you have been hurt or wronged personally and are struggling to be a person of grace and love, I would recommend this message on surviving betrayal. If you feel that you are unforgivable, I would recommend this beautiful picture of how God relentlessly pursues us despite our shortcomings in the Gospel in Chairs.
It is in the deep realization of our own brokenness that we can find this radical grace to be able to see people in a different light, not condoning their actions, but coming to a place that despite their actions, we can live out radical love and grace and dialogue accordingly. It is in this place, of a sober reality of both our own shortcomings and the reality of the human condition with a balance of seeing the intrinsic value of another human person and the love and grace they so desperately need--that we would have a heart of love, hope and grace and not one of fear, hate and eating our own.
Ultimately, we will treat people to the level of value we choose to assign them. I believe the key to not being a judgmental person is to place a high value on every person you see. What and who we choose to see as valuable exposes the values we hold dear in our hearts. // Michael Cheshire, Why We Eat Our Own
photo taken from ardentplumbing.com
By trade, I am a certified gas utility operator and a licensed gasfitter, I have also completed half of a plumbing apprenticeship. In the trades we have documents that we call code books, they are a set of legally binding minimum standards and we are obligated to know and follow them.
When a plumber needs to find out what the regulations are for a particular implementation of a plumbing system they look it up in the National Plumbing Code of Canada. If, for example, they want to know the maximum length of a trap arm for a lavatory they only have to find the relevant clause, interpret it and apply it. It couldn’t be easier.
So, the other day I was looking for something in the B149 gas code book and it occurred to me that sometimes I read the Bible this way. I don't want to speak for anyone else but I suspect a lot of people do it this way too.
The codes are produced by people in authority: engineers, experienced tradespeople, scientists, and technicians. We accept their rules because we understand that their collective knowledge and experience is greater than our own. I think there are times that we want someone that is better than us to direct us, and, sometimes even tell us what to do. It makes us less liable for our own actions if we can rely on someone else. If things go wrong we can always point to that authority and say “they told us to do it that way”. It makes interpretation of the rules easier.
The same applies to the Bible because it is also hard to read. At times it can seem impossible to interpret properly. It would be great if it were as simple to understand as we sometimes claim; That correct biblical exegesis is as easy as looking up the relevant verses to obtain our answers. As misplaced as I believe that is, we do it all the time.
The Problem With Proof Texting
This method of biblical interpretation leads us naturally to proof texting. Let's say that we need to look up the nature of predestination: first open the code book to Ephesians. Next look up the relevant clause number, in this case, chapter 1 verse 4-5. There, that settles it. Right there in the Bible is proof of unconditional individual election!
Or, maybe, we need to prove that women shouldn’t lead in ministry: turn to 1 Timothy 2:11. It's simple, the Apostle Paul says it, it’s right there in black and white. Women should always be quiet and submissive.
Or does it? Could the free will exercised by ancient Hebrews inform our decision about predestination? Should we consider the female leaders mentioned in both the old and new testaments when discussing 1 Timothy 2:11?
It is probably clear what I think about these particular doctrines but, in reality we all pick and choose what we like from the Bible. Truthfully, I have been guilty of doing so to “prove” Arminianism or Egalitarianism. The truth is that we all have clauses or "proof texts" that we use to prove our own point. We cannot divorce ourselves from our own bias, but the problem lies in whether we ever reconsider what our biases are and change the way we think accordingly. It is important that we do not use our bias to find the easy answers because questions worth asking rarely have easy answers.
The Problem With Verses
Just like a legal document, the pipe trades code books are split up into sections, subsections, clauses and sub-clauses. The clauses are organized into sections that are related but may or may not be directly related to the preceding clause. Most can be read individually.
Bible verses are not clauses in a legal document.
It is common to view the Bible as a large book of proverbs; that each verse is an entity unto itself and can be interpreted individually. This is what we do when we rattle off a list of verses that we assume supports our argument. We've all seen it done, the type of shotgun hermeneutics Christians like to do when discussing doctrine and dogma. “My point is true because I have referenced more verses, thus giving it more biblical support".
We need to be aware that the verse divisions in the Bible are man made, and, just like our code books, are not divinely inspired. While they can, and do, help us locate specific passages they can also undermine our ability to read the Bible as an entire package. We tend to create islands of doctrine within the vast ocean of the Bible.
So, while this method may satisfy our need for structure we should consider what the rest of scripture says, even if it seems to disagree (especially if it seems to disagree!). Let us embrace those difficulties because only when we honestly work through them do we come to a better understanding of truth.
The Problem Is With Us
I don't believe we are meant to read the Bible in this isolated way. The Bible is the story of God; as such, needs to be read as a story. We need to remember that verses in the Bible have to be read in the context of the chapter and book — and their historical and cultural nuances. Not only that, they absolutely need to be read in the context of the Bible as a whole. I know that few would disagree with me, but it is an easy trap to fall into.
I am not advocating a position of indifference towards the importance of the Bible. I don't mean to say that truth cannot be found in the words of scripture, or that we cannot use biblical references to support our claims. I only mean to say that our usage of the Bible should be deeper than quoting a legion of verses to seemingly prove our point. If we are to use the Bible as proof of our position we better make sure that our position lines up with the narrative arc of scripture. I am only trying to point out a method of weaponizing scripture that twists it's intended purpose.
Let’s face it, there are many things we don’t understand about God. Whether they are logical paradoxes or the limits of our finite minds we must admit that we just don’t know everything. Maybe it is because of our limitations that we insist on distilling the Bible into memory verses. Maybe it is because we just don’t understand the complexities of God so we want to simplify the Bible by individualizing sections of the narrative.
