Wednesday, May 27, 2009

By Narrow Minds or Prison Walls Restrained?

Today, I had the privilege of sitting under the ministry of General John Larsson and his wife Commissioner Freda Larsson. The afternoon was well worth it.

My colleagues and I spent an afternoon singing some of the great songs that the famous duo of Gowans and Larsson composed. We heard the stories behind the compositions and were inspired by narrative of the musical genius of these two men.

Now many of you will understand that my style of musical taste really does not fall in line with what I heard today. I am more a Linkin Park type of guy. I do enjoy the music of Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, my boy Phil Laeger (I know Phil don't get a big head) and other writers of the new hymnody of our day.

Today, was a different day though. We sang some of the songs I sang as a teen and a guy in my early twenties as an officer. One of the songs we sang was "I'll Not Turn Back." The chorus is famous, but there are incredible lines in the verses which stick out to me.

You will know that I pride myself on the fact that I tend to be somewhat unconventional. My viewpoints are less than traditional and sometimes, I think people see me as bordering on the heretical.

As we sang today, a line struck me with incredible force from the song..."If doors should close then other doors will open. The Word of God can never be contained. His love cannot be finally frustrated, by narrow minds or prison walls restrained." I am not sure of the whole story behind these words. Yet, my eyes met with a friend of mine in the room as we sang this. We both had a similar emotional reaction. We wept. I cannot speak for my friend, but I think I know that I have struggled in recent years with implementation of grand visions for the expansion of gospel, because there seems to be a refusal to see beyond common sense and protocol. I admit, I have fallen into that trap as well.

I was given assurance that God's word is powerful and creative. It is even unconventional. I have no right to try to tell God how to operate. Protocols cannot get in His way either.

I was given a vision for what can and must be done in my life and in my ministry. I had my conscience pricked today about how narrow our minds have gotten when it comes to mission and the economic crisis we now face. We see dry bones but God sees an Army. We see doom and gloom and no resources, but God sees that He has storehouses of resources.

Our narrow minds and polity often act as impediments to what the Word of the Lord wants to accomplish. Yet, scripture reminds us that the Spirit moves as and when He wants. Finally, if we don't do it, He will find someone who will agree to His plan.

I heard an illustration recently. I think it might even have been one that General Larsson used. The speaker talked about how neat and orderly his office was. He talked about how papers were just so on his desk and in his file. It was easy to do business that way. Life was precise, predictable and contained. In other words, the focus was very narrow.

The speaker went onto say that on very hot day he opened a window. As is often the case, a pretty brisk wind picked up and began to gust in his office. He returned after a meeting to see that the papers had blown all over the place. Life was not orderly, but the wind had refreshed the space and made it cool and bearable, in a very unbearable and orderly place.

In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is likened to wind. He blows in where he wants. I see it this way. As stewards of the Word, we can either keep everything neat and manageable or we can trust the Spirit to refresh, while maybe messing up our protocols and pushing the Word forward. "His love cannot be finally frustrated, by narrow minds or prison walls restrained."

So friends, do you think as I do that we have tended to let common sense and protocol rule us too much? Has our polity become an impediment or a practical help to the Gospel? Is it time that we escape our narrow focus (I speak to myself here) and allow Spirit to really show us how to operate? Have we just hemmed God in? Will His word really not be frustrated?

What do you think?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Very Rank?

Well, this one has been simmering for a bit. Several years back then General John Gowans asked whether or not we should flatten the rank system. He did somewhat, by changing the Lt. designation.

I have struggled to see a theological defence for the system. I have come to the conclusion that it is part of our polity. In other words, it is part of our organizational structure. There are ranks.

I have also struggled though with rank being a very prideful thing for many people. Some would argue that rank affirms people and there ought to be more ranks. I am thinking there might be a bit of insecurity and misplaced values if you need a title to affirm you as a person.

Some would say that rank is not important. I agree. So if they are not important, why do we place such an emphasis on them? I also wonder why we use them to refer to each other in meetings especially in those business meetings where we have known each other as friends for years.

Some say that it is a matter of respect. I am not sure that is accurate. People are respected not positions. I have had people wonder why I don't require people to use my rank (even kids) when referring to me. I am not really fussed about my rank. I know what I do, who I am and know my designation. It matters little to me if people know or care about that as long as we can connect on a personal level and converse about the Kingdom.

Then there is in the Western world a somewhat negative reaction to the militaristic metaphor. I think the scriptural metaphor of war is accurate, but the militaristic metaphor is something different. It worked really well in our founding days. I think, especially in the States it worked well to attract people because of the culture of the day. Civil War vets would march behind a flag and band and they could relive old glory days. As the years have gone on, I believe people on the outside now see it as an oddity. I might be wrong. I am just reacting on this anectodally.

As you can tell, titles are not a big deal to me. What I do is. I am still not sure where I stand on this whole rank system. There are some days I do see its use, other days I am not sure it is a good thing.

Is it a prideful thing? Is a piece of our polity whose day has past? Is it something that I should not even worry about? I am interested to know....

What do you think?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Liberal or Loving?

This may be one of my most controversial posts. I have long tried to understand the life style of people of homosexual orientation. Frankly, ten years ago, I was very much of the point of view that homosexuality was sin.

Recently, some of us have been discussing this issue. We really are trying to discern whether this is an orientation that comes naturally or that comes through nurture. Many of the group who discussed this really believe this is built into the nature of some people. This is a difficult thing for those of us who have a rather conservative theology to swallow. Yet, anecdotally, I believe it to be true.

That leads me to my dilemma. I believe that the Bible teaches that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. I think it is quite clear. I don't think the hermeneutic has changed with the change of culture. I also don't believe that as some would assert that the early writers of scripture were biased toward homosexuals. Therefore, I cannot endorse gay marriage.

It is difficult for me to say this because, I want people to know intimate, loving relationships. It appears to me that scripture then indicates that the only way for people to have total intimacy, especially sexually, is through marriage. That means a man and a woman. It would appear that is what God ordained.

This also poses a second dilemma for many people. I know many celibate hetro-sexual and homosexual people who choose this life style for many reasons, not the least of which is to devote their total intimacy to God. These people also want to serve in ministry. There is rarely an eye batted when a hetro-sexual single wants to minister. There are usually large objections raised when a homosexually oriented person wants to serve.

I believe the key is celibacy here. It appears that we as evangelical Christians seem to single out homosexuality as a pet sin. We seem to wink at other sins. I had one associate say that there is such a backlash because "they" are so militant. As with any other group there is a minority of people who take a militant point of view. However, even if people are militant, it does not make it right for us to take a hateful stance. We should not lower standards either.

My view is simple. If people are celibate, even if openly homosexual, they should be able to serve. It should not bar them from service. I know several who do with distinction and grace.

For my view, I have been called "liberal." I see it as being loving. Actually, the person who called me liberal thought it was a good stance as well.

We all struggle. We all have dark places in our lives. Maybe we ought to love liberally.

Well, I think the reaction will vary here. As with all my posts, I ask

What do you think?