Category Archives: Other Posts

Two Books to consider for all you #rapture hounds #leftbehind (@ivpacademic)

There are two books you need to read if you put any stock in the rapture mythology. The first is the ancient commentary by Oecumenius. I can think of no better commentary (theological, not so much textual) than his.

The Eastern church gives little evidence of particular interest in the book of Revelation. Oecumenius of Isauria’s commentary on the book is the earliest full treatment in Greek and dates only from the early sixth century. Along with Oecumenius’s commentary, only that of Andrew of Caesarea (dating from the same era and often summarizing Oecumenius before offering a contrary opinion) and that of Arethas of Caesarea four centuries later provide any significant commentary from within the Greek tradition.

William Weinrich renders a particular service to readers interested in ancient commentary on the Apocalypse by translating in one volume the two early sixth-century commentaries. Because of the two interpreters’ often differing understandings, readers are exposed not only to early dialogue on the meaning and significance of the book for the faith and life of the church, but also to breadth of interpretation within the unity of the faith the two shared.

And

Um, my book:

Also, anything by Scott Hahn and Michael P. Barber.

Another painting – I blame the slight loss of oxygen

This is my first painting since my whatever-it-was-freak out-episode.

The first picture is what I started with. I have no idea what I’m doing.

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believe without a reason

I was listening to the Michael W Smith song “Missing Person today, and I was struck by the line:

And like a child he would believe without a reason

I find this more than just a little bit annoying. Firstly, its a misuse of what Jesus says in Matthew about “becoming like a child”.

This means to unlearn everything the world has taught you to value, and to relearn how to live in the kingdom of God.

Secondly, How can you “believe without a reason”? There is no possible way you can believe something without a reason. At the very least, you believe something because someone you trusted told you something. 

Its an old and very stupid thing that Christians, particularly evangelicals, hold on to. I can remember many Pastors preaching this. “Just believe like a chid” – WELL WRONG. Children believe like children, but then they grow up.

Christians do not, and should not “believe without a reason” – just like when you are at school, or anywhere else for that matter, if someone tells you something, or teaches you something, you dont “just believe it” – you take it with a grain of salt, and you go away and find out, or get a second opinion, consult an expert.

 

No, friends, there is no such thing as “believe without a reason” – and it marrs what would is otherwise a cool song (and Christianity!)

Orthodoxy for those living with doctrines

Nazarene-logoI’d like to continue my line of thought from my previous post while swinging to the other “extreme”.

After having grown up in a Disciples church and not having any creeds or doctrines in front of me to guide me or direct me, I reflected upon my Disciples upbringing and could not help but notice that nobody actually took the time to explain to me that I needed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I cannot remember anyone showing me that I needed to ask for forgiveness for my sins. The Disciples church i grew up in spent so much time wandering around through people’s opinions on things that orthodoxy was never an issue. And, that’s the issue….

After high school, I pulled myself out of church for about 3 years. I felt church was a waste of time and I also felt I hadn’t learned anything. I wanted to do my own thing for a while and I did. I slept in. I stayed up late. I stayed up all night, many times. I did what I wanted to do.

But, anybody who knows what this life following the Lord is like knows that God does not leave you alone. My best friend from high school had found Jesus while trying out for the Marines. He didn’t make it, but he did find Jesus. He came home determined that all of us in the beer drinking circle of friends was going to find Jesus. I was the only one who responded. Maybe the Lord brought him home just for me. Maybe that’s a bit narcissistic.

My best friend had grown up in the Church of the Nazarene out on the south edge of town. I knew nothing about them. My Disciples upbringing had left me sheltered. I had no understanding of other churches or belief systems or doctrines. After asking Jesus to come into my life in June of ’92, I followed my friend out to the COTN. Since I had no formal teaching in doctrine, I ate up everything they put in front of me.

