October 23, 2017

Advent With Ted the Loser

UPDATE: My apologies for what the discussion thread turned into on this post. Some things are just very hard to moderate because they aren’t nasty and they are tangentially on topic. Then you get to the point you realize the whole thread has been hijacked by points of view the opposite of what you wanted to discuss. Thanks for the positive, on topic contributions from several of you.

This post is inspired by a FoxNews piece updating the situation of disgraced megachurch pastor Ted Haggard. Haggard was a major leader in evangelicalism until he was brought down by evidence of sexual sin and drug use.

Dear Ted,

May I call you Ted? Not “Pastor Ted,” “Reverend Haggard” or any other ministerial name.

You may not feel like it, but you’re at a good place. Finally. It’s taken a while, but you’ve made it to the place where the Gospel of Jesus has its power. On the verge of the fourth Sunday of the season of waiting, you’ve made it to the place where all that can happen now is for a savior to be born to a virgin. Your savior, no less. Yours and all the other losers.

Yes Ted, honesty, your best gift now has arrived.

“Disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard says in a new documentary that he still struggles with his sexuality yet is committed to his marriage for the sake of his children.”

Struggles. YES!

“He now sells insurance and, in the documentary, says he isn’t successful. ” At this stage in my life, I am a loser,” he says.”

Loser. YES!

Ted, I hope I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but all those years that you lived in the center of the evangelical circus, all those years you covered up your struggles and desires, all those years you were taught to lie, deny, obfuscate and yammer on and on with various high-octane versions of the evangelical revival story (complete with band and movie clips), you were far, far away from the truth.

You were living a lie and you were teaching a lie.

And some of the things you’ve said since your fall? How you were fixed with a few sessions of counseling? Not good, Ted. Not good. A very bad place. Avoid it.

Now, Ted, now…now you are starting to see the light. You can say “I was abused as a second grader.” “I struggle…..I’m a loser.” This is major progress.

My recommendation is to find a good group somewhere that will understand how you feel and what you’ve experienced. You see, the evangelical version of that you can say you strugglED and you WERE a loser, but now everything is all right because you prayed a prayer, got saved and got called to preach. You know that’s not true- you’re not all right. You’re a walking wreck and lying about it has just made things worse.

What you hid, denied and buried rose up out of the dark place where you stuffed it and took over your life. I know that feeling very well. You’re suddenly a person without integrity. The truth isn’t in you. You’ve lived a lie and now the truth is going to have its day.

So here you are selling insurance. I suggest you stay right there, or someplace similar, for a very long time.

I suggest you find some other “losers” and compare notes.

I’d like to affirm your instinct that just any place in evangelicalism probably won’t do right now. Some evangelicals will be good companions, but most won’t. You understand this, but let’s explain this to those still fascinated by the coffee bar in the common area.

Ted, gentle readers, is now living proof that “it” doesn’t work the way “it” is supposed to work. Ted is now a living demonstration that, darn it, we aren’t fixable. A good church with a kickin’ band? Great shoes and suits? Sermons researched by assistants and delivered with the proper film clips and jokes? Nope. Tear filled illustrations? Prayer groups? Sermon series on mp3? Book? Seventeen verses of the latest “I love you Jesus” song? A big smile?

All worthless for real sinners like Ted and yours truly.

No Ted, it’s resurrection or nothing. It’s Jesus does the whole deal or there is no deal.

I see that hand. What? Can’t we have transformation and victory now?

Transformation….yes. Transformed from lying to telling the truth. Transformed from this religious act to honest confession of sin. Transformed from this celebrity saint to this loser on his knees at the table of the Lord. “Even the dogs get the crumbs.” Yes, transformed so that the Gospel’s diagnosis and truth make sense in the deep, dark places of your life.

But fixed? Cured? “Victorious?” “Your Best Life Now?” No. The deepest disease of the soul isn’t sexual sin or meth or lying. The deepest sin of the soul is prideful autonomy, the very thing evangelicals demand in their celebrities. There’s only one cure: dying and rising. Until then, believe the Gospel with an open heart, and walk in the power of the Spirit- who keeps you on your knees depending on Jesus- until Jesus finishes the job.

