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A Fear of Whales

A Fear of Whales

Newsletter Article

posted by rgaffney

This is an article I wrote for the newsletter at the church I used to work at. It was published, in a modified form. Now that I have this audience I thought I'd share it with you. In case you can't tell or didn't know, I was the Youth Pastor of a small youth group on the grounds, and for a while we had youth coming and hanging out on the campus, this resulted in some graffiti,and the sprinklers having been left on one night. So older congregants began telling anyone young they saw to leave and quit causing trouble. This was my response.

I had the opportunity this past month to meet some of the young people who have been hanging out in our prayer garden. I have a report for you that should be very disturbing.
They said that young people don’t often come around anymore, they used to, but the bench has been removed and the hedge has been trimmed, and they don’t feel “safe” here any longer.
One young man expressed to me that he knew one of the vandals, didn’t think highly of him, and would have liked to step in if he could have, another expressed that nobody who came around was a criminal, so much as troublemaker. We’re dealing with hooligans, seeking independence from their parents through anti parental activities.
I told them we had a couch and an air conditioned youth room, they were rather interested in that. I talked to them about our mission, told them if there was any way to bless them I would be interested to hear it, because this was a place where we served Jesus the Christ and we were interested in sharing his love in non-judgmental ways.. and the news took a turn for the worse
“People here don’t trust us”, they said, “they don’t seem to want us around”. “When we’re approached people assume we are going to destroy something”. “One kind act could do a lot.”
I’m Livid!
I don’t know if it is coming across without tone of voice but I am very very angry at our church right now. Because I am here, attempting to reach the youth of La Mirada, and I’m not sure that’s something this church is actually willing to do!
Yes, I’m aware that there has been some vandalism, that it has cost our church time and money, I know there have been nefarious activities at this campus. If we are successful in reaching the well-meaning youth, we will probably attract troublemakers too, problems will almost certainly increase, and maybe one of those troublemakers will have his or her heart changed for Christ. That is the business I’m in. That we’re in…I hope.
So It’s time to make a choice. Do you want this to be a place that is open and welcoming to people who are different from you or not? Because you have to understand that if you do it is going to mean sacrifice, picking up the cross and following Jesus means moving out of our comfort zones and opening ourselves up to problems, but it also means the real possibility of affecting people’s lives.
And if not we will earn the opportunity to live and have church in the manner to which we have become accustomed for a while longer, but I warn you, if we do that this church will not be empowered through any gospel that is true, and it will wither, and it will die!
If we proceed down the second path, the rest of my interaction here will be entirely missional. Because if that’s how we do things then we need Jesus
As I finished taking with the unchurched youth, quite a crowd had gathered, and one mentioned it was hot. I left them with a couple bottles of soda, a pitcher of water and some paper cups.
What will you do?
Matthew 25:35

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A Humble Proposal to Reform Our Dating System

posted by rgaffney

I wrote previously, and hopefully humorously, about some of the problems with our current conceptions in the church regarding dating. Essentially we've made it way way too complicated, resulting in way way too much pressure being put on an interaction which, to my mind, should be fun. Since I'm not one to criticize without providing a better alternative, here is an explanation of how I do it. I think it makes good common sense.
A typical first date (a movie and a unique dinner) will cost me $50 for both of us.
If It's worth $50 to me to get to know you better for an evening, I'll probably ask you on a date. Unless of course I'm concerned that you will misinterpret that gesture and it will lead to social awkwardness. Unless you are so repulsed by me that the prospect of spending the evening with me is not worth a free dinner, you should say yes.
A second date is usually much cheaper (maybe a picnic lunch and a walk) averaging maybe $20 for the evening. For this reason, if the first date went even alright, I'll probably invite you on a second. At this point in our interaction there is absolutely no commitment implied or intended. We may both be dating other people at the same time, that's fine, if not, that's fine too. If it doesn't go that well, I might even recommend that one of my friends take you out, that's okay, we're not getting married anytime soon at this point.
By the time I'm asking you on a third date It's safe to assume that I like you, I want to kiss you, I'd like to see this go farther. My idea of a third date could cost $100. I may still be interested in other people at this point and unsure about where I stand in your book, but if you got this far it's a safe bet that you are the most interesting girl in my life at the moment. If you are totally uninterested, you might consider at this juncture turning down the opportunity rather than letting me waste my time, But more than likely you are at least a little curious and it's worth it to me for a chance to impress you.
It might be, that for any of a number of reasons, our third date doesn't look like that and we just grab coffee or something. That means I'm not sure how I feel. It's a bad time to ask me. Either it will level out into a real third date and beyond, or it will slowly devolve into a friendship (or there will be some hysterical crying and throwing things at my car, but we're not going to go there)
After a while, if things are going well, it will get to the point where we are going on dates at a steady pace. This is called "going steady" or being in "a relationship". If you are seeing anyone else, now would be the time to stop (with one of us or the other). If you're not sure whether or not we're at that place, check facebook. It'll say "In a relationship" with you in my profile.
Simple enough?

