Archive | June, 2013

Can We Please Stop Fearing Love?

(Lisa Robinson)

The title is more of a rhetorical question. In fact, its a question posed with an increasing chagrin as I see love fought against in the quest to avoid the slippery slope of liberalism. I started to name the title Love Really Does Win and I bet that would have raised the hackles on the backs of many necks. Why? Because when we hear that title, we think of Rob Bell and liberalism (which usually means anything to the left of what we believe). And we get concerned about love.

But here’s the thing: love really did and does win. When I read scripture about God’s reconciling work with his creation accomplished in his Son, I can’t help but see that everything he did was out of love (Romans 5:8; John 15:13; 1 John 3:1 ). It is because God loves us that we can love him (1 John 4:10). We are commanded to love him with all of our being and love neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). Jesus said the way that his disciples would be known is because of their love for another (John 15:12) and John is quite emphatic that without it the love of God is really not manifest in our lives (1 John 2:10; 3:10). Paul insists that our gifts and contributions to the body are meaningless without love (1 Corinthians 13) and desires for our love to grow in the knowledge of God towards each other (Phil 1:9). Peter compels us to love one another deeply because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 1:22; 4:8)

And yet…

I observe that Christians of the conservative stripe, who really care about not losing truth and sound doctrine tend to downplay it. In fact, I think in some cases there is this fear that if we talk about love too much it will somehow unravel our theology. If we let love be our motive that somehow propels us into liberalism. Why is this? Why do we fear losing something of sound theology if we talk about love too much?

I can’t help but think that the fear of love stems from the threat of losing justice, as if they can be separated. But justice can only be wrought because of God’s active love. Just because there is an emphasis of love does not mean one is sliding down a slippery slope.

Craig Bubeck wrote this piece on love in Christianity Today from an obvious Wesleyan perspective. While I am not Wesleyan, I appreciate what he had to say as it struck at the nerve of what concerned me. He cites many instances of the biblical motive and command for love and indicates that does not mean a lack of justice in this section here; Continue Reading →

The Sad Christian

depressed-1

I woke up at 2am to an unwelcome visitor. Unfortunately, I have become all too acquainted with this presence. I don’t know how to explain it. When it is around, I am confused and somewhat embittered at myself as I begin to think of the wrong turns I have taken that have led me to this place. My thoughts are not rational, and my emotions are a freight train. Their power, noise, and persistence do not let me look the other way.

Let me say this: For the most part I’m okay. For the most part, I don’t have to fight against this foe. If you see me during the day and I seem alright, I probably am. I am not that good, yet, at putting on an act. But for the last few years there has been this dark side of my brain that activates. I don’t really know the triggers (although I have some ideas) and I certainly cannot think my way out of it. I realized its presence, when I opened my eyes an hour ago. I tried so hard to go back to sleep. But it is noisy and relentless. It transfers all the activity of my brain to this place.

As I normally do, I begin to think about what originally started this. When I talk about it with other people, I usually say that it all started in 2010. But just now I decided to look up a blog post that I wrote right when it first started. It’s titled “Crying for No Reason At All.” To my surprise, it was 2oo8 when it began. It has been over five years! That is so hard to believe.

This unwelcome visitor causes me to cry. Back then, I called it “crying for no reason at all.” But I don’t think it is for no reason any more. I mean, the gravitational pull to this place is very definite. It calls on me to think of the past. Specifically, it points me back to my days in Frisco, TX, when I was a student at DTS and then a pastor at Stonebriar. It says to me, “Those days were so much better. You were so much more stable. You had everything going for you. You had everything figured out. Today is dark and sad, and it is not going to get any better. You had a right to serve God then, but somewhere along the way, you made a bad decision and broke your calling.” It is something like that. The point is that the past is always so much better than the present. It is a relentless case of nostalgia and when it is present, I cry about anything and everything. What was is better than what is.

