Month: February 2004

American Christianity …

A charge of “Anti-Americanism” has been leveled at the Baptist World Alliance by the Southern Baptist Convention. Interesting that an “international” body would be predisposed toward any particular group. Dr. Denton Lotz sent out a response to this charge,

“I am very sorry to hear such a statement. The other 10 conventions from North America have never felt this way. We are a global organization representing 211 Baptist conventions and unions all over the world, in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and North America. By its very nature the BWA represents Baptists all over the world. As Irmgard Class of Germany wrote, “We are not anti-American. It’s just that we are not Americans!”

The SBC accusses the BWA of anti-Americanism based on an invitation by the South African Baptist Convention to speak at the BWA meeting in Durban, South Africa. I was there. It was fascinating hearing from a person instrumental in overthrowing oppressive apartheid. The intent was to talk about “reconciliation” and what it would mean to South Africa. Allegedly Bishop Tutu holds differing views on other matters and so we accuse the BWA of “anti-Americanism.” Other accusations stem from comments made by an African American pastor from Washington DC who referenced information gleaned from US congressional hearings when talking about the injustice of poverty of the Pacific Rim countries paid horrible wages working in sweatshops. This is tragic. Denton Lotz is accused of being cozy with Fidel Castro. We met in Havanna, Cuba a few years ago and Dr. Lotz met with Castro. Since that time there has been a greater freedom to meet in house churches and distribute bibles than before. But, because of that meeting, Dr. Lotz is “anti-American.” So much for standing for the gospel and those hoping to reach their fellow countrymen and women via churches and bibles.

This leads me to consider what brand of Christianity we practice. Certainly we have elements of “Americanism”, but does that make our expressions better? In fact, is it right to suggest an American version of Christianity is the only version. Are we converting to Christ or to a given culture. I long for they day when we seek to bring the gospel into the context in which we find ourselves not longing for a bygone day and not looking for another day. Rather, we should live in the time God plants us and be found applying the gospel to that context. Our world is chaning. It is more global than every before. We should hold on to the faith before holding on to America – the two are not the same.

What about a prayer that would go something like this,

God forgive me for believing my expressions of faith are more right than those living in another Country. Father forvgive me for failing to apply the gospel to where I live today and trying to fit today into yesterday. God help me connect life and faith to where you have me today.

What about our senses and faith …

This morning in the Daily Oklahoman there was a piece on the sidebar about Lent and Ash Wednesday. The writer suggests evangelicals appear to be more and more interested in liturgical worship and specifically some things Catholic. It went on to say, “Bratcher said many Protestants find they have more in common with Catholics than with an increasingly secular culture, and “we’re becoming focused more on what unites us as Christians.””

We seem to be lacking in Church history. For many of us who are “Protestant” believe Church history began with the Reformation. I know, many of you like me, we were told are not Protestant but rather we can trace our existence back to John the Baptist. I encourage you to read more Church history, you find this one of the biggest stretches in church history.

We are too eager to throw the baby out with the bath water. The Reformation returned us to a “scholastic” [read, “thinking”] expression of faith. It was necessary. However, fearful of being in any way associated with Rome, many coming out of the Reformation put away any experiential practice deeming it “ritual.” And, any ritual is “bad” – though we “ritually” greet guests, pray certain prayers and hold a “ritual” order of worship that were it changed would create quite a stir. But that is not ritual?

For too long we have separated out what it means to follow Jesus as only having right belief. How that affects our decisions is really a remote point. Rather than looking for liturgical worhsip, I think many are hopeful of a “whole” faith which connects the physical with the spiritual and so find the reality of Jesus’ abundant life. Connecting the physical and the spiritual means we connect our thinking and our emotion and so our experiences with our faith. So, we might say what good is right belief if it is not expressed in right action?

Where does Lent come in for me? Mental assent is often subject to rationalization. If I make a mental commitment, I am the only one who knows about it. Sure, I know God knows but after all, he is up there not right here. And at any rate, I had to because …

However, in the context of corporate worship I agree with those there that the Cross of Christ, the Passion of Christ, is paramount to my spiritual experience. Therefore, I want to spend some time thinking about what Jesus gave up for me. How often do you thknk about Philippians 2? Likely only when it comes up as a text in bible study or you hear it referred to in a sermon. I want to connect with what Jesus gave up. So, in order to have a daily reminder, I choose to give up something that requires thought and sacrifice. Now each day when I think about that thing given up, I am thinking about what Jesus gave up and am called to worship and thanksgiving.

Far from looking for liturgical worship, many of us are looking for a “whole” connection of life and faith. Not satisfied with a “mental” spirituality, we are looking for ways for our spirituality to be expressed. So, not only do you give up something, in the process we mediate and pray and read Scripture with a view to transformation not ritual.

During our time of reflecting on what Jesus gave up for us, we move to remember our Baptism with Christ described in Romans 6. We consider our frailty and repentance and so we consider the phrase, “repent in dust and ashes.” We light a candle so as to agree we “are the light of the world.” Each of these physical actions connect us to a spiritual truth and reality. We then have connected the physical and spiritual on our journey of faith.

In what ways do you express your spirituality? Or, have you given in to the incomplete individualism that calls my faith, “my business?” Read the Scriptures again.

Walking together …

“… encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” — 1 Thessalonians 2:12

Comfort – “to soothe in time of affliction or distress” (American Heritage College Dictionary)

Comfort – “to call to one’s side”, “to calm, console” (taken from two Greek words translated as encourage and comfort above).

Les and Leslie Parrot describe four myths people give into prior to and during marriage. They do so in their book, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.

Myth #3 – Everything bad in my life will disappear.

Following Jesus does not mean we will not encounter bad things. Following Jesus does not mean the bad will disappear. The reality is the more we are exposed to Jesus and his transforming work the more we discover our “bad” that needs to be changed. His work of grace transforms us and those things that are transformed may indeed disappear from our lives only to expose other things about our character and nature that need to come under the gracious work of his Spirit.

Our need is for our friends and fellow travelers to “come along side us”, “to console us” in order that we may continue the journey with Jesus who has called us into the Father’s Kingdom and glory.

I find Paul’s words translated “comforting” to be fascinating. We need each other on the way with Jesus to come to our side in afflication and distress as we work through what it means to be “in Christ. ” The working out of “our salvation with fear and trembling” often exposes some distressing things with which we need help. So, Paul comforted those in Thessalonica to “live/walk worthy of the God who calls us into his Kingdom and glory.”

Who would you comfort as you walk? Who would comfort you as you walk?

Aloneness is risky …

An article ran in The Daily Oklahoman today, “Evidence shows solitude adds to health risks.

I am not sure we have not stumbled on the reality of Genesis 2:18, “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone …”

The article states, “Thirty years ago, anyone blaming lonliness for physical illness would have been laughed at, but as scientists studied different populations, isolation kept emerging as a risk factor.”

Certainly we need space from time to time. Collect your thoughts, consider your day, find some rest from the hustle. Yet, we function better when we have someone with whom to “debrief” our day. We may only recount our activities but invariably we will “unwind” in the process. We then reduce stress and that only helps.

In the end, we need the complement God gives us. We need people. We need each other.

Great CD …

We have ecclectic music tastes around our house. You might hear Southern Gospel, Top 40, Classic Rock, Elivs, Contemporary Christian, Instrumental, Classical. There is really no telling what we might be spinning in the CD player. Here in the office I am really enjoying Harp 46. It is an instrumental group featuring the harp and percussion instruments. Great for meditation and reading. Click on Harp 46 on the left sidebar to get your copy.