Mentors Give Perspective and so Much More

When you feel small and sometimes out of place in your denomination, the timely attention of a mentor comforts and inspires in ways that are

Bishop Emeritus Donald N. Bastian reviewing the Classic Catechism at General Conference 2015.

Bishop Emeritus Donald N. Bastian reviewing the Classic Catechism at General Conference 2015.

difficult to describe. The relationship does not have to be an “official” mentoring relationship where both mentor and mentee have formally agreed to meet for professional or spiritual formation of the mentee. It might just happen around a shared interest across generations.

One of my unofficial mentors has been Bishop Emeritus Donald N. Bastian. When I began working on the revision of the old Catechism of the Free Methodist Church which became the Classic Catechism, I needed someone with deep Free Methodist roots and a sharp theological and pastoral mind to review drafts. Since I was still relatively new to the Free Methodist Church, I needed input to make sure the final product would ring true to Free Methodist ears, not only in content but also in feel. At some point, I contacted Bishop Bastian and asked if he was willing to review drafts and give me feedback. He was willing, and so the emailing began. The feedback was timely, wise, and greatly improved my submission to the publisher. Also, being able to mention his help in the preface gave legitimacy to the project, something a bishop can do like no other.

One of the benefits that became clear to me through the help of Bishop Bastian is the importance of seeking counsel from ministers who served previous to my generation. There is a timeless wisdom there and a way of looking at things that is at once unnatural to me and at the same time makes me wish I had lived in that previous generation. Ministers are very foolish indeed who look only to the latest books on ministry and church growth and mega church pastors who “know how to do real ministry today.” C.S. Lewis made a similar statement about books in an essay included in On the Incarnation. He wrote,

It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.
Every age has its outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means old books (1977, p. 4-5).

I am thankful to Bishop Bastian who gives me a perspective that I would not have without his input. He is a precious, classic, “old book,” and I mean that with great respect.

May the Lord make more of us into mentors for younger people, and may he help us to be patient with them as good mentors have been to us.

Reference

Athanasius (1977). On the incarnation. With an introduction by C.S. Lewis. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladamir’s Seminary Press.

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Classic Catechism Seminar Materials – General Conference

Below are the PowerPoint slides and the simple handout I will use for seminar on the Classic Catechism this Wednesday.

Using the Classic Catechism handout Gen Conf 2015

Catechism Presentation for General Conference 2015

 

 

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Classic Catechism at General Conference on Wednesday

On Wednesday, July 15, at 7 a.m. I will give a seminar on the Classic Catechism at General Conference in room Boca IV. Come hear about its origin and join in brainstorming about using it for discipleship and more. 

 

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Christian Life After Yesterday’s Supreme Court Ruling: Helpful Links

indexHere are a few links that I have found helpful in my initial processing of the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage and essentially changed the legal definition of marriage.

My own bishops of the Free Methodist Church-USA issued a sound statement on the ruling and reminded us of where we stand as a denomination:

As Free Methodists, we remain committed to our best understanding of what God intended from the very beginning, what Jesus affirmed, and what virtually all followers of Christ have understood almost universally until relatively recently. We unequivocally affirm that from the beginning God intended marriage as composed of one man and one woman committing themselves to one another in a lifelong covenant of faithful love. In this union, where two become one flesh, God intends the reflection of God’s own self, God’s own image (see our 2011 Book of Discipline, par. 3215, 3311).

A post from Bishop David Kendall back in 2012 is helpful on the whole issue of Re-Defining Marriage. At the conclusion of his post, Kendall wrote,

But what if we “re-defined” marriage in practice?  What if followers of Jesus truly followed Jesus?  If in Jesus’ name, we found grace to wait on sexual expression, grace to enter into deep and joyful intimacy with the one to whom Jesus leads us, grace to forgive and be forgiven, grace to become truly one in Jesus, grace to weather the storms of life together better and stronger than on our own, grace to grow old graciously and sweetly together, grace to experience a bond so insoluble that even death does not threaten?  What if among more and more of us, God’s good idea of marriage—God’s idea—appeared on beautiful and inviting display?

How might God work if we could “re-define” marriage, beginning in our homes, in such ways?

In Everything Has Changed – The Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage,  Albert Mohler makes many important points, among them reminding us of the growing animosity toward traditional Christians that we must learn to live with:

One of the most dangerous dimensions of this decision is evident in what can only be described as the majority’s vilification of those who hold to a traditional view of marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman. Justice Samuel Alito stated bluntly that the decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” According to the argument offered by the majority, any opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in moral animus against homosexuals. In offering this argument the majority slanders any defender of traditional marriage and openly rejects and vilifies those who, on the grounds of theological conviction, cannot affirm same-sex marriage.

