A Matt Update…

Took my boy to his first UNLV Runnin’ Rebel Basketball game on Sat.

We handled the Utah Runnin’ Utes (yes, they stole our cool nickname) in front of over 10,000 fans.

Notice I did not take Lorelai. That is because I have heeded the unintentional warning of Devin Hudson (6 junior high girls basketball games in 4 days!) and decided she will be taken to ballets instead.

All in all life has been pretty crazy lately. I have a lot to write about but very little time to write. I plan to write a post later this week about my church on this blog, and a post about Family Legacy on my family blog.

Please keep us in prayer as Vicky and I learn how to emotionally and physically handle caring for 2 infants.

Oh, and Ryan has a seminary degree now (congrats!!!) but refuses to use it (booooo!!!). Pray that he will repent. Also, feel free to rebuke him if you feel led.

matt

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Dogmatic Ignorance

You get the government you deserve.

A democracy mandates an informed and involved public.

The only thing worse than a fool is a fool with strong convictions.

Great Depression II?  Might not be hyperbole.

An uninformed and lazy citizenry handcuffs elected officials

Where our are great “Profiles in Courage” leaders, who put the nation’s well being above their political necks?

The cliches and soundbites are now in full effect as our nation enters what could be its greatest economic crisis since the 1930’s.  What makes matters worse is that election day is a little over a month away, making getting re-elected more important than doing what is best for the country.

For all of you who think this is a “bailout” (terrible phrase to use to sell this to the American public) its not.  Its a RESCUE PLAN!  I implore you to get more informed on this before spouting off on the subject.  Lets get this straight, what happens on Wall Street does not stay on Wall Street, it floods onto main street.  If Wall Street is devastated (which it will be) then main street goes down as well.  This is not about giving billions to rich white guys, this is about saving jobs, homes, pensions, 401K’s, and businesses.  Sure it might feel good to feel like you are sticking it to the fat cats on Wall Street by seeing this rescue plan go down in flames, but you will be cutting off your nose to spite your face.  Because if our economy crumbles, and I am not exaggerating, then executives on Wall Street will lose a couple million, but still be fine.  It will be you and I who suffer.  It will be our communities and friends who pay the price as unemployment skyrockets, housing prices drop even further, and getting loans becomes impossible.

I entitled this post “Dogmatic Ignorance” because this is what most Americans are right now; they have their minds made up that this rescue plan is bad, even though they know little about it or what the consequences will be if it is not passed.  They hear 700 billion and Wall Street and just assume its rich people getting taken care of, and them holding the bill.  This simply is not true.  The bill is set up recoup possibly all the money going out, and even give the tax payer shares in the companies that need help.  But since our lawmakers are terrified of coming home and being labeled as “those guys who gave rich Wall Street a bailout” as they face election, they will not act unless the public gets behind them.

The truth is that most lawmakers thought the deal would pass, and most wanted it to.  Its just that to many wanted to have their cake and eat it to.  They wanted to see it go through, and still be one of those who got to vote “nay.”  They were relying on the courage and integrity of their peers for their political gain.  Shame on them, and shame on anyone who lambastes this plan and does not know the stakes.

I wrote my Congress person today and would advise you to do the same.

ryan

the times they are a changin

So says the Bob Dylan song. So is my life.

11 weeks ago I found out my wife was pregnant. 10 days later I found out that there were two human beings forming inside her belly. Being a father changes one’s outlook on life. I do not know this from experience, I have just been told as much. What I can tell you is that being an expectant father changes you. But first, you go through stages:

Utter Fear (from the moment you see the two embryonic sacs [which is really week 4] until about week 8 )

My jaw literally dropped when I looked at the screen and saw two sacs. As my wife marveled in joy over the next three weeks, laughing and crying with friends, picking out 73 different nursery designs, spending 23 hours a day on babycenter.com and babysrus.com – I freaked out. I considered things like, how can I make more money, how are we going to feed two more people, how can I make more money, do we need to get rid of the dog, how can I make more money, can I emotionally handle two, how can I make more money, what kind of dad will I be and of course how can I make more money. Sometimes this stage comes back in spurts – like when writing a blog about it.

