Tag Archives: Christians

A Guest Post About Simpler Faith by Ed Galisewski

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After publishing Divided We Unite in January, I’d been thinking about what it means to belong in Christian community. Around that time Ed Galisewski contacted me about his new book A Simpler Faith. His promo video does a good job of summing up the book and Ed’s heart for finding common ground. I asked Ed to share a bit about what it means to belong to a Christian community and how A Simpler Faith may give us some of the tools we need (and because I finally found someone with a last name that is similar to my own—Go Poland!). (UPDATE: I also moved one sentence around after reading the first comment to this blog post):

Today I’ll spend an hour over lunch with a buddy talking about the three primary elements of Christian faith—our Creator, Savior and Guide—in the most real and practical ways.

We’ll talk about the hope that’s found in having a Creator—a loving Deity who exists beyond what we can see and hear. One whose existence speaks to our deep desire that when we close our eyes for the last time, we’ll have a spiritual world in which to live for eternity.

We’ll talk about our need for a Savior—one to cleanse us from all past sins and forgive us our daily trespasses. (It only takes a few minutes into our salads to acknowledge the pesky stumbling blocks on our way toward “perfection”—something I, more than anyone, have yet to achieve. Maybe next week.)

We’ll end up talking about our need for a Guide—the Holy Spirit—to help us deal with all of life’s issues and trials. We need One to remind us that no matter what our situation, there’s a way of life that brings joy and peace.

I’m convinced this is a regular conversation every Christian can have—with any other Christian. The core elements of faith are found in the simplicity of knowing a Creator, Savior and Guide—something I affectionately refer to in my book as “C-S-G.” Of course, anything as complex as God’s amazing reality can’t be reduced to “three simple steps.” I’m not advocating that at all.

Good theology is complex for a good reason. When it comes to Christians actually walking the talk, we’re all called to a simpler faith. Everyone starts their spiritual journey—and sustains it—based on three core elements: C-S-G: Creator, Savior, Guide.

The problems come with the “extras”—the man-made add-ons. In the book I call these divisive traits our distinctives—the unique ways we “do church” in the world of Christianity (When I speak of “Christianity,” I’m talking about all faith groups who embrace the concept of the Trinity). There’s nothing wrong with believers approaching the journey differently—as long as we have respect for those whose approach is different from ours. Too often we dismiss those who aren’t in step with our distinctives. We end up creating an “us vs. them” mentality within the walls of Christianity.

This issue of distinctives, more than any other, is what drives good people away from church. When these things become the dominant focus—stressing who’s right and who’s wrong—people get fed up and leave. Who can blame them?

I want more than anything to help disconnected believers find their way back to faithful, thriving Christian community. Deep down, our alienated brothers and sisters long to be in fellowship. It’s on us in the church to make a way for that to happen. I outline ways to do this in my book—and I’ve personally seen it happen for dozens of disaffected Christians I know. By boiling down the core of faith to its essentials, we help people reconnect with their Creator, Savior and Guide—and that makes it easier for them to stay in the game.

Christian community is what I want to bring these disconnected believers back to. I am so convinced that only in community can we reach our highest level of spiritual growth. Only in community do we have other brothers and sisters in the faith to share with and ask for prayer and guidance in this ever turbulent world in which we live.

I know for me, when I was disconnected from my faith community for a while, I felt alone and God was my only comforter. Now, God is the supreme comforter, but I can tell you that it has made a huge difference when I eventually came back to Church and then back to relationship with other believers. It is in those relationships with other believers that we can be real and vulnerable and live out what Christ was trying to create with the disciples. He was investing his life into theirs so they could experience the richness of a Christ centered community.

I wrote A simpler Faith so that those who have been away from Christian community for any length of time could enjoy that kind of connection with other believers once again.

Learn more about Ed’s upcoming book A Simpler Faith here.

professional portraits 1Ed Galisewski is a real life “Joe Palooka”—a big, good-natured guy. A men’s ministry leader for fifteen years, Ed has ministered to literally thousands of people. He has been in and out (and in again) of church, learning to overcome his own struggles with the institution while still loving the body of Christ.

Ed and his wife Lynette live in Littleton Colorado with their two children son Braun and daughter Bryn.

Learning How to Wait Better During Advent

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When I saw the enormous flowers toppling over our Christmas cactus on the dining room table for the first time this morning, I knew I had a problem. How long had those blooms been sitting right under my nose while I sat at the table reading, browsing the internet, or staring dumbly at my cup of coffee?

It was like God gave me a pleasant little metaphor of how I approach the Christmas season. It usually looks something like this.

The first Sunday of Advent hits like an unexpected tidal wave. It throws me into a panic because I need to start shopping and getting ready for a spiritually significant Christmas. I now have a deadline. If I can’t get my gifts purchased and wrapped, as well as arrive at a spiritual epiphany by December 25th, I fear that the universe will start to unravel and I’ll be sent into exile—or something like that.

Dread often gives way to guilt until December 25th passes and I’m filled with nostalgia for the glories of Christmas. Ah, I can’t wait until next year…

It struck me yesterday that dreading the arrival of Christmas is sound evidence that my priorities are in the wrong place.

