Article Find – To judge or not to judge

In Is it Ever Right to Judge? posted on Christianity.ca Stan Fowler, professor of Theology at Heritage Theological Seminary talks about an argument sometimes used against Christians who speak against homosexuality and presents a rebuttal to that argument. The argument is drawn from Matthew 7:1,

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

and assumes that those who speak negatively of the actions of Homosexuals are contradicting the teachings of Christ. Without re-stating what Stan already pointed out I merely want to draw attention to his conclusion – which I think is right on. He says,

Wherever the Church of Jesus Christ exists in the world, it faces unique pressures from the surrounding culture. In contemporary Canada, one of our greatest challenges is the assumption by much of our society that tolerance is the greatest virtue. But to adopt this common definition of tolerance would be to fail to follow Christ in His commitment to truth and goodness. If we are going to express negative judgments, we must first judge ourselves, and if we judge others it must be with kindness and respect. Nevertheless, we must not bow to the argument that Jesus taught His followers that they should never judge others. He said no such thing.

Once again, this demonstrates the importance of interpreting scripture through scripture. When looking at a particular verse in the Bible the context surrounding that verse, and throughout other texts in scripture must be considered before drawing any complete conclusions in interpretation. This is something that Stan has done.

Also – although Stan is using the issue of homosexuality as the touch-point for his article, the conclusions he draws are applicable to any case in the church where “judgement” must be considered.

Finally, one thing I might add that might have been outside of the scope of Stan’s article is the truth that in cases where judgement must be used there should also be in place a path of reconciliation. Yes, it is important that we understand the reality that some things in this world must be judged (albeit after judging ourselves, and then with others in kindness and respect) but the judgment should not be devoid of opportunity for reconciliation and ultimately healing. Certainly this is at the core of the gospel message where we are made aware of the God’s judgement on those with sin (which includes all of us [Romans 3:23]!) along with the opportunity for forgiveness through the grace and mercy of God (Romans 6:23). The judgement is there but so is forgiveness if one will receive it. I believe the church should not downplay, or be “tolerant” of things that the Bible teaches are sin but in the same vein the church must present love, hope, healing, and a reconciliation for those en-trapped in the very sins condemned.

Book Review- Chasing Francis

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale

Rating: 3 out of 5

Author: Ian Morgan Cron

Year: 2006

Publisher: Navpress

ISBN: 1576838129

“Chasing Francis” is the story of a pastor in a large church struggling with his faith in the light of different personal tragedies encountered in the first few pages of the book. After being forced to take time away from being a pastor Chase Falson embarks on a pilgrimage led by his Uncle (a friar in the Franciscan order) in which he learns about Saint Francis. In the course of this pilgrimage, Chase is forced to rethink some of his faith-positions in the past and his relationship with God. If you think I’m going to tell you everything that happens think again :lol:!

Ian Morgan Cron introduces in the preface of this book that the reasons for writing this book arose out of a discussion he was having with NavPress about how Francis’s,

…unique spin on ministry and the spiritual life might add something to the conversation about church in these postmodern days.

In the course of their discussion they came to the conclusion that such a analysis would best be told in story form rather than adding to the already prolific amount of biographical work on Saint Francis.

The result is what Cron terms, “wisdom literature” – a balance of fiction and nonfiction as he wrote a fictional story (Chase Falson and Putnam Hill Community church) pulling from the non-fictional history (Saint Francis). In the synthesis of the two Cron is adding his understanding of how looking at the life of Saint Francis has much to reveal about the way church is done as it transitions from a modern world to a post-modern world (catching up so to speak).

I thought the story was a good read, not spectacular but good nevertheless. It would definitely have more relevance to those involved in any form of ministry in the church but certainly others will appreciate the freshness in learning about Saint Francis. I must admit I didn’t know too much about Saint Francis prior to reading this book and his life is intriguing. However, in light of the fact that this is not a full biography of his life but rather a synopsis (which Cron readily admits) I’d be best to read more about him before drawing any firm conclusions.

With that said, however, through this book there are some interesting parallels made between the way the world and the church was in the time of Francis (transitioning from medieval to industrial) and what the church (western church specifically) and the world are going through right now as we transition from modern to post-modern. I especially identified with the exposing of the rampant consumerism the church has bought into that results in the church losing the ability to make an impact in culture.

Even though I enjoyed reading this book there were a couple things that bothered me.

1. Much emphasis was spent on the character and life of Francis to the detriment of emphasis on the life of Christ.
Of course Cron is quite clear that this book is an attempt at sharing about Saint Francis in story form but I find it ironic that Chase Falson finds his way back to God primarily through the influence of studying the life of Saint Francis without any supplementation through scripture and study of the life of Christ. I couldn’t help shaking the feeling as I was reading that in the course of his pilgrimage Chase Falson is being “converted” to the ways of Saint Francis rather than the ways of Christ.

Now, I’m not saying that Francis has nothing to teach us – far from it. But I do believe that somehow Cron could have weaven into his story a bit more by way of example in what Christ did that inspired Francis so much (or even shared specific scriptures or two). Even in Falson’s impassioned plea to his congregation at the end of the story, very little (too little IMHO) is mentioned about Jesus Christ.

Note that the accompanying study that the author included in the end of the book also carries little reference to scripture or the life of Christ. It would have been of more benefit to me if some time had been taken to highlight the influence the life of Christ had on Francis (paying attention to any particular scripture texts etc.)

