Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Life and Times of Javan Furlow

Sharing our stories is an incredible way to learn and grow deeper into the values of the Kingdom of God.  This is the story of one of our Neo-Restorationists, Javan Furlow

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Adventures Toward Delight

By: Laura Callarman

You and I, my friends, are on a journey. For some of us it began long, long ago. For others, not quite as far back. For some of us it’s entailed a lot of love, excitement, joy, and possibility. And for some of us it’s entailed heartbreak beyond words, pain, disillusionment, wondering, and lots of wandering. It’s probably safe to say that each of us has experienced some of both sides on this journey. And it’s probably also safe to say that no two experiences of the journey are the same. But the one thing that is the same is that it’s a journey toward God, in one way or another.

I have a good friend who likes to put it this way: “In the beginning, there was delight. In the end, there will be deeper delight. And in the middle is the amazing story in which we now live.” That’s the journey I’m talking about. The amazing story in which we now live, the one that leads us eventually, even if by a very winding path, to deeper delight—both our delight in God and God’s delight in us. You’ve heard me talk about this journey in terms of “a thoroughly gospeled life” before, but even if the terminology’s a little different, the idea’s the same. It’s all about everything we are being permeated by everything that God desires for us. And let me tell you, that can be quite an adventure!

You see, God isn’t content to leave us the way we are. Even those of us who’ve know more gladness than heartache in our lives still aren’t experiencing the deepest delight of God and still aren’t fully permeated by God’s good news. There’s so much more room for fullness and abundance in all of our lives! And God desires that for us!

But the path that leads us further into God’s delight and good news is always a challenging one simply because God asks of us everything that we are and everything that we have. There are no half measures. Now it’s not that this isn’t a wonderful path to be on, for an adventure like this with God is the most marvelous experience you could hope for. And it’s certainly not that this journey requires perfection. No, as I’ve said before, one beautiful aspect of God’s good news is that it emphasizes redemption over and above perfection. And even the redemption that’s at the center of it is something that God does, something we simply benefit from and participate in. Yet this journey is still an adventure, because it entails submitting to God’s love and learning to love God back with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:28-34) — essentially with your whole being. And that, my friends, is not for the faint of heart.

So with all that in mind, my question for you today is this: how will you choose to live as you continue on this journey that we call life? Knowing God’s desire of an abundant, delight-filled, gospeled existence for you, both now and in the end, what will you do? Who will you be? Will you surrender your heart, soul, mind, and body to God’s transforming power and endless love, to be formed and used as God knows best? Will you dive unreservedly into what God is asking of you, acting on your conviction that God is worthy of your trust?  I certainly do hope so. Because while I can safely say that it will surely be challenging, I can also promise you that it will be the most amazing and blessed adventure you’ve ever been on!

Vulnerability is Contagious

By: Brent Bailey
October 11 marks the observation of National Coming Out Day, an annual celebration of those who have chosen to acknowledge their nontraditional sexual orientation or gender identity publicly. It’s always a profoundly tender day for me, because I’ve shared literally dozens of conversations over the last few years with friends and family in which I opened up about my own experiences of being attracted to men, and I’m familiar with the variety of emotions that particular self-disclosure has evoked in me: fear, insecurity, anticipation, relief, pride, delight, and, yes, tenderness. Telling someone else your experience of sexuality or gender is different from the norm is intimidating in the way transparency and vulnerability are always intimidating.

What initially surprised me throughout those conversations, and then stopped surprising me, was how often my self-disclosure about my sexual orientation would elicit self-disclosure from the person on the other side of the table. Sometimes they’d open up about their own sexuality, but often they’d open up about something unrelated. I came to realize vulnerability is contagious: So many of us are craving the opportunity to share something intensely personal about ourselves, and often all we need is some indication it’s safe for us to do so. Whenever I’d stumble through the words of telling someone I was gay and what that had meant for my life and my faith development, it set the tone for a sort of unguarded intimacy that was altogether refreshing for both of us.

Once I had encountered that kind of intimacy, though, a crisis emerged. I had tasted something sweet and rich and satisfying, and soon other contexts in which intimacy was unavailable began to taste less satisfying. Much to my dismay, I came to realize many of the communities that had functioned as church for me throughout my life would no longer quench my thirst for openness and sincerity. This wasn’t some sort of exhibitionist narcissism, a need to tell everyone everything about me and my sexuality; it was simply the realization that the church was better at doing what church was meant to do for me when I didn’t feel a concern or obligation to hide parts of myself from it. In some churches, my particular brand of vulnerability wasn’t welcome—the way people talked and whispered and joked made it clear they weren’t prepared to respond to my orientation with compassion and sensitivity. In other churches, it seemed as though no vulnerability at all was welcome, regardless of the content—members would move about with shallow chats and superficial prayers, leaving the impression candor was inappropriate and out of place.

When National Coming Out Day arrives this year, my hope is that Christians will be able to see through all the political and social noise about same-sex relationships to recognize how beautiful and affecting it is when someone takes the risk of inviting others into closer, more intimate relationship by demonstrating transparency. Perhaps in those churches in which vulnerability seems inappropriate, that example could challenge people to live into a new reality in which members share deeper intimacy. In the very best cases, one person’s vulnerability prompts vulnerability from others, and taking that risk of knowing each other better empowers us to love each other better.

The Lord’s Supper…Ha!

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By: Steve Holt Sr.