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On Dating

posted by rgaffney

Pictured: "Christian Dating"I feel, that in the church in particular dating has become terribly overcomplicated to the great detriment of many of our relationships. For the sake of all Men, I’d like to make a few things clear

-The bible has passages that apply in virtually every situation, but it has nothing specific to say about dating. Don’t tell me it does, they didn’t have dating back then. Any idea you’ve developed from scripture about how dating ought to be done is subject to interpretation.

-Despite being a man, and the future spiritual leader of a household, I am regrettably unable to project the will of God for the rest of our lives by the first date. I’m sorry, I just don’t know, That’s what dating is for, if I knew who God wanted me to date, woo and marry. I’d just let her know and marry her

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-Interpersonal relationships, especially romantic ones are very complicated and unique. When we find ourselves in an awkward and complicated position that seems sort of romantic, don’t ask me to “Define The Relationship” if you don’t have a word for what kind of relationship it is neither do I, we’re figuring it out, drink your coffee!

-Some relationships however are easy to define. For instance: If you like a boy, and he likes you, you two spend inordinate amounts of time together, talk about your feelings, make plans to go places alone together, and leave groups to go hang out just the two of you, there’s a word for that. It’s called “dating” It doesn’t make it more somehow more holy if you call it just being friends, there’s a word for that too “lying”.

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-Nobody has ever been able to explain to me how a relationship that can be terminated at any time for any reason by the single consent of either party can be considered “committed”. There are only two kinds of committed romantic relationships I know of. One is marriage, and the other is the period that comes just before that after I promise to marry you called “Engagement” You’ll know if you’re in either. There will be a ring.

-The word “courting” seems to change definition depending on which Christian girl I’m talking to. But I’m pretty sure whatever it is I’m not interested. Either it’s essentially the same as dating, or the same as engagement, only more Christiany… Please refer to This Post, on how changing things to make them Christian is an ancient heresy.

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-I haven’t read that book that you did about dating, and chances are I wish you didn’t either. I get really sick of Christian women telling me they want me to lead them, and this is exactly how they want me to lead them and into what.

-You do not ever owe a man anything for spending money on you, that is his choice. Prostitution is illegal in this country, If a man expects something in exchange for dinner he deserves to be both disappointed and dumped. More than likely however, you’re just over thinking it, If a christian guy asks to take you to dinner, that’s probably exactly what he wants, just smile and enjoy the free dinner, it it turns out he wanted anything other than your company it’s his stupid mistake.
Did I miss anything?

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Good Doctrine, and Salvation

posted by rgaffney

I’ve noticed a recent and disturbing trend in the modern church to act like people are saved by their good doctrine. This is far from the case. I wrote the following study to help combat that sort of thinking.

Matthew 8:29
Mark 1:24
Mark 3:11
Mark 5:7
Luke 7:34
Luke 4:41
And of course James 2:29
Etc.

What I hope you’ll notice from these passages is that demons have really impeccable theology. You were of course already intimately familiar with the earlier part of 7 where Satan himself reveals to have memorized scripture.

Now compare that with the disciples.

Matthew 17:4
Luke 8:45
Matthew 16:22 (also in Mark 8)
Galatians 2:11
Mark 10:35-37 (Note that he’s “teacher”, in that passage. Not “son of God” like the demons, not even “good teacher” like the rich young ruler. Not also Jesus’ reply “yeah you want to obey me, sure, sure, what do you want?” and of course their final desire.)

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And my personal favorite: Matthew 16:6-7
Seriously guys? Jesus just fed a huge crowd of people miraculously, YOU passed out the bread! How do you think he has a problem with you now because he got hungry and suddenly he can’t take care of that. I mean Really?

But consistently, the disciples of Jesus demonstrate to us that they just don’t get it. They missed the point, they’re confused, they’re not sure who Jesus is exactly. The scriptures go to great length to communicate this “loserness” to us. At the transfiguration we learn that “the disciples were very sleepy” In the garden at Gethsemane they actually fall asleep when they should be praying. John, when recording the story of the resurrection, sees fit to inform us that Jesus Christ is raised, and death has been defeated, and the world will never be the same, and also that he’s the faster runner!!! (John 20:4)

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Peter finally figures out who Jesus is “the Christ, of God” (Luke 9:20) but his revelation comes in a lackluster way