The Importance of Giving up Our Rights

Gavel

Yesterday morning, I made an offhand comment on Facebook:

I’m always amazed to hear Christians talking about “defending our rights.” One of the most fundamental aspects of Jesus’ message is that we must give up our rights.

I should have known better.

I thought this was one of those things all Christians agree about in theory and just have a hard time remembering and practicing. I get that. I have a hard time letting go of my rights. It’s one of my biggest struggles on a day-to-day basis. In that comment, I was preaching to myself as much as to anyone else.

Yet I wasn’t expecting to return and find a barrage of comments from Christians actually arguing against the principle of self-denial.

The Book I Contributed to Is Now Available!

Simple Church

I just wanted to give a quick update and let you know that Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity is now available!

If you get the Kindle edition, you’ll be able to read it immediately. Or, if you have Amazon Prime, you can get the paperback with free two-day shipping. (And you can get a free 30-day trial of Prime if you don’t already have it.)

In addition to getting a copy for yourself, it would also make a great Christmas gift.

Order your copies today!

The Skeletons in God’s Closet by Joshua Ryan Butler (Book Review)

The Skeletons in God’s Closet

We believe that God is love and God is good. All Christians affirm these simple truths. But for a God whose defining attribute is love, his actions don’t always appear to be very loving. And for a God who is perfectly good, he seems to have done some things that aren’t very good at all.

Does our beautifully good God have an ugly side? Does God have something to hide?

In The Skeletons in God’s Closet, Joshua Ryan Butler sets out two answer three questions: Would a merciful God send people to hell? Would a loving God condemn people at the judgment? And would a good God wage holy war?

Butler contends that we have set up caricatures of God—pictures that contain a semblance of the truth without the substance of reality.

Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity

Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity

A renewal is taking place in God’s church. People are realizing that we don’t need all the ritual and tradition we’ve added over the years. We’re returning to the simplicity of the earliest believers. But if we’re not careful, we could allow this renewal to divide us from those who don’t share our views.

So I’m thrilled to announce the upcoming release of Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity. Twenty-four of us have come together to share the passions that drive us—while keeping unity as our focus. We certainly don’t agree with one another on everything, but we share a common Savior.

In my chapter, I discuss the way we hold to our theological convictions. Why do we allow our differences to separate us? Can we remain united in Christ while maintaining our specific beliefs? Should we defend sound doctrine? What makes a belief heresy?

Check out this excerpt for a sample. I haven’t read the other chapters yet myself, so I’m really excited to get my own copy!

Here’s how to preorder your copy:

The New Covenant by Bob Emery (Book Review)

The New Covenant

The New Covenant is a collection of three historical novels by Bob Emery which were originally published separately. In this volume they are labeled as parts titled “The Messenger,” “The Message,” and “The Marriage: The Final Revelation.” All three feature the Apostle John as the main character.

Part I follows John and Timothy as they tour Jerusalem and discuss the life and times of Jesus. Part II dramatizes the writing of the books of the New Testament by John and the other apostles. And in Part III, John spends an evening discussing the book of Revelation with a group of believers.

These are very unusual novels. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but they’re not what one would typically expect.

Is God Pleased about the Death of His Saints?

Gravestone

There’s a certain verse that gets quoted at just about every Christian funeral. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. I usually hear it in the King James Version, which goes like this:

Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15, KJV)

What are we to make of this? Does God enjoy seeing his followers die?

A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd (Book Review)

A Farewell to Mars

There was a time when Brian Zahnd prayed war prayers, asking God to bless America’s militarism. He, like so many other American Evangelicals, had a picture of God that was much more akin to Mars, the god of war, than to Jesus, “that preacher of peace.” But Brian has repented of his nationalistic idolatry, and he invites us to do the same.

This book was of interest to me, as I too have recently become convinced that Jesus taught a gospel of peace and nonviolence. We simply cannot fulfill his command to love our enemies if we kill them. A Farewell to Mars promises to chronicle Brian’s “own journey from war crier to peacemaker” as he “reintroduces us to the gospel of Peace.”

Having now read it, I’m simultaneously delighted and disappointed. Delighted because I enjoyed every page—and disappointed because the book failed to do what it promised. This is a fantastic book; it simply is not the book that was advertised.

What Did Jesus Think of the Revolution?

Revolution

More than two centuries ago, the founding fathers of this country signed a statement known as the Declaration of Independence. This document officialized the American colonies’ break from Great Britain. The colonists believed they were justified in this action—along with the bloody conflict itself—due to an increase in taxes without sufficient representation. In fact, many of them were convinced that God was on their side in the war for independence from their oppressors. Let the revolution begin!

A similar situation existed two millennia ago. Much like the colonists under British rule, the Jews were under the oppressive rule of Rome. However, Israel was not a rightful colony of Rome; their land had been taken by force. Like the colonists, the Jews faced heavy taxation, but they also faced constant abuse, and their whole way of life was being destroyed. They couldn’t do anything without the interference of Rome. Caesar even considered himself to be god—the ultimate blasphemy against Yahweh.

