joy

“Fear not!”

(I haven’t written for a few weeks, partly because of starting my new job, and partly because the situation in northern Iraq was driving me to write in other venues…)

I did not grow up in a church, and so I am always a little curious what going to church is like for children.  I particularly appreciate this gem, from a puppet re-telling of the Christmas story in Luke 2:

  • Shepherds: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
  • Angel: Fear not!
  • Shepherds: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
  • Angel: What part of “fear not” didn’t you understand?
  • Shepherds: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
  • Angel: Never mind.  I bring you good news…

It always strikes me how fearful many Christians remain, even though Christ has already given us all that we need for godly lives.  To hear some Christians talk (or blog), they are afraid of Islam, atheism, homosexuality, church shrinkage, cultural de-Christianization, loss of constitutional rights, President Obama, censorship, contraception, courts, and the news media.  This is clearly a very heterogeneous bucket o’ fear. (more…)

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Discomfort and Redemption

A year ago my wife and I moved to a cheap apartment in the next town over.  We did a lot of research, and had a number of distinct requirements.  Among them we were concerned about pests (we’ve had bad experiences before) and cigarette smoke (my wife is allergic).  We settled on one apartment, and then its current occupants decided not to move out, so we found two other options in the same building.  They had the same floor plan, but one faced the parking lot and the other a golf course.  Since we love green, we settled on the one overlooking the golf course.  I asked about pests and was assured there was no history of pest-related service requests.  Then when I brought my wife for the sniff test (her nose is much keener than mine), we smelled cigarette smoke. (more…)

The Argument from (Dis-)Similarity

Will the real Church please stand up?  Go to a phone directory of any moderately sized settlement and see if the listings for “churches” don’t rapidly get bewildering.  Indeed, such an exercise is often an education into varieties of Christianity we didn’t know existed!  How should those who worship Christ sort through this denominational chaos?

One method frequently suggested by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Disciples of Christ (along with a few Baptists, on occasion) is to look at the evidence for early Christianity and see which contemporary denomination is most similar to the churches of the apostles and their successors.  This is the argument from similarity.  I recently read a blog post making this argument against Protestants of all stripes, and a commentator here pressed me to consider the same line of reasoning.  It was not the first time.  I have heard this argument made in favor of multiple different branches of contemporary Christianity.  I like to imagine the question by asking which church would look most familiar to the apostle Peter or any of the other earliest Christians, if he were sent on a time-travel expedition from AD 60 to the present.  I prefer someone else to Jesus for this exercise because Jesus is the God who knows the hearts, and this is usually posed as a question about external appearances. (more…)

Starting Off the Cuff

Things start sometime, if they start at all.  Tuesday of Holy Week is not generally considered the best time to start anything.  The events of the Passion have already begun, and the joy of Easter is not yet here.  And yet, this is where we always first find ourselves with God: things have started without us, and we have not yet reached the fullest joy.  So this blog starts at the wrong time, on the wrong foot, just like everything in our lives.

Tuesday of Holy Week is also not the best time for a road trip.  Holy Week “ought to be” a time of preparation for the severity of Good Friday and the joy of Easter.  It is a time of reflection, of spiritual discipline, and of worship.  But real life has its requirements, and I drove ten hours today.  This is also how most of us worship God.  A few people have the privilege of withdrawing from the world to devote their lives to worship alone.  Most of us have to work in order to eat.  We worship God in the moments around other activities, and we try to learn how to worship God in all the movements of our lives.  It is not easy, and it does not come naturally.  But Christ did not come to call the perfect, the devout, and the righteous; he came to call the sick and the sinners, like us.  And he did not take us out of the world, but left us in the world to be his servants here.  So real life happens, and we seek to worship Christ within real life.