Freedom In Christ

I updated my MacBook Air this week with the new Mavericks operating system. I love the iBooks app that comes pre-loaded. Reading on my computer? Are you kidding me? Yes, please. As I opened my library, one of the stored books I found was The Radical Reformission, by Mark Driscoll. I remember reading and enjoying this book several years ago when I was trying to read books on my iPad.

I enjoy finding old books that I connected with at a different time in my life. This was one of those books. At the time, I was in the midst of recovering from Gospel Amnesia, this was one of the books that spoke to me from nearly every page.

This section below was one of the few I had highlighted. I even wrote a blog post about it once. It's worthy of a second mention.

“Reformission is ultimately about being like Jesus, through his empowering grace. One of the underlying keys to reformission is knowing that neither the freedom of Christ nor our freedom in Christ is intended to permit us to dance as close to sin as possible without crossing the line. But both are intended to permit us to dance as close to sinners as possible by crossing the lines that unnecessarily separate the people God has found from those he is still seeking. To be a Christian, literally, is to be a “little Christ.” It is imperative that Christians be like Jesus, by living freely within the culture as missionaries who are as faithful to the Father and his gospel as Jesus was in his own time and place.

I am advocating not sin but freedom. That freedom is denied by many traditions and theological systems because they fear that some people will use their freedom to sin against Christ. But rules, regulations, and the pursuit of outward morality are ultimately incapable of preventing sin. They can only, at best, rearrange the flesh and get people to stop drinking, smoking, and having sex, only to start being proud of their morality. Jesus’ love for us and our love for him are, frankly, the only tethers that will keep us from abusing our freedom, yet they will enable us to venture as far into the culture and into relationships with lost people as Jesus did, because we go with him.”

Excerpt From: Mark Driscoll. “The Radical Reformission.” iBooks.

Quietly making noise,

A Clarification...

magnifying-glass.jpgAfter my previous post, a friend from church privately emailed me asking for clarification about what I wrote. I found that my response back was even more clear than the original post, but unfortunately shared only by the two of us.
Since then, we've gone back and forth a few more times and each time I think I've better clarified my original point for this reader. Although I left our interaction anonymous, I asked this person if they would mind if I included it here, because I thought it would be helpful to expand, clarify, and chronicle my original thoughts (permission was granted). You will note as you read our interaction that this person responded specifically in relationship to the church we attend, because we attend a Reformed Presbyterian church (like the church discussed in the Bayly Brothers Blog that I referenced in my post). Please don't get the idea that we are picking on our church, we only used it as a frame of reference for our discussion.

In this email, my friend went on to talk about families that come to our church from other churches that may or may not be reformed in their thinking. This person went on to clarify their position as it relates to families and even more specifically fathers...

In responding to his question, I acknowledged no fundamental difference between live-birth and adoption-based families; they should all be raised for the glory of God! However, I continued with this in my answer:

"I think what I clung to in the Bayly boys blog is an attitude of theological elitism. What I'm getting at is that I see the reformed church (in very general terms) lacking in gospel ministry to the world and being more excited about the reformation of already-Christians instead of the salvation of yet-to-be Christians.
I also see the reformed church (again, in very general terms) more concerned in one era/style of worship and in general looking at those from the non-reformed community as coming from churches "that don't get it" or "haven't arrived yet." A gross generalization, but it's a recurring theme."

The majority of our emails contained specific dialogue about our specific local congregation, so I'll spare you the boring details. However, at another point, this exchange did allow me the opportunity to clarify even further what I felt was at the heart of both the Bayly Brother's blog and my first post. Here is how I responded:

"Any Church USA" falls short when they preach a gospel that is based on external items rather than the cross of Jesus Christ. I call it "lifestyle evangelism." When someone either notices you as an individual or...sees your family and inquires in a positive way about why you are "different" than other people of faith. Within a few sentences, we should be able to turn that conversation to the cross of Jesus Christ.
With "lifestyle evangelism" the discussion goes to what we've done (our marriage, our family, our homeschooling, our dress, our behavior, and the list goes on). I think we would both challenge any efforts to evangelize others to "look/act/dress/behave like me" rather than "look/act/dress/behave like Christ."
How about Jesus? I believe He entered every area of culture. He addressed sin. He gave people hope. He gave them Himself. He addressed the religious elite regularly and accused them with sharp words of adding to the gospel of grace. Jesus came to save individual believers. He came to take away their sins and reconcile them to God. He did not come to make better families or create stronger fathers...If someone different looking/acting walked into our conservative church (i.e. red hair/tattoos), I think Jesus would accept them where they were. He'd allow the HS to address their sin and He would offer them hope.