2. The conclusion felt rushed.
I’m sure this had more to do with limits imposed by publishers rather than the will of the author but it seemed that the conclusion of the book was put together rather quickly.

I guess the major concern for me in reading this book is simply the fact that taken alone it seems to suggest that if we live as Saint Francis did we’ll be better (or at least more authentic) followers of Christ. But therein is the oxymoron. Would we really be followers of Christ – or followers of Francis?

Article Find – Preaching – Give the text out ahead of time…Invite participation

This article presents a great idea that I think I’ll try out in the near future (as soon as I get “organized” enough where I know the text for next weeks message a week ahead). I especially like how can help prepare people for hearing me preach on a particular text and invite their participation. Gives me one more reason to try accelerating the development of the new HPC Online site so I can incorporate this in the site somehow! See the full article here: Layers of Bible Study: Reinforced, Concrete – BuildingChurchLeaders.com

Unfair Attack (link enclosed)

Unfair Attack – Christianity.ca is a good article I just read addressing another article written by same sex advocate Jack Todd, (Time for Conservatives to Let Go of the Moral Monopoly on Marriage,” Gazette, August 5, 2006). Thanks Margaret for taking time to respond to Jack Todd’s article and in the process expose yet again many incongruencies in some people’s approach to the Christian perspective in this “hot topic”.

Oh and in case your wondering, yes I’m against same-sex marriage. But that does not mean that I’m a “gay-basher”. Do I agree with the gay lifestyle? No. Does that mean I hate gays? No. Certainly, homosexual people have faced incredible struggles in their lives with sexual identity (and correlating self-identity) and I recognize that – but I believe that while accepting a sin and living in that acceptance may seem like a good solution, it is not the “best” that God wants for us. I believe in the transforming power of the gospel of Christ and His ability to deal with sin. Does that mean it’s easy? No. Talk to the alcoholic trying to give up alcohol, or the habitual liar trying to curb his/her lies, or the drug addict trying to give up drugs, or a person with anger management problems trying to learn temperance. The truth is, we live in a world that has been corrupted by sin and is not the paradise God created. While I know that there are those who disagree with me I respect their right to disagree with me and I’m not going to wish for their death or relegation to an impoverished existence! Christ didn’t, that’s why He died.

Perspective on the Mel Gibson affair…

Okay, I know this is a bit delayed but I came across this article by Michael Coren, published in the Toronto Sun that I liked. In Christians are a Jews’ Best Friends Coren makes some good comments about the incongrous perspective the media and secular establishment in North America takes when it comes to covering “anti-semite” stories. He points out correctly that,

“If we want to see authentic hatred and bigotry, we only need to read the newspapers and watch television. There, one finds daily venom against Christianity from the mainstream and the most vitriolic contempt from the fringes.”

How true. I guess my questions coming out of this are, “What do Christians do to contribute to this ill-gotten perspective” and “What can we do to change it…or is it possible?” It leaves me wondering if the Christian Church (capitalized on purpose) were to live as Christ taught would such a perspective be present? Probably – I mean Jesus said himself that his followers would face persecution,

…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 – NIV)

but perhaps it might be less intense. What pains me most however is seeing more and more churches (usually in the mainline tradition) decide to take more “progressive” liberal stances in adapting to a secular worldview and dropping many of the core tenets of Christian belief in order to be more “relevant” and “accesible” to the world. Oh but that’s another subject I’ll probably write about some other time…

The Anemic “Professional Christian”

I came across this interesting article while conducting a web search for this weekends message. Dan Reiland talks about his staff praying that God doesn’t send Christians to their church and he has some excellent insights into what he calls “Professional Christians”. I really resonated with their philosophy of ministry and I agree with a lot of what he stated!

Monday Morning Insight Weblog: Dear God: Please Don’t Send Christians To Our Church!

Apostasy vs. Relevancy

Just a quote I came across today that I think is so true:

“Some churches, for certain, abandon many of the cardinal truths of the faith in their quest to be relevant to the community they serve. But even more churches are woefully unaware of the realities, hope, and pains of those around us. Failure to be true to the doctrines of the Christian faith leads to apostasy. Failure to understand the world in which we live and serve leads to irrelevancy.” – Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources, in Outreach magazine

Arrghh…doing things that waste time…

Well I spent yet another full day doing finances for the church. Our church has been without a treasurer for about 3 months and I’ve “temporarily” taken over the duties until someone else fills in the position. Problem is…being the perfectionist that I am I’ve been not only doing the day to day stuff with the books but also “fixing” things that could be done better. All of this of course takes time…time that should be done in other things (shrugs shoulders). Ordinarily I really wouldn’t mind doing this stuff (in fact I love working with numbers) but nagging at the back of my mind while I’m doing it is all the other important stuff that I should be doing as a Pastor that isn’t getting done. Especially when it comes to planning.

Another thing that has been taking me a lot of time is the charity return I have to file. Arrghh…my sympathy goes out to all treasurers for charities in Canada (and especially to our past church treasurer) who have trudged through the mire and clay to file this really “easy-to-understand” form lol. Think income tax return on steroids and you’ll have a glimpse into the wonderful world of charity returns. Oh well, a learning experience I suppose but since the church’s status as a registered charity can hinge on correct filing of this return it can be a bit stressful. And of course there are yet more things I’m correcting in the way the church does accounting as a result of the things I’m discovering through doing the charity return. I’m planning on getting it verified before I send it away.

If any of my church family is reading this – have you considered taking on the treasurer position… – It would help out a lot! (hehe)