In Feb ’93 I began school at Mt Vernon Nazarene working towards ordination. For the first 4 or 5 years I just nodded my head in approval to everything they put on the table. It was quite a change going from a church where nothing was ever mentioned int he way of doctrine to a group that put everything on the table. The Wesleyan-Armenian viewpoint agreed with me. It made sense. After having accepted Christ, inviting him into my heart, responding to the knock at the door of my heart, the teaching about grace and faith working together made sense to me. God draws us in by his grace, but we need to respond in order to enter this life and actually be a part of it. The Calvinist viewpoint did not agree with my taste buds. If God simply picks and chooses who gets to go to heaven and hell, our existence seems pointless here.

During my junior & senior years of high school I worked at an IGA grocery store in my hometown of Shelby, OH. I missed alot of church on Sundays because you got paid time and a half to work that day. We also got an hour break for lunch. For the longest time I would frequent the deli and grab 4 of these subs made of bologna, salami and some swiss cheese on a sesame bun, with a 20 oz Mt Dew. Every Sunday that I worked this would be my lunch time break food. Plowing through 4 of these small subs and downing that Mt Dew. Ah, nothing finer. Then came the day when I sat down and began to partake. Part way through the first sub it just hit me. These little subs were disgusting. Maybe it was because I had been eating them so often that I simply was getting tired of them. It was my steady diet, especially on Sundays. I put that sub down and threw the 3 1/2 left into the trash can. Several months later I remember trying it again, as if, taking that time off had corrected my taste buds. It did not. I threw them away and I never went back to them. There were other foods to try. These little lunch meat subs were not going to do the trick anymore.

All these years later, after I had accepted Christ, after i was 5 years or so into my schooling for the ministry, I remember getting this similar feeling in my gut over the doctrine that was being plugged into my heart and soul. While I did not agree with that viewpoint in much of what Calvinism promoted I could see some truth in it and related to it through the immaturity I saw in my own walk at that point in my journey. I was seeking and pursuing more and wanted to walk with Christ. That seemed to be the major push in Wesleyanism. To seek to be like Christ. I did not see that same emphasis in much of Calvinism. However, the idea of being ecumenical with others in the Christian faith – Baptist, CMA, Church of God (Cleveland, TN or Anderson, IN), and anyone else who showed up at McDonald’s on a Wednesday night after church – I felt the need to find a common ground we could converse and discuss on.

What I saw being promoted in my Nazarene ranks was a superiority to others outside of our faith group. I heard it on Wednesday night during bible study. In the early 90’s we studied the book The Upward Call. Written by four prominent Nazarene leaders, I can actually recall the point being brought forth in the course of the book and our study that the only place we could find truth and true support and fellowship was through our own ranks and with people of our own Nazarene group. I can recall the Wednesday night when that came out of the mouth of the pastor’s wife who was leading our study. That was not how I flt in my heart and spoke up and let it out. “I get a lot of fellowship with all the church people who show up at McDonald’s on Wednesday night!” That viewpoint, of course, was not received with a chorus of cheers.

At college, in my course of study classes for ordination, I felt and heard more of an emphasis about how we as Nazarenes had everything right and other had it wrong. Any one here who has spent some time with the Nazarenes might have experienced something similar. I heard lots about the “three C’s” and heard them labelled as such. The Calvinists. The Charismatics. And, the Catholics. They had it all wrong. We had it right. We had the right doctrines and the right emphasis. Those outside of our faith group had it wrong. The Calvinist didn’t have the right viewpoint on salvation. The Charismatics misused the gifts, especially tongues. The Catholics had a bad example of church government and spirituality. There was something about all of this that just wasn’t settling right in my gut. I recall driving home one night from Mt Vernon in deep thought about how all of our viewpoints could work together. Everybody had their place and each part could fit in next to one another if we would take the time to listen to where we were coming from. I was having a harder and harder time dealing with the separatist mindset of staying away from other churches and faiths.