By all means, Ted, find a community. Find a church that gives you the Gospel over and over and over again. A church that has no time for the evangelical circus.

But know that the community of “strugglers” and “losers” centered around the Gospel and the Table aren’t going to be there behind most church signs. Still, don’t give up. Jesus wasn’t lying about his church. It’s on earth, but you have to be willing to touch the leper, embrace the adulteress, include the sexual struggler, love the loser. You have to see the ugly, the broken, the lonely, last, least and lost to see that community.

And you have to see Jesus in the simple Gospel proclaimed, in the bread and the wine. In the things that don’t make megachurches anymore. In fact, you may be surprised where you find that community, Ted. Jesus is famously unconcerned with the kind of people he calls his friends. I hope you’re learning that.

You’ve been given a great gift in your honest struggle and confession of being a loser. You’re on the way. You’re on the road. Don’t whine about it. Don’t make the mistake of seeing the broad evangelical Disneyland as your destination. You’re at that point where George Bailey stood on the bridge. You can despair….and jump. Or you can know that God has sent his hope, love and good news to you in a barn, where shepherds worship in tearful silence; where a man receives a gift he never created; where a virgin says yes even to the unthinkable that grace can do the impossible.

Go there, Ted. Find that place. Go as a struggler, a loser, one with nothing. Go and know that this, and all it means and will ever mean, is for you. For you….a savior. A savior of strugglers, losers and worse.

your friend and fellow loser,

Michael

Comments

  1. Breathtaking. Thank you, Michael.

  2. D’you really think he’s going to read this?

  3. Thanks for this Michael. I appreciate the good news God speaks through you. I started reading just a couple of months ago and check in daily.

    This is fantastic. We need to be praying for Haggard and for “American Evangelical Christianity”.

    Peace in the Messiah

  4. Have you been reading Brennan Manning again? Maybe Ted and others will pick up one of his books, as well as checking out observations such as yours. At times I get so discouraged with the evangelical attitudes expressed, such as some that you mentioned, especially about praying the so-called “‘sinner’s prayer’ and all will be well because now your name is writen in the Lamb’s Book of Life and you will go to heaven forever.” Great, I’m all for that–who wouldn’t be? But, Ted, Michael, I, and all others need the continual work of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the Christian community to help in God’s transformation process. It starts with the acknowledgement that we are indeed sinners and losers. That gives Jesus all he needs to begin work in our lives.

  5. Danny,

    I don’t know why not. Santa reads all my letters.

    ms

  6. Put me on that “loser” list. Without Him, I am nothing. Thank you Lord Jesus for coming for one such as me.

  7. Well said! “Whoever would save his life will lose it.” Losers we are. It’s a bitter pill that brings true healing by way of death and resurrection. We Lutherans say with our catechism that we must daily die and drown in our Baptism (the old Adam is a good swimmer) and the daily rise to new life in Christ. Death and resurrection is the only way. Rehab doesn’t work on a sinner.

    To be lost in the biggest Loser the world has known – that is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

  8. “Yes, transformed so that the Gospel’s diagnosis and truth make sense in the deep, dark places of your life. But fixed? Cured? “Victorious?” “Your Best Life Now?” No… There’s only one cure: dying and rising. Until then, believe the Gospel with an open heart, and walk in the power of the Spirit- who keeps you on your knees depending on Jesus- until Jesus finishes the job.”

    Michael,

    I honestly need some help with understanding this one – probably because I came from a church that had a lot of “victory” kind of language.

    How does what you have written here fit with passages like Romans 8 that talk about no longer living according to the sinful nature but by the spirit?

  9. Michael,

    Just understand the difference between the following:

    1) Sanctification as God’s commitment to make us holy.

    2) Imperfect Sanctification as the inevitable and absolute failure to become holy in this life. (Sorry John Wesley)

    3) The work of the Spirit to continually bring us to the ROOT of sanctification: the Gospel the Gospel the Gospel the Gospel

    4) Final sanctification at death/rez

    Put these things in balance.

