Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just got back from the wedding:

I'm home bach-ing it for about a week. Kathy stayed in PA to baby-sit the grandkids while Tanisha and Chad are on their honeymoon.

My younger son, Chris (that's him, Nancy, Silas & Kira in the picture), asked me several times if it was easier or harder to be a part of the wedding, rather than the one conducting it.

Both, but mostly, I just enjoyed the weekend. I think Christopher, my grandson, did as well

As I think the pictures communicate it was an experience of God's grace.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I find it amazing both that news travels so fast in our inter-connected world, and that news can remain relatively hidden for so long. I was surprised in the later way concerning the intense persecution of Christians in India.
Chuck Colson has a commentary on Hindu fanatics uprising against Christians in Orissa India,, and the Southern Baptist News Service has a report,

We Westerners ae not immune to this kind of sectarian violence. It can begin with just regular folk sticking up for their rights, forgetting the impact their action may have on others. I recently wrote about just such an incident that took place in the US.

Clearly the United States has a problem with immigration. We dare not forget, however, that the "problem" consists of men, women, and children--many of whom only want what we have. I have been privileged to visit some other nations of the world, and I can tell you that for many a job in the US and the level of prosperity it brings is a dream they long for. Some desire it so much that they are prepared to break the law, and risk their lives to bring it to reality.Politicians jockey for position to appear as the candidate who will solve the problem. Unfortunately, it seems that many pols are more interested in voter-approval ratings than in actual solutions.At a recent raid at a plant in Mississippi 600 illegal immigrant employees were arrested. As they were being led away, dozens of other workers lined up to clap and cheer. Having grown up in the home of a blue-collar worker I understand the sentiment, and I also feel a need to rebuke it. To want the law to be enforced is one thing, to rejoice at the calamity of others who are trying to achieve the dream that many of us take for granted is another.Justice? Yes, but tempered with compassion.
It's Something to Think About.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The principles in God's word give freedom:

I'm sorry that it has taken me longer than expected to get back to this.

If you remember I have been talking about living with integrity based on the standards we glean from the Bible..

An unfortunate syndrome that I observe in some people my age is the "Yeah, but . . ." response to the curves that life seems to throw us. (I say people my age, because by the time one gets up around the half-century mark she/he has accumulated enough experience, baggage, dependents, and complications that life becomes exceedingly complicated. Fleshed out the Yeah-but response goes something like, "Yes, I know that is what the Bible teaches, but (here the speaker fills in the complicated real life situation) so I am going to do. . . ."

A wise friend of mine once told me that he had never been so sure of things as he was when he had just graduated from seminary.

At twenty-five the path through a difficult ethical dilemma was perfectly clear. Over the years real-life situations that I observe and experience are like brush and tall grass growing in and next to the path. When, like me, one starts receiving the AARP magazine, some of those saplings have become huge trees, and the path can be all but obscured.
  • Preachers kids, even those of preachers who take a hard-core position on divorce, have marriages that end in court.

  • It is interesting to see pastors who maintained a no-hair-on-the-collar standard hanging out with grandsons with 2 heads of hair.

  • Sometimes guitars, or even worse drums, represent not only a change in worship style for a church, but the "eating of words" for the older preacher.

You get the idea. You can go on with other examples.

Let me make a couple of observations--I'm still working on this, so I would appreciate your input--then I'll share an experience of my own.

  1. We ought to be cautious about making categorical, hard-and-fast, declarations about life issues that we have not yet experienced. Note, I didn't say that we shouldn't. Sometimes we must, &/or should. I said be careful.

  2. When we do make pronouncements as described above, we need to be absolutely sure that they are firmly anchored in scripture. I spoke on child-rearing before I had children. I was careful simply teach what the Bible says. Come to think of it, I still try to do that. Somebody famous said something like, "I used to have 5 theories on child-rearing. Now I have children and no theories."

  3. When experiences in life seem to conflict with what we conclude the Bible teaches.
  • We need to know that the Bible always trumps experience.
  • We need to abide by the Bible's teaching even if it causes pain.
  • It is appropriate to allow my experience, or that observed in others, to cause me to re-evaluate my conclusions. The Bible is inerrant. My exegesis and teaching are frequently in error.
  • God's word was not given for a fictional ideal world, but for the real world in which we live.
    (I hope I am wrong, but I fear that some in my position, in essence, take the position that "My mind is made up. Don't confuse me with real life evidence that appears to contradict what I have already decided." Here is an area where the postmodern/emergent types are right. We Fundamentalist or conservative Evangelicals have frequently been too sure.)

4. When we conclude that we were wrong in the past we need to admit it in the present.

My recent experience:

A number of years ago I struggled through the issues of divorce and remarriage.
I grew up spiritually in an environment that basically said there was no such thing as a Biblical divorce. In that day the churches and institutions that made up the constituency of "my kind" were mostly made up of a population that did not include the divorced. In society in general divorce was much less common, and in churches like the one where I grew up, the "D"-word was mostly absent. In a recent conversation a friend my age told me about a divorce that took place in the very traditional town of his youth. The man who divorced his wife had to leave the area because of the public shame his divorce brought him. There are some things we like about that. There are other aspects of that expression of public morality that are horribly toxic.

As a young pastor, I had to figure out what I believed & what I was going to teach. Part of my struggle stemmed from the fact that I was rejecting part of the teaching that my spiritual mentors had handed me. I won't go into details, but I concluded that the Bible made provision for 2 clear grounds for divorce. ( I still struggle in sorting out a third.) I saw that a Biblical divorce without the right to remarry is an animal that doesn't exist in the Bible's menagerie. It is clear to me that people who are divorced, even wrongly divorced, are not married, in the sight of God, or anywhere else. There is clearly an expression of grace in God's standard of the maintenance of marriage, and His graciousness can be seen as well in His provision for its dissolution. I could go on, but you get the idea. As was true with a great many other things I was taught, the gist of what was put before me was that adopting the most restrictive position was always the best decision. I reject that in general, and in particular in relation to this situation. As I say, all of this took place in my thinking decades ago.