What is it about seeking orthodoxy that makes us rear the ugly head of superiority over others with a different viewpoint? Some of us have recently seen the insults of Martin Luther who wrote extensively in support of the Protestant faith we promote. Yet, he was not afraid to say exactly what he thought of those who did not share the same explanation for what he, himself, believed. Do we have any of that spirit of superiority within our ranks at the UMC? Oh, my…did I just open a can or worms? I do that occasionally. In my six years of Course of Study work at MTSO I can say I’ve heard a hint of just that. We might tend to tone it down a bit, but I have noted where there has been a sense of our right vs. their wrong. The current tussle within orthodoxy vs progressive views is a prime place to seek out such unneeded attitudes.

Sometimes I appreciate my Disciples of Christ upbringing. We were told creeds and doctrines were divisive and man-made. All we needed was the bible. Yet, I was and still am, in many instances, a person who needed a bit of guidance and help in what we need to believe. Just reading the bible wasn’t enough. We need some help to understand what is there. In seeking out that understanding, we run the risk of finding explanations and doctrines that don’t mean a hill of beans to our faith. Things we will pick up and inherently dig in only to, at some point, take it away from our mouths and go, “What the…”  It’s all part of the process.

I’ve been seeking out orthodoxy for some time now. Many times I feel as if I still don’t have a grip on the right things to believe. My desire is not to be arrogant about what I only think I understand. My desire it be transparent and open about what I need to research and contemplate. I might find a lunch meat sandwich I’ll regret later. I might find something really really good. And, I might actually learn something from just reading the bible.

If this makes any sense to you, help me…join me…follow me.

I’m seeking out orthodoxy. Maybe we’ll find it together.

Introductions

Hi there. My name is Jeremy Shank. I am a local licensed pastor in the West Ohio Conference of the UMC. I have been added to the Unsettled Christianity blog as a contributor. I blog mainly for the purposes of working out my sermon material for Sunday morning. Below is a message I preached back in 2012 upon arrival at my, then, new appointment. Hope you enjoy and I’ll have fresh material as we go forward.

There’s a first time for everything

Formal introductions can be painful, stressful and just downright uncomfortable.
And, not at all because of the people you might be meeting for the first time.
Just because, it’s difficult walking into a new setting or relationship and not knowing what those people will think of you.Will they like how I am dressed?
Will they take one look at me and think ‘I don’t like this person’ ?
Will they like my family?I think of the first time I met my wife’s family.

She brought me home to meet the family over a holiday break during her sophomore year of college.
I sat in a chair while she caught up with her family and talked.
Nobody really said much to me. I just sat there.
Kind of irked me a little bit.
In my mind I saw this as a time of formal introduction.
Their chance to get to know me and who I am.
And, I really liked this girl, so I really wanted to get to know them.

Introductions are rough.
The Rev Dr Randy Stearns was an instructor of mine at MTSO and taught my class on evangelism. He spoke a line that will stick with me . He said, “Some people are just not going to like you.” OUCH!

That’s just how it is. Maybe it’s the way you’re dressed. 
Maybe they just take one look at you and think, ‘I don’t like this person’. 
Nothing you can do about it.

Man that hurts!
You try to make a good impression and they don’t like you, sometimes for no good reason.

Paul was writing to the Corinthians for the first time.
With all the emphasis we put in our culture upon ‘first impressions’ I wonder if Paul and the people of his time thought about any of that.

1 Corinthians 1
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God

Ok. Normally when we pick up a book in our culture, there is a preface, an introduction and a nicely printed jacket around the book that goes into much detail about the author.
Where he/she went to school.
What kind of degrees they earned.
How long they have been doing the current work they are invested in.
Their spouse, their kids, even info on the family pet.

“Hi, I’m Paul. Apostle of Jesus Christ. God sent me.”

It doesn’t get much more simplistic than that.

Well, it’s usually about this time in my blog entry that I go see what Webster’s has to say on the matter.
Webster’s rolled the word back to it’s basic form from ‘introduction’ to ‘introduce’.

