31 Days: Niche Convictions

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I have an obsession with grace.

I sin all the time, but God still forgives me. Everyday. Because grace. I don’t understand everything about God. But that’s ok. Because grace. I have a bad attitude. I believe some wrong things. I act when I should not. But grace. And the list goes on and on.

Grace is what I always come back to and want to share with others. And, because of the grace I so urgently want to show and receive, I lean towards peacemaking. I believe that, because grace extends to cover our beliefs, we can extend grace to our fellow believers beliefs. Grace and finding the middle ground are simply where I see God’s glory most in this world. It’s my niche.

I think each of us has a niche conviction that God has indelibly marked into our soul for a purpose. So we yell it out to the world, like, “isn’t this amazing?” because it also becomes so important and life-changing for us.

And it is amazing.

But I think sometimes in our enthusiasm we forget that someone else might be irrevocably impacted by some other characteristic of Himself. And though that person’s conviction might fly in the face of yours, God might be using that just as he uses yours.

Often it is hard for me to extend grace to someone who (in my eyes) is being legalistic (and therefore ignoring the gray areas in life I value so highly as a grace-lover and a peacemaker). But then I think about how, as the body of Christ, we are meant to work together in our differences not in our identicalness. God might be leading us through each other. So I am forced to wonder if their legalism might actually just be a balance for my grace obsession. And maybe I’m supposed to set my initial response aside and remind myself of the importance of the other person’s niche. Because “Do we keep on sinning so that grace may abound all the more? By no means!” comes ringing in my head as soon as grace gets out too much the focus.

Discord among Christians is running rampant (and loud) these days. I think we too quickly forget that even in all our differences (and conflicting doctrine, even) we represent one God and we are each a piece of one body. One church. We are not a body of eyes, or ears, or hands.

Our differences are good and God-ordained. Because who can know exactly the right balance for perfect beliefs about God, the church, the world, everyday issues, and everything? Conflicts of opinion in the church might draw us closer to His purpose, point out our own naivety as Christians, and center us on His infiniteness instead of our own small store of knowledge. Might a well-timed nudge from a fellow christian throw our lives – and our theology – into a more productive spin? Alone we might be out of balance but together we have the ability to present a bigger picture of who God is. Because, in spite of us attacking each other and drawing lines when the only lines should be the Cross, God is using our differences to refine our faith.

Each day this month I’m going to choose a person or a group (from history or the present) with a niche conviction and briefly share about them, their niche, and how that might tell a story of a God bigger than our opinions. My definition of what I’ll be doing is loose, as you can tell, but the impetus behind it is the conviction that God is bigger than we think. Looking at the faith of others is a way to find out how small we may have made him out to be and how big he actually is. Our sounding board is the Bible, but beyond that how can we know?

This month is just the beginning of an exploration of an infinite God.

Welcome.
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I’ll post the links to subsequent days here as they are written.

Day 1: is this post!
Day 2: Martin Luther
Day 3: Sor Juana Inès de la Cruz
Day 4: Brother Lawrence
Day 5: Mother Teresa
Day 6: Jonathan Edwards
Day 7: Revangelical, Lance Ford, a book review
Day 8: Elisabeth Elliot
Day 9: Christine Caine
Day 10: Church and Liturgy
Day 11: Eric Liddell and John Piper
Day 12: Larry Osborne and Pharisees
Day 13: Sarah Young: Jesus Calling
Day 14: Rick Warren
Day 15: Watchman Nee
Day 16: Mark Driscoll
Day 17: Phillis Wheatley
Day 18: Larry Crabb on Community
Day 19: Martin Luther King Jr.
Day 20: Mark Driscoll Revisited. Because grace.
Day 21: William Cameron Townsend
Day 22: Colliding with Destiny, Sarah Jakes, book review
Day 23:
Day 24:
Day 25:
Day 26:
Day 27:
Day 28:
Day 29:
Day 30:
Day 31:

I am trying to make my list fairly diverse. I’d love to entertain suggestions, if you have someone in mind.

