Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Difficult issues

It is extremely hard to discuss difficult issues.
Often I am wrong. However I usually believe that I am right. But how can I ever know if what I believe to be right is really wrong if I do not have conversations with people who disagree with me.

These conversations are hard because...
Either we attack. The goal suddenly is not to learn but to convince the other person that they are an idiot and I am right. For some strange reason these conversations never seem to go well.
Or we become overly sensitive. Fear of offending someone or coming across as an arrogant pig causes me to be politically sensitive. I hold back on truly expressing myself. Practically this means I often simply avoid any conversation where there may be conflict.

I desire and want real conversations about difficult issues.

Issues like: abortion, homosexuality, Israel/Palestine, women in ministry, violence, appropriate media...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

His needs, Her needs - Book Review

His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-proof Marriage, Willard F. Harley, Jr.

A love bank. This is the main image that Harley uses through out his book on marriage. Each person has a love bank. Deposits and withdrawals can be made into these bank accounts. So I can add to my spouse's love bank and I can make withdrawals from it. The more I add to my spouse's love bank the more they will feel in love with me. The way to add to your spouse's love bank is to meet their needs.
Harley says that men and women have different needs.

Men need: sexual fulfilment, recreational companionship (he wants to have fun with her), an attractive spouse, domestic support (he wants to rest at home), respect.

Women need: affection (non-sexual), conversation, honesty and openness, financial support (she wants to live comfortably - she may work but hopes she will not have to), family commitment (she wants him to be a good father).

The strength of this book is to highlight that we need to be pouring into our spouse's life or our marriages will fail. Love will dry up if we are not making deposits into our spouses love bank. Interestingly enough Harley believes that to have an affair proof marriage we cannot simply meet one of the needs of our spouse but that we need to meet all of them. He says that when he counsels couple where there is an affair often the person committing the affair loves their spouse and the other person (sometimes they cannot choose between the two). This is because those two people are meeting different needs the person has.
Another positive of the book is that it is not very politically correct. It is not politically correct to say that a guy wants a good looking wife and that a woman wants a man to provide for her financially. And we may wish this was different, but if this is reality we might as well face it. Harley see no point it pretending something is not important to you when in fact it is really important.

However this leads to the two large weaknesses of the book. Harley is too ridged in his division of the different needs between male and female. These lists may ring true for many couples but there is a lot different people out there. His book places men and women into boxes. This is a problem. Reinforcing stereotypes for the different sexes can create problems if one spouse doesn't fit the box they are expected to fit.
This book's biggest weakness is that he leaves little room for people to change. He says these are needs. In fact some of these things are actually wants. That is a very big difference. And sometimes what you want is not what you need or should even have. A guy who wants a good looking wife may actually need to change. He may be so caught up with our cultural's definition of sexual beauty that he cannot see the wonderful women he is married to. A woman who marries for money may need to change. Harley says that a woman needs a man to provide for her as well as her father did or better. What about greed and materialism? Perhaps the woman needs to change and learn contentment.

If you read this book with discernment and take some of the things he says with a grain of salt, this book can help your marriage. Especially the picture of the love bank.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Patrick Friesen has written an article for The EMMC Recorder called "the ordination of a servant" (page 11). In this short article Patrick tells about some his struggles regarding ordination and how he has overcome them. I have serious problems with ordination. So I read this article with some interest. 

Here some of the struggles that Patrick sees: 
Anabaptists have a strong view of the priesthood of all believers. He asks, "how can a church group who believes so strongly that everyone is a minister, single out one person to serve in that role? And if ordination is about the recognition of particular giftedness, why not have an ordination for other roles within the body of Christ?"
Another issue is that ordination is often "seen as placing the pastor on a pedestal". 
Further Patrick notes that historically ordination was "the process which appointed individuals, predominately male [always for EMMC], giving them the right and responsibility for leading the ordinances [communion, baptism, marriage and funerals]." Now Patrick says that within the church "virtually anyone" can lead these things. 

Patrick's solution to all of this? How did he overcome all of these objections? He redefines ordination:
ordination is best understood not as raising someone up to a "higher" role within the church, but rather it is a process of identifying, examining and commissioning a servant.

2 issues I have with this.
1) Patrick fails to address most of the problems that he raised. The only one that this actually addresses is that ordination places a pastor on a pedestal. In fact defining ordination as a call to serve simply makes the others issues more obvious. Everyone is called to serve. Why would we single out one person [male] as the servant?
2) Redefining words requires intentionality and time. One of the real issues with ordination is not what do the pastors and college professors believe but what does the average church goer believe. Redefining ordination will be a lot of work (something that will not just happen). This is especially true since many denominations will not have the same view of ordination as EMMC. Let me provide an example of how difficult this is. In 2007 EMMC worked through ordination. At the annual convention it was agreed that ordination was no longer viewed as a lifetime call on a person. Once a person would no longer be a pastor it is be likely that their ordination would be dropped. This was 7 years ago. Patrick writes that ordination "is a ceremony of identifying a lifetime demotion into servant-hood". Lifetime? But for 7 years we have been working at defining ordination as not lifetime. Guess this has not worked that well. (Now I should note that I am not sure what conference Patrick is actually in. However Patrick teaches at an EMMC bible school, this article is written for the EMMC, and the event that stimulates this article is the ordination of an EMMC pastor). 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Leading of the Holy Spirit?

