Monday, February 27, 2006

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Some interesting connections??

Connection One:
This may seem silly, but it possibly might be true....

David L. Rowe wrote a book called "I Love Mormons" which I have been quoting frequently from lately. I suppose the hangups of us evangelizing the LDS are the same no matter if it is in the realm of cyberspace or in real life like Happy Valley. So then maybe it is small of me to think this way, but, when Rowe writes characteristically about the interactions between LDS and evangelicals, it feels like he is speaking directly for the specific events and threads that have taken place at the LDS forum. What's to think he hasn't been there anyway, I asked myself? How many LDS forums are there, after all? He does mention the official LDS website, so he has looked around on the internet for at least some kinds of information. Maybe he sees the need for his message to reach the online evangelicals more than anyone else, because we don't have flesh and blood and tones of voice, and things get so much more ugly than if we were able to see one another in a conversation.

In his book, there were not too many times where Rowe mentioned specific examples of *better* ways to share the gospel instead of the bible bash. But here is what he says in one of those few:

"Briefly for now, let's say by way of example it may mean we begin to converse with our LDS friends much more (and more characteristically) by telling them about a recent answer to prayer or a stunning act of God we've experienced or a gospel-like image from a film than by reciting a bible verse or sharing a great doctrinal "insight" we got in last Sunday's sermon." (pg 124)

Okay, for those of you who have been reading my blog from the beginning, can you recognize anything I've done in those examples???


Yes, I know this might be arrogant of me. But when it comes to the internet what permanent easily accessible record can there be of an evangelical sharing a gospel-like image from a film? What are the chances?

Visit 2005 May 28th's blog entry, to see the candidate I am thinking about.

It even has a comment from a friendly LDS associate attached, whereas not many other entires get such attention with comments.

His book was published sometime in 2005.

The chances?? I know, I know, dumb of me; but there you are.

Connection Two:
Before I even understood that I was a Christian, Kathleen Fast was there for me. She was a missionary to my college campus when I moved out of my parent's home. Almost immediately as I got tempted with the diverse choices of campus living, I also had much opportunity to ask all my questions about God. Kathleen was specifically moved to minister to the fifty women living in our university co-op. I learned to confide in her, and she challenged me out of the Word of God to think twice about the decisions before me. Over three years she was there for me, like the sister and the mother that were very much emotionally removed from me. When I told her that I had found someone I wanted to marry, she had known Ben longer than she had known me, and told me that he was a wonderful man to commit my life to.

A few years later, last spring, I looked in my church bulletin and the speaker for the women's retreat was none other than Kathleen. After she gave her talks during the retreat we would hang out and picked up right where we left off. It was neat to reconnect with her.

I also went on that mission trip with Kathleen and our church at the time to Salt Lake City, getting our feet wet evangelizing the LDS.

I recognized the name "Craig L. Blomberg" when I saw it on the cover of the book that came in the mail for me three days ago. He is a professor at Denver Seminary. He was Kathleen's mentor and teacher for her graduate studies, Kathleen having graduated from Denver.

Blomberg co-authored the book "How Wide the Divide: A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation," which I have also been quoting from recently.

Perhaps God sowed a spiritual seed from the tree of Blomberg into my life.

Hunger Unabated

Yes, it will -- not -- release me.

I spent last night refusing to go to bed when I was tired, because I was still looking for *something,* searching from this to that, tv, books, music.... I would not let my day end till I had found something I felt was worthwhile to make my own in my heart.

I said to self, "Just give it up!! Go to bed already. You have to teach in the morning; you already know you'll regret it."

And my mind replied full of rebellion, "Nope, I'm not gonna."

Stubborn, I was. My idealism won't let me go. Now I know the voice of "give it up," and I can't lower my standards. For some reason I can't give up the ideal, can't pretend the hunger isn't everything. Purpose gives meaning to sleep and everything else I do.

Looking back right now I realize that this has always been a problem that has stolen my arrival time in bed. All through my married life, way back to the beginning of my consciousness in college. I never slept correctly. I would always stay up even after an exciting, busy day, doing even the dumbest things, just because I could not would not let that be the end of the day. I hadn't found what I really wanted, and so there was no inner peace, just a subconscious torment. Subconsciously tormented, for example, as I flipped intently through the pages of a magazine at 2:20 AM.