In one of my final email responses, I went on to further clarify what I was trying to say by writing this to my friend:

"I hope we can agree that we need to minister to all, learn to relate to all, accept others right where they are and share the gospel of salvation...dwell on the core and not the them love...pretend that all we have to give others is Jesus and then give them Jesus! I hope we can encourage folks to love Jesus, to serve Jesus and to honor Jesus! I know we can agree that it is all about Jesus."

Hopefully my responses in this email diaglogue will clarify what resonated with me in the Bayly Brother's blog. I found that taking part in this email correspondence was helpful and I wish it had worked itself out in the comments section for more of you to participate. Hopefully, you can join in on the discussion now that I have included them here.

Lastly, I hope by now that most loyal readers of theMangoTimes would know that when I say "it's all about Jesus" that I'm not negating doctrine, theology or obedience to God in His Word. I hope you would know that when I say "Give them Jesus," I mean that phrase to be synonymous with "Give them the Gospel (alone!)" and "Tell them about the mercy of God (alone!)" and "Tell others what Jesus has done for them (alone!)". Instead of first welcoming folks into a "graduate" level of church, let's welcome them into loving Jesus Christ and what He accomplished for them!

Quietly making noise,

Western Theology, Brennan Manning

Hey guys,
I am including a long excerpt below from"Lion and Lamb - The relentless tenderness of Jesus", a book by Brennan Manning that I first read in 1995. I was drawn to Manning's discussion of Jesus most likely because it reminded me so much of Lewis' depiction of Christ as the great Aslan here:

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”

[C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (New York: Harper Trophy) 79-80]

This is what hooked me with Manning's book, he introduces both sides of Jesus. Lion of the tribe of Judah, certainly. The sacrificial Lamb of God, definitely. Both ends of the spectrum, like the tenderness and fierceness Lewis shows us with his Aslan. Lion and Lamb is a quick read, well-worn by me, and an easy one for you guys to find in my library.

In this book, he has a particularly good section that I return to again and again describing the behavior of the visible church. His discussion is set in the fictional world of the wild west. To save you the time it would take to find the book, I have included it for you below:

“According to Wes Seeliger in his book Western Theology, there are two kinds of people, two visions of life. The first sees life as a possession to be carefully guarded. They are called Settlers. The second sees life as a wild, fantastic gift. They are called Pioneers.

These two types give rise to two kinds of theology: Settler Theology and Pioneer Theology. Settler Theology is an attempt to answer all the questions, define and housebreak some sort of Supreme Being, establish the status quo on golden tablets in cinemascope. Pioneer Theology is an attempt to talk about what it means to receive the strange gift of life. The Wild, Wild West is the setting for both theologies.

In Settler Theology, the Church convenes at the Courthouse. It is the center of town life. The old stone structure dominates the town square. Its windows are small, and this makes things dark inside. Within the courthouse walls, records are kept, taxes collected, and trials are held for the bad guys. The courthouse is the symbol of law, order, stability, and most importantly, security.

In Pioneer Theology, the Church moves in a Covered Wagon. It’s a house on wheels, always on the move. The Covered Wagon is where the pioneers eat, sleep, fight, love, live and die. It bears the marks of life and movement—it creaks, it’s scarred with arrows and bandaged with bailing wire. The Covered Wagon is where the action is. It moves toward the future, trying not to get bogged down in old ruts. The old Wagon isn’t comfortable, but the pioneers don’t seem to mind. They are more into adventure than comfort.

In Settler Theology, God is the Mayor. He is slick and fancy like a dude from back East. His office is on the top floor of the Courthouse. He looks out over the whole town, as his eagle eye ferrets out the smallest details of town life. No one actually sees him or gets close to him. He keeps his blinds drawn. But since there is order in the town, who can deny that he is really there? The Mayor is predictable and always on schedule. The Settlers fear the Mayor, but look to him to clear the payroll and keep things running. Peace and quiet are the Mayor’s main concerns, so he sends the Sheriff to check out any Pioneers who might ride into town.

