Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Walls Have Come Down

Several times in recent months I've noted in this blog that I have written so much less this year than previously.  Only a small handful of people seem to have noticed.  I think there have been one or two who have said they miss what I have, in the past, written here frequently.  This past weekend a friend said that he still checks daily to see if I've written anything.  Thanks, Bob, for the encouragement.

Yesterday afternoon I drove to Glencoe to see someone in long term care and then headed into the cities to visit my parents and my aunt Audrey who is here in Minnesota for a week or so.  As I was walking down the hallway to my parents condominium the words came to me: The Walls Have Come Down.

Immediately I posted those words to facebook using twitter.  I then  remembered how, back in 2010, that after a prayer conference one of the participants heard the sound of a great wall crumbling and tumbling and rumbling down.  I wasn't at that prayer conference and don't even know if I remember correctly what I was told, but the spiritual image has stayed with me, though I don't think I've ever written anything about it.

Spiritual walls have fallen in many ways over the past few years.  It's still a work in progress.  I am convinced it is God's work, however, and it cannot be stopped.

God is in the business of setting people free.  We see this as God takes down the dividing wall between himself and us through what Jesus did.  We see this as God turns the hearts of parents to their children.  We see this as people who have hurt one another give one another the most excellent gift: forgiveness in Jesus' name.

God is also in the business of setting people free from fortifications that, at one time, served a good purpose.  Last Sunday evening I shared a message at our community worship service that was, in part, a celebration of how God pulls down our denominational walls at these community worship services.  We looked at scriptures from John 8, First Corinthians 3 and Galatians 3, scriptures that show how religious loyalties get in the way of God's Work.  (You can download my written message, more or less how I preached it on Sunday evening by clicking here or contact me and ask for a copy.)

Here's how this relates to why I haven't been blogging much for the past few months.  Some of my personal walls have come down in a very big way over the past few years.  I would need to write a book to tell the story.  Suffice it to say that in 1980 God called me into the fortress of the American Lutheran Church.  I served in that institution and its successor until 2010.  Two months after I heard about what someone had "heard" at the prayer conference (a wall falling down) there was a major change, and, in some ways, I've been learning where I am now ever since.

I am no longer serving the Lord in a local church that is affiliated with any particular Christian denomination.  Our local church here in Cokato is closely connected with a network of churches that share a Lutheran heritage but are not bound to or confined by it.  The flagship church of the network describes itself as "Sacramental, Spirit-Filled and Evangelical."
from the North Heights website - http://www.nhlc.org/more-info
That pretty much describes us at Crossroads too, though we're still working out what it all means.

The walls have come down.  We are free in Christ.  Some of us at Crossroads would consider us to be Lutheran, others would not.  For me personally, being Lutheran has never been a top priority but I've appreciated and benefited by many things in the Lutheran church.
  • I am thankful for the Lutheran theological tradition because Lutherans have a very high view of the Bible.  The Bible is our foundation for knowing God and God's purpose for our lives. 
  • I appreciate and understand the Biblical foundation of Baptism and Communion from a Lutheran perspective, not that the Lutheran way is the ONLY way of understanding what we have called "sacraments" but truly being thankful for the way a tremendously respectful view of God's Word and God's Power is entailed in those Lutheran teachings.  
  • I'm grateful for the particular form of Lutheranism that embraces the charismatic movement.   This open and fearless form of Lutheranism led ALC president David W. Preus to go to the International Lutheran Conference on the Holy Spirit in 1980 to proclaim that spiritual gifts were welcome and needed in his denomination.
Because the walls have come down there are many things that are open for discussion and review.  Issues that had been settled long ago by denominational authority are now open to question.  We're open to evangelical and charismatic/pentecostal understandings alongside those that have been traditionally Lutheran. 

It's an exciting spiritual place to be in!  We're called to grow more mature in our faith, to learn to stand, in some ways on our own... not alone... but together with other believers we know personally, and together with God.

So I haven't written much recently.  I haven't written much because I knew I needed to get all of this laid out and I knew it would take some time.  I haven't written much because there is always more to do than there is time available.  I haven't written much because, more and more, I'm in need of the personal conversations that will help us gain confidence here in our local church.  And I haven't written much because there is SO much to write about!  When walls come down you can see so much further!  Wow--the possibilities--in Christ--they are endless!

