October 22, 2014

Random Thoughts on a Warm and Sticky Monday

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th_SnoopyCentral Indiana Weather forecast for May 20, 2013

Warm, sticky, and breezy. High temperature of 87°. Humidity 64%. Intervals of clouds and sun; chance of rain 10%.

th_SnoopyBack in the Saddle Again

Yesterday, I got an early start on my summer of leading worship in our home church. Our pastor and his family had a family need they had to attend to, so he called me Friday evening and asked if I could officiate and preach on Sunday. In addition, it was Music Sunday, the annual conclusion of the official choir season. My wife Gail is the substitute pianist, and so she was asked to play for the services and the choral anthems without having had much opportunity to practice. (I would rather be asked to do what I did than what she had to do.)

It was also the weekend of our Open House to celebrate our son’s graduation, and so we were involved in activities from Thursday to Saturday, getting things ready, welcoming family who came into town, and holding the gathering. Needless to say, it was a packed weekend, and our heads are still reeling from all the activity.

Despite a few frustrations natural to the last minute situation, we had a wonderfully encouraging morning with the congregation. It was Pentecost Sunday, and I preached on the Gospel text: John 14:8-17, 25-27. The two points I saw from Jesus’ words that I applied to our lives were:

  • Because of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is closer to us than he ever has been.
  • Because of the Holy Spirit, we get to participate in God’s work in a new and greater fashion.

The text focuses on God’s work — and Jesus’ promise that it will not cease or be hindered by his “going away,” but will, in fact be enhanced because of his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the Father’s right hand. This permits the outpouring of the Spirit and the prospect of working under the auspices of the inaugurated Kingdom, with Jesus on the throne.

It also emphasizes Jesus’ presence — though he is departing physically, the Helper that they have known because he has been with them, filling and empowering Jesus, will come to dwell within them. Jesus will be closer to his friends than ever before. This is the peace he gives us.

I illustrated this by outlining what it is like to live each day in the good works that “God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). I told the story of what happened last weekend, when God went before us and helped in the midst of our car troubles. We felt as though the Spirit had carried us. It certainly didn’t have anything to do with our planning or wisdom.

Pentecost means that Jesus is with us on every “ordinary day” and we have the privilege of participating in the works of God that he prepares for us.

th_Snoopyclint eastwood joseyAn Incisive Analysis of “The New Legalism”

I read a good analysis of the current “radical” and “missional” emphasis by Anthony Bradley at the Acton Institute Power Blog, which focuses on what this is doing to many in the so-called “Millennial” generation.

For too many Millennials their greatest fear in this life is being an ordinary person with a non-glamorous job, living in the suburbs, and having nothing spectacular to boast about.

I found one of his observations most helpful. Bradley notes how the push for “missional” Christians and churches came to the fore at the same time that culture was experiencing what some have called the “narcissism epidemic.”

A few decades ago, an entire generation of Baby Boomers walked away from traditional churches to escape the legalistic moralism of “being good” but what their Millennial children received in exchange, in an individualistic American Christian culture, was shame-driven pressure to be awesome and extraordinary young adults expected to tangibly make a difference in the world immediately.

If Anthony Bradley is correct, it appears that we may have turned the truly “radical” and “missional” nature of Jesus’ Kingdom message on its head. Rather than losing our lives in the Gospel, we have found yet another (religious) way to try and save them.

th_Snoopy

If you see someone with his head stuck inside a book, it’s probably me…

A couple of Christmases ago, I received a copy of Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Every time I’ve started reading it, something interrupted and I reluctantly set it aside, hoping to pick up again soon.

The last week I finally decided to make a serious effort. The little I had read was so intriguing and such a compelling story that I knew once I had reached a certain point I would be sucked in and unable to stop reading. And so it has come to pass.

Watch for a review some time soon.

th_Snoopy

unforgivenDecision Time

I had a conversation with Jeff, my illustrious blog partner, last week. This followed several conversations I have had lately with my wife and others about the crazy schedule we’ve been keeping — you know, the one that is about to get a lot crazier. These were the result of lots of conversations I’ve had within my own head and with my heavenly Father.

And so it has been decided.

I, Chaplain Mike, will take a break from the everyday duty of writing here on Internet Monk, at least for a few months while I fulfill some additional pastoral responsibilities. I won’t be completely absent — you folks are not going to get off that easy — but will contribute posts on Mondays and Thursdays. This will allow some other folks to participate, and I will add a bit of needed space and time to my life.

The new schedule will begin in June, and you will hear more about it in days to come.

 

Comments

  1. Dear CM,

    I – and many others – have been greatly blessed by what you have written on this site over the past few years. Thank you, thank you so very much. I pray that you enjoy this new chapter in your life with all its hecticness (<- this a word?) and hope that you can find time to drop from time to time as life allows.

  2. In regards to the Anthony Bradley article, I think that Bradley has brought up an important point, and it was a good reminder to pastors that they should being caring for the whole flock including the ‘ordinary people’, not looking for their own niche group. However, I felt that his critique lacked balance. In many ways he was creating his own straw man out of the ‘radical’ movement so that he could fire at the movement as a single entity. I was surprised that he would have chosen this couple who decided to adopt, rather than have their own children as a negative example. Instead, (assuming this couple has made this difficult decision personally and are not trying to shame others who are having their own children, which I think is an reasonable assumption to make) wouldn’t this couple be a positive example of ‘living radically’ in their own small way. It would have been helpful to see him make a distinction between ‘radical’ as a marketing tool (which I think is really what he is arguing against) and ‘radical’ as life-change that comes through faith in Jesus Christ and life with the Holy Spirit, whatever that may look like specifically in a person’s life.