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Also a disclaimer: At this point in my life, I am not a theologian or a historian. So my ideas are more than open for discussion. Though I will do my best to research as well as possible within the scope of the project.

I am excited.

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What’s your niche?

Are you interested in this idea?
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If you’re new here, I’m also on Facebook and Twitter if you want to follow with me there. :)

Thanks for reading. I hope you find these ideas inspiring and challenging!

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P.S — I promise this is the longest post in the series. I’m aiming for brief the rest of the month! :)

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(( Find the rest of the 31 Dayers here: http://write31days.com ))

William Cameron Townsend {21/31 Niches}

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(1896-1982) (source)

“The task of getting the Gospel in an adequate way to every ethnic person is tremedous. There is but one solution. I’m sure that it isn’t man, money, surveys, not talk. They all have their place, but if the basis of all of it isn’t fervent, believing prayer, they are in vain. And prayer should not only be the basis but it should permeate and vitalize the whole work.”
– William Cameron Townsend (source)

William Cameron Townsend founded Wycliffe Bible Translators. He believed that every person should have access to the Bible in the language they knew best.

“Townsend’s life was as diverse as the programs he advanced and the organizations he founded. For instance, he insisted that members of SIL should be ready to serve others scientifically, materially, and spiritually. From early in his career Townsend was personally committed to each of these three areas of involvement. It is not sufficient, he argued, that a person should be interested in serving people unless he has that scientific preparation which will make his contribution relevant and effective. Service based on a foundation of scientific investigation, he held, is more likely to have a permanent impact than service motivated by high ideals but without a thorough understanding of the people being served.” (source)

So science, mission methodology, and prayer.
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Have you heard of Wycliffe?
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Mark Driscoll: Revisited. Because Grace. {20/31 Niches}

“You aren’t what’s been done to you but what Jesus has done for you. You aren’t what you do but what Jesus has done. What you do doesn’t determine who you are. Rather, who you are in Christ determines what you do.”

- Mark Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your True Identity in Christ.

So, you guys. This weekend, while talking about my series with my husband, I realized I missed the point of the whole series a little when writing about Mark Driscoll. I don’t want to only vilify a fellow Christian. I jumped on the badwagon (<—typo that is a little too accurate..so it must stay) instead of using my voice to fuel peace and grace and mercy. And I'm sorry about that. Because this series is all about grace so I'm here to try again.

As it turns out, I've not read any of his writing…which I didn't realize until I thought about it yesterday…i've only read the angry words attacking him and quoting him on past sins, harsh words, misogyny, and anything else under the sun. It's bad form to criticize someone secondhand..that’s about when it becomes gossip. Ahem.

So I went to the library and I'm reading his most recent book: Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ. I'm 50 pages in now and have yet to disagree with him. Not what I assumed. Somehow in all the criticisms they failed to mention the fact that this guy knows his Bible. I’m sure I’ll find something I don’t agree with him on before I finish the book, but I think better of him now.

Here are a few quotes thus far that resonated with me:

“You were created by God, are on the earth to image and glorify God, and when you die, if you are in Christ, you will be with God forever, imaging and glorifying him perfectly in a sinless state.”

Concerning the calvinist doctrine of total depravity:
“While it’s true that sin has affected the totality of our persons, including our minds, wills, and emotions, we fail to say all that the Bible does regarding our identity when we llace undue focus on iur depravity as fallen sinners and ignored our dignity as created image bearers and our new identity as redeemed Christian saints, while a non-Christian is totally depraved, a Christian is in Christ. Practically, focusing on just the sin aspect of our identity leads to despairing, navel-gazing Christians obsessed with their sin.”

“The Word of God is not a club for beating Christians until they emotionally bleed as repayment for their sin.”

“For the Christian, there is a vital difference between having sin and being sin. “

- Mark Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ.