In Pioneer Theology, God is the Trail Boss. He is rough and rugged, full of life. He chews tobacco, drinks straight whiskey. The Trail Boss lives, eats, sleeps, and fights with his people. Their well‑being is his concern. Without him, the Wagon wouldn’t move and living free would be impossible. The Trail Boss will get down in the mud with the Pioneers to help push the Wagon, which often gets stuck. He prods the Pioneers when they get soft and want to turn back. His fist is an expression of his concern.

In Settler Theology, Jesus is the Sheriff. He’s the guy who is sent by the Mayor to enforce the rules. He wears a white hat, drinks milk, outdraws the bad guys. The Sheriff decides who gets thrown in jail. There is a saying in town that goes: those who follow the rules and believe that the Sheriff is sent by the Mayor, they won’t stay in Boothill when it comes their time.

In Pioneer Theology, Jesus is the Scout. He rides out ahead of the Wagon to find out which way the Pioneers should go. The Scout faces all the dangers of the Trail and suffers every hardship. He is even attacked by the Indians. Through his words and actions he reveals the true intentions of the Trail Boss. By following the Scout, those on the Trail learn what it means to be a true Pioneer.

In Settler Theology, the Holy Spirit is the Saloon Girl. Her job is to comfort the Settlers. They come to her when they feel lonely or when life gets dull or dangerous. She tickles them under the chin and makes everything okay again. The Saloon Girls also squeals to the Sheriff whenever someone starts disturbing the peace.

In Pioneer Theology, the Holy Spirit is the Buffalo Hunter. He rides along with the Covered Wagon and furnishes fresh meat for the Pioneers. They would die without it (and him). The Buffalo Hunter is a strange character—sort of a wild man. The Pioneers never can tell what he’ll do next. He scares the hell out of the Settlers. He has a big, black gun that goes off like a cannon. He rides into town on Sunday morning to shake up the Settlers. You see, every Sunday morning, the Settlers have a little ice cream party in the Courthouse. With his gun in hand, the Buffalo Hunter sneaks up to one of the Courthouse windows. Then he fires a tremendous blast that rattles the whole Courthouse. Men jump out of their skin, women scream, dogs bark. Chuckling to himself, the Buffalo Hunter rides back to the Wagon Train shooting up the town as he goes.

In Settler Theology, the Pastor (the clergyman) is the Banker. Within his vault are locked the values of the town. He is a highly respected man. He has a gun, but keeps it hidden in his desk. He feels that he and the Sheriff have a lot in common. After all, they both protect the Bank.

In Pioneer Theology, the Pastor is the Cook! He doesn’t furnish the meat. He just dishes up what the Buffalo Hunter provides. This is how he supports the movement of the wagon. He sees himself as just another Pioneer who has learned to cook. The Cook’s job is to help the Pioneers pioneer. He doesn’t confuse his job with that of the Trail Boss, the Scout, or the Buffalo Hunter.

In Settler Theology, the Christian is the Settler. He fears the open, unknown frontier. His concern is to stay on good terms with the Mayor and keep out of the Sheriff’s Way. “Safety First” is his motto and the Courthouse is his symbol of security, peace, order, and happiness. He keeps his money in the bank. The Banker is his best friend. The Settler never misses an ice cream party.

In Pioneer Theology, Christians are Pioneers. They are persons of daring, hungry for new life. They ride hard, and know how to use a gun when necessary. The Pioneer feels sad for the Settlers and tries to tell them of the joy and fulfillment of life on the Trail. They die with their boots on.

In Settler Theology, Faith is trusting in the safety of the town; obeying the Law and keeping their noses clean; and believing the Mayor is up there in the Courthouse.

In Pioneer Theology, Faith is the spirit of adventure; the readiness to move out; the willingness to risk everything on the Trail. Faith is obedience to the restless voice of the Trail Boss.

In Settler Theology, Sin is breaking one of the Town’s ordinances.

In Pioneer Theology, Sin is wanting to turn back.

In Settler Theology, Salvation lies in living close to home and going to the Courthouse.