    • He is not arguing against “radical” as a marketing tool but as a new law of expectations for what brings meaning and significance for people in their lives.

      In the Gospel, there are no adjectives added to “Christian.”

      • In the Gospel, there are no adjectives added to “Christian.” ……………

        One of the most profound sentences you have ever penned. Well done, sir!

      • I guess what I’m trying to say is that this ‘new law of expectation’, which I fully agree exists, is the result of ‘radical’ being used as a marketing tool.

        I’m assuming that Bradley is not against people going without some of the perks of their comfortable middle class lives to provide for those in need, or moving overseas to bring God’s word to the unreached, or forgoing having their own children to adopt those without any parents, or becoming foster parents, or feeding the homeless, etc. And if he is not against those things, I think it would have been good for him to communicate that in order to give some balance to his critique of the normalization of ‘radical’.

        Does that make any sense? I’m not trying to argue against the main thrust of the article.

        • Depends what you mean by “marketing tool.” I’m saying it has become the latest mutation in the very DNA of evangelicalism and is not just something books and videos are promoting. Correcting it is more than a matter of restoring “balance” so as to include “ordinary” Christians in the mix. It is to question the very nature of evangelical preaching, which is too often law and not gospel.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I’m saying it has become the latest mutation in the very DNA of evangelicalism and is not just something books and videos are promoting.

            As was Shepherding.
            As was End Time Prophecy (any minute now… any minute now… any minute now…)
            As was Satanic Panic Conspiracy Theory.
            As was Culture War Without End.

  3. Thanks you for what you do here, and please stay in balance in your own life. We have SOOOO many incredible minds and hearts here @ I-Monk…..maybe more of our regulars could guest-blog and take the yoke off of the two of you. I appreciate all you do to keep the I-Monk spirit alive in Christ!

  4. I’m very glad you’re taking care of yourself, Chaplain Mike! I love what you write here, and I’ll love the thought too of you relaxing a bit and avoiding the deadly disease of “clergy burnout.” Thank you for keeping this site going all these years.

  5. Adrienne says:

    Chaplain Mike ~ you have invested yourself so much in my life through this website. You will never know how much you guided and encouraged me through my own Evangelical Wilderness to the joy of becoming Lutheran. Quite a journey as you know. So, first of all a huge thank you. I can’t wait to sit down with you in heaven at Jesus feet and worship Him. And maybe we will also be permitted to sit with Martin Luther himself. Mike and Denise Spencer, Jeff Dunn and his wife and all of the Imonks. What a great time to look forward to.

    And, as one who damaged her health from pushing through burn out I applaud your wise decision. Good for you. Do you think this means more music videos? :-)

  6. CM, absolutely a wise decision on your part. Sometimes you gotta grab the pendulum when it’s going in the other direction for a while. God’s blessing on your journey.

  7. Rick Ro. says:

    The seasons in our life are ever changing. Enjoy your new season, CM. I look forward to whatever you contribute, whenever you’re able to contribute it.

    And I look forward then to this site’s new season, too. Whatever it looks like, may it be filled with Jesus! Praying for Jeff and any others who might be increasing their role and contribution to continue Michael Spencer’s legacy of Jesus-filled spirituality.

  8. Josh in FW says:

    Your weather comment has me thinking of the tornadoes we’re experiencing out here on on Plains. Jeff, I pray that you, your family and friends are weathering the storms safely.

  9. Brianthedad says:

    Unbroken is an incredible book. Zamperini’s story is just unbelievable. Hillebrand did a great job starting at his beginnings and working through the whole ordeal. I picked it up at the online library, reading on my iPad, thinking it another individual account of WWII flyers. Wow, was I in for a surprise. It is a great story of resilience, forgiveness, and grace. Good stuff, Chap, you’re going to like it.

  10. Dana Ames says:

    Paging HUG…

    this is the only way I know to let you know about this:
    http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e6qa973l284ac324

    Hopefully you will see it.

    Sorry to go off topic.

    Dana

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Won’t be able to attend; it’s on the other side of the country from me, and I’ll have used up my annual East Coast vacation by then. It’s also around the time I’ll be at my urologist probably getting prostate-biopsied.

      Odd to find an Eastern Orthodox SF con; Eastern Rite types tend to be stay-at-home ethnics who usually don’t go in for that sort of thing. I wonder if the dichotomy dates back to the Dark Ages, when Western Rite bishops had to deal with a Road Warrior situation where they were the only remaining legal authority while Eastern Rite bishops developed more and more elaborate liturgies and iconography under the protection and patronage of the Byzantine Emperors.

      • Dana Ames says:

        The stay-at-home ethnic thing is changing. My parish is half Russian descent, and half (“converts”) all over the map.

        Just thought you would like to know that such a thing exists ;)

        Dana

  11. All the best, and thank you for everything that you’ve contributed over the years, I’ve often wondered how you managed to do that and anything else at all!

  12. Robert F says:

    Is that the Pale Rider?

  13. I’m glad you’re pacing yourself, Mike. And I’m excited about this summer opportunity. I hope you and Gail really enjoy it!

  14. CM, I will most certainly miss your regular meditations, which have been a guiding light for me. How you’ve managed to keep up such a high writing output this long is quite a mystery. Some relief is long overdue. Who knows? Maybe if you scale back here, your muse might get backed up and overflow into a book or something. I hope your new ventures in ministry are as much a blessing to you as your writing has been to all of us.