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We need to work on creating lines between what is actually criticism or accountability and what is really just gossip. We all mess up. Some in bigger and bolder and more visible and debateably “worse” ways than others, but God is still working through us and teaching us how to be more like Him. It’s way too easy to gang up on leaders when they fall off the pedestals we made and platforms they built. It’s all too easy to miss what God might be doing through someone else because of our own assumptions about the person’s motives, character, or salvation.

If we can think of fellow Christians’ actions as a more nuanced combination of good and bad, we can stop painting with the sweeping generalizations of “good” and “bad”. As the Church, instead of attacking and condemning and disowning, maybe we should be considering our reactions in the light of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Maybe we need to be a soft place to land after a hard fall from favor.

Do you think God is big enough for that?
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Martin Luther King Jr {19/31 Niches}

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1929-1968

“We’ve been in the mountain of war. We’ve been in the mountain of violence. We’ve been in the mountain of hatred long enough. It is necessary to move on now, but only by moving out of this mountain can we move to the promised land of justice and brotherhood and the Kingdom of God. It all boils down to the fact that we must never allow ourselves to become satisfied with unattained goals. We must always maintain a kind of divine discontent.”

- Martin Luther King Jr, Sermon at Temple Israel of Hollywood in June 1965 (Source)

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.”
Martin Luther King Jr., ‘Strength to Love,’ 1963

“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: – ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”
Martin Luther King Jr., Speech at Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963

“Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force… If we assume that life is worth living, if we assume that mankind has the right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war.”
Martin Luther King Jr., The Christmas Sermon On Peace in on Dec 24, 1967
Source

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Larry Crabb on Community {18/31 Niches}

“Everything in spiritual community is reversed from the world’s order. It is our weakness, not our competence, that moves others; our sorrows, not our blessings, that break down the barriers of fear and shame that keep us apart; our admitted failures, not our paraded successes, that bind us together in hope. “

“Brokenness is the realization that life is too much for us, not just because there is too much pain but also because we’re too selfish. Brokenness is realizing He is all we have. Hope is realizing He is all we need. Joy is realizing He is all we want. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us”

“Members of a spiritual community look at each other with the conviction that God has placed something terrific in every member.”

- Larry Crabb, Becoming a True Spiritual Community: A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be

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Phillis Wheatley {17/31 Niches}

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1753-1784

“On being brought from Africa to America.  

 ‘TWAS mercy brought me from my Pagan land,   
Taught my benighted soul to understand   
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:   
Once I redemption neither fought now knew,   
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,   
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”   
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,   
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.”
– Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral (free on Amazon Kindle).

This young woman was a poet and a slave in Boston in a time when it was thought the color of your skin determined your intellect. She had to prove her poetry was her own. She followed her inclinations and talents and cracked the door for others to follow in her steps. She realized that, though slavery was a horrible thing, God used her circumstances to bring her to Him. And then of course He used her to be a brick in the long road to freedom and equality.

Michelle Derusha presents a more thorough and nuanced account of Phillis Wheatley’s work and life in her recent book: 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith. And you should read it. I recieved a review copy from Baker Books and I have been loving it so far. I will post a formal review when I have finished it, but I can definitely recommend it already.

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What are you thoughts on this post?

What about the series so far?

How do you see God working through the bad things in your life?

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Mark Driscoll {16/31 Niches}

Notes to begin:

(I want to write with grace and mercy towards the abused. We cannot be silent about their pain and the actual negative results of this man’s “ministry”. So this post isn’t for the abused so much as the unaffected. I cannot speak well to things I have no experience with, so all I can say hold on, God’s got you, this man actions were inexcusable, and I wish they had been curtailed sooner.)

And possible trigger warning?
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I welcome conversation, if you have problems with what I’m saying. I freely admit I don’t know much about this. These are just my thoughts. Please try to see the heart behind my words. You can comment here or email me at daylilyoverflow at gmail dot com.

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I didn’t want to do it.