In Pioneer Theology, Salvation rests in being more afraid of a sterile life in Town, than of death on the Trail. Pioneers find joy in the thought of another day to push on into the unknown Wilderness. They realize their Salvation by trusting the Trail Boss and following his Scout, while living on the meat provided by the Buffalo Hunter.

The Settlers and the Pioneers portray in cowboy-movie language the People of the Law and the People of the Spirit. In the time of the historical Jesus, the guardians of the ecclesiastical setup, the scribes and the Pharisees and the Sadducees, had hunkered down in the Courthouse and enslaved themselves to the Law. This not only enhanced their prestige in society, it also gave them a sense of Security. Man fears the responsibility of being free. It is often easier to let others make the decisions or to rely up the letter of the Law. Some men want to be slaves.

[excerpted from The Lamb and The Lion by Brennan Manning, 1988, pgs. 23-27]

I realize this is a very allegorical look at theology and that we can only find true theology in God's Word. If you asked me to provide accurate analogies and definitions, as your father I would probably send you to the confessions, creeds and catechisms (how very Settler sounding ;-) ). With that said, I have always loved this discussion, so enjoy his depiction for what it is worth.

I have a few favorite parts that stand out to me, but I continue to enjoy the section about salvation. "Salvation rests in being more afraid of a sterile life in Town, than of death on the Trail." I can't help but think of Jesus' ministry and the calling of the disciples to follow Him (Matthew 4:19). You boys have been called to live life out on the trail or as I've said in the "market place" (which so often coincides with popular culture).

"Pioneers find joy in the thought of another day to push on into the unknown trusting the Trail Boss and following his Scout, while living on the meat provided by the Buffalo Hunter." I said this in my last letter, but everything we do is on behalf of the Gospel and in light of God’s truth. You are reliant upon God's Word and remember that you live to please an audience of one!

In a few more days I will follow up with a discussion about life as a "settler." One thing mom and I have noticed is that many people live in fear of the trail, in fear of the unknown, because the comfort of the settlement is easy and safe. Until then, remember that no one said living out your faith would be safe.

Love you, Dad

Quietly making noise,

A quick note to the young men at my table...

"Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting."
Francis Schaeffer

Hey guys,

It seems like most of the discussions around our table lately continue to focus upon how we should interact with the world/our culture. Whether it is concerns you've raised or something I've published in theMangoTimes or even some of the challenging sermons that continue to raise the topic, it seems as though this discussion has been pieced together through many conversations over the past year.

I've chronicled a few thoughts here on theMT about interactions with culture and several readers have suggested that I include more postings on this same topic. Mom and I have enjoyed the discussions we've shared around our own table with you guys. We enjoy hearing your perspective and understanding of God's word as they have added to the discussion about how we fulfill our roles as ambassadors for Christ. I would like to include some of our thoughts here on theMangoTimes. As we continue to encourage one another to understand the world, let us remember that we ALWAYS do this on behalf of the furtherance of the Gospel and in light of God's truth.

I have included a Francis Schaeffer quote at the top of this post that I recently stumbled upon. This quote triggered in me a few thoughts. I'm not sure when Schaeffer said this, but I will assume it was the 1960's or 1970's. It has since been more than thirty years and the terms, language and thought-forms that he suggests have again changed. Let me encourage you guys to not avoid the opportunity God has given you. Do not be afraid to take the Good News into the world, that is where it is needed most. I remind you guys over and over that the gospel is very easy, but let me encourage you to find where the conversations are taking place. Join those conversations, and learn how to take the good news of the kingdom into those places. Don't live in fear of man, but live in the fear of God which will lead you to wisdom.

One warning: Don't be surprised if you are criticized. I have found that when I choose to share a meal with "tax collectors and wine-bibbers" there are plenty of skeptics that feed themselves on their own assumptions. Let me remind you that Jesus spent plenty of time in the temple and a lot more time on the road and in the houses of both pharisees and followers. His life was uncomfortable and unsafe. More often than not He received sharp rebukes. Remember, while Jesus did sit, eat and lounge with many people His ministry was not to partake. He was the one bringing the bread that satisifies and He was the one bringing the water that quenches thirst.

We love you guys and love how you keep your faith in Christ real! We pray that you will continue to see how Christianity is relevant to every aspect of life.

Quietly Making Noise,