The Embrace That Changed Me

Greetings, friends. I know, it’s been WAY too long since I last posted. There’s no particular reason for it. I just haven’t had any reflections that I’ve wanted to broadcast (that’s not to say I haven’t had reflections!) The purpose of this blog has always been to observe the ways in which the Gospel invades our existence, and so I’ll get back to that task.

This past weekend I preached from 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 on fleeing from sexual immorality. I don’t think that it was a particular good message homiletically (that’s the science/art of speech-making/preaching). No powerful stories. No bells and whistles. No clever videos or rephrasing. Not a lot of humor or great visuals. I just didn’t have time for that. I had 35 minutes to plead with my church to flee from all sorts of sexual immorality. So I studied, read, prayed, fasted, and wrote. And then I wrestled with God that if he didn’t do something with the pathetic manuscript that I had put together, we would all be in big trouble.

I’ll leave it for you to decide how it turned out. As I finished the message in each of our three services, our music team created space for people to “linger”. That’s when people just occupy a space and “be” – with no hurry to get to the next thing or pressure to vacate. We invited those who needed to just be with God to seek him. Those who wanted prayer could meander forward as the service concluded. There was a holy hush over the entire 1200 person auditorium, interrupted by the staccato of sniffles and heavy sighs as people experienced grace in confronting personal sin.

At the end of the last service, there sat two beloved gals in a same-sex relationship. They just lingered, waiting for me as I finished praying with the last person. As I walked over to them, my mind was racing particularly concerning one of the gals. What was she feeling? I had just talked about homosexuality as a kind of sexual immorality (in the same vein as pornography, cohabitation, and adultery). I was so afraid that my words had hurt both of them, added to their pain, or given them one more reason to be distanced from God. Then the unexpected happened.

As she stood, I just embraced her. And she wept. She burst out in tears and with every sob, every heave, I sensed the pain, the hurt of rejection, the confusion, the betrayal. All I could do was whisper, “I’m so sorry…” I hugged her for a few minutes as she drenched my shirt with her tears, and I wept with her.

Somewhere in the midst of that embrace, I sensed the presence of our Savior, enveloping both of us in his arms. I know that sounds super cheesy, but it was a real presence the likes of which I have only experienced in the most powerful moments of celebrating the Lord’s Table. In a way, it was a release for me as well – weeping over all of the confusion, pain, and rejection this image-bearer must have felt, weeping that the world was so broken, that the church was so impotent, and that it had to come down to a gal I care so much about sobbing on my shoulder. It was beautifully painful.

I don’t know where we go from here. I don’t know where the path will lead – what decisions for obedience we will need to press, or how our lives need to reflect the commands of Scripture. I anticipate that we will have some disagreement, confusion, and a lot of awkwardness. I can only respond to those things as they come.

But here’s what I do know: I will stay committed to these gals by that which I can choose: understanding, humility, patience, and love. I care about these young women beyond their sexual identity, and my embrace steeled my resolve to do whatever I can to point them to the One who embraces all of us and to call them to obey him – in whatever shape or form, as sincerely as they can.

A Canine Requiem

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A major chapter of my life closed last Tuesday. After nine years (the last of which she battled an aggressive tumor), we put our family dog, Nala, down. I didn’t think that this would be so difficult. In fact, when we first got Nala at 6 weeks (5 months into marriage), Sarah and I both agreed that should any health issue come up, we would not spend more than a reasonable amount for surgery. I know that sounds cruel, but we live under the conviction that there is some pretty serious suffering going on in the world, and we are stewards of resources and money. Seeing what we’ve seen in terms of human need around the globe, we just couldn’t justify spending a lot of money on a pet.

That said, I was totally ready to cave on my conviction. Continue reading

On Why Theology is Important: A Response to the grass-roots, “Let’s just love Jesus” Polemic

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Recently, I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of slogan posts decrying the stuffiness of theology and suggesting that we should return to “just loving people and Jesus”. While I appreciate what these posts are warning against (namely, theology as a baton of arrogance or condescension), I cannot agree with the simple conclusion that we should love people over against practicing theology.

One such post has a list of “Things Jesus Didn’t Say”. Some of the phrases listed there are:

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have correct theology.”

“And you will know the truth and the truth will make you superior to all the other simpletons who never learned Greek or Hebrew.”

The purpose of this list is to remind Christians of what is genuinely essential to the Christian faith, and to implicitly decry the state of the modern mega-church with all of its focus on buildings, programs, and other “religious” distractions. A lot of young adult-ish believers are sharing this post (and thus endorsing it) in an effort to express their desire for an authentic Christianity, but I wonder what kind of benefit this sort of satirical polemic really provides us.

A list like this places theology and practice at odds. It mocks the modernistic tendency to quantify and classify God, and it exposes the inherent arrogance that such quantifications can fuel. Basically, this list is saying that because theology is so divisive and cumbersome, we should just focus on loving one another. We should focus on accepting one another without all of the qualifications and hoops that we hold over people. Warning heeded. But let me offer a counterpoint. We ought not jettison theology just because some are doing it arrogantly (is that arrogant of me to say?). Rather, we should re-engage theology with the same kind of humility that it takes to love people. Let me offer five reasons why theology is important to loving people rightly. Continue reading

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