Tag Archives: church

If We Could Take Pictures In Church

Things I would have photographed this Sunday if I could take pictures in church:

– Far down the hallway, pastor leaned his face very close to the man in the wheelchair who can’t talk very well, and put his hand on his shoulder. The man spoke as well as he could and with great effort, weaving back and forth and waving his arms. Pastor spoke back, and smiled. Their faces were mirrors of love and affection.

– My friend three pews up and one section to the right stood with her eyes closed and both arms reaching upward in the way we do at church, singing her heart out: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow….” She is eighty and was just diagnosed with dementia.

– A old woman sat alone in the fellowship hall and a man passing by told her the bright turquoise scarf and matching blouse and earrings she wore were beautiful. She looked up and smiled and her eyes glowed like sudden candles in a dark sanctuary.

– A little girl held the specially-designed communion-wine-squirt-bottle with both hands, carefully squeezing wine into the tiny cups. Her face looked as if it had been taken from one of God’s angels on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.



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Beautiful Outlaw, THE CHURCH IS EVIL

In Beautiful Outlaw author John Eldredge wants us to know the beauty of Jesus Christ as fully man; real, true, and available to us if we would choose to have him. 223 pages and 17 chapters describe this knowable, have-able Christ as a man with personality: playful, fierce, extravagantly generous, honest, cunning, humble, true, and beautiful.

Chapter 7, Disruptive Honesty is the most winsome and persuasive chapter in the book, with many examples of the clear prose that Eldredge is known for:

“Let’s be honest—why aren’t we more honest with each other? Because it will cost us. Socrates didn’t exactly get a warm reception for telling the truth. John the Baptist got his head handed to him on a platter for telling it like it is. Kill the messenger. We don’t want to pay that bill. If we speak as honestly as Jesus does, if we even venture into the hallowed sanctuary of someone else’s precious sin, it is going to make the relationship messy to say the least” (70).

Chapter 7 is an oasis from the bitter diatribe against The Church that pervades the rest of the book. The bitterness against what Eldredge perceives as the religious fog that draws potential believers away from Christ steals the reader away from the beauty that truly is Christ and that Eldredge describes very well:

“Alas, if Jesus’ followers shared his personality. That one shift alone would correct so many of the ridiculous and horrifying things that pass for popular Christianity” (17);

“Laughter is from God. This one quality alone might save us from the religious veil that forever tries to come in and cloud our perception of Jesus” (22);

“This is—yet again—one more cunning ploy of the religious to keep us from the kind of intimacy with Jesus that will heal our lives…. It is a fact that people most devoted to the work of the Lord actually spend the least amount of time with him” (148-9).

The major disappointment with the work is that compelling narrative such as the paragraph below, a magnificent statement of our culture’s distortion of masculinity as God designed men to be:

“This [Christ as fierce and intentional] is a breathtaking quality—especially when compared to our present age where doubt masquerades as humility, passivity cloaks as rest, and emasculated indecision poses as laid-back enlightenment” (37),

is destroyed by what follows.

Eldredge goes on to quote John 11:17, 32-33, and claims that the word ‘troubled’ in “…he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” isn’t to his liking. He claims its Greek root means ‘to snort in anger, like a warhorse.’ It does not. (Look up Strong’s Concordance G5015.) Then he goes on to quote Peterson’s translation from The Message as “a deep anger welled up within him.” That is more to his liking, and while I appreciate the image of Jesus as deeply angry, the Greek word means troubled, deeply saddened. If Jesus were angry, He’d be angry with the Father for allowing Lazarus to die. This would be uncharacteristic of Christ in his humanity. “I hate death” says Eldredge, “and Jesus has mighty strong feelings about it, too” (38). OK, this is true, and it does not apply to this situation as the original Scripture describes it. Then, Eldredge blames what he sees as a weak translation on the deviance of The Church that does not want to translate properly because then we would come to know Christ in all his humanity. The Church translated the original Greek, and because it is The Church’s translation, it must not be trusted.

There are legitimate criticisms of the Christian church, and some of the criticism Eldredge lays upon the Church is true. Unfortunately, the bitter diatribe against The Church overshadows Eldredge’s attempt to show us Christ, the Beautiful Outlaw, fully man and fully God.

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Sign-Singing Christmas

My sister and I share emails almost daily. Mondays I look forward to it even more than my first cup of coffee. She is an inspiration to me. She’s also one of the funniest people I know. This is today’s email. (This isn’t a particularly funny story, I just wanted to give the context.)