I still love buying gifts for family members, but I don’t want to dread Christmas. I want to enjoy this season of prayer and meditation on God’s love for us. Reading through a daily Advent Devotional has helped immensely. However, I’m still pretty confident that I can screw things up with overblown expectations and busy schedules.

Just as I schedule time to get my work done, to do the dishes, and to even shop, I’ve been working on scheduling time to wait on the Lord. I’m not even hoping that anything in particular will happen.

My goal is to wait in peace and hope, letting God do as he pleases. If I only end up waiting better for the season of Advent, then perhaps I’ll have learned something valuable in the process.

This post is part of Bonnie Gray’s Thursday Faith Jam. Check out her post today: Be Fully Present

A New Logo for Mars Hill in Sacramento

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MarsHillWhatevahAre the young, restless, and Reformed trying to sue your church for copyright infringement?

You can evade legal trouble while keeping it cool and classy with the new “Mars Hill Whatevah”®  logo for your church.

This sleek, black logo will remind your fellow litigants that Christians really shouldn’t sue one another, and that you’re not going to take their threatening letters seriously.

Interested in using this copyrighted logo for your church?

No problem! Just download the image, plant a church, and you’re good to go! Best yet, you won’t have to worry that I’ll send my massive team of lawyers after you!

Notes for Readers

For the full scoop on where this joke is coming from, see JesusNeedsNewPR and the original post.

Why Christians Have Hope… Like, for Real

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Sunburst

The other day I dug into the ways that Christians misuse the Gospel for political and national goals. It was a tough post to write because I don’t want to be the angry truth police guy. I also don’t want anyone to think that Christianity is hopeless.

It’s easy to pick on the things that are negative rather than highlighting what’s in good working order. The latter stories are not as exciting to write or read. However, I felt that an issue like that needs to be exposed because it can subtly undermine the Gospel.

It’s ironic because while at a Christian writer’s conference last week I kept a running list of silly things Christians say/believe and reasons for hope. I had a hunch that the good news would outweigh the bad. They did. While I hit upon one really discouraging note the other day, I still have many reasons to believe that God can use his people to do a lot of good based on what I saw and heard at the conference.

So here are some significant reasons why Christians have hope…

There was an emphasis on suffering…

No one shared a prosperity Gospel. One speaker said, “Some of you have not suffered enough to write and minister as effectively as you one day will.” That is a powerful statement that hits upon the results of joining Christ in the fellowship of his suffering.

There was a diverse crowd…

This was a fairly diverse conference both ethnically and theologically. While some of the political junk got in the way at times, I was encouraged to see a diverse group of Christians working, worshipping, and hanging out together.

There was an emphasis on mission…

The Christians at this conference were actively seeking to share the Gospel with others. Time and time again I was challenged to go deeper in my walk with the Lord and to use my gifts for his work. That was probably more significant for me than the excellent writing workshops I attended.

There was an emphasis on solid research and writing…

The workshops I attended shared valuable advice on how to write good articles and books without resorting to unfair arguments, bad facts, and other emotional tricks. The workshop leader, who struck me as rather conservative politically, shared the ways he writes charitably about the political left and the nuances he found in the midst of his research.

There is an openness to the Holy Spirit…

If the people of God remain open to the leading of his Spirit, then we have the greatest reason for hope provided his people continue to let him lead.

While we find plenty of things to avoid or disavow, there are some great reasons to have hope in what God can do among and through his people.

What signs of life and hope have you seen in the past few weeks?

She’s Here, She’s Queer, She’s Christian, Get Used to It…

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The coming out of Jennifer Knapp has sparked a tipping point for Christians and homosexuality—at least from my perspective. So many of us loved her previous work, and now most Christians feel like they sort of know someone who is a homosexual AND a Christian.

Instead of homosexuals being “out there,” we’ve found they’re also among us.

When same sex marriage passed in Vermont a group of advocates chanted outside the tiny capital building in Montpelier: “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re married, get used to it!”

OK, so it was probably more of a taunt to their opponents, but I got a kick out of it. Blunt though it may be, it laid the cards on the table. With a law legitimizing same sex unions, those in opposition were faced with a choice of how to respond. Will they continue to fight it, or will they figure out a way to disagree and still move on with their lives?

The homosexuality debate among Christians is in a deadlock. I don’t think there’s anything new we can say. If you read enough comments and blog posts, you’ll find roughly three views. Christians who find homosexuality morally permissible, those who aren’t sure, and those who don’t.

The comment threads go on and on, but I don’t see an end to the debate in sight. I’ve written extensively on this topic both in the Coffeehouse Theology Contemporary Issues Guide and on this blog. As an exercise, I wrote up one post explaining the reasoning behind all three views on this topic. I feel like I understand where they’re all coming from, even if I have my own opinion on the matter.

I think we need to reframe this discussion. All three sides are just getting frustrated. It’s time to accept the fact that there will always be Christians who permit homosexuality, there will always be Chrisitians who aren’t sure, and there will always be Christians who do not permit it.