If you appreciate hearing from me in this way, please let me know.  Then I'll probably write more.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fresh Fishing

At Crossroads this Sunday (July 15) we're beginning a short series of messages based on the days Jesus spent, in scripture, at the Sea of Galilee.*  There Jesus called his first disciples, calmed the storm and revealed himself after he rose from the dead.

Wouldn't it be great to spend a day at the lake with Jesus?  What would happen?  How would that day transform you?

When Jesus first meets his future disciples there he invites them and challenges them.  "Come," he says.  This reminds me of when Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens.  I will give you rest."  Then he says "Follow me."

Invitation is always followed by challenge.  Jesus doesn't invite us to hang out at the lake for relaxation alone.  When we spend time with Him we will be challenged.  At the lake Jesus said "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."  In another location he said "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me."  A yoke is a mechanism for doing work.  Jesus wants us to get so connected with him that his peace is our peace, and his work is ours too.

The cool thing is that the work we are challenged to do by Jesus never takes away our rest.

When Jesus says "I will make you fishers of men" he does does not "make us" in the sense of pushing us or forcing us to do anything.  And when Jesus says "take my yoke upon you" he says he will teach us (learn from me) and that he will be with us every step of the way.  The "yoke," the task we do, it still belongs to Jesus and is still inhabited by him.  It is his yoke, his task, his job.  We're just there to follow his lead.

Those words "I will make you fishers of men" can be misunderstood to mean I will "make you" as in "I will force you to go out and fish for people."  A better word for "make" in English (for the original Greek ποιήσω) would perhaps be "I will re-make you" or "I will re-create" you, making or creating you to have a new identity, a new self, a new "you."

This new you created by Jesus in your flesh will now be interested in saving people, "fishing them" out of chaos and destruction.  We get a new heart and a new mind.

We WANT to do this.  It is no burden.  "I will do the work of remaking you," says Jesus.  When we come to Jesus, he now does work in us to change us.

Have you been remade?  Where do you find your joy?  Is it in fishing for men and women and all who are lost?  If not, come to Jesus today to receive a new identity today.


* The Sea of Galilee is a large freshwater lake, about 1/3 the size of Mille Lacs.


Home Again

I'm back in Cokato after about a week at my in-law's place in Wisconsin.  I made the long drive from Durphee Lake beginning just after 6 and made a few stops including at my aunt and uncle's home (their birthdays were last week) and a quick drop-in at my parents', arriving here around midnight.

I'll be heading out to the Crossroads church building soon.  Time to check in with our administrative assistant (Kristine) and do what needs to be done.  I'm thankful for those who led worship last Sunday and who watched over our house when we were gone, including those who watered the gardens and flowers.  Thank you!

While up at the cabin I continued the "quiet study" about women and men that I wrote about last week, now about half way through the big book I mentioned then.  The other big "work related" topic I studied, thinking about and talking about with others up there, is the question of church organizations, such as denominations, and how they relate to the Holy Spirit.  I'll try to share some of what the Lord has been teaching me on that subject soon.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Quiet Study

I'm enjoying some quiet time at the moment.  The rest of the crowd went to fireworks; and I've gone every other year I think but this year, in keeping with what I wrote yesterday, I've just decided to take this time to be alone.

I'm reading a book that I borrowed from my son in law: Discovering Biblical Equality.  There's a section there that talks about how an active, practical equality of men and women among evangelical and charismatic Christians in the USA was overshadowed in the mid 20th century.  Janette Hassey writes:
What can account for the gradual decline of public ministry opportunities for evangelical women between the world wars?  First, fundamentalist separatist subcultures emerged which tended to harden on the women's issue.  Second, as fundamentalism institutionalized, women were squeezed out of leadership roles.  Third, the conservative Protestant backlash against changing social values resulted in restrictions on women in ministry.  Finally, a more literalist view of Scripture among fundamentalists meant less flexibility in interpreting the subject of women in ministry.
The subtitle of the book is Complementarity without Hierarchy.  I do believe God created men and women to be different but I have never been able to buy into the idea that men are somehow automatically to rule over women.  I've been blessed so many times by the teaching of women who know and respect the Word of God as it is recorded in the Holy Scriptures.  So I am on a search for what the Bible really has to say about men and women in the church.  Please pray that I would not be swayed by anything other than the Word of God.