    God has promised to sanctify me. The Spirit works for my sanctification by constantly showing me my NEED of CHRIST and HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS. God will perfectly sanctify me. But NOW…I am imperfectly sanctified and the progress of sanctification is measured in my constant need of CHRIST and the GOSPEL.

    Victory language in evangelicalism is displacing 2 with 4.

  10. Thanks for this Michael

  11. Very good stuff. I hope he reads this. Heck, I needed to read this.

    Your comment to Michael reminded me of the Casting Crowns song “Caught in the Middle“:

    Somewhere between the wrong and the right
    Somewhere between the darkness and the light
    Somewhere between who I was and who You’re making me
    Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me

  12. Awesome. This really ministers to the soul. It also informs. My prayer is it informs believers who they are and what the gospel truly is. I pray it also helps clarify to the unbelievers who read this what Christianity is and is not. Too often people reject a false Christ in lieu of the real McCoy, the truth obfuscated yet rejected still by deception.

    Fellow loser sinner,
    db

  13. I have tears in my eyes. Beautiful. True.
    In Him, another loser

  14. Very powerful.

    Am I mistaken, or is it true that the congregations of megachurches will eventually forgive greed, false teaching, and heterosexual excess, but hardly ever forgive homosexuality? Is it possible that they don’t really believe that people can change? Is sanctification slower for some issues than others?

  15. I hope there’s never been any doubt about this, but Michael, you’ve still got it. Wow.

  16. PW:

    I probably shouldn’t say this…

    With all that’s happened in my home this year, and all the feelings that have come along with that regarding the rejection of the Gospel I’ve tried to teach and proclaim all these years….

    Thanks…..I appreciate that very very much. You have no idea how I doubt myself these days.

    ms

  17. Love the post. I read the same news article with Ted Haggard’s interview.

    I agree that we’re all “losers” in a sense. We all miserably fail.

    However, when I read that article I was disturbed, not because Ted haggard is still struggling with things, but because he labeled himself a loser in the context of not being a “success”. It seemed to me that he still sees the pattern for being an ideal Christian as being the one he pretended to be all these years.

    In other words, he thinks he’s a loser because he isn’t what he pretended to be and still wants to be, as opposed to being a loser who recognizes just how much he needs Jesus.

    I don’t know. I think he has a long way to go, and agree that he just needs to drop out of the spotlight, sell insurance and try to find a place where he and his family can heal.

  18. terri,

    I agree, but hey…..a few months ago it looked like he would be right back in the pulpit proclaiming he was cured and the rest of the lies that are required of a big public repentance, book deal, stint on the 700 Club, etc.

    It’s a step in the right direction. Saying I’m a loser isn’t easy for an evangelical celebrity. A lot of thoughts about God are behind that. I’ve been through nothing like Ted but my God problems have been horrendous. So whatever TH means by loser, it’s a long way from the collection of lies he’s been selling.

    peace

    ms

  19. Michael,

    I am in whole hearted agreement with P.W. here. Your ministry through this site is very much meaningful in my life.

    Thanks for your response to my earlier question.

    As to number 2) Imperfect Sanctification as the inevitable and absolute failure to become holy in this life. (Sorry John Wesley)

    Then why all the New Testament calls to holiness, walking in the light, living now according to our [heavenly] calling, etc… if it were not somehow attainable through Christ?

    These are genuine questions, I am not trying to be argumentative here, but trying to better understand how the grace of God works in the area of sin.

    To give you an example from my own life. When I was younger I had a serious drinking problem. I tried to stop drinking on my own and was unable to. Finally I acknowledged that the only way I could get rid of my drinking problem was through God’s grace. That was the point at which my drinking became no longer a problem. So, if God can do it with my drinking, can’t he do it with Ted Haggard’s sexual issues? Is it not possible to say that God has given me “victory” in a certain area where personal holiness is an issue?