What I had taken peace and security in during the day I always question as the night closes in, "Is that enough for you? Really?"

I have been reading lately about accounts of people converting to faith in Christ. One man had been plagued all his life by John 17:3 "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Frequently and fervently he prayed, "Jesus, I want to know you." A relationship with Christ eluded him. Then finally he prayed one day, ""My life is yours, Jesus" and asked to be born again.

It crossed my mind last night as I considered how to be free to go to bed, knowing that there was nothing I would settle for, that maybe I just wasn't going to find it myself. Maybe the cliche evangelistic message of man's "God-shaped hole that only can be met by God and God alone," was a prayer not only for the unacquainted with Jesus but also for the disciples. Maybe I just had to ask God, "Can you help this?" Maybe He was just going to have to give me something un-earthly, something of His, of perfection, in order to be met.

And so that is what I asked for.

Today in church we sang a song called "My Redeemer Lives." The pastor also said during his sermon, "We do not serve a dead God." I am tired of being dead. I want to be alive. I want to be where alive is. Not in all these dead things around me.

This automatically makes me feel the pressure to be perfect. Because if I think I'm close to Him then I ought to hold myself to a better standard. I'm tired of that too. So I'm not promising perfection. I'm just going to commit to being there, with Him. Staying with Him. That's all. "Practicing the Presence of God," as Brother Lawrence titled his book.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

My own words

Someone reading here said "Not another quote! I want to see something written by you." So that is what I am going to do.

I am watching how much of a deep hunger I have. I mean a hunger for purpose, meaning, excitement, challenge. In the last two days I have had an excellent time of stretching out my talent and knowledge and compassion for the good of others. This comes after a long, long period of silence and inactivity. And it is intoxicating. I am making a choice several times a day to say, "Okay, I still want to be free to walk away; to be satisfied with what I had, and go back to being introspective and quiet as I was before." I just want another "good" to add to my list, because it makes me feel good about myself. My soul is not completely compliant with simply walking away.

I keep wandering around my home, switching the channel on the radio, trying to find something new to fixiate myself upon and feed good feelings out of.

There is a frenzy that comes through watching yourself do or say something that is good. It creates an appetite for more, more more.

"The unwillingness on the part of men and women to acknowledge their helpless dependence is a violation of our 'creatureliness.' The unwillingness to be obedient is a violation of our humanity. Both are declarations of independence, and... are essentially atheistic. In both, the answer to the call [of God] is 'no.'"

-- Elliot, "Discipline: The Glad Surrender"

I am both sides of turning from straight paths in God by obeying myself this hunger: I am "unwilling to be obedient" and therefore violate the worth of humanity through "being unwilling to acknowledge my helpless dependence on the Creator."

I will not let my soul feast on some side-issue about Christ. I want to declare for His sake that I need Him, Himself, to make me satisfied. When He satisfies me, I will not obey the lust of my eyes in seeing any cause that Christ himself does not give to me today.

Friday, February 24, 2006


This is the most in-your-face song about Jesus Christ I have ever heard since "Jesus Freak"!

I heard it for the first time tonight and I thought to myself, what a timely and perfect refusal of all of the confusion and indulgences I see within the body of Christ!

You might want to put both feet on the floor and your bottom in a chair:

Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world?

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand

Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

Who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side or fall down and worship at His holy feet

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part
Sometimes I doubt we'd recognize Him

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet would stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despised the proud
I think He'd prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!

Not a posterchild for American prosperity, but like my Jesus
You see I'm tired of living for success and popularity
I want to be like my Jesus but I'm not sure what that means to be like You Jesus
Cause You said to live like You, love like You but then You died for me
Can I be like You Jesus?
I want to be like my Jesus

--Todd Agnew, "My Jesus"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Why do we bible-bash?