We alter the church a bit for Christmas, we make the stage bigger and move the center section seats back. What this means is that I can see directly across at the deaf people section, and can clearly see them all signing. There’s a woman that sits in front on a stool who signs, and about three rows of people who sign-sing.

Watching the deaf people sing is the coolest thing ever, and they did this one song “Angels We Have Heard On High,” the one that has the chorus that goes “Glooooooooooooooo RIA, in excelsis Deo.” You know the one. Well, during the “Glooooo…” part they sweep their arms up and around to the left, then up and around to the right, and then on the “Deo” they take their right arms up and bring them down in front of their face in a very reverential way. And because all these folks are standing right next to each other it’s like watching synchronized swimming, or ballet, or the bows of the violin section in an orchestra all moving in unison.

It made me want to learn Ameslan. Almost. Anyhow, very pretty and strangely moving.

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Real Church – A Real Answer

Dr. Ergun Caner gave the message last night at Shadow Mountain. I love God’s sense of timing because Dr. Caner defended the Bride of Christ, the Church, which many make their living destroying (yes, I stole that last bit from last night).


Real Church is described in Mark chapter 2, with the story of the four guys who love their friend so much, and have so much complete faith in Jesus Christ, that they lift their friend to the rooftop where Jesus is teaching, rip the roof off the place, and lower their friend’s mat down to Jesus feet. “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

 Besides being one of my two favorite stories in the bible, Dr. Caner gave some truths that are illustrated by it. And here’s what a real church is all about:

  – The crowd was gathered and Jesus was in the midst. Jesus is in the midst of church.

  – He preached the Word to them. The Word preached the word.

 –  People brought their loved ones to the feet of Jesus. A real church is full of believers who trust their lives to Jesus Christ.

And finally, in a real church, people complain! See Mark 2:6-7

 Finally, Dr. Caner mentioned that “warriors make church.” Warriors never take credit, and warriors never take no for an answer. The four friends in Mark were never named. We don’t know who they were except that they were good friends. We know that when they couldn’t get their friend inside the room to Jesus through the front door, they went to the roof and took the roof apart so they could get their friend to Christ, and to healing.

 Real church starts in your heart. Real church lives in your heart. Members of a real church regularly gather together. It’s that simple. If you can’t find it, keep looking, and quit expecting real church to magically come to you.

Mark 2:1-12


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Real Church by Larry Crabb – No Church

This is the first book by author Larry Crabb (who has written twenty) that I have read and reviewed. Because the topic of “real church” resonates with me I was eager to examine Crabb’s discussion on what makes a real church and how we can find it. The book is organized in five parts: the first part is organized into four chapters under the general topic of why he doesn’t like going to church; Section 1 Why Should I Go to Church? Three Answers That Don’t Work For Me; Section II What Church Do I  Want to Go To:; Section III Marks of the Church I Want to Be Part Of; and the final section consisting of two chapters of a closing statement of what he wants in a church and a postscript. The book also includes a sample of Crabb’s next book “66 Love Letters: Discover the Larger Story of the bible, One Book at a Time.” Real Church

The first fourteen chapters describe Crabb’s “disappointment and frustration” with church. Page xix gives a general statement of the church he does want to be a part of, but the reader waits until Chapter 15 for a partial answer to the question of what the church Crabb wants to belong to looks like.

 Chapter 18 Mark #2: Respects the Necessary Ingredients in the Remedy for Addition is a clearly written chapter that provides the reader a place to develop the beginnings of understanding the author’s point. Chapter 19: Helping Me Become More Like Jesus, Inside—Where It Counts is similarly well written and of value.

 Crabb speaks as a psychologist, and the statement on page 15 illustrates his style throughout most of the book:

 “…church was designed by God to be the dance studio. A gathering becomes a church when a group of Christians together hear the music of heaven’s party and the laughter of God enjoying Himself and begin awkwardly dancing with the Trinity into the relationships and circumstances of life in order to bring heaven’s way of doing things to earth.”

 What, exactly, does this mean? The book does not adequately explain. And I finished the book still not understanding exactly what “real church” looks like. For me, the answer is simple and straightforward, and the book added no clarity to any questions I might have had about some of the “happy-happy-joy-joy” churches we see on the landscape today.

 I found the most valuable statement to the reader in Chapter 23, where Crabb states “I’m fighting a battle for my life that most churches don’t help me fight. And yes, it is a battle that Christ’s resurrection tells me I can win.” I applaud the clarity of this statement, but cannot commend the rest of the book to any but the most ardent fan of Mr. Crabb’s writing.


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