  20. If Robert Ferrar Capon ever gets wobbly on grace, you should send him this.

  21. First, it is the Gospel message that Christ has defeated sin, etc. It is also the Gospel message that this will be completed in the new age. Not to be be argumentative, but neither you, nor me, nor Ted are cured of the deep issues of sin in this life. God may graciously allow great breakthroughs, but let’s be honest for a moment.

    Is AA wrong to have every talk start with “I am Michael and I am an alcoholic?” Even if you haven’t had a drink in 20 years? I know the answer varies within the addiction treatment community. But I don’t think the answer varies for us. My sins are many. The closer I get to Christ, the more of them I see. I no longer have some of the sins I had as a teenager. I have worse ones as a middle aged man. And if that isn’t your experience in the light of the Gospel, then I supppose we are having two different experiences.

    We are admonished to holiness because that is the purpose of the original and the new creation. But we are not going to get there in this life. I am not holy. The closer I get to the light, the more of my sin I see, the deeper I see it and the more I need the Gospel’s unconditional promise.

    My Catholic and Wesleyan friends have a different view of these matters. I do not quarrel with them. I am Lutheran in experience. I hear the call to love my wife as Christ has loved me. I try. I have made progress. And I see my failures clearer than ever.

    The same with sexual purity. Greed. Pride. I have made progress. And I see the depth of the sin better and clearer than ever.

    The work of the Spirit is to make me holy. I am holy perfectly in Christ. I progress toward holiness only as I follow Christ, and in him I see my sins covered by his blood and righteousness.

    Testimonies that give God glory for progress are great. Testimonies that don’t testify to an ongoing experience of deeper and deeper conviction and need of grace are truly pointing to the Gospel.

    peace

    ms

  22. “The deepest sin of the soul is prideful autonomy, the very thing evangelicals demand in their celebrities.”

    So true. So hard to hear.

  23. Thank you for the response Michael. Certainly something to think on for a while.

  24. Thanks for this post. I don’t know if Ted will ever read it, but I did and I need it. Well said. BTW, are you familiar with Steve Taylor’s Squint CD? The songs “The Finish Line” and “Jesus Is for Losers” are in harmony with this post.

  25. Michael…

    One other note. We aren’t talking about just “what does the Bible say?”

    We’re honestly discussing what is the effect of community context on how we hear scripture.

    My current take on the Gospel would have been viewed as rank unbelief in the churches of my youth.

    But so would the confessions of Romans 7. Or “I believe; help thou my unbelief.”

    This is part of the post evangelical journey: to lose the revivalistic distortion and hear what the reformation said much more clearly. The Gospel is for Christians too.

    Don’t let me tell you how to spend your money, but if you’ve never heard Rod Rosenbladt’s “the Gospel for those broken by the church” it’s available from New Reformation Press for a few bucks. Priceless truth in that talk.

    peace and a good advent

    ms

  26. I’m in great debt to Steve Taylor for being one of the few honest men in CCM back then. We have many more now. Sons of Rich Mullins- “Hold Me Jesus.”

  27. Can I opine for my Eclectic brother?

    Our Puritan ancestors often greeted each other with the comment,”Have you mortified today?” Yet they believed they were saved by faith and totally justified. The sanctification of our fleshy nature, imperfect until we are risen in Him, is where the “run the race as if to win!” “fight the good fight” comes in. With the Holy Spirit as Guide, Counselor, Comforter, Teacher, we go through trials and tribulations, face temptations, and feel the pain of this vale of tears, constantly being shaped by it all into the image of Jesus who is the perfect image of God. In other words we are being made Holy.
    Sure God can give Ted a victory, God can do anything, He is God, but victories come after battles, and this battle needs to result in the death of Ted’s flesh, nailed to the cross of Christ. will Ted pick up his cross and follow Christ? Will you? Will I? Daily?
    And when we do pick up the cross, yes it is God that gives the victory. So many wish to sing “Victory is mine” but simply will not join the battle.
    I do not pretend to know your story, but let me ask, “If you loved drinking more than you loved God, or even worshiped drink more than God, would you have a ‘victory’ today?
    Does that help or hinder? just tryin’ Peace.