My position, up to now, is that it is possible to be Biblically conservative and hold to a more egalitarian perspective on men and women's roles than is common among many evangelicals.  The Bible is not 100% clear on this subject, just like it isn't 100% clear on other things (like, for example, questions about baptism).  When there is a diversity of perspectives shown in scripture, it's just something that needs a careful look.  I'll do some of that while I'm up north.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Going North Today

Later today I'm headed for a family cabin, a cabin that's been in my wife's family for 50 years.  For my wife the cabin is "home" in a way that no where else is.  She has already gone up there and I'll follow after I've done a few more chores and have gotten my things together.  I'll stop at the airport in the Twin Cities to pick up my sister-in-law and then we'll drive north.

After worship yesterday a dear friend wished me well about this and then I found myself sharing some ambivalent feelings about "cabin time."   As I prepare to go I'm feeling it would be good to get those feelings down in writing.  I share these things with the world because I think there are many of us who have a variety of feelings when it comes to spending time with those we love.

I dearly love all of the people at the cabin.  I dearly love them all as individuals and as a group.  There is absolutely nothing personal about my conflicted feelings about being up north.  If I had to pick some people to be with in a confined space for a week or more there are few others that I would choose to be "stuck with" for a week than the Dahlins.  We share the same Christian faith.  We have similar opinions on issues and have similar values and morals.  Pleasant personalities, tremendous talents, interesting  group conversations, great games and songs abound.  The various generations care deeply about each other.

The cabin is situated on the shore of a very sweet little lake.  It's a great place for swimming and canoeing and sailing (the family has a little sailboat which I particularly enjoy), there is shade for sitting and sun for sunning.  There is no air conditioning but a person can take a dip in the lake to cool off as often as he or she wishes.  There is no lack of food and not much work.  My wife's parents are servants of God and servants of us.  They do so much for us and love us in ways that can hardly be described.

It's wonderful!  It's like being away at a family Bible camp.  It's a huge blessing straight from God.

Even with all of that, I'm still feeling conflicted.  How can that be?  Part of it is my task orientation toward life.  I just know there are so many things that need to be done here in Cokato.  Part of me would love to spend unscheduled time here to putter away at the many things that need to be done at the house we purchased last year.

The other part of my ambivalence is the sense of being "confined" or "contained" in the space and in a particular way of relating to one another that is hard to describe.  The cabin is a busy place, even though it's a relaxing place.  There are ways that a person can get away by him or herself, there are hammocks and chairs where a person can get settled into a book, and, as my friend mentioned after church yesterday, being at the cabin hasn't stopped me from blogging.  But the fact is that with a dozen or more people eating meals together, playing together, talking together, all in a small cabin, there isn't sometimes the chance to go very "deep" in any way, not in our relationships with one another and not one-on-one with God.  And, for me, going "deep" is one of he chief pleasures in life.

I've always been an "odd duck" at the cabin, preferring often to remain quieter than others and not really wanting to spend all my time with everyone else.  I also choose to eat differently than some and that is noticed by the crowd. I don't think I'm unpleasant but I do sometimes escape.  I'm not the only one who does that, but I think I do it more than others.  I get weary of the constant group conversations.  When I'm up there, I think I act somewhat introverted... maybe my true personality comes out?  Who knows.

Anyway, a goal I'm going to set this week when I'm up there is to try to spend some one on one or one on two time with some of the people.  I don't know if that will work, but I'll try.  I'll take quiet time this year too as I always have, but this year I think I'll try to take it more intentionally, so I can get my "deep thinking" time in and, by means of this blog, to share deeply with you all as well.

Now that I've gotten all this out, I'm more positive about going up north.  Lots to do though before that, and since I've been up since 4 a.m. I'm going to need a nap too.

Thanks for listening.