At this point my emotions wrestle my rationale to the floor and, with ease, make it immobile. I try to talk myself out of it (as I would always encourage others to do), but the whole thing is irrational. “Remember Michael . . . things were not that good back then. Think about it. What was really better?  Your kids are all healthy and wonderful. You have your bills paid. Remember how you used to shelve books at the DTS library, while at the same time you were on the verge of crying, thinking about how bad yours and Kristie’s marriage was? You guys are doing so much better today. Things are better now than they were then. Get your mind straight.” But no matter how many lines of evidence the attorney for the right side of my mind can produce, this dark side has the power of immediate dismissal. For some reason my rational side cannot get on the witness stand. Continue Reading →

The Supreme Court vs. Sola Scriptura

supremeCourtHow should Christians process the findings of the Supreme Court today regarding same-sex marriages? Should Christians get with the 21st century and let all people be happy? Should Christians stand by traditional understandings of marriage? How much should Christians seek to have their beliefs affect the culture?

Every person certainly has their reasons why they are excited or disappointed with what happened in our nation’s capitol. The ruling confirms something to me that will probably not surprise you but has become clear to me today. The United States is officially a Secular Society.

I’ll unpack this but let me first take a step back. I want you to know, if you are reading this and thinking a caveman is about to grunt out some ridiculous tirade of old-fashioned nonsense, that I think same-sex marriage is reasonable. Not only reasonable but my experience also tells me that homosexuals should be happy. Many homosexuals are probably even better parents than many heterosexual couples. Yes, I just made that statement. Please don’t stop reading now if your blood is boiling. Please hear me out.

Let’s now move toward examining why I said our country is secular and how that should influence a Christian’s response to the Supreme Court. Today’s ruling did not surprise me one bit. After I heard the arguments put forth to the Supreme Court earlier this year I was pretty sure the court would rule in favor of same-sex marriage. I was truly embarrassed as I heard the lame arguments being made against same-sex marriage.
Continue Reading →

Doubting Your Faith? So What?

“So what?” seem to be the most dismissive and insensitive words one can say to someone who is in trouble. Of course, often it is. If someone says, “I’m hungry,” or “I’m cold,” and we respond by saying “So what?”, we are not to be commended. However, “So what?”s are sometimes given a bad rap. When we decide to never use them, we actually might make matters worse. This is particularly the case when unnecessary feelings of entitlement are at issue.

I have been reading a book called A Knight’s Own Book of Chivalry by Geoffroi De Charny. Written in 1356, this little handbook on how to be a knight with honor is quite a jewel, speaking to me often in my self-pity. For the most part, it cries out, “So what?” to my problems over and over again. In fact, the ideals Sir Geoffroi calls me to strive for are all the things that cause me to wallow in self-pity. A good knight, according to Geoffroi, is intentional about making sure he does not live his life with too many comforts. As religious as Geoffroi was (he was actually the first recorded owner of the Shroud of Turin), his purpose was not some legalistic asceticism. He just did not want people to become too pampered. He believed that undue pampering would bring about serious and unnecessary depression. He encouraged knights to sleep outside in the cold and then in the heat. He discouraged mattresses and white sheets. These are things that I would feel deprived of if I did not have. And I would expect you to pamper me with “I’m sorry”s to indulge my feelings of neglect—neglect by others and neglect by God. Were I to tell Sir Geoffroi that I lacked such things, I imagine he would say, “So what?”

This comes in many areas of life. Continue Reading →

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Ten Reasons Good Christians Go Bad

One of the most discouraging (and blindsiding) things in life is to follow the Lord for some time, feel like you’re on the right track, be involved in the His work, and feel the definite guidance of the Holy Spirit…only to find yourself, as time passes, becoming a worse Christian. Sometimes we feel like we are going through sanctification in reverse. Our latter self seems more depraved and dispassionate than when we first picked up the Cross. Do you feel that way? Do you feel like you are a worse Christian now than you used to be?

Why do good Christians often go bad?