  28. Great post and discussion. As per George Bailey on the bridge — I say to you “Atta boy, Clarence…”

    Just one thing, though — don’t know about the continual ringing out of a particular public individual as an example. Seems kind of harsh, even if he is a former self-righteous fundamentalist evangelical.

  29. IMONK, as true ‘believers’…nothing comes our way that God does not allow, sanction, permit, or whatever word would fit because He sits atop the throne of thrones. And He is Boss. He sees things we can’t see. He sees the future. I don’t mean to assume too much….but I ‘know’ in my heart of hearts that your experiences over the past year are under God’s control. The challenge your wife has put before you has urged you to define and defend the gospel you obviously love so dearly. But the very sovereignty of God allows him the freedom to work in ‘mysterious ways’….His wonders to perform. TRUST GOD! KNOW THAT THE ENTIRE SITUATION CONCERNING YOUR WIFE’S MOVE TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH…..IS A ‘WIN’ SITUATION. He loves us all immensely. He is working a ‘work.’ Don’t question……just TRUST…with thanksgiving.

  30. Michael,

    Like PW and others say, you’ve still got it. Perhaps in the midst of doubt, “it” is speaking all the louder. Keep preaching it, and keep talking hard.

    God willing, I’ll make it through seminary and step into the hardest, loneliest job on earth: the pastor. I heard the gospel in this today, and if I don’t preach this gospel every time I step into the pulpit, I hope the whole iMonk audience comes and smacks some sense into me.

    Blessed Advent to you, Michael.

  31. Sorry for the lengthy post. But I’ve got to finish. PW said, ‘Micheal, you’ve still got it.” You’ve got it for sure…..a calling, a purpose..a precious thing. Michael, over the past 24 hours your posts have been anointed….nothing of you…but of the Holy Spirit. It’s like ‘holy ground’ as I read. Other commentors have said the same impact as they read. Michael, you and your wife are one…trust God with the watch care over the most precious part of you……your wife. God is BIGGER than any church called by any name. Let Him work His work. Give Him Praise. “Rejoice and be glad.”

  32. I’m a Roman Catholic by choice after searching through nearly every other denomination available, having had a radical conversion experience as a young adult pretty much independent of human influence — not because I agree with everything in the Catechism or what is continually put out there as to what a real Catholic is. Although it is hard for me to put my finger on, it has something to do with the “c”atholicism I find in the Church. Although the public dogma is quite exclusionary, in practice it is the most inclusive of all denominations. It is like Judaism in this. You can be almost anything and still be Catholic. There are all kinds of rules as to who can be a communicant but, as I’ve heard from a couple of Church authorities close to the Vatican, there is no enforcement arm. It is really all a matter of conscience. This is not the case anywhere else. If you don’t tow the doctrinal/philosophical/political line they will literally throw you out in almost every other Christian venue. In the Catholic Church there are few cases where this is so.

    And I believe it is because we believe Christ crucified is physically present in the sanctuary and if He wants somebody out of there, He’s quite capable of taking care of it Himself.

  33. A real blood and guts program in discipleship would be titled something like “The Road to Victorious Losership”.

    My personal experience of falling, were it filmed in stop gap and then sped up, would look something like those four legged, seemingly omnipotent battle creatures that are tripped up and falling to earth in the old Star Wars films. The fall has been going on now for eighteen years, and it remains unclear whether I’ve yet hit the concrete.

    We do not die easily. I only recently became aware that I had been carrying around these last 18 yrs the dead carcass of my old “successful” self. Ashamed of having found myself to be a loser, I’ve been pulling the dead guy out and showing him off to people as though he’s the guy they should see me as. And people are not as stupid as I imagined. They actually do see that guy. I could never understand why they looked at him with shock and disgust. But then I walked by a mirror and saw that he looks a lot like Tony Perkins dead mother in Psycho. I’ve been trying to peel him away from my back ever since.