Own Strachen gives us Five Implications of the Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision. One of the things we should do, he writes, is

Lastly, we should cultivate our families and reinvest in our marriages. It’s right and even needed to seek the reversal of this decision and the undoing of its many baleful effects. We must and should do that, and every single Christian should participate meaningfully in the political system at every level they can. But let’s get this straight: our major work going forward, along with what I’ve said thus far, should in truth be the cultivation of our own gardens.

Kevin DeYoung, who has written a wonderful book called What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality, posted a helpful response: But What Does the Bible Say? He emphasizes loving our neighbor and holding fast to biblical truth. He wrote,

Any Christian who really believes the Bible must believe all of the Bible. You can’t applaud what Jesus says about loving your neighbor from Leviticus 19, if Leviticus 18 and 20 are throwaway chapters. You can’t unpack the good news of Romans 8, if Romans 1 is overstuffed with cultural baggage. You can’t marvel at the goodness of God’s creation, if there is no good design in how he created things. Either the Bible is God’s Word or we are sufficiently godlike to determine which words stay and which words go.

The cultural breezes are blowing against us. The worldly winds are stiff in our faces. But the hard parts of the Bible are no less true for being less popular. The Bible says what it says, so let us be honest enough to say whether we think what the Bible says is right or wrong. Diarmaid MacCulloch, a decorated church historian and gay man who left the church over the issue of homosexuality, has stated the issue with refreshing candor:

This is an issue of biblical authority. Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity, let alone having any conception of homosexual identity. The only alternatives are either to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong. (The Reformation: A History, 705).

Yes, those are the only alternatives.

Lastly, Denny Burk offers good counsel to pastors in A word to pastors preaching in the aftermath of Obergefell v. Hodges. To summarize: be biblical, courageous, practical, and holy. All of which require boldness and a willingness to suffer the consequences.

May the Lord give us wisdom to know how to live in this fallen world, commitment to hold fast to his truth, and strength as we enter a time of increased marginalization.

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Joshua Duggar and Mistakes vs. Sins

Yesterday it came out that Joshua Duggar, eldest son of the “19 Kids and Counting” show, now married with three of his own kids, molested several of his sisters when he was fifteen years old. The media loves dirt and scandal, especially on conservative Christians, so the story has spread like wildfire. Both Joshua, his parents, and his wife have issued statements, in which responsibility was taken for Joshua’s actions. Always helpful, Russell Moore has offered a good reflection on the issue.

But what Jim Bob and said in their statement interests me in particular on a biblical/theological level.  I certainly do not want to study their statement as though it was written by a professional theologian, but the choice of a particular word has caught my eye. It did because I hear it out of the mouths of Christians a lot. That word is “mistake.” Here is short bit of what they wrote:

“Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked.”

Certainly they had to be careful with their statement and they do have experience with wording things for media consumption. But that word “mistake” is the wrong word to use, at least in terms of a biblical worldview. It is the wrong word because Joshua did not make mistakes but committed sins. The difference is significant. When one makes a mistake one errs. Think of your checkbook register. You make a mistake when you make a math error or forget to record a check and thus screw up the balance in your register. You intended to get the balance correct but you accidentally got it wrong. But a sin is different, properly understood. A sin is intentional. You know an action is wrong and you do it anyway. That is a sin.

Joshua Duggar had to know that molesting his sisters was a sin. He had been raised in a Christian family with conservative values and boundaries. He also has a God-given conscience. So to call what he did a “mistake” is woefully inaccurate.

Too often I hear Christian people refer to the sins of their children or their own as “mistakes.” I suspect that it often is an attempt to minimize what was done. But sometimes it is simply the influence of the world on the thinking of Christians. Our grasp on a truly biblical worldview is so weak at times that we do not stand apart in our speech.

A Christian’s grasp of a biblical worldview and deliberate employment of it takes work. But it is worth it because without it we often do not look at things in the way God has revealed that we should. And when we do not look at things the way God intends us to, we cannot live for him as fully as we should. God deserves our best.

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Classic Catechism at General Conference

I am happy to announce that I will be offering a seminar on the Classic Catechism at the General Conference of the Free Methodist Church-USA this July in Orlando. The seminar will be on Wednesday, July 15, from 7:00 – 8:15 a.m., in one of the classrooms in the right/east BOCA wing of the convention center. ClassicCatechism

The seminar will cover the origin and structure of the Catechism plus some ideas for how to use it. I have offered seminars like this at the last two General Conferences and they went well – I am hoping for even stronger interest now that it has been translated into several languages and is being used extensively in Asia.

 

 

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One of My New Favorite Websites: Piercing Word

piercing word easterIt was refreshing to find this website, Piercing Word. All the videos are good, but I especially love Aaron House’s presentation of the Easter story from the Gospel of John, word-for-word as in the ESV. Enjoy.

 

 

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