Sunday, May 26, 2013

On being Chris Earnshaw

Preface: Chris Earnshaw is a newly graduated senior and a young man I greatly admire. I've been his soccer coach since he was in sixth grade and one of his pastors. He has a great family and wonderful friends. He loves Christ and I look forward to what God will do with him in the future.  He is just 18, however, and manages some interesting feats. Tonight's story, which I relay below, is not necessarily a typical Chris event, but it's not all together atypical either. 

I was sitting on the couch tonight doing some late edits on my sermon when a frantic rap on the door shocked me out of my seat. At first I thought perhaps Shari locked herself out, but I knew she was in the bedroom. It was just about ten o’clock, who could that be at our door? Then the doorbell rang as I got to the tiled entryway. I confess some pause and wonder about what I would find when I opened the door, then I saw a face I recognized in the front window. As I opened the door, seeing it was Chris, I was still stumped by his appearance. “What’s up man”?, I asked opening the door as he helped himself in. With a giggle he slid by me to our kitchen saying, “I cut my finger pretty bad”. I could see the blood on his clenched fist and his good hand holding it tight. We got to the sink and I ran the water for him to rinse it off. It looked pretty nasty, but there was too much coagulated blood to see how deep the gash was. “What did you do?”, I asked. “I cut it on a fridge”, came his reply. I figured he was doing a moving job and cut it on the bottom of the appliance, or something like that. He said, “No, I was cutting it up and cut myself.” Before replying I was thinking what on earth he could have meant. “Am I crazy for asking why you were cutting up a fridge”? By then I could see his cut was pretty nasty so I got some hydrogen peroxide and bandages. On my way to fetch those, Shari asked what was going on and I pointed to the kitchen, “Earnshaw cut himself, he’s washing the wound in the sink.” When I got to him with the first aid stuff, he already bloodied a clean dish rag and it was still spouting pretty good. “Dude, what did you do?” “I saw a fridge so we threw it in the back of my truck so we could cut it up later.” Yes, you read that right. That’s what he said. I mean of course, you see a trashed fridge on the side of the road, what would you think? Certainly the first thought in anyone’s mind would be- “Hey, let’s pick that piece of junk up and cut it up with axes or something.” I knew I should have asked a few more questions, but I was starting to wonder if this whole interchange was actually a chocolate induced apparition. I haven’t been eating many sweets lately and Shari made this awesome chocolate lasagna dessert tonight. Maybe I was hallucinating this whole surreal story courtesy of the cocoa bean? Chris comes desperately to the door at 10pm, bleeding profusely from his hand, all because he was cutting up an old refrigerator? You can’t make this stuff up.

Chris, who are you with, how’d you get here?”, I inquired.  “Ryan and Rudy are out in the truck...they didn’t come in because they were embarrassed,” the newly graduated HCA senior said blowing in his cohorts. Admittedly, I was glad to hear someone was embarrassed! Shari went out to the truck and invited them in. Sheepishly, two of HCA’s finest from last year’s graduating class and my former soccer players came in to our living room wearing strange bright yellow safety vests. Come to think of it, I never did ask them why they were dressed like highway flagmen. They were shaking their heads about all that had transpired as they reached in to a tupperware bin with Shari’s legendary chocolate chip cookies. “Have a seat guys”, I told them. “Let’s see if Chris’ cut stops bleeding.” “So, Chris, explain how this happened again”, I asked hoping to get the full story. “Well, like I said, we picked up this fridge and when I swung the pick-axe through the front door, the head went through all the way. I tried to jam the rest of the handle through and pick it up on the other side but my hand went too far and I cut my finger.” Well now. At least the picture is getting clearer, right? “You probably need to go to urgent care tonight, Chris.” “No way!!”, he responded immediately. “We told you Chris”, Rudy said in a vindicated tone. Ryan then started to tell a story about cutting the side of his pinky with a pocket knife, the upshot was he needed stitches and it didn’t look as bad as Chris’ cut. “Guys, there’s no way I’m going to urgent care. They’ll tell me I need stitches, that cost money, I’m not doing it”, Chris retorts. Then I took the towel off his finger to check on the bleeding. It wasn’t gushing anymore, but it looked like a wicked laceration to me.

Ryan knew the closest urgent care but Chris was still resisting. Shari was threatening to call Chris’ mother if he didn’t call her himself. I still couldn’t understand his need to destroy the trashed fridge. He explained when he saw something like that he couldn’t pass up picking it up and destroying it. He made clear that he didn’t drive around looking for appliances to bludgeon, but if he happened upon one, it was a virtual necessity to throw it in the back and beat on it later. So what did the more reasonable Rudy and Ryan think? They acted like it was a dumb idea, but more or less agreed it was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. It brought me back to my late teen years. I was more in to explosives and blew a bunch of stuff up...but that’s a different story, this is about being Chris Earnshaw.