I write this post out of experience. So often I feel as if I am going backwards. So many times I have awoken, realizing I have less hope, faith, and love than I did the day before. It scares me. I know that “he who began a good work in me will perfect it” (Phil. 1:6), but why aren’t I being perfected? When I look back on my last twenty years as a believer, I don’t always see a progressive growth from worse to better, but a decline in the virtues that God is supposed to be developing within me. I remember John Piper once said, “When do I doubt God?  Not in tragedy, but when I see the slowness of my sanctification.” Not only is our sanctification often slow, but it sometimes goes the opposite direction.

Here is a list of ten issues that cause good Christians to go bad that are less obvious than the blatant sins we often blame for such a state.

1. Dried-up Passion

When we first begin to follow the Lord, life is new and exciting. We are going to do great things for the Lord. We can’t wait to see what is around the corner. Our passions are high and our commitment is unwavering. However, at some point down the road we find ourselves tiring and slowly replacing this passion for what we believe to be the new “reality.” The answers that we had at the beginning are not so simple. God’s hand is heavy and his movements at a crawl. We started the race sprinting, but now we are taking break after break – and we are not that far down the track! Our passion dries up and we begin to consider whether we need to run this race at all. We shuffle along, hands in our pockets, kicking up dust as we go.

Christ tells us that we can lose our first love: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place– unless you repent.” (Rev 2:4-5)

2. Entitlement for Sorrow

It is so easy to go through so many trials and troubles that we cut ourselves some slack. This is something I have done quite a bit over the last six years. Things have been so hard in my family (most of you know the stories). I held up great at the beginning, but at some point I began to feel sorry for myself. In doing so, I allowed myself to enter into self-destructive self-pity.

Unfortunately, this will often be the advice of others. “You’ve got to start thinking about yourself [insert your name]. After all, not many people have to go through what you have been through.” If we listen to this advice, we will quickly replace our spiritual life for one of paralyzing sorrow. And, even though this sorrow does not help anything, it is addictive and counter-productive to all we know.

The Lord tells us: “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses?” (Jer 12:5). There is the ever present reality that our pains and sufferings may very well get worse. We must be weary of advice that may come our way which says we are entitled to sorrow. We are entitled to joyful suffering for the sake of Christ. Continue Reading →

Theology Unplugged: Roman Catholicism – Part 14 – Sacraments

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley, JJ Seid and Sam Storms as they continue their series on Roman Catholicism by discussing the Sacraments.

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Believing for No Reason

One of the earliest signs of the healthy development of the mind of a child is that he or she starts responding to everything with a simple question: Why?  Every parent knows this and knows that it can drive you nuts, but it is a reassuring trademark of the kid’s normal intellectual growth.  To ask “why” is to solicit a reason for the truth of something. What begins in childhood is supposed to continue throughout the course of life. We believe things on account of other things, or in words, for reasons.

That’s not to say that every preference in every area needs to have an argument that supports it. In matters of artistic predilection or taste, no reasons are required other than, “I just like it.” Whatever kind of music sounds good to you, enjoy. Feel free to load up your device and belt it out at your leisure. You don’t really owe anybody a sophisticated explanation. You also don’t have to make a case for how and why certain foods taste better to you than others. They just do.

But what if I treat everything else this way? What if I take political stances, proclaim spiritual realities, assert opinions about history and offer declarations about moral principles – all “just because”?  After all, maybe those views are simply the ones I like. Does that suffice? Do I need reasons or can I just say that I believe those particular things, period?

I’ve been surprised time and again to run right up against this way of thinking in recent years. At first I was caught so off guard by it that I wasn’t sure what to say in response. It was so foreign to me that a blank stare was my only reaction. But I’ve been trying to learn just how I can begin to demonstrate how utterly wrong-headed it is for people to hold beliefs for no substantive reasons at all. So permit me here to say some things about it, starting with those who profess to be Christians who think along these lines, and then moving on to the larger context of society in general. Continue Reading →