Definition of INTRODUCE
transitive verb
1: to lead or bring in especially for the first time
2 a : to bring into play
b : to bring into practice or use : institute
3: to lead to or make known by a formal act, announcement, or recommendation: as
a : to cause to be acquainted
b : to present formally at court or into society
c : to present or announce formally or officially or by an official reading
d : to make preliminary explanatory or laudatory remarks about
e : to bring (as an actor or singer) before the public for the first time
4: place, insert
5: to bring to a knowledge of something

As I begin to play with the definitions here, I want to stay focused on Paul and why he makes so many of the introductions in his letters so simple.
Is it because he has so much to say that he doesn’t bother with a long intro? Maybe.
I’m leaning towards the idea that Paul never felt he truly had to explain himself to anyone.
There are places in Paul’s letters where he goes into deeper detail about himself.
But, when he does talk more about himself, it’s usually to make some point about Christ.

“I’d like to introduce myself, but more importantly, I’d like to tell you about what Christ has done in my life.”

So, as Paul writes for the first time to these Corinthians, he doesn’t spend a lot of time on himself.
The focus should not be on his credentials, or his education, or who his rabbi was in Egypt.

“I’m an apostle of Jesus Christ, sent by God.”
And, that’s all you need to know.

And more over, it’s as if Paul doesn’t need the Corinthians to go around the circle and introduce themselves.
He already knows who they are.

1 Corinthians 1
2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is who I am, this is who you are, now lets get down to business.

This sounds like an almost harsh way of getting to know someone.
I have colleagues in the ministry here in the United Methodist Church who can come off this way.
I don’t want to listen to you ramble on with your stories. Just get to the point.

It should be noted here for historical purposes that Paul had already visited with the Corinthians around 52 A.D.
He went there and visited and worked among them and then wrote them a letter some time later around 54 A.D.
Maybe this is why his letter starts off the way it does.
They should know who he is.
They should know who they are in this picture.
They should know that Paul is God’s apostle and they are the “holy people”.

And, if they don’t know that, they are going to know it by the time they get done reading Paul’s letter.

Paul will begin to ‘introduce’ to them the idea that God has brought them to a new life in Christ.
That God has given them gifts and called them to do ministry.
He will introduce them to the greatest gift of all.
He will lay before them the emphasis of following Christ and not a man.
He will speak to them of what is yet to come and the ability to live in the grace God provides here and now.

Maybe this is the first time they are ever hearing these things.
Maybe they have never truly understood what God’s purposes are for them.
Maybe God called Paul to this for that very purpose; to introduce them to Christ and what this new life involves.

Recently, I got to meet with the Pastor-Parish committees of the Thornville & Pleasantville United Methodist churches.
I am going to be heading there in July of 2012.
My hope is that they know what my purpose is in coming to them as their new minister.
My hope is that they already have some idea of what God wants for them in their respective areas for ministry and mission.

And, if they don’t, they’re going to understand it by the time I get done working there.

You might be feeling as if I cut a story short earlier.
I was explaining about my now in-laws and how I felt a little left out during our first meeting.

I remember my now wife asking me how I felt the first meeting went.
I told her I felt kind of awkward because nobody really said much to me.
So, she went and told her folks and they graciously had me in for dinner the next week in an effort to get to know me.
And, buddy, they went out of their way, especially her dad.

In the midst of our conversation he left the table and was gone for a bit.
When I looked up he had come back.
With a pair of the ‘Billy Bob Teeth’ in his mouth.
He leans over his daughter’s shoulder (who did not see him come in)
And, (In his best southern accent) “Well hey there deary, I want to thank you for coming to dinner tonight.”
My now wife was thoroughly embarrassed.
The rest of us were rolling.

I found out what I was getting myself into after I was introduced to it.
And, I married into it, anyway.

Best decision I ever made.

#brogressives are why we, #UMC, can’t have nice things

brogressive

I wrote a post in a follow-up with Dr. Watson, followed by a post at Via Media by Drew M. Jeremy Smith, someone I imagine I could agree more than I disagree on certain topics, goes on to rebut us, not on arguments, but by accusing us of date rape, among other things.

Somehow, he connects this discussion to these points:

Men don’t need a friend to watch our bar drink when we go to the bathroom.