But I’m going to.

With the wash of posts going around about Mark Driscoll and his resignation from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, there have been people supporting him because he’s finally resigning and now bygones should be bygones, and there have been people holding him accountable for his lack of a proper apology and the inexcusable nature of the actions that led to his resignation.

I’m not going in to whether or not what he did was horrible, or if his pastoring practices were ethical, or if we should look at his work and learn from his teachings. I don’t think these things are true. We shouldn’t be pointing people towards potentially/downright harmful resources. Have your own opinion, and I’ll have mine. I will continue avoiding having anything to do with Mark Driscoll or his books, just because I will be apt to talk about him in a thoroughly negative light and reading his books would just make me angry.

So, in order to avoid complete bitterness, here is some possible good we can glean from Mark Driscoll’s high profile niche-gone-wrong. I’m sure he said other things that were fine.ish, but we’re talking about the controversial and highly emphasized stuff.

The good I see coming from his ministry is in the backlash to the extreme nature of his niche. I don’t think his niche was good. I think it was bad.

The good is not in his ministry, it’s in the backlash.

He wrote so extremely about some beliefs in conservative Christian culture surrounding sex and marriage, that some are finally seeing how complementarianism (say) could be taken to an unhealthy extreme. He has made it easier for others to see just how much it doesn’t work. He normalized talk about sex and marriage in a way that a less crass and demeaning book wouldn’t have made a ripple in the sea of silence surrounding the topic. It was so obviously unacceptable to some, some people had to speak up and healthier conversations could be generated in the space that before had been a void. Because the book was big, there is more chance for people to write in response about the subtleties of abuse and the consequences of some of the things taught in conservative circles.

I cannot endorse his name or anything he did or even the validity of the words in his resignation letter, but I can see some good that is coming from it. Only by the grace of God.

Only only only by God’s grace.

(It reminds me of this passage in Isaiah about how God planned to use Cyrus. Look at the commentary to see the bigger picture explanation.)

It would have been healthier if it had never happened, but since it did happen all we can do is to see what we can learn. And how God is shaping his church because of it.

God in his infinite grace is in charge of Mark Driscoll’s ministry or lack thereof. It is not up to me to decide if he is saved or not based on the spiritual abuse that resulted from his time as head of a church. It is up to me to speak up so others don’t fall into a trap as a result of his work. Maybe his work was helpful or revolutionary for some, but we need to be aware of the damaging power that people with large followings and big names can have. And how easy it is to try and excuse people with big names.

With the “We all sin, let’s just forgive them” line. Yes, we can forgive as uninvolved individuals. But we cannot order forgiveness on someone else. And maybe forgiveness looks different for us or them. We can’t accept an apology for infractions against someone else. So yes, let’s not be bitter, but let’s not let his actions slide either nor sacrifice the reality of the victim’s pain (and possible healing) on the alter of forgiveness. Because the more we are silent in corporate “forgiveness” the more other people are condoned in their lack of actual remorse or condemned by their “lack of” actual forgiveness of past and ongoing hurts.

So let’s not condone or condemn. It’s not our place.

We need to see the bad, but then realize God is working in spite of it. We would have chosen a different path, but I do know God allows us pain at times when we don’t understand.

It is up to us to allow ourselves to see some of the things we can learn, and follow God in, as the backlash continues.

The good I see: conversations about sex and marriage and abuse opening up. And: bad doctrine and practices surrounding these things being analyzed down to their core. And hopefully: healing, freedom, positivd changes, and more safety in church structure.

That is all.

It’s not about Driscoll.

It’s about God and what he can do with us, if we follow, even if other people don’t.

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What do you think about this?

Do you think God uses our own imbalances to balance the Church?

How can we stand up for our own convictions while resting in the grace of God?

What about forgiveness?

Thoughts?
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Find me on facebook or twitter if you’re interested in following along or communicating in those ways.

To find the rest of this series and an introduction, click on the picture below:

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