I Love My church

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The title pretty much says it all, I love my church.  I love the Church as a whole, but I particularly love my local body of church.  I am a member of Veritas West, a part of Veritas Community Church here in Columbus, Ohio.  I love my brothers and sisters in Christ here, I love my deacons, I love my elders, I even love our Bengals loving pastor (why do all the pastors in my life like the Bengals?!).   They are all fall from perfect, but I love them because God has put me here and under their discipline and discipleship.  Lisa and I started attending Refuge Church back in March and became members in June.  So we have only been attending here for a little less than a year. But I have no doubt that this is where God wants Lisa and I at this moment.

Same with our current living situation here.  Lisa and I have felt called to the Hilltop/Franklinton area for a while now, and this past November we finally found a place to rent here in the Hilltop.  It definitely has it challenges, but we are grateful for God placing us here right now.  We have met other people living in the Hilltop who also feeled called by God to this area, and shortly after our move here, our church relocated to half a mile up the road from our house.  I am excited when I hear of other families who want to move to this area as well to help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Gospel

tmnt-2011-a-lA story as old as time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Alright, so maybe the turtles themselves only date back to the late 80’s, a time when shoulder pads, jelly shoes, wallet chains were all the rage.  It’s not too hard to see how a story based on genetically mutated reptiles who fought crime with martial arts that were taught to them by a giant rat could catch on during this time period.  But at its core, the story of the Ninja Turtles is a story as old as time.  Four brothers who do not fit in with the world around them, who feel destined for greatness, only to eventually face the truth that their existence is the result of a mere accident.

Splinter in a scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja ...

Splinter in a scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The origins of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles varies in each incarnation of the series, but it stays similar; a certain chemical ooze gets spilled or accidentally spayed onto four baby turtles.  This “ooze” not only allows them to grow and resemble humanoid creatures, but also greatly heightens their intelligence and cognitive abilities.   They are then raised by a Rat (or Japanese martial artist turned rat, depending on the incarnation) who then teaches them the art of ninjitsu (obviously).  The four brothers are then raised in the sewers of New York City, going through adolescence and puberty while fighting petty crime in the city.

We all experience at least two thoughts during our teenage years, its universal.  1) We are unique, individual snowflakes who are unlike and completely individual from the masses around us, nobody really understands us.  2) We are destined for greatness and nothing can stop us.  Of course, neither of these two thoughts are really true.

Yes we are all individuals and slightly unique, but for the most part, humans are all basically the same.  We are all slaves to our own sin nature, and at the end of the day, everything we do serves ourselves.  Even our “good deeds” are an extension of our selfishness.  Look throughout history and see how similar we currently are to the ancient Romans and Greeks.  We are all sinful humans who, at our core, strive only to satisfy ourselves.  This is one aspect that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles actually hits on quite well.  The turtles are (for the most part) completely different individual from the rest of society.  And what is the thing that they strive for the most?  To be like everyone else and just be able to blend in.

The TMNT logo of the 1987 animated series.

The TMNT logo of the 1987 animated series. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second universal teenage thought is that we are destined for greatness.  We put here by some cosmic force to accomplish something.  However, as the turtles learn, this is simply not the case.  Their entire existence is the result of a mere accident.  They have no great spiritual significance or destiny.  If a little boy hadn’t tripped and lost his pet turtles down a drain, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would not have even existed.  This is contrasted with our reality, where we have been uniquely created by the almighty God and have a distinct purpose and calling for our lives.  It may be something simple as suffering for the sake of Christ, or loving others as Christ loved us and spreading the Gospel through those means.  We have a great meaning in our lives, and we will accomplish it for the glory of God.

Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One other thing I would like to touch on in regards to Ninja Turtles and The Gospel is the turtles selfless protection they give to the people of New York.  The turtles are mocked, ridiculed, and persecuted by the people they are trying to save, nobody would blame them if stayed in the sewers and showed no emotion to the people who dwell among the streets.  But they spend their nights saving those who hate them and are scared of them.  They receive little to no recognition, and are often hunted by those who they help.  This is a great picture of what it means to spread the gospel of Christ through persecution.  Our love of people should empower us to go forth and spread the gospel, even if we are mocked, ridiculed or persecuted.  I pray that God gives me a heart similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Pub Theology

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I’m wanting to start a Pub Theology group.  I read a little about them online and just can’t get the idea out of my head in the last couple of weeks.  If you are not familiar with it, it’s just a group that meets (usually at a pub or restaurant, obviously) to discuss different theological issues.  It’s not necessarily a “small group” in the traditional sense, though I suppose it could also be one.  Not everyone has to agree on different issues (though, all need to be gracious when discussing theology). Credobaptist vs Paedobaptist, Veneration of Mary, Limited vs Unlimited atonement, what is modesty, etc.  I whole heartily believe that discussing these things with other believers will sharpen us and help us grow in faith and grace.  I know that I personally grow when I am challenged by a different position then the one I hold.  I tend to get lazy and just accept my doctrinal stances without really flushing them out, and when confronted with an opposing view, I study more and look for more insight.

If you are in the Columbus or Grove City area, let me know if you would be interested in attending.  I’m thinking it will be a once a month thing, at least until it gets popular and if more people want to do it more often.

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The Great Commission Vacation

short term missionsIt seems to me that many short-term mission trips are problematic for a number of reasons. Let me give a few off the top of my head; 

1) Service missions are a waste of money that could have been used to hire local workers to do many of the jobs much better. I don’t understand why we spend thousands of dollars to send unskilled workers, often teenagers, when we could give jobs to local workers who actually know what they are doing for less money.