White Men don’t need an advocate when we make a complaint about the police, or a translator when applying for asylum, or hope for a video camera on a cop that shoots them.

Straight White Men don’t have to bring a partner to Thanksgiving dinner to feel safe with our families.

Married Straight White Men don’t need to be walked home, and after being dropped off, we don’t need to be watched from the car to make sure we make it in the door.

Not only did he fail, horribly, to get what I was actually saying, but he then suggests that somehow this is connected to date rape, being closeted, and other forms of rape/harassment.

Jeremy on twitter charges us with the crimes of Ferguson, which I imagine will soon be followed by slavery, the holocaust and maybe even Japanese internment camps. He writes,

Here’s the deal. Closing the floor doesn’t mean everything is done in private. What it means is that there is no audience participation. It means that neither the left nor the right (because believe it or not, the right has their share of attempts to disrupt the meetings and control the delegates) can control delegates through threats or intimidation. The conference, even the closed sessions, would be streamed so that all can see. There will always be a record.

Further, as I stated, I would hope that such a plan would moderate the delegates. Because coming from experience, not having threats leveled at you actually makes you more moderate. As someone who has spoken with more than a few conservative-voters about threats against them (to vote conservative), I can tell you that without the glare of the exclusion community, you may even see a change.

But this? I might even vote for schism now.

Oh, and what is a brogressive? Jeremy.

See David Watson’s post here.

The Foreword Has Been Written – #mutedhosannas

Front CoverI am getting very excited about this.  My book Muted Hosannas is very close to becoming an actual real thing.  I’ve sent proof pages back to the editor with some final (I hope) changes and corrections, and my friend, Joel Watts, has finally come out of his medication induced stupor to write the foreword.

You never begin a piece of writing, foreword or otherwise, with a cliché; however, a picture is truly worth 1,000 words.

Experiences, those finite moments buried deep in the recesses of our mind, only to be trotted out in our honor but never fully shared, are perhaps worth more. To find a way to combine these things, pictures and experiences, is a remarkable feat worth only enough words to present the rawest of emotions.

 Jeff Carter has in these few short pages given you and I a glimpse into the experiences, both before and behind the camera. Emerging from his 2014 trip to the Holy Land, Carter has compiled still-imaged experiences, adding to them the poetry evolving from these encounters. They are not long soliloquies burdening the reader, but measured statements of the heart, Carter’s heart, whereby we are able to get a glimpse of a place many will never see. Further, we are able to briefly exist with our poet in the time and place in which he stood as he experienced for himself, for the first time, the sights and sounds of the Holy Land.

 There is something else, too. There are images and poems about the Christian year. Carter has given us more calendric Christians a use for this book. It becomes a devotional as well. Equally so, for the more lyrical minded, Carter’s third section presents us haikus. Haikus. His poetic talent is almost endless, as is the beauty of this book.

 I would encourage you, in the years to come, to take this small book with you on your travels. Let it give you not only joy, but also an emboldened view of the adventure of experiencing something.

 Joel L. Watts, Author

The book will be available soon (though I don’t have more specific dates) from Frontier Press.

Jeff Carter

 

 

(this post has been updated because Forward / Foreword whatever…)

the bible and country music: Proverbs and “Trying to Love Two Women”

First, this is country music. Second, it fits, right?

Thoughts?

It’s the end of the world as I know it…and I feel fine.

I am, most days, fairly reasonable. I enjoy a good conversation, a good and lively debate, differing opinions and view points. None of that means that I do not have view points of my own, but I do enjoy others. I like diversity. I enjoy most when the “educated” and “uneducated” can actually swap ideas and share things with each other. I think both have perspectives valuable in the search for truth. Ultimately I believe in people. I believe in them so much, that one of my sources of contact with them will come to an end. The decision is mine, it does not feel forced nor is it some plea for attention. It is simply what I need to do in order to continue to be able to believe the best of people. This swan song, if you will, is a final attempt on my part to try to shed light to online community and why it matters, how it helps, and how it hurts.