    Paul said that at the center of his weakness was his greatest strength. When we are no more, He is all. In His all, I am reborn a defenseless and tender infant, in constant need and dependence upon His grace and the food and drink He places in my open mouth.

    Not many in the church see any use in wrinkled old men that are babies. They are kind of embarrassed by the whole spectacle. But God does use weakness to humble the proud.

    I pray that God will take the whole church where He is taking Tel Haggard. It is not a pleasant trip, but the pearl at the end of the road is well worth the journey.

  34. Because of the Sacrament of Penance I can be forgiven from sin. But the effects of sin on me as a human, not my soul but my mortal self is still there. It was mentioned above if it is still right to have an alcoholic at an AA meeting who has been dry for 20 years start the meeting with “I am an alcoholic” – in my view yes because deep down he or she knows at any time, at a weak moment, without God, he or she could begin again. I agree with Michael that some desire for sin we outgrow, other desire for sin we live with for a lifetime. And we persevere to struggle to do what is right and fall many times. That might be greed, self adulation, wanting to be in the limelight, purity issues. For me though, it comes down to how I measure up when I look at humility or self pity or why can’t I have/be like/do instead of having an outwardly focus. Ideally easy, realistically pretty tough sometimes.

  35. Surfnetter,

    I love your perspective of your experience of Christ and how it all plays out within the Catholic Church. Very nice.

    I’d attribute some of what you say about Catholicism with the length of time it has had to face its screw-ups. Humility does seem to be a factor of age. It is by no means automatic, but nothing sets one up to learn to leave things to God better than repeated and ongoing failure. It’s only the young that can get away with pride. True of people and denominations.

  36. Michael Bell: >>>> Then why all the New Testament calls to holiness, walking in the light, living now according to our [heavenly] calling, etc… if it were not somehow attainable through Christ?

    Christ spoke of a perfect fellowship in His prayer for us…(paraphrased) ‘Father you are in Me. I am in them. We all are One.’ In that perfect fellowship, one is become a Temple of God. In this place…holiness exists and its fruits are very obvious. There are those of us who rock back and forth between serving the flesh (pleasures e.g. alcohol,drugs,sexual lusts,food (gluttony/obesity) and serving the Spirit…’double-minded.’ His Grace is so evident in…’he that endureth to the end…the same shall be saved.’

  37. Regarding Michael Bell’s holiness question and the surrounding discussion; It’s interesting that Wesley argued for the possibility of holiness since he felt Christ would not command anything of us that is impossible to do. Yet he immediately declared that he himself had never achieved holiness, nor had anyone in his experience. Willard also addresses this this dilemma well.

    As best as I can determine, there does seem to be a sort of level one reach where, while we may not have become fully Holy, we have at least become convinced that we must once and for all abandon the project of hope in ourselves. It is a place of Holy Brokenness. We still screw up, but are less surprised by it, less defensive and quick to support the image of ourselves we’d like to hold onto. That seems a worthy and achievable goal to me now. And even in asking for so little, perhaps I show I have yet to abandon my project in self glorification. God certainly knows. (Clue; I haven’t.)

  38. Having come from a background virtually devoid of any religious indoctrination, I have been able to see the Christian conversion process without any preconceived notions.

    Does anyone else recognize that to become a “real” Christian the common notion is that you first have become a Jew? Before the Christian Era, the only people who had any guilt for what we call “sinfulness” were Jews. This small mostly colloquial group were the people of Adam’s fall, the Laws of Moses, and the “wages of sin are death.” Nobody else had this. When Paul wrote his exegesis on the redemption of the Cross vis a vis all of the above mentioned Judaica, it was to those who had all that as an obstacle. For non-Jews, that was all taken care of at the Jerusalem Council.

    You bring up the 12-Steps — the middle steps deal with sinfulness as “defects of character” that we must recognize, “admit to ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs” and ask God to remove. And then we are to “make amends” not to God, but “to those we have harmed” wherever possible.

    Few Catholics make use of the Sacrament of Penance anymore, and this dogmatic conundrum has been taken care of with the penitential prayer at the beginning of every Mass. But the relief of telling “another human” is not addressed in the penitential rite at a Mass.

