A letter to the UCC elders

I don’t like open letters, but I’m about to write one. Largely because I want to publicly thank and applaud the elders of the church I attend: University Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas

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Dear elders,

I know this is a bit impersonal, and I hope to speak with each of you personally. For now, let me publicly thank you for the statement you issued on Sunday about the participation of women in our Sunday assembly. It was a milestone on a long road, one that many of us had grown weary of. I’m sure that you especially have longed to reach a resting point in this discussion.

You’ve had my prayers, as always. I’ve prayed even harder as I’ve realized how especially difficult this process had begun. To be honest, I despaired of a solution that wouldn’t tear our congregation apart. You showed great wisdom, Spirit-filled discernment, in reaching a compromise.

No, I didn’t agree with every word in that statement. But I heartily agree with the expression of love and unity found in those pages.

We members have not behaved well. Many reacted without knowing the facts. Assumptions were made, conclusions drawn. You were attacked for moving too fast and for moving too slow. You were criticized for being too backwards and too progressive. Your motives were questioned.

Some chose to leave rather than work through the messiness that is church life; I pray they’ll be better prepared for disagreements that will come up in their new church home.

We’ve given lip service to Bible study while actually following our feelings and preferences. We’ve hard a hard time differentiating between “thus saith the Lord” and our own druthers. That’s hard to admit, but it’s true.

You’ve been publicly attacked and privately criticized. Too little grace has been extended your way.

Through it all, you’ve behaved like gentlemen. More than that, you’ve behaved like Spirit-led Christian shepherds. I’m proud to be part of your flock.

Thank you for your service.

 

Grace and peace,
Tim Archer

Links To Go (May 27, 2015)

A Prayer from a Pacifist on Memorial Day

God, we pledge our allegiance to Your kingdom as we seek to name evil and we discourage followers of Jesus from any vocation that might require violence. At the same time, we refuse to distance ourselves from those who have taken part in the way of Empire. God, help us to bring shalom to these people, Your children, as You have given peace to those of us who have never pulled the trigger. And prompt us to embrace the the families of the fallen, to deplore death, and celebrate life. May we mourn with those who mourn and trust that death has in fact been defeated by Love.


Another Pool of Blood In Which I Am Willing to Stand

Memorial Day was a national liturgy that shaped and directed our love toward that which is most sacred and holy in our lives. Our god will always be standing in a pool of blood. Because the pool of blood tells you what you’re willing to die for, to bleed for, where your ultimate allegiance is located.
Follow the blood, it tells you what you worship.


Fifty Shades of Khaki: Biblical Minimalism

A number of these secular sources pointed out that despite the appearance of voluntary simplicity in many cultures, religions, and philosophies in history, it is Christianity that can be credited with spreading the virtue of simple living throughout Europe and America. I was like, “Wait, what?” I thought secular observers would link Christianity with the craving for prosperity, à la Osteen, Jakes, Meyers, Hinn, and yes, Dollar. But the historically au fait minimalist community recognizes modern TBN-ism as being disloyal to, and in fact incompatible with, biblical Christianity.


The Wounds of Progressive Christians

One of the lessons Jana and I learned during that time is that it’s hard to build a church upon a foundation of anger, resentment and hurt. It’s hard to build a church around an identity that basically says, “We’re not like those other churches.


I’m Divorced: How Does God See Me Now?

Our relationships may be broken. Perhaps they are dead. But ours is a God of resurrection, and just as he overturned the curse of Jesus’ death, he can overturn the curse of a broken marriage. The empty tomb is the answer for a soul broken by divorce.


Science Says Lasting Relationships Come Down To 2 Basic Traits

By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples — straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not — will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?


Why Speaking Well of Your Spouse Is So Important

But as we got better acquainted with him and his wife, we started noticing a disturbing trend in the way they related to one another. They would often make disparaging remarks about the other in public.
At first, it seemed cute. Their comments seemed playful and humorous. Everyone laughed. But over time, they became more and more pointed, thinly masking their frustration with one another.
We ultimately left that church. But several years later we learned they suffered an ugly divorce, both admitting to multiple affairs. They lost their family, and, of course, their ministry. To this day, it grieves me to think about it.


Dressing up, dressing down

formal wearSomeone approached me the other day to talk about my recent Heartlight article about “Dressing Down For God.” They skipped over the main points of the article, wanting instead to talk about what we wear when we go to church. The main argument was that people dress up on Sunday to give God their best.

I don’t buy it. That’s a line, not a true motivation. There was a time when people saved their best clothes for Sunday, but it’s not true any more. Those who dress up on Sunday typically dress up on other days as well. The suit they wear for God is the same one they wear to request a loan at the bank. (And if they really want to dress up, men rent a tux and women wear evening gowns)

If we were really trying to give God our best, we would have “Sunday go to meetin'” clothes that we don’t wear anywhere else. They would be by far our best, much nicer than what we wear to meetings, even with heads of state.

Most Jewish families have special plates for the Sabbath. The nicest plates they have. Only for the Sabbath. If you do that, then I’ll listen to your “give God my best” argument. Otherwise, please save it for someone a little more naive.

You don’t have to rent a tuxedo. If you normally wear J.C. Penney’s suits (Sorry women… it’s hard for me to be conversant in terms of your clothing), go buy one at Brooks Brothers. Only for Sunday. Only for church. Only for God. And you can honestly say that you are trying to give your best to God by the way you dress.

Then, of course, we run the risk of following afoul of the instructions which the New Testament gives about how to dress for church: simply. Avoiding ostentation and show. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for fancy clothes. James warns against showing deference to those who are finely dressed. Women are exhorted to dress simply; is there any reason to think that men would be exempted from that?

Now, just to be sure I annoy everyone, let me say a word about those who think that sloppiness equals godliness. I thoroughly disagree. I think you should be acceptably dressed, acceptable being a key word. It is as wrong to dress to offend as it is to dress to impress. I think our goal should be to dress so that no one notices our clothes!

Wear clean, simple clothes. And be sure to wear the following:

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14)

 

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

Image courtesy MorgueFile.com

Parties and temples

The wedding feastJust wanted to share a thought from a Bible study a few weeks ago. We were reading in John chapter 2. The chapter begins with Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding feast. Later he clears the money changers out of the temple.

We noted that Jesus seemed more at home among the partygoers than he did the templegoers.

I’m afraid we today might have gone into the wedding and cleared out the revelers while leaving those in the temple at peace.

What do you think?

Illustration courtesy Sweet Publishing

I’ve been digitized

Cuba history book coverOK, it wasn’t actually me. It was Tony and me.

OK, it wasn’t actually Tony and me. It was the book that Tony Fernández and I wrote about Cuba.

We’ve got a Kindle edition out now. If you don’t need another paperback lying around, or if you don’t want to wait to receive a copy in the mail, or if you’d like to save a few dollars off the price of a physical copy, or if you just like e-books… you can get A History of Churches of Christ in Cuba in Kindle format.

Here’s the link: http://smile.amazon.com/A-History-Churches-Christ-Cuba-ebook/dp/B00XI0QFDK

(By the way, if you don’t have “Smile” set up on Amazon, it’s a program that donates a part of the proceeds from most sales to the non-profit of your choice. Go ahead and set it to Herald of Truth. You can support worldwide evangelism while doing your shopping)