I believe that social media can be an amazing tool for community. I believe that online groups and rooms, church services and teachings, blogs, and networks, all constitute community. I believe that when you choose to “like” a post, comment upon a blog or story, etc. that you are voluntarily engaging in that community. The potential is amazing! The ability to exchange thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and lives has never been more available. The ability to interact with strangers never more ready, the ability to influence others never more important. Unfortunately never more abused.

To often I find myself in discussions that turn ugly, accusatory and just plain mean. To often people, myself included, end up saying things hurtful, vulgar, unnecessary. To often there is verbal bullying and abuse. To often the idea that we are essentially anonymous allows our sinful nature to speak before the nature we have in rebirth can come to the forefront.  To often we are so convinced that we are right that we can not allow a second to pass before we start to type so as to disagree. To often we, the people of God, rip off own arms and legs with a keyboard and a computer screen. We are indeed one body and make no doubt, when you are mean, nasty, hurtful toward your brothers and sisters, even online, you have in effect ripped off your arm. If we should speak in love, it means we should type in love also. We all to often are not. I all to often am not.

This boils down to me feeling entirely to much hurt and pain when I or others say harmful things to people. When we insist that someone is not able to receive grace for whatever the reason. When we start talking about the “right way” to do church. It is a selfish choice because I choose to not allow myself to continue in that hurt. This does not require comment to me as I will not respond, but please feel free to use this as a discussion starter as to how this is true. Perhaps it is not at all true and I am a lunatic. This is possible as well. In this great digital age, we have such potential to reach people for the gospel more than ever and we spend our time fighting over the very tool we have to advance the Kingdom. For me that will no longer happen. I will read my news sites, and the like. I will of course use my email. I will not disengage from the information available, but I will disengage from interacting online via social media. God has given us this great and wonderful tool for connecting with each other and for forming a new and expanding community. I have contributed far to much in its misuse to continue. I hope that you who may read this learn from my bad example and use this tool to instead begin building the Kingdom instead of tearing it down. Peace.

A confession

I am having an issue with forgiveness lately. Not with those I know and love but with those I do not know and struggle to love. Mostly media figures, sports figures and today, again, a company known as Urban Outfitters. So many people and groups have been apologizing over the last few weeks and I can not seem to be able to bring myself to find it sincere. “I’m sorry that I punched my girlfriend, now wife, in the face and knocked her out”, “I am sorry that I caused the legs back and scrotum of my son to bleed while I was beating him with a stick, I didn’t notice at first and once I did, I felt bad”, “We are sorry we sold a sweatshirt celebrating the shootings at Kent State, we did not intend any offense…again, just like with the swastikas and the other stuff…”. I have such a hard time buying it. It is funny because I didn’t realize that there was a problem with it until I read my pastor’s blog this afternoon. I tried to brush it to the side, went to my bible reading and found myself in Ephesians reading this in particular “Eph 4:23 However, you were taught to have a new attitude. ” The translation is not the most faithful admittedly, but for the day it was exactly the jolt I did not at all want, and obviously needed. I think that a lot of other people are having a hard time with this too.

I have become the worst sort of cynic, the kind that is convinced everyone acts of self interest and that is all, not the philosophical school founded by Antisthenes that is sort of fun to read. Even with the realization of this, I can not find it in me to believe that they are indeed sorry. I can not bring myself to think that they are actually apologetic. I think it is just damage control in a society that expects an apology, but does not require it’s sincerity. I am having such a difficult time thinking the best of these people and companies. I think that a lot of us are struggling with this exact same thing in truth. It is a problem.

Today, and for many days in the future, I am going to be praying that God breaks this part of me so that it can be mended in accordance with His desires instead of my cynicism. I am going to be praying that God does the same for anyone else struggling with this. I am not going to do it because I think all these people are genuinely sorry, I am going to do it on faith that God knows better than I. I am going to do it with the belief that the world needs more forgiveness and mercy instead of condemnation. I am going to do it because if we, the body of Christ, can not see even the most depraved with heaven’s eyes, then who else will?