    I was sent back to 12-step meetings a few years ago at this time of year during confession by an itinerant retreat-master contemplative priest who realized he couldn’t help me after I started rambling about my dysfunctional childhood. He gave me “going to a 12-step meeting before Christmas” as a penance!

    Why? Because there is a realization among bureaucrats, clerics and counseling professionals that for my kind of psycho/spiritual malady it is the only thing that actually works. And after careful observation and study I have come to the conclusion that God will no longer allow himself to be contained in anybody’s doctrinal box — not even one with Jesus’ name and Moses’ Laws written all over it ….

  39. >…I have come to the conclusion that God will no longer allow himself to be contained in anybody’s doctrinal box — not even one with Jesus’ name and Moses’ Laws written all over it.

    I agree that the God of the Bible can’t be constrained in a doctrinal box. He does as he pleases. I believe that God definitively revealed himself and his salvation for the world in Jesus and his unique person and work. That was his pleasure.

  40. Yes — and if He truly is “… the Way, the Truth and the Life,” then He is at the basis of all things and not bound by human judgment as to whether what has been accessed by anyone anywhere is He himself or not, no matter by what name they call themselves. A cut-in-the-cloth Muslim, renouncing Jesus and all of Christendom could actually be somehow drinking the Waters of Eternal Life because he stumbled on them in a dream. How could anyone but God know?

  41. An interesting subject to debate. But not today. I always find that unbounded optimism has boundaries somewhere.

  42. I haven’t been accused of being optimistic in a while — I must be getting better ….

  43. I wouldn’t want to debate this anyhow. Argue it out with the Lord. I believe He would just sit there smiling ….

  44. Your problem may be explaining those portions of Holy Scripture when God isn’t smiling. 🙂

  45. Do you really believe that anyone anywhere could wipe the smile off God’s face, or remove the joy from His heart?

  46. “The deepest sin of the soul is prideful autonomy, the very thing evangelicals demand in their celebrities.”

    Brilliant. The evangelical crisis in a nutshell.

  47. I once read that Spiritual autonomy is the basis for all Protestant teaching. “No mediator between God and man except the Son.” I had a meditative experience that I’ve revisited on my blog.
    http://www.surfnetter.com/blog/?p=74

    As “little Christs” we all are mediators of a sort for each other ….

  48. One of my formulaic simplifications of the experience of faith is that God is always bigger than what we think He is. This is what I see to be the purpose of the Jesus parables and the repetitive classes in humility that God places us in. Every time we feel we have found a God we can understand, a place we can safely settle in, a quiet and secure home and community we can retire to; God blows down the walls, the volcanoes erupt, the flood waters rise, and our hard fought for and deserved security is blown out to sea only to sink into the darkest depths………and then nothing………no sound…….no light……..nothing……..but then something……it is Christ.

    And we are alone….with Christ.

    And I rest…….

    And he feeds me….

    And I am comforted….

    And then I strike out to witness to what He has done.

    And then I find a nice little piece of land…a beautiful forest of trees..water….all that I could hope for…..and I begin to build another home…..and I forget about the flood. But God remembers for me.

  49. Awesome.

    Grace comes to me when I realize my need for it.

    Many people in evangelical churches, though they are feigning victorious living, are wondering if they could ever be as ‘on top of it’ as the fella on stage, let alone the guy next to them in the pew.

    I’ll just have to link this one, Michael.

  50. MDS – it’s the Job story. With all the “doctrinal” explanations his friends came up with, and then Job’s recounting of how God had let Him down, I love God’s answer –

    “Who is this, obscuring my intentions with his ignorant words? Brace yourself like a fighter; I am going to ask the questions, and you are to inform me!

    Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, since you are so well informed! Job 38:2-4 (etc.and so on)”

    “Who the hell are you to question me?” is what he basically responds. And when He’s done with Job he turns to Job’s “spiritual advisers” and orders them to pay homage to His faithful servant, who then is given a life better than before.