Utter Joy (from week 8 until week 10)

Something clicked around week ten and I started acting like a junior high girl with a new boyfriend. Trips to Babysrus to register – more registering online. Dreaming about names and what they will look like. Touching my wife’s newly and quickly protruding belly whenever I get a chance. Noticing babies everywhere I went and making faces at them. This was fun, it really was. I miss it.

Planning (from week 10 until present)

This stage coincided well with buying a new house, making business deals and determining future plans. This stage is hard because you don’t want to make the wrong decisions. The wrong decisions could have you in the wrong city and/or the wrong church and/or the wrong/job and/or the wrong house, etc. Understandably this has left me a tad bit freaked out considering the track record of decisions Vicky and I have made. Yet, at the same time, it has helped me look at scenarios with a bit more maturity. This has caused me to sell-out, I mean re-look at vocational ministry. SAY WHAT, ah now we get to the meat of the blog post.

When Vicky and I left Campus Crusade for Christ we decided we were God’s hope for Las Vegas and decided it would only be a matter of time before God blessed us just like this guy says in this book.

Um, yeah. Problem is that I am not that guy.

So Vicky and I oriented our life spiritually (church planters), emotionally (full-time work plus trying to be missional and entrepreneurial) and financially (rent a house with a big living room) as if we were 35 years old with over a decade of ministry experience. This left us in debt spiritually, emotionally and financially. To summarize, we oriented our lives as if we were 35 even though we were 25, and it almost ruined us.

The logical next step seemed to be to move into a local church, serve humbly and move into leadership in a short period of time. We balked at a few good communities and once again bit off more than we could chew by joining the leadership of plant/venue/thingy. Once again we had to pull out, this time we were wise enough to do so before any harm came to us. What is the real issue? What were we really hoping for? What did we think God had for us?

The answer:
A leadership position within a church that I had neither the wisdom, experience or maturity to deserve.

My justification for such: the church needs me. It needs guys like me who care about the gospel and who care about being authentic and all the like. Those people doing it now have it all wrong. The church needs me.

The church needs me. Right.

As Colin Cowherd says, “Say it out loud. See if it still sounds like a good idea.”

This has caused me to approach/view the local church with a different lens. Seeking ways to bless the church faithfully from the inside, rather than being the rogue outside agent taking it on by force. Perhaps, people get to be 35 and qualified emotionally, spiritually and financially by growing in those areas. Even the best engineers work their way up to management by showing themselves faithful. Why should I get a pass? Why should the church suffer by letting punk mid-twenties guys with entitlement issues go right into senior management? Why should they not be blessed by letting faithful pastors prove their faithfulness with little, so that the church has proven godly men leading it?

So what is my next step? Do I re-enter vocational ministry? I’m not sure. But my entire perspective of the church is changing. Hopefully I will be so focused on serving and blessing the church that I won’t even resemble that old punk. Yeah, well at least in my attitude. The times they are a changin, and thankfully, so am I.

Trip to South Dakota and Lakota Reservation

I realized that I said I would write about this trip and never did so I want to make up for that by telling a little bit about my trip and what I learned. Here is the wiki page on the Pine Ridge Reservation and some basic info about what life is like there. Some of the facts on the wiki page are wrong (go figure that wikipedia is not completely accurate). Unemployment is actually around 80 percent not 40 percent. But they are right about it being the poorest reservation in America.

(this is one of the homes from the reservation)

Here are some of the major problems facing the Lakota people.

1. Need for Jesus and Christian workers. I know this is stating the obvious but I would be remiss not to state the obvious in this situation. The Lakota people are deeply in need of hearing the good news of the gospel and the hope that comes through Jesus Christ. There is a deep demonic and evil spiritual influence on the reservation that leaves many in a state of despair, anguish, and cyclical sin. The Lakota need a raising of a generation that loves Jesus and wants to live life to the glory of Jesus.
2. The systemic nature of the problems. The many major challenges on the reservation are compounded by how interrelated they all are. As soon as one would begin to think about addressing issues such as poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, they are confronted by the realization that the causes are related to the other major issues. Trying to address, in isolation, any of the major issues is like trying to pull one thread out of a spider web; it can’t be done.
3. Alcoholism is a major issue on the reservation. Although the reservation is technically a “dry” reservation, the presence of White Clay right at the boarder of the reservation makes the destruction influence of alcoholism catastrophic on the reservation. Then take into account the massive amount of bootleg alcohol and the problem is only worsened.
4. Hopelessness. The people sorely in need of hope. They look at life and see no alternative or possibility of things being different. Granted, there are some who have hope and achieve success but the overall cultural climate is one of perpetual futility and a life of dysfunction.

So there are some of the facts, here is some of my big idea takeaways.

The truth is we live in a busy bustling world. We turn on the television or open the newspaper and are bombarded by the needs and hurts of this world. With over six billion people on the planet there always seems to be some cause or concern that I should care more about. But given the reality that I have a whole mess of problems and responsibilities of my own I tend to delete those that are outside of my world. Stepping outside of my context and life for a few days and immersing myself in world that was foreign proved to be massively spiritually formative and healthy for me. As a matter of fact it functioned as almost like a chemical reaction to all the theological and biblical content I had been learning over the last year; it gave life to dry bones. Seeing the faces and worlds of many of the Lakota people, exercised my compassion and empathy muscle like nothing has in a long time.

I could not stand the idea of leaving there and doing nothing because I believe as Christians we are responsible for what we know. I have committed to praying daily for one little girl who I met while I was there, here name was Allie, or as I nicknamed her “purple crocs.” I called her this because she gave me an Indian name which was “big fat whale.” I do not know what will become of Allie, but I know the Lord does and that he loves her and wants her to know him. I would ask that all of you spend just a few minutes today, or tonight, praying through some of the issues I laid out in this post, because now you are aware and there is something you can do to.

ryan

Interpretation and Application

I have written before on the issue on interpretation and application. However, as I continue to progress in my class, my understanding continues to become more refined. As stated before, I believe one of the biggest pastoral hermeneutical issues of contention is the mixing up of the science of interpretation and the art of application. Take this diagram for example:

The best way to summarize this diagram is to say that interpretation is a science and application is an art.

The science of interpretation deals with a text written by a specific author to a specific audience completely apart from us. The data itself is objective and our attempts to understand what the author was saying to his audience is objective. In interpretation the goal is to find out what the authors meant to say to his audience. This makes statements such as, “This is what this passage MEANS to me,” silly (in general), ignorant (in sharing) and dangerous (in teaching).

Most of our issues with interpretation, though, come from applying the art of application to the science of interpretation. This is an understandable mistake considering the fact that we read the Bible with the goal of application to our lives (note: I do not mean for this to take away from the fact that we read the Bible to interact with God. However, that interaction when done must find it’s way to application because any time we interact with God, our lives are changed).

In the art of application we seek to take the truth/principle we have resolved in the science of interpretation and apply it to our lives and the lives of others. A great example of this is how we take the principle that Jesus died for our sins and apply it to our lives and the lives of others. The ways that we do this surely can never be exhausted. In this case we should often hear, “This is how I apply this truth to my life.”

Perhaps the most common form of interpretation/application confusion is when a passage is used allegorically. Often we use the truths of a passage as an allegory for our lives or the world we live in. Sometimes we do this correctly (interpretation first, allegory second), often we do not.

David Martin Lloyd Jones once preached a sermon on the passage of Jesus and the three coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration. There was a father who had brought his son to the JV apostles and they could not get the demon out (side note: can you imagine how they felt. Left like the desperate girls on the bachelor while Jesus and the three go on a special date, only to fail at the one ministry opportunity while they were gone. My wife had a similar experience. When she was baptized, she was the only one of her friends who didn’t come out speaking in tounges. She felt spiritually inferior for years.). If you remember, Jesus said that this kind [of demon] could only come out through prayer. Jones summarized, “the demon is too deep, it can only come out through prayer.” Jones then went on to use that summarizing truth/principle and apply it allegorically to a city. Thus making the point that in certain cities, spiritually speaking, demons are so deep that only prayer can move God to pull them out.

Now, is that what the passage MEANS? Of course not. Jones gives us a wonderful example of the difference between the science of interpretation and the art of application. He did not say, “Well, I think the passage MEANS that demons are to deep within a city and they can only come out through prayer.” No, there really was a demon possessed boy, there really was a concerned father, there really were a bunch of confused disciples with low self-esteem and there really was a Savior willing both to heal and teach at the same time. Paul himself uses the story of Jacob and Esau in an allegorical teaching point in Galatians, but even he is clear to point out he is doing so to prove a different point. Therefore, we should not then have freedom for multiple interpretations of Jacob and Esau.

Now this brings us to a certain point of contention in regards to the clarity of scripture. If we believe that the Bible is both grammatically clear in general and aided by the Holy Spirit for believers, then this process (the diagram) seems a bit arduous and contradictory. I mean, consider all the time and work that goes in to the science of interpretation and the art of application. That would take some time studying and conversing with others, how is that necessary if we have the Holy Spirit.

I would argue that such reasoning puts more limitations on the Holy Spirit than does the process laid out in the diagram. Such reasoning is so culturally conditioned it’s quite laughable. As if the Holy Spirit is like a magic lamp that we simple need rub in order to reveal scripture instantaneously. Or he is a microwave we simple put our Bible passage in, and within minutes we have a warm and tasty interpretation. I see no evidence in scripture, however, in which we are led to believe that the Holy Spirit works in such a way. I do see plenty of examples, on the other hand, of meditating on the scripture day and night, waiting on God to speak and working long and hard to understand God clearly.

It is therefore my conclusion that the reason we often convolute the science of interpretation with the art of application is because we put the same instantaneous expectations we have for our culture, given to us by our culture, on the scriptures. If we would but humble ourselves and take the posture of interpreters we have as examples in our Bible, perhaps we would more clearly hear from God and not convolute his Word.

matt

Text + Context Conference Audio and Video now up

You can now watch the video or listen to the audio of all the sessions from the “Text and Context” national conference. It is all free so there is really no good reason not to listen to it and be blessed. I would personally recommend two sessions.

1. CJ Mahaney: Pastoral Character and Loving People. I have never heard someone with such a deep love and pastoral heart for the church as Mahaney conveys in this message. And while Matt thinks his voice is a little ridiculous, he is wrong and so are you if you do not spend the hour and listen to this message.

2. John Piper: How My Pastoral Ministry Shapes my Pulpit Ministry: If you are a young guy, or any guy who has become disillusioned with the church because it seems superficial and trite than listen to this message. And even if this does not describe you, still listen to the message. This will go in my itunes folder of message I need to constantly listen to for the rest of my life in ministry. Truly an anointed man who shares some incredible stories about what it means to be a pastor.

Honestly though I think all of these are worth listening to, except the Q&A with Driscoll, this might be because I had previously heard all his answers in sermons or other talks…

UPDATE:  The Q&A I with Mark Driscoll that I said not to listen to is not available, so sorry for the confusion if you are wondering which talk I was referring to.

ryan

Moses Was Using Drugs on Mt. Sinai

At least according to one scholar.  It is reports like this that remind me what academia is so dang important.  What would we do without deep insight such as, “well when I use psychedelic drugs I have experiences of seeing weird stuff and hearing  strange sounds, so that must have been what happened to  Moses.”  So what really qualifies now for scholarship is a recollection of one’s own drug abuse and then pass that off as something that should be taken seriously.  So next time your pastor tells you that Moses face was glowing because he had encountered the LORD, you stand up and tell him that it was because Moses was tripping on acid and PCP.  Amazing.

Though I only have a limited knowledge or what happens when you subject your mind to massive amounts or narcotics, I am highly skeptical that when someone is high that they come away with commandments like these.

And God spoke all these words:  2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

 3 “You shall have no other gods before [a] me.

 4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.

Most people who are habitual stoner’s break most of these commandments by 2pm everyday, when they are waking up in the mom’s basement.   Just a thought.

ryan