Surely, they were justified in their desire to break from Rome. Surely, God was on their side.

[I’ve moved this post to my new blog. Continue reading at HippieHeretic.com.]

Sound Doctrine, Heresy, and Theological Divisions

Persecution

The blogosphere has been buzzing recently with charges of heresy. But what is heresy? Is it a question of one’s theology? And is that theology something worth dividing over? I addressed these questions in a chapter for the book, Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity. What follows is an excerpt from my chapter, adapted with permission for this blog post.


When believers separate over theology, it is usually because one or both sides think the other’s theology is so badly wrong that they cannot remain in fellowship. As justification for this divisive behavior, they often appeal to verses that talk about “sound doctrine” or “heresy.” Of course, both groups pridefully imagine that they are protectors of sound doctrine but that the other group promotes heresy. This approach has caused the majority of schisms and persecutions throughout church history. It also reveals a misunderstanding of both sound doctrine and heresy as spoken of in the Bible.

Primal Fire by Neil Cole (Book Review)

Primal Fire

Neil Cole is a name I’ve known for quite some time. He literally wrote the book on “organic church”—a term that describes the journey I’ve been on for almost four years now. But until recently, I’d never actually read one of his books. I’m happy to say that’s no longer the case.

His latest book, Primal Fire, is about the five roles listed in Ephesians 4:11—apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher (or APEST for short). And while APEST is his focus, he covers much more than these specific callings. The book was thoroughly enjoyable from cover to cover.

I agreed with just about everything Neil had to say. Because of this, I’m going to get my one disagreement out of the way before covering the many things I loved about the book. And when it comes down to it, our only major area of disagreement is a matter of semantics.

10,000 Children

Steak

10,000.

That’s the number of children whose sponsors abandoned them because of World Vision’s (temporary) change in hiring policy. 10,000 alleged followers of Christ believed it would be better to break their covenants and ignore our prime directive—love your neighbor—than it would be to work alongside gays.

My heart breaks for the state of Jesus’ church.

I know I’m a bit late to be posting about this. The controversy has come and gone. World Vision’s decision has been reversed. Some sponsors have returned. But not all of them.

Thousands of children are still without a sponsor right now, thanks to our “Christian” generosity.

Now we all have two choices. We can complain about the state of the church—so bent on fighting the culture wars yet so lacking in love. Or we can step up and be the church Christ intended.

Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed by Austin Fischer (Book Review)

Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you may have picked up on the fact that I’m not a Calvinist. (I’m pretty far from it.) But what you may not know is that I used to be one.

I didn’t just have Calvinistic beliefs—I was a fighting apologist for Calvinism. I remember one evening when a debate with friends over Calvinism lasted a good eight hours! Thankfully, those and other non-Calvinist friends had a lot of patience with me, and I gradually came to see the light.

So I can see a lot of my own story in Austin Fischer’s Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey In and Out of Calvinism.

This book is much more than an argument against Calvinism. It’s really an examination of how and why we do theology.

Should Christians Eat Meat?

Steak

I’ve been noticing a number of Christians recently who have decided to stop eating meat. While some may dismiss this as a fad, there are actually some compelling theological reasons for Christian vegetarianism. The topic is something I’ve been thinking about, and I’d like to flesh out my thoughts to invite feedback from either side.

Full disclosure: I love meat! I can’t imagine giving up bacon if I didn’t have to. I’ve at times said (mostly joking) that Genesis 9:3 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. However, if I were to become convinced that eating meat is not God’s best for us, I do believe I would attempt to give it up.

Benefit of the Doubt by Greg Boyd (Book Review)

Benefit of the Doubt

[Jesus said,] “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39–40, NIV)

We believers face a constant temptation. We so easily gravitate toward seeking life from things other than Jesus Christ.

In his most recent book, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty, Greg Boyd asks Christians to consider what we go to for our life. He suggests that many believers are seeking life from their own feeling of certainty.

What Can Growing a Beard Teach Us About Grace?

Beard

There’s an age-old debate in Christian circles. How can it be that salvation is entirely an act of God’s grace when, at the same time, humans have a responsibility to respond?

One proposed solution has been to claim that humans don’t really have a say in the matter. God “graciously” allows only certain people to trust in him. But I simply cannot square this view with what I read in Scripture.

Another idea is that Jesus only made salvation possible, but we still have to work to earn it. This view, similarly, runs afoul of Scripture’s teaching that we can’t earn our own salvation.

Joy to the World: Not a Christmas Song

Advent Wreath

“Joy to the World” is one of our most beloved Christmas carols, which is ironic because it isn’t about Jesus’ birth (click to tweet). Isaac Watts wrote it as an adaptation of Psalm 98. And the part we sing is just the second half of what he wrote.

It was first published in The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship in 1719. The tune we know was not added until Lowell Mason arranged it for singing in 1839.