We’re here, we’re queer/unsure/straight, we’re Christians, get used to it.

That isn’t to say that we need to agree. No, that isn’t going to happen. We just need to ask the “Now what"?” question. If we can’t resolve this debate, are there some levels where we can at least have civil dialogue while holding to our different convictions?

And if some folks can’t imagine fraternizing with the other side in a dialogue that seeks to understand where that perspective is coming from, then perhaps the best move is disengagement. I’m all for dialoguing with perspectives different from my own—I benefit greatly from it. However, any debate on this topic has been played out, so why even bother to keep lobbing broad sides at one another?

There are consequences to pressing on with the debate. If we continue in this debate, I fear opponents of homosexuality will feel smug and self-righteous for their biblical purity, while those who support it will feel smug and self-righteous for their biblical progressiveness.

This is new, uncertain ground for many of us. So I advise caution as we move forward. However, it’s time to start asking the “now what?” question because the old debates aren’t moving us forward. Too much harm has been done in the name of “what’s right,” and people called to love God and to love others above all else cannot afford to let things continue in their present state.

Romans 11: The Triumph of Worship

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Continuing my meditations on the book of Romans…

Though the majority of the Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah and the promise of God has been extended to Gentiles, the Lord has not rejected his people. He has saved a remnant. They are saved by God’s free and undeserved kindness. Many Jews have been seeking God’s favor, but his kindness is not based on merit, but rather God’s purposes in election. Only those enabled by God could respond to him.

In God’s plan to make salvation available to all people, he appointed Paul to carry the Gospel to them. However, even that calling aimed to spark jealousy among the Jews. God had not forgotten them.

God isn’t done with the Jewish people, as their lineage from Abraham is still important. Paul is hopeful for the day of salvation still coming for the Jewish people.

Since salvation comes by God’s mercy and the cutting off of some Jewish branches, Paul warns the Gentiles from thinking too highly of themselves. They should fear the possibility of falling away. God is kind to those who continue to trust in his kindness, but he is also severe to those who disobey.

God is both severe and kind, patient and decisive, cutting off and preserving. It would seem every time the Jews and Gentiles thought they had God’s plan figured out, Paul revealed new aspects of it that would seem to smash all systematizing. God has a plan and purpose in election, humans make choices they are responsible for, and those in Christ are both safe from sin and in danger of choosing to fall away.

The appropriate response to God comes at the end of this chapter: worship. Hold the truth we know about God out there, but celebrate God and the mercy that comes through the salvation offered by Christ. The last thing God needs is to be twisted and misrepresented by finite humans.

Worship is the place for humanity, whether always part of God’s plan or an addition grafted in.

Romans 8: God’s Spiritual Reality

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Continuing my series of meditations on the book of Romans with chapter eight…

There is no condemnation under sin or the law for those who belong to Jesus and live by the power of the Spirit. With this bold statement, Paul has essentially wrapped up his arguments concerning the law and sin.

He has already established that the law itself is not bad. Rather, it is incapable of saving. That is why God initiated the incarnation of Jesus who died and rose in order to destroy sin’s control over humanity and its misuse of the law to bring condemnation. Paul wants the Romans to know they are in right standing before God and the law because the Spirit applies God’s new life to them.

The Holy Spirit now takes center stage in God’s redemptive work.

As the Romans struggle with obedience and sin, Paul explains their conflict between the sinful nature and the Holy Spirit. In vv. 5-17, the Roman church is presented with a choice to allow sin or the Spirit to control their lives. Those who live under the control of the Spirit are able to live in peace, pleasing God through obedience.

The ramifications for living under God’s Spirit include belonging to Christ, freedom from the control of sin, and the same Resurrection power that brought Christ to life bringing God’s full life to fruition. Living in the freedom and obedience of God’s Spirit means the Roman believers have nothing to fear from God since they are no longer under the condemnation of sin and can consider themselves sons of God.

However, being a son of God is not free from suffering. In fact, being in God’s family requires sharing in the suffering of Christ (v.17).

In fact, life will be difficult for those patiently waiting for God’s glory to be revealed. Even with the Holy Spirit living among them, the Romans will have to wait with the rest of creation, confidently expecting God to give them full rights as his adopted children.

God’s goal for his children is that they bear a family resemblance to Jesus, the first-born son of the family. Therefore, God’s Spirit prays in accordance with God’s will, helping sons and daughters with their struggles against sin. As the Spirit prays, God works everything for the good of those who respond to God’s calling and purpose with love for God. Those who love God can trust they are being supported and carried as they submit to God’s purpose for their lives. For those called by God and known by him, there is struggle and sacrifice, but God is gracious, offering them right standing before God and his glory.

For those in God’s family through the Holy Spirit, there is nothing that can separate them from God’s love. External or internal circumstances have no sway, even in the most dire of situations involving hunger, danger, or death. God’s deep love is for his people, and so no other power or situation can change that.

These are the spiritual realities of the Christian life, and they are worthy of our deepest consideration.