2) The false implicit assumption seems to be that missions and service need to be done somewhere other than within our own communities and to our own neighbors.

3) It reinforces the dynamic of impoverished people needing to be taken care of and saved by affluent, (typically white) Americans. Instead of empowering others and standing beside them as equals, a hierarchy develops even under the guise of service.

4) People gain an undue sense of their own goodness and the ‘impact’ or ‘difference’ that they made in other people’s lives. This also perpetuates the false belief that poverty is not an issue that should be addressed in the public sphere because charity is good enough to handle it.

5) While exposing people to poverty is a good thing, the lack of ongoing relationships does not actually improve people’s awareness of the reality of poverty. You often end up with affluent people who falsely think they understand the experience of poverty and the issues surrounding it.

6) The people being served are dehumanized as objects that we get to feel bad for, show compassion toward, feel love at, etc… They exist to make us feel like good Christians. How many people end up taking pictures of locals as if they are tourist attractions? Wouldn’t you find it weird if strangers went through your neighborhood and started taking pictures of you or your kids?

We’ve turned The Great Commission into something that is nothing more than an expensive vacation for church people.  If God has called you to missions, then do mission work.  But don’t do mission work for a week, come back to your home and share about how much you loved it and can’t wait to go back next year.  Just go do it.

 

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But They Don’t Understand How Jesus Feel About His Church

church-blocks1Lisa and I have been living in Columbus since a month before we got married or so (Fall of 2012).  Soon after we got married, I started a job where I was required to work almost every Sunday and my shifts throughout the week varied constantly.  It made finding a church incredibly difficult.  Occasionally when I would have a Sunday off, we would visit a church we thought could become our home church, but we never really felt like any of those could be churches where we grow, helped others grow, and raise a family in.  That’s not to say some of these churches were not biblical or gospel-centered, they just weren’t where God wanted us, which is evident now.  A couples months ago, I was lucky enough to trade the weekend shift in for the regular Monday through Friday, 9am to 6pm shift.  We began looking through websites (The Gospel Coalition, Acts 29 Network, Sojourn Network) looking for a church that wasn’t super far away and also shared in our same reformed theology.  We visited a couple of churches whose doctrine we didn’t completely agree with, some of it minor some of it major.  Some churches we did find, we emailed and never heard back.

Somehow, during my 10th scanning of The Gospel Coalition’s I saw a church that I hadn’t seen before.  Refuge Church, which was located in Grove City, about 15 minutes from where we live.  I went to their website and thought to myself “this looks like it could be a very good place for us to visit and check out”. I emailed the pastor, half expecting never to hear anything back like 90% of my prior inquires with other churches. But to my surprise, I heard back rather quickly, and most of the questions I had, he answered.  Usually when I had heard back from a church I emailed with questions, I got super vague answers back with them trying to get me to come to service to get all the answers.  It was  a refreshing twist.  Needless to say, we attended their Sunday service that week and have been going back ever since.  Next month we hope to take the membership class and become full-fledged members of Refuge Church.

Our first visit was crazy, it was made pretty obvious to us on our first trip that this was where God wanted us.  We were approached after service by one of the elders of Refuge and asked to have lunch with us (Something to note, Refuge offers a lunch buffet at church after Sunday service as a way for fellowship and getting together). Readers of my blog will know that Lisa and I feel called to the poorest area of Columbus, Franklinton (aka The Bottoms), without knowing of our call to that area, one of the elders brought up how Refuge is involved in that area and hope to eventually plant a church in that area one day.  Lisa and I kind of looked at each other, almost in disbelief.  It was obviously from there on, that God wanted us at Refuge.  It has been such a blessing getting to know the people at Refuge and making friends.  I had forgotten how much I longed for a church family during the last two years.  It would have been a lot easier dealing with our miscarriage had we had a church family then.  I can’t wait to see where God takes us and Refuge next.

But I With The Voice of Thanksgiving, Will Sacrifice To You; What I Have Vowed I Will Pay.

ImageI’ve written about my perceived calling to inner cities several times before.  If you know me outside of this blog, I’m sure we have spoken about it before as well.  Moving back to Columbus after college has really only served to further fuel that desire.  To be honest, it’s a calling I have struggled with believing.  Not because I don’t want to minister to that type of area, but because I want to minister to that type of area so badly.  I have feared at times that I have made myself feel that calling because I like to hear people tell me how brave I am for wanting to move to a ghetto to share the gospel or how I’m a better Christian because I’m willing to sacrifice comfort for the gospel.  After living the last two years pretty comfortably in Columbus with my wife and attending a couple of churches who minister to wealthy suburbs of Columbus, I just can’t shake the calling to the inner city.  Specifically in this case, the bottoms of Columbus.  My wife and I want to buy a house in the bottoms and move there as we share the gospel with our neighbors.

I firmly believe that in order to effectively reach a community, you have to live in and be apart of the community.  While I was in college I attended a church that desperately wanted to reach out to the poor and lost of the towns urban areas and asked for their members to live in those areas, while the church leaders (some, not all) lived far away in very nice houses while sending their kids to private Christian schools.  You can’t share the gospel with people when you only want to interact with them when it’s convenient for you.  I know it’s a scary thing to live in the ghetto, there have been many times where I have thought about moving my young bride to the drug riddled and crime capital of Columbus and have simply wanted to ask God for another calling, but as a husband, I have to lead my wife and my future children to where God wants us.  And right now I am completely confident that He wants us in the Columbus ghetto.

Lisa and I are in the very beginning stages of looking for a home when our apartment lease is up this coming winter.  I pray that if this truly where God wants us to set up shop, that it will be made obvious in this part of our journey.