Now the present:
Later this month, my son, a divorced man, who has spent the last several years pretty much single-handedly raising his 4 children, will marry a lovely young lady. One of the great honors of my life, is his invitation for me to stand with him as the "Best man." I put that in quotes, since my grandson will also stand with his dad, so I can't really be the best man. : )

On the wedding day, I will put on my tux--and other than regretting how much the rental is--I will stand with my son with great joy and clear conscience.

When you take the time to wrestle issues to the mat the result is a freedom and peace that can come no other way. Often we mistakenly look at Biblical ethics as nothing more than compiling a list of ways that Gods says "No!"

No. God also says "Yes," with no "buts."

I rejoice in that yes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some thoughts on the application of Theology:

At the end of my last post I told you that I would share some thoughts about keeping our Theology real--or words to that effect.

While I was thinking, Chuck Colson was writing. His thoughts about the media storm related to Sarah Palin and her family are well worth reading,

Mrs. Palin's nomination has put a strain on a number of us. Like life in general, her life--in particular as it relates to her being considered for VP--is complicated.
I'll not delve into all the complications, but will comment on one. Both in her life, and in regard to the unfortunate pregnancy of her daughter, the Governor of Alaska has made choices consistent with her worldview--dare I say "Theology." She has concluded that human life is precious, and that it begins at conception. Therefore she didn't abort Trig, though he is Down's Syndrome. In fact she regards him as a special gift. And her daughter is allowing the child conceived out of wedlock to live, grow, and be loved. Mr. and Mrs. Palin are providing support to their daughter in making this choice.
We don't get to say, "Yeah, but. . . ."

Perhaps my favorite message (that I have done) is based on Jesus encounter with the Pharisees in Luke 14. It is one of the Sabbath controversies. These guys had constructed a theological system that cost them nothing, but one that they wanted others--in particular this guy taken with dropsy--to pay for.
They all had oxen and children, so they had created loopholes to cover contingencies that would harm them, so that they would not be caused to suffer loss. But this guy . . . Let him come back tomorrow.

I'm not saying Mrs. Palin will make a good VP, nor am I saying she won't. That's not my purpose. I'm merely saying in this particular case she is to be commended for making real-life decisions in line with her worldview/theology. Sometimes doing right is hard.

Here is the other side:
If it is desirable to actually live life based on what we claim to believe, then it is important that we carefully craft our creed. I'm not promoting cafeteria religion, here. I am saying that we need to think about the implications of what we claim to believe, before we chisel it in stone. (If it is already engraved, and we see it is wrong we need to be willing to make some dust and get it right.
My creed could perhaps be stated in two points:
  1. I believe the Bible is the Word of God.
  2. Everything else flows from that.

If God's word says it, I don't get to veto it. However it is valid to follow through on my conclusions as to what the Bible says, and ask concerning the application of what I conclude the Bible teaches, "Is this action consistent with what I understand about God and His will in the rest of scripture?"

Right now, I find that some difficult choices I made a couple of decades ago are bringing peace to my heart in relation to some things that are going on now in my family.

Check back in a day or two.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Two Trips, both lovely:

During the summer the Covington Bible Church does what we call "Family Nights." For our last event church members Laurie and Jon Fitzgerald planned a lovely kayak, canoe trip on the Jackson River. (For you non-locals, the Jackson is the headwaters of the well-known James River. The Jackson and the Cowpasture [Yes, there is also a Bullpasture and even a Calfpasture--our ancestors had a sense of humor.] rivers come together about 15 miles from here and form the James.

The Jackson won't provide adrenaline junkies with a rush--unless you are my five-year-old grandson, who described the "rapids" as "little waterfalls." While the Jackson may lack white-water thrills, it has an abundance of peace, beauty and tranquility. Though the water is cold--the stream temperature is controlled by the release from Lake Moomaw, in order to maximize trout habitat--a number of folk managed to tip their craft. Mostly the capsizing were exuberance related, and not attributed to wild-water.
As you can see from the photo below, taken at the end of the trip, Kathy and I managed to stay dry. : )

Right after we got back from the Jackson, we packed up for a trip to PA. Our purpose on this trip was to surprise our soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Tanisha Lehman with a shower. (Tanisha, and Chad's youngest, Kendal are at the right.) Actually, we weren't the ones doing the shower, we were just part of the surprise. We managed to stay under the radar--she was suitably startled by the show of kindness from the ladies at her home church. Chad--the soon to be groom--my younger son, Chris, and my two grandsons put in an appearance at the beginning of the ladies' special time, then we went to Tanisha's parent's home, where the above mentioned plus her dad, grandpa, and uncle enjoyed a manly meal cooked on the grill, complete with a desert of Banana-pudding, my favorite, made by my granddaughter Carrington.
(On the left, a surprised Tanisha chats with future brother-in-law, Chris)

We arrived back safe and sound last night about midnight.
Stay-tuned. I have always believed that theology ought to have a place in real life. That is one thing I like about pastoring a small church. One won't be in a street-level ministry very long before he gets knocked out of his ivory tower. At this point mine is long abandoned and hidden a jungle of real-life vegetation.
My visit with my son, his four kids, and his soon-to-be wife, combined with this morning's news about Vice-Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin's pregnant seventeen-year-old daughter are helping to bring clarity to some thoughts that have been brewing in my mind about how an authentic understanding of what the Bible teaches needs to work in real-life. If it doesn't, dump it.
Check back in a day or two. For now, I thank God for two really great trips.