One of several reasons why traditional Christians "bible-bash" (a LDS term meaning us using the bible to degrade their faith and therefore, themselves), which may or may not apply to any of us on an individual basis:

"Some traditional Christians simply don't have much romance with God going on in their lives, and therefore they have little or nothing to say about their feelings and experience. And they may even, beneath it all, be rather afraid, perhaps even ashamed, to admit there's no real fire in their souls. Instead of rekindling that fire, it may seem a lot safer to stay on the level of memorized verses and intellectualized arguments. In short, it's easier to become a "Bible answer man" than a Bible based man, easier to be correct than contrite, easier to master content than character, easier to be informed about Christ than formed by Christ. ... I've always loved what Thomas a Kempis says in 'The Imitation of Christ:' "I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it.""

-- "I Love Mormons" by David L. Rowe

Indeed, I saw that same conflict in me beginning shortly after I joined a LDS forum community! Discussion forum participation sweeps me away, so that by practice if not by premise, I am undividedly honing my skill to talk about what I think I know. If knowledge is comfortable to a man, then forums are a nice place to drift. There was little cause to focus on the more challenging things of being a follower of Christ. The only way I could counterbalance that tendency was through those long periods of being unconnected to the internet, and also my effort at blogging to focus on where I was with God for my own sake.

Rowe seems to perceive that same weakness in the evangelical (traditional Christian) mindset that I identified while at that forum of which I labeled "The Legalism of Belief:"

"A long and practiced legacy of traditional Christian church culture has cultivated an aversion to romantic orientation in dealing with gospel truth. This is our entrenched culture, especially we Western Protestants, tend to be oriented toward tightly rational, verbally textual statements as the normal way of conveying truth about spiritual things. We are more at home with words and linear arguments than with images and experiences.... This is especially true for the part of "we" who are theologically educated in the West, and often it filters down from the church leaders so educated. We've been trained to deal more on the cognitive level than the affected level.

"Now, the real problem here may not be our training so much as our assumption, usually unquestioned and unexamined, that this is indeed "the *normal* way of knowing and conveying truth" for everybody. Perhaps it doesn't even occur to us that our Mormon friends may not find this mode of operating normal at all! For my first several years of living in the Salt Lake City area, it certainly did not occur to me. As a result, I did what many of us do: I treated my LDS friends as two-dimensional information processors. I figured that if I just blathered away at them with enough well-argued Bible verses, they would automatically get enlightened, fall to their knees, and repent. When neither their minds nor their knees seemed to comply, I found myself roundly disillusioned, again and again."

-- "I Love Mormons" by David L. Rowe

We "resounding gongs" described in 1 cor 13 need to admit that it's not enough to just know what is right.

Broken God-Work

"Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me"

-- Jeremy Camp, "Walk by Faith"

In my current weekly schedule I have to drive past that OP church I mentioned in my last post, at least twice a week now. I drive by it and keep looking for something by which I can feel justified to make contact again. A car I recognize, an actual member standing outside... but it's always very quiet and devoid of movement, which is the way I absorb the spiritual timing of my relationship with them.

I think it rather interesting that, as the times in my life wax and wane toward passion for this or that, God is preparing me for each kind of service and ministry. I believe it is God's will for this schedule to be like it is because as I drive by these people so often as I do now, they have once again come to the forefront of my hopes and desires and ache. So I am preparing for the ministry I have absolutely nothing to show for right now, that I hope God will one day give me.

"delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."

So if I am delighted to think of God letting me relationally loving them, then it is God willed to have fulfillment at some point, else it is His desire for me to offer up that passion to be sacrificed because I know God is bigger than me and He accomplishes many or all good things through my faith and prayers.

And since I can see that now is not the right time, I know it is His desire to wait on Him, trusting Him with their lives, trusting Him to love them, trusting Him to make me into something that they might need to see.

Emptiness is a refiner of souls.

My Dealings

Here is a faithful narrative of all my dealings with the Oneness Pentecostal church that lives down the street from me.

The first year I lived here in my hometown this 14-year old girl called "Cindy" came by for fundraising, and I sponsored her through her church. The next year she came back, and I felt everything slow down in my mind so that I felt it was really important to ask her, "What does your church believe?"

I proceeded to ask, when she started sharing some scriptures she knew, if she believed she had to do what was right to go to heaven, and if Jesus was God. She eventually denied both, but said she believed salvation was of the Father. She said she did not believe in the Trinity, but she did believe Jesus was the Son of God. I was very impressed by her knowledge of scriptures, and I praised her highly for it. She invited me to come to her church.

