In the 10th chapter of John, Jesus explains he is the good shepherd. He uses a metaphor calling his elect sheep, and calling himself their shepherd. He says metaphorically that although the world and Satan will attempt to steal them away, they will not follow. He says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In the next passage Jesus foresees his death, resurrection, and the gospel’s revelation to the Gentiles- “I have other sheep that are not of this pen. I must bring them also… I lay down my life- only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”
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How do you help a group of people whose lives are intertwined with a failing organization? How do you get through to owners who are in denial about the state of their organization? Robert Irvine’s TV show does just that, over and over again. Recently, in May 2014, the show “Restaurant Impossible” aired its 100th episode. I’ve watched all of the shows up to Season 7, so I still have some catching up to do. To put it mildly, I have been enthralled by this show and by the TV personality, Robert Irvine. The premise of the show is that restaurant owners contact the Food Network and apply to get help from Robert for their restaurant in danger of closing. Robert goes into the restaurant and has a total of 36 hours and $10,000 dollars to save the restaurant. I was stunned by the process and how Irvine goes about this restaurant-saving work. Could there be implications here for the church? I think so.
Forgiveness. I extemporaneously shared my story of God’s grace in my sermon last Sun: Gospel of Grace. I have previously shared parts of this before. I first understood the gospel in 1980 through my magical mysterious mystical conversion. At age 25 I realized for the first time with great awe and wonder and with many tears of gratitude that God forgave all my sins completely through Christ, despite myself. I experienced a peace and a wholesomeness (shalom) that I had never ever previously known (Phil 4:7). My life has never been the same for the last 34 years since that great, gracious and glorious day of my conversion. Continue reading →
This week I sent the following letter to the UBF Ethics & Accountability Committee. I received an acknowledgement from one committee member that they have received my letter. I am posting this publicly so that we can check back in a month or so after the committee meets and discuss any follow-up. Here is their email if anyone is looking for it: ubfethicscommittee @ gmail . com
During a Q&A session after a church service where 2 Tim 3:6-17 was preached, someone asked “How do we become free from the burden of sin and how do we live in that freedom?” The preacher answered “Trust in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and preach the realities of the gospel to yourself every day.”
“Just obey” may cause PTSD reactions. Obedience might be a favorite word and teaching in UBF (and many other churches). I recently realized that it is also a word that causes PTSD reactions from some people who have negative UBF experiences. This is partly because of the unbiblical and authoritarian ways that obedience is taught, communicated and practiced in certain UBF chapters. This is not uncommonly expressed by the imperative statement, “Just obey!” Obedience is also communicated implicitly even without saying, “Just obey.” The implication is that you should obey God as the Bible commands and teaches. But the practical reality is that you should obey what your leader or shepherd tells you…or else… Continue reading →
The theology of “Gross!”: What modern psychology can teach us about purity, disgust, love, and the gospel
Back in January, I posted a sermon I delivered on Ephesians chapter 2. I wrote:
In these verses, Paul makes the surprising claim that the law – God’s law, which was given to Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai – created hostility between Jews and Gentiles and erected a wall, an insurmountable barrier, which had kept them apart. This is true. Because of their law, Jews were compelled to separate themselves from non-Jews. They had to avoid all physical contact. Jews could never have fellowship or eat with Gentiles, because Gentiles’ food and utensils and homes and bodies were defiled. For Jews, the mere thought of eating with Gentiles would have made them feel physically ill.
Neuropsychology has shown that most of the judgments that people make in regard to morality – deciding what behaviors are right or wrong – are not based on careful, rational thought. Rather, these decisions come from the gustatory cortex, the part of the brain that helps us to detect bad smells and warns us not to eat certain foods because they are unwholesome or contaminated. I learned about these findings through a fascinating book titled The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt.
“It feels like we are just floating in space.” That’s how one of my friends who left UBF ministry with me described how she felt after leaving. I can relate to this statement very well. At UBF we were tethered to the “mother ship”. But now we had to navigate our own path. We started making life decisions on our own, with no checking against our UBF shepherds for “God’s will”. Some of us made these decisions like this for the first time, even though we are all adults. How do you find peace and contentment when your faith community just collapsed in epic fashion? Where do you go when you cannot find a local church where you feel comfortable attending? How do you begin trusting people again after being betrayed by church leadership? What do we do now? Here is what I’ve been doing: writing books. The 300 pages of three books tell the story of my life. My life has indeed become an open book.
For 34 years and counting of being in UBF, I’ve heard countless testimonies titled something like, “From a Samaritan Woman to a Mother of Prayer,” or “From a Gerasene Demoniac to a Good Shepherd like Jesus.” Well, my title is “From Certainty to Uncertainty.” This thought came to me after reading an excellent post that Joe just shared on Facebook: When Certainty Kills.
After becoming a Christian in 1980 I became certain and convinced by the work of the Holy Spirit that living for Jesus is the only worthwhile reason to live (Jn 10:10b; 20:31). Only by God’s mercy and grace, this is still as true for me today as it was when I experienced my mystical conversion in 1980.
But along with this glorious, mystical, loving, gracious, mysterious certainty of Christ, I realize that I also added “other certainties,” which were basically non-negotiable to me, such as: Continue reading →
Three ring, white binders. Remember those? This week my son needed several three-ring binders for High School. Of course, as good and faithful ubfers in the past, we have plenty of those! Many years ago I had packed up all those three ring binders of bible study notes in a huge bin and stored them in our basement. I had thought of having a huge bonfire with them after resigning from ubf, but then I thought, no these are evidence! Who would ever believe I spent over 15,000 hours studying the bible if not for those binders? Well I don’t really care about such things anymore, so I emptied the binders and threw out some of those old notes this week. I even found a “Marriage Preparation” binder :) I took a brief glance through the notes and realized once again how severely shallow our “bible study” was for all those thousands of hours. The answers to the questions were just quotes of bible verses, repeats of SLee’s messages and unthoughtful remarks expressed as incomplete sentences.