Francis Chan in his book Forgotten God challenges the way people often refer to God's leading.
Did God lead you to where you are? A lot of people in my church and in my travels tell me, "I believe that God has called me to Simi Valley." Or Wichita. Or New York. Or Greenville. Or wherever. That very well may be the case. But it could also be a cop-out because you like where you live. You have a good job. The school district is safe and has high ratings. Your family loves close by (or perhaps far away, depending on your relationship with them). It makes sense that you are "called" to be there, right?" (page 90-91)
A little later Chan says:
It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But it's absolutely vital to grasp that He didn't call you there so you could settle in and live out you life in comfort and superficial peace. His purposes are not random and arbitrary. If you are still alive on this planet, it's because He has something for you to do. He placed us on this earth for purposes that He orchestrated long before we were born (Eph. 2:1-10). Do you believe you exist not for your own pleasure but to help people know the love of Jesus and to come fully alive in Him? If so, then that will shape how you live your life in the place where you are." (page 92)
This is convicting. I am honestly convinced that God has lead me to live where I do. But I also have a constant battle to not just live for my comfort. It is so easy to just live for myself, to focus and obsess about what I want. Every day I am faced with the choice, be lead by the Spirit or by my desires.

Lord Jesus have mercy on me for I usually choose my desires.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Google's stance against porn

Porn is a major issue in our society.
There many men addicted to porn. The Demise of Guys explores some of the issues that porn causes (here is a previous blog regarding the book. And here is a video of the author talking about this issue).

Google has decided that it will no longer profit from porn. You can still find porn on the internet. Google is saying that it will no longer make money from this industry.

One more reason to love google.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Health and Wealth

Health and wealth gospel - this is a theology that believes that if a person has enough "faith" they will be healthy and wealthy. They will experience no sickness. If a person gets sick that is because they do not have enough faith.

I believe this is terrible theology. A theology that is not faithful to who God has revealed himself to be, to the bible, or to reality. It is really simply the American Dream packaged in Christian language.
I am not upset that people believe this. No one has perfect theology.

But what really gets me upset is when people walk into a hospital and tell the sick people that they are there because they have a lack of "faith". If they would just have a bit more "faith" then they would be totally healthy.
I have friends who have lost their children to sickness. People have actually told them that their child would not have died if they had more faith. So now not only are they dealing with unbelievable grief and pain but they get some guilt.
People struggling with mental illness are told they will be totally healthy if they have more faith. At times these people are dealing with thoughts of self-hate and loathing. They believe they are worthless and useless. And now they are told God is punishing because they do not have enough of the magic stuff called faith.
I know people who have died of cancer. They were told before they died that if they had more faith then they would get better. So in the last days of their life, instead of preparing to meet to their loving saviour, they are invited to feel inadequate. And to live in fear. After all if you do not have enough faith for God to heal you physically do you really have enough faith to be saved spiritually, to go to heaven?

This is spiritual abuse.
These people are hurting and in deep pain. They a vulnerable and desperate. And now they get wounded by Christians.

Oh, I know some people are going to say they are just preaching the bible. Trying to offer hope. They will cherry pick a couple of verses and say they are being biblical. Taking the bible seriously.
If you want I can debate those verses with you.
However let me ask a question. Before you walk in and heap guilt, shame, and fear on to vulnerable and sick people, have you truly researched the verses you are going to share? Do you know the context in which these verses are written? If Jesus spoke those words (did Jesus even say them?) what is the whole conversation about? What is that chapter of the bible about? What are the surrounding chapters about? The book in which that verse is found what is its main theme? Have you read scholars who disagree with you (where and why are they wrong)? What does the word faith actually mean? Are there biblical scholars who agree with that definition?
This is a lot of work. Of course if you are not willing to do this hard work, why would you think it is acceptable to march in and dish out guilt, shame and fear to the vulnerable?

You want to believe the health and wealth gospel - fine but keep it to yourself.
Enough is enough. I am tired of seeing people being spiritually abused.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit

Last week I attended a retreat lead by Rob Des Cotes from Imago Dei Community.

The Fruit of the Spirit - Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

These are gifts. 
I do not naturally have these things in myself. What I find rooted in myself is anger, fear, worry, selfishness, resentment, greed.

The fruit of the Spirit is a gift from God. It comes from being connected to him. From spending time with him. 
When my soul is not experiencing the fruit of the Spirit it means that I need to get back to Jesus. 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

We instead of I

Last week I attended a retreat lead by Rob Des Cotes from Imago Dei Community.

Jesus' identity was plural. He came to world not as "I alone", but rather as "we" - the Father and him.

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me
John 14: 9-11
Jesus prays that we will have a similar identity

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are oneI in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.
John 17:20-23

Instead of facing the world saying, "I will do this" or "I will take this on" or "I will deal with this". We invited to say "we".
It is not "I" who faces the world, but rather the Father and me. "I" do not need to deal with or fix or face that. "We" - the Father and me - will approach the world.