Thursday, February 24, 2005


Recently a friend of mine who is starting a church plant sent me an email concerning his mother's reaction to his plans of planting a church. She was upset because of something he planned to do in worship that was outside of her (and his previous) church experience. While there are many in the Christian world who practice this thing in worship, she was scandalized that her son would make such a move.

In talking with my friend I reminded him what a good and godly woman his mother is, and that she is part of a religious tradition that does not distinguish between ecclesiology (the things we do as a church family) and Christology (the things we believe about Jesus). Because I, too, was brought up in this faith family I understand it well. It is amazing to me know, however, that an entire church tradition could so closely link a worship tradition to faithfulness to Jesus. In the eyes of my friend's mother, if he does not worship exactly like she does then he has left the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (because "He should know better!"). What a deadly spiritual belief! It was just this type of legalistic abuse of Scripture and tradition that Jesus sought to point out to the Pharisees and other religious leaders. They responded by nailing Jesus to the cross. That is about the most creative response possible for people who deliberately confuse Christology and Ecclesiology.

Jesus came to show us what a live lived in obedience to God looked like. He calls us to follow him and live as he lived. It really has very little to do with proper worship acts and functions. It has everything to do with how you respond to God and neighbor.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Dead Sea Scrolls

In late January my family and I went to see the Dead Sea Scrolls in Mobile, Alabama. If you are within a days drive of Mobile, I highly recommend that you make the trip. I was impressed with the quality of the displays serving to set the scene for the scrolls. There was a great deal of pottery and other artifacts that served to introduce the world of both the Scriptures and the Dead Sea Scrolls. When we got to the scrolls themselves the kids were tired and Dima especially was ready to move on to something exciting. I, however, was in artifact heaven. Seeing the Isaiah scroll and noticing that the tetragrammaton (the Hebrew consonants for God) was in a different script every time it occurred was amazing! It really put me in touch with the land and the reality of the biblical world. While I do not think the scrolls are capable of producing faith, I know that at least in me, they were capable of strengthening my faith.

One caution, my seven year old son, Dima, was quite disappointed with the scrolls because he said, "I thought we were going to see the Dead Sea Squirrels!"

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A Tale of Two Women

Recently I visited with two women in the same morning. After the visits I was struck by their similarities and an amazing difference. Both women are over the age of 70, widowed, with children and grand-children they are concerned about, and are in positions of providing care for others in their family. They both have health problems that prevent them from doing all the things they want to do in life. Two women who have lived long lives with both joys and sorrows, pleasures and pain.

In talking with these women I was amazed at one difference between them. One woman was rather bitter, wondering why her life was in such a dismal state. The other was reaching forward, trying to discover what else God has in store for her life. After talking with these two women, you would notice the difference as well. Some would likely tell you that the difference was simply church attendance, for the bitter woman has not darkened the door of the church in more than two decades. The other woman is a regular attender. But I think the difference runs deeper than church attendance. Others might suggest that the difference is a classic case of optimism versus pessimism, one seeing the glass half empty, the other convinced it is half full. Again, I think there is something more important going on.

What then do I think the difference is? It is simply faith. One woman trusts Jesus, talks with him, and listens to his voice. She is not perfect but she is still maturing. The other woman got enough of religion to last a lifetime, but unfortunately she was never in love with Jesus. Her lack of faith (and it's accompanying fruits) is obvious in her life.

There was a point in both life's when decisions were made about trusting Jesus. One said "yes" and the other "no". Everything else is just the result of that decision lived out daily. What are you saying to Jesus?