After about 15 minutes of bantering, Shari, Ryan, Rudy, and I thought we had convinced Chris to go to the urgent care to get it checked. Chris was pretty irked by the inconvenience of it all. After all he had things to do, like drive around and find a dishwasher or something, so he could take a sledgehammer to it, I suppose. The guys headed out around 10:30 or so and we threatened to call Chris’ mother again if he didn’t do it himself. I waited 10 minutes and called him to check, he had indeed called his mother. Dare I say Chris is responsible like that? That’s pretty funny to say, I know. All in all, what started as a quiet sermon editing Saturday night ended with a bit of Earnshaw excitement.

I readily confess to not looking forward to him, Rudy, and Ryan all heading to Manhattan for college at summer’s end. They are pretty funny guys, who strangely enough, I think will turn out just fine and be used of God in many ways. I just hope a fridge doesn’t get the better of them one of these days. At least Rudy and Ryan will be easy to spot with those goofy bright yellow reflector vests.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The complicated matter of church discipline

So I have come to the passage in 1 Corinthians where Paul tells the Church to remove a man who was living in sin with his stepmother.  It's not the sin that so outrages Paul, but the Church's apparent toleration of it.  The man is clearly unrepentant about his sin, which is the eventual reason for anyone being excommunicated from the Church.

I've been a pastor for 16 years and exercising wise, biblical church discipline has been the most difficult task.  I know some churches have cut and dry ways of dealing with this or that sin.  In my experience however, no situation has ever been "cut and dry" or in any way simple.  From a distance, to some in the congregation, I am sure situations look black and white with a clear answer.  Up close however, things are messy, details not known to all, and there is always the anxiety about making the wrong decision as elders.  Frankly, I wish the bible was clearer on specific situations.  I am guessing the bible isn't more explicit so as to keep church leaders humble and dependent upon Christ for wisdom.  Yes, one can adhere to the steps of Matthew 18 closely, followed with some Galatians 6 and a little 2 Thessalonians 3 and James 5.  In most cases, in time, a reasonable solution or resolution can be discovered.  There are enough cases where the complexities and uncertainties seem overwhelming.  Studying 1 Corinthians 5 led me across Dr. Rayburn's comments, which gave me assurance I wasn't wrestling with some unprecedented pastoral phenomenon-

"The entire matter of the discipline of the misbehavior of Christians is complicated by the treatment of this subject in the Bible itself. There is no "Manual of Discipline" in Holy Scripture. There are some broad principles and a few instances of case law and many questions are left unanswered. Godly elders must deal with specific cases for which there is no specific biblical instruction. What is more, characteristically, the Bible's teaching bearing on this subject leaves us with principles that are in obvious tension with one another. For example, later in this same letter, Paul addresses the fact that there are couples in the Corinthian church who have divorced when they did not have biblical grounds for doing so. We might well have expected him to demand church discipline in these cases as he had in the case of the man living in an incestuous relationship with his step-mother, but he did not. He took a different tack with them. It is not always an easy thing to know when a sin is a frailty that must be born by the church and when it is a scandal that must be disciplined. If you had been present when the elders of this congregation worked their way - not always without disagreement - to a final decision in certain cases of church discipline, you would appreciate how difficult a matter this can be and how complicated a business it can be to apply the teaching of the Bible to a specific case."  - Dr. Robert Rayburn on 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

I am grateful to be with a team of elders who are committed to the difficult practice of church discipline.   I wish there was some way to plug in the details of a given situation and have God give a precise course of action, but in His wisdom that's not how it works this side of glory.  The situation in Corinth came about because there seemed to be no real confrontation of the public scandal.  Because the sinful situation was allowed to persist, Paul was indicating a widening corruption in the community.  Discipline situations will often be complex, messy, and perhaps even mishandled on occasion. Nevertheless, I do believe God expects church leaders to confront such situations unlike the Corinthian elders.

The necessity of church discipline is another reason I long for the return of King Jesus.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bono chooses Grace over Karma

"I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity." - Bono

Monday, May 6, 2013

Chris Broussard does well in a tough spot with a difficult issue

Chris Broussard was put on the spot when analyzing the decision of NBA player Jason Collins to announce he was gay.

I think he did very well.