She said, "You are so nice! I want my brother to come over and meet you, because he knows the scriptures better than I do and he can answer your questions."

I started attending Wednesday night services at the same time she would bring her older brothers over to meet me at my house. They were around the age of 18-20. At the church the mother of Cindy had me sit next to her and told me all kinds of things that were going on in her life. She was very, very loving.

Their service WAS quite different, although much like The People's Church (assemblies of God) where I once attended of my own accord. The worship music was the loudest I had ever known. It was so loud that it almost hurt my ears. All of the women wore nice dresses. They also all had hairdos that I am sure they spent a long time to create--they looked like dos to have for a prom date! All of the men were in suits. They spoke in tongues, and I think each one of them were truly trying to be as loud and emotional in their utterances as possible, because of their beliefs....

I tried to remain inconspicuous, amongst fifty people (yeah right). More than that I tried not to be shocked, but to be gracious as I noticed all these things and how I didn't fit in. I remember relying very much on constant prayer the whole time I was in the service, not because I knew they were different than me but because I NEEDED IT -- I needed God to reassure me that my fellowship with God was not harmed because of these obstacles that I didn't do as they did. They did an altar call after I made a regular habit of coming. I felt like all eyes were on me (another words, you have sins to repent for, and isn't it time you confessed them and made yourself right?) But I prayed hard to God confirming that I could confess my sins wherever I was at, and confess sins I did, but not the ones they wanted me to, most likely.

I would sometimes bring my daughters, and as the women introduced themselves to me I started speaking to their children and the children loved it. They were so eager for attention and I remember how every week they would crowd around me as we talked about my baby and their own siblings.

I would see Cindy's mom walking to or from church (she lived sort of near the church) and it was amazing how I was able to give her a lift a few times.

I asked to meet with the Pastor and his wife, so that I could learn what they believed. He came over several times to my house, and he would even bring his children, and I regret that I was not more gracious with him, for I was at least in part eager to get him to see my point of view.

To the material he gave me I wrote up my own doctrinal responses, and dropped them by the church. Within a couple of weeks of each of my drop-offs, his sermon on Wednesday evening would be centered around refuting the material I brought. I was both honored and injured.

I asked for a more committed bible study. I played phone tag with two women for several months, mostly because of their neglect and disinterest. It never came about. One of those women got married in the midst of these months, and I bought a beautiful present and left it at the church for her. But falling out of touch was just the direction everything was headed.

It actually took me about a year for me to realize that it was not my own choices of redirection of interests that caused this relationship to end. I finally realized that there had to be a good reason why Cindy or her brothers didn't come by anymore; after all, children don't get cynical or grow unaffectionate with time, but usually grow.

Maybe a year after I stopped attending one of the brothers came by to sell something, and I didn't recognize him but was strangely prompted to ask, "Is everything ok with you today?" He said, not really, because his family had lost faith in him, and his church had kind of shut him out, even, because of the choices to sin. He was under a lot of pressure to get his life back on the right track.

I said to him, "you know the parable of the prodigal son? I don't know how people are reacting to you but I believe from my own experiences that God is more eager to forgive you more than anyone else. Remember how he lavished his praise on the son when he returned from the wrong path? Well, even if you don't get that from anyone else around you, I want to encourage you that as far as the Lord is concerned, he accepts you as you are because you are ready to give your life back to him. His love is right there waiting for you in prayer."

He was listening intently, and as far as I could tell his hopes were lifted. He smiled, and said that he knew he could do it. Then, like a switch, he didn't want to talk to me anymore and said he had to go.

It's been two years since I attended their church. Since then I have seen very, very little of any of them. I saw my two bible study women in Albertsons, and I had to be the initiator to say "how are you?" They were very cold to me, and didn't speak anything except the questions I asked. I also saw Cindy's mom at Walmart quite recently, and she was not cold but she also didn't speak to me any longer than I inquired.

It hurts me more and more to think of these things, not because I expect to be treated well, but because I long to be with them again, to learn more about them, to just keep SERVING them, most of all. I want them to be loved. But I won't go and seek them out again, unless the Lord prompts. I am waiting for a God-given ministry.

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