Anyway, I’m not a Biblical scholar. I don’t have any answers, but this is just something that I have been thinking about lately. What do you think? Do we do this to scripture? Does this method damage our ability to see the whole narrative?
taken from flickr
by Dawn Kratzer
Let me paint you a picture. I am 4'11, covered in tattoos, I have multiple piercings, and I have cerebral palsy (meaning I walk funky). This is what you see when I walk into a room. Most people stare or do a double take and there have been a few rare occasions when people have slowly walked away. Worse, some have taken it on themselves to tell me that I'm not going to amount to anything or even that I'm evil. Evil?! Based solely on what they can physically see! However if you took the time to get to know me you would learn so much more about me.
One big part of my life is that I am a Christian and have been for almost 20 years. It has been an interesting ride for sure, lots of highs and an equal amount of lows. Through my journey, I have had to wrestle with the question of 'How to be Christian, when I do not fit in?' The answer: You CAN NOT possibly please every person that might have an opinion on what they might see, or how they 'could' make it better. To be honest it has been something I have just recently started to work through--for most of my life I tried so hard to please the people that were in and around my life.
IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT WHO WAS IT THAT JESUS HUNG AROUND WITH? WAS IT THE PEOPLE THAT HAD IT 'ALL TOGETHER'?
In grade school and high school I didn't know really what to think and believe. I was saved at summer camp, and I was happy and excited. However, when I got home my faith was pushed aside because I was the only Christian in my family, so I kept quiet to fit in. When I went to college, I did the exact opposite. I agreed and often said I understood or believed certain ideas when in reality I did not understand what I was agreeing to. I only did so to fit in. The irony was that no matter how much I did not understand, I somehow was able to make it through one of the most academically challenging schools in Canada.
It was not until I arrived in Alberta, Canada, that doors opened for things to change. It was a time in my life where different doors began to open. At first I fell into a 'role' of people pleasing, afraid of overstepping or making a mistake. Eventually I started to experiment and to see how far I could push. Boy, did I push. I will admit I pushed in ways and did things I am not necessarily proud of, but I truly believe it was a step I needed to take to find a ' happy medium'. What I mean by finding 'happy medium' is this: how could I keep my Christian values yet be able to do my own thing, have my own opinions, likes and or dislikes (not realizing that this was normal and/or ok, but I had been scared to do so, afraid to be the one to fall out of line.)
Why fit in when you were born to STAND OUT!
As I started to allow myself to fall out of line, I saw different reactions from different people, around me. Some people understood what was going on, and some people didn't understand at all. In each case there were reactions... some were excited, but most were of worry or frustration. Both reactions were a vital part in shaping me into the person I am slowly becoming: A person who is ok with having different views, a person who doesn’t let what every person thinks of me define me.
The question, 'How to be Christian, when I do not fit in?' will always be a question that will bring struggles to many if not most people. If you think about it: who was it that Jesus hung around with? Was it the people that had it 'all together'? Not even a little bit! He spent his time with the tax collectors and prostitutes, the ones that society looked down on.
So being different and not fitting in is not a bad thing, if you think about it, it means you are truly in good company--the best in fact! Just remember that this extremely challenging question has a super simple answer: you can not and will not be able to please everyone, do not try, trust me it is exhausting. Just be yourself, be true to you and to others around you, growing at your own pace. Be honest, be humble and people will see who you are, and it will be awesome!
No matter where you go in the world, people are on a journey to find God. From naturalists staring at the waves to spiritualists getting drunk on the glory juice of god’s pentecostal revival.
Each individual has a huge question mark when it comes to their origin and design. A deep desire for relationship and a keen interest in a greater truth than what they currently experience.
The presence of God is truly a magnificent thing to experience. My problem is just that. An “experience" is relative and commonly only happens on an event basis. Depending on my level of caffeine intake on the day or the volume of the sound desk at my local pay per view church.
However, all of this is valid, to the one experiencing it. For your experience of God is the one thing people cannot take away from you.
I am not going to be the one debunking the experience of an individual. But a few things have personally “landed" in my relationship with Abba (Father God, not the band). For talking to the author of life is so much more than just reading about Him. Or debating technicalities of doctrine on social media.
As Brother Lawrence says: “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it."
Let’s start with a few attributes of God (according to scripture).
God is good, God is light, God is Great, God creates, God sustains, God holds all things together.
So, one day while laying on the grass beside the South Bank in Melbourne, sun on my skin, a slight breeze blowing through my fringe... boom, my big moment : God, is, life, itself.
Can it be this simple? Yet complex.
He is the very life you experience inside you.
God is in everyone. The saints. And even, the sinner.
Evidently, the Gospel is all about the inclusion of humanity in the opinion or truth of the Father. All reflected in the incarnation of His word/Christ. The Glory of God, Christ in me.
The problem is not whether He is present in every person. The problem is whether we are aware of it. We have made it this distant future event. Based on our performance. And i believe we miss the forest for the trees.
Your awareness of the presence of God does not create the presence. It merely confirms the truth. It does however completely change our perspective when we become aware of it.
I don’t beg God. I ask.
I don’t worship harder. I worship closer.
I don’t even have to speak to Him. I speak through Him.
He is always on my mind, because I am always on His.
He is truly a God of relationship. Closer than the tongue in my mouth and the heart in my chest. This is the union achieved on the Cross. Not for God’s sake. But for mine.
HE IS LIFE. Awaken to His Heartbeat, in you.
A.J. is the father of two daughters and married to Karinda. He currently resides in Melbourne, New Zealand, where he pastors a local church. Follow him @ www.facebook.com/aheijns
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