Lord’s Supper.  Lord’s Table.  Communion.  Holy Communion.  Breaking Bread.  Eucharist…             

The names are almost as diverse as the ways of participating.  In my tradition, it’s the “quick and efficient” method.  Men (has to be men) line up and are given trays holding the emblems.  Usually a rote prayer is uttered, the huddle breaks, and the men scatter to pre-determined locations in the auditorium to distribute the goods.  When the tray arrives, you have exactly 15 seconds to break off a bit of bread, put it in your mouth and bow your head like you and God have your own little session going.  Same goes for the juice:  gulp, pass and bow.  Oh, and this ritual is done only on Sundays.  Heaven forbid that we remember Jesus in this fashion on any other day of the week.

I think God throws up every time this scene is repeated in the many churches that use the “quick and efficient” method.  But, lest I be accused of being preferential in my condemnation, I don’t think God is all that pleased with any method found in Christendom.  Yes, I suppose you could find scriptural justification for these forms of communion, but come on, have we really captured the spirit of what Jesus set in motion when he borrowed the Passover tradition for this sacrament?  (Form over spirit is at the center of so much church stuff.  But that’s a topic for another time.)

“Do this in remembrance of me,” seems to be the guiding principle Jesus was setting forth.  In fact, Paul, recounting what Jesus had told him about the supper (1 Corinthians 11), mentions the remembrance part after both the bread and the wine.  Remember what?  Well, it looks like we’re to remember Jesus, his death and his return.

My question is, how many times a week does God want us to remember his Son?  As often as possible, I would think.  That’s exactly why I think Jesus chose two of the most ubiquitous (found everywhere) items on the face of the earth—bread and wine.  In Jesus’s day, and I dare suppose the same was true throughout the history of Israel, these two staples—bread and wine—could be found everywhere people went.  Every home had a loaf of bread and a skin of wine somewhere.  Same with inns.  So, whether you were at home, at a neighbor’s house or traveling, at some point during the day, you were going to see and sample these symbols of Jesus’ body and blood, and you would be reminded of him.  Pretty neat, huh?

Further, I think it’s no accident that Jesus used a meal with friends as the setting.  What better way to remember than with loved ones who cherish the memory of the loved One?  To remove the ritual from a full-blown meal with friends is to really dilute its full, intended beauty.

God also knew that whatever practice he called his people to has to be readily available to anyone in any age and any culture.  Unleavened bread, wine, gold-plated communion set, laminated serving instructions, etc. will certainly be out of reach for some people somewhere.  But the spirit of the event is possible anywhere and anytime by anyone—believers make do with what they have.  So, picture this:  you and some of your favorite people are at Lytle Land and Cattle about to chow down on some ‘que.  Someone in the group hoists a glass of sangria (or ice tea, water, etc.) and toasts the King of Kings.  Another passes around a basket of rolls, and together, the table remembers the Savior.  The same thing happened earlier at breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and at lunch at Bogie’s.  “As often as you drink this cup and eat this bread…”

Sacrilegious?  Only if the participants don’t have a pure heart.  Only if they use the occasion to get drunk or gorge themselves or if feelings are hurt or if done for show.  (You can check Paul’s list in 1 Cor. 11).  Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection—his amazing show of love and mercy—are remembered every time we eat a meal, not just during the 15-second habit practiced in most churches.

I thought about this “automatic response” recently when I sat down at home with my wife for dinner.  Before me was a plate of food, and I had this overwhelming sense of gratitude for what God had provided.  I thanked him quietly and remembered how good he is to our family.  Food triggered my thanks.

“The Lord’s Supper” is also meant to remind us of God’s goodness.  Why confine this beautiful act to a set place and a set time?

A LETTER TO THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCHES OF CHRIST (PART 3)

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Our Reality

As I continue to remove the shield that protects my faith during my experience in the seminary and the world, I am beginning to see the many cultural shifts that are transpiring. The modern world is rapidly moving away from God. It is changing. Church and tradition are not as important in a postmodern world.  Indeed, why are we still attending expensive lectureships, flashing our cufflinks and preaching hell-fire and brimstone sermons while the worldly is ignoring us?

Why are we still fighting over worship preferences when the people in our pews are dealing with some deep existential crises? Have we forgotten that to be like Jesus means to walk the streets of ghettos? Have we forgotten that Jesus led His disciples to the despised and rejected rather than to the Pharisees and Sadducees? Are we not more like the Pharisees who viewed themselves as religious icons while acting hypocritically? Are we more like the Pharisees and Sadducees who spent most of their time in the temple arguing about doctrinal differences while lepers, homeless people, and others outside the temple were living hopeless lives? Does this sound more like us today?

Preachers in fact waste too much time at lectureships, conferences, preachers meetings wrangling over issues of church polity and finances while the marginalized people of today are despised and rejected and living in a world of hopelessness? When will the messiness and authenticity of the gospel become a reality within our churches?

Will we wake up and realize that the reason why the world has turned their backs on God is not simply because of sin, but also because of our hypocrisy? When will we realize that we were called to be light and salt of the earth? When will we realize that God is not primarily concerned with what we do on Sundays than what we do for those who are living hopelessly in the world? For instance, when discussing the judgment of Sheep and the Goats in the NT, notice what is stated about those who did not participate in providing hope, love, and care to those who are lost in the world,

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’  Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”[1]

Dear brothers, I am a firm believer (and I am sure you are as well) that Jesus meant every word he mentioned in the passage above and the broader text. Jesus was serious about this just like he was serious at the end of the book of Matthew when he told his disciples to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.[2] Will we take Jesus as seriously as we take Peter when he told the mass audience to repent and be baptized?[3] Will we take Jesus as seriously as we do when we discuss how he will build his church?[4]


[1] Matthew 25:41-46 (New Revised Standard Version).

[2] Matthew 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (New Revised Standard Version).

[3] Acts 2:38 – Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (New Revised Standard Version).

[4] Matthew 16:18 – And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rockI will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (New Revised Standard Version).