Honestly, say this with a straight face. What are you waiting for?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

HTML ruleZ d00d

I’ve been blogging, chatting, pm’ing, and generally wasting precious hours of my life away on the internet since before it was cool.

Yeah, you heard me. It all started back in middle school when the wonderful world of message boards was introduced to me. It didn’t take long before I was well known on a number of websites (mostly music sites, hip hop ones to be exact) and had more online friends than I had “real” ones. I even developed some very strong relationships that are still going to this day. I went by the name NternetCritic because of my strong (but rather rude) personality when it came to critiquing other people’s music on the web.

Back then, it was all about the drama. I mean, that’s why high school is for right? I’ve made people angry, been made angry, cried, caused others to cry, made threats, posted under false identities, and even played a roll in the collapse of one of my favorite web sites because of drama (i.e. little stuff blown WAY out of proportion).

I’m not always proud of the way I acted back then, but I learned a lot about how easy it is to be fake, cause problems, and generally make a mess of stuff when you’re communicating through the computer screen. It’s one of the reasons that a couple of years ago I stopped almost all of my online activity, including message boards, instant messaging, chat rooms, blogging, and the like. I know others who did too, but it’s funny to know that some people I knew are STILL doing the same things and haven’t changed a bit.

For all the drama, slander, hate, irritation, and just plain stupidity that goes on in the world of blogging and chatting, it sure is a blessing that Christians don’t get involved in this kind of activity. Right?

Uhh, not so much. Since coming to Southern Seminary, my eyes have been opened to the wide array of Baptist blogging that goes on and the devastation that comes with it. It’s not that I didn’t know about any of this though. Wade Burleson, my pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, and easily one of the most influential men in my life, blogs regularly on thoughts and life of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is significant because of the amount of heat he has taken for his blogs about the trustee meetings he attends for the International Mission Board.

However, I had no idea the number of other Baptists that blog regularly and the amount of absolute nonsense that goes on with it. People posting anonymous accusations against people in power. Folks cursing and threatening those who don’t hold to the same non essential doctrines as they do. Guys, who it seems as though it’s their life’s goal, who want to completely tear down the life and ministry of another. What the heck is going on here?

Recently, Jerry Corbaley, a trustee with the International Mission Board, sent a 153 page email to every trustee on the IMB calling out Wade Burleson for his continual “slander” on his blog. Just to note, there’s not a trace of slander in the information he provided, but this is beside the point.

Look, I’ve only been a Southern Baptist for two years, and I decided to make it my first church membership because of strong doctrine, a cooperative program, and people who care about the sovereignty of God and the inerrancy of Scripture. I did NOT join to find fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord slandering, blasting, arguing, and just plain hating each other of issues that are of little (at best) importance. Is this what the church is supposed to look like? It’s bad enough that there’s a zillion different denominations out there, but even in our own denomination, there are allegations, refusal to accept small differences in non-essential doctrine, and pure anger towards one another in public forum over issues that barely deserve the time of day.

It’s sad that the same things that were going on between me and my friends in high school are going on between grown men and women of faith. What kind of example are we setting for the world? “Hey, come join our church, but beware! If you happen to hold a different opinion on anything than we do, we’re going to publically humiliate you!”

I’m pretty sure that absolutely no one within the Southern Baptist Convention gives a darn what I have to say about it, but I would like to issue a call for personal integrity among Southern Baptists and other Christians alike. Let’s get back to settling disputes and disagreements within the church in a kindly manner instead of making a mockery of ourselves over the internet for thousands to witness.

Is it possible? Yes. Likely? Probably not. But if you read this, take the time to think about the things you say and the way you represent Christ when you’re talking to someone through a computer screen. A piece of glass and some plastic doesn’t give you anymore right to treat your brother poorly than if you were face to face with him. Maybe if we all took the time to think about the eternal significance of these things and all show a little integrity over the internet, we can begin to slowly turn a medium used for drama into one used for uplifting encouragement.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hey John, what's your name again?

Well, I've officially completed half of a semester of classes at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I call it that, and tell people I attend there possibly because it makes me sound smart or spiritual. The fact of the matter is, that while I'm honored and flattered at the chance to attend such an institution, I'd never even considered attending seminary until I found it to be a requirement for the International Mission Board. I thought places like this were for special people - people who are much Godlier than I.

Don't get me wrong, higher learning in the area of theology certainly has it's place, but I'm just not sure where we draw the line between a desire to learn more about our God and a desire to earn more letters to tag onto our name. It seems that many people I meet are very excited about their next degree and career move in the area of ministry, but does God really care how many hours we've completed, where we got our MDiv from, or how many classes we're capable of teaching? Can His Gospel be preached and received even if no one within one hundred miles has even heard of a school of theology?

Awhile back, I read in Luke about Jesus taking a trip home to Nazareth, a small town where everyone likely knew your name, your parents' names, what your favorite dinner was, and how many times a day you took your dog (err, I mean sheep . . . goat . . . llama . . . whatever) for a walk. That particular Sabbath day, Jesus attended his boyhood synagogue and read from scripture for his hometown family and friends. That day, Jesus told them that the prophecy of the Messiah was fulfilled - He was who they had been waiting for day after day, year after year, finally, He had come!

What's even better, is the deliverer of the message! While others chosen by God were fallible and unable to present the Gospel in all of its perfection, here, right in front of their eyes, was the Son of God! Perfect in every way, and most certainly the most perfect presenter of the best news ever. Imagine your favorite pastor or speaker - times a million! Jesus IS the Word and could obviously present it in all of its Glory, in perfect form. It must have been an unbelievable sermon to listen to.

To make things even more amazing, it was Jesus, Joseph and Mary's boy! Who in that synagogue would have though that God would send the Messiah right into their laps, their hometown! Everything was perfect . . . right? The people rejoiced and flocked to Jesus to praise Him . . . . right? RIGHT??? No, the crowd was so angry, so enraged, that they threw Him from the city and tried to throw Him over a cliff! What in the world? The Son of God has walked into their city, into their synagogue and proclaimed that He is the promise they've been waiting for. The Gospel in perfect form is right in front of their eyes and they choose to exile Him from the town. What is going on here?

You see, our God is sovereign beyond our imagination. He holds your life in the palm of His hand, and your life dangles by a single thread of grace. He wounds and He heals. He gives and He takes away. And NO ONE can deliver from His hand. He also supplies mercy to those on whom He has mercy. And when He wants to harden a heart and blind someone from His Gospel, even the best sermon in the world won't open the eyes of a sinful, hardened, self-righteous, non-believer. He's proved that time and time again through His word. Yet time and time again we see the most unlikely, the most sinful, the most down-trodden of people fall face down and plead for the mercy of God - and receive it. Not because the of the delivery, not because of a degree from an institution of higher learning, not because of something special that you only learn in the classroom, but because God has mercy on whom He has mercy and compassion on who He has compassion.

I thank God for that, because without it, the best delivered sermon in the world couldn't have convinced me of my need for Christ.

So while I am extremely excited about what I've been learing in my amazing classes at Southern, I pray that I remember this. I expect to learn a lot more and I expect to be challenged as much as I've been challenged in my life. I expect to make new friends and receive tools for what God would have me do on the mission field. But pray that I remember that it is our sovereign God that causes the earth to spin and causes people of all nations to come to Him, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my knowledge, confidence, or ability.

"The Glory of God has everything to do with Christ and nothing to do with me. And when, in some measure, it does have something to do with me, it's not about my being made much of by God, but about God mercifully enabling me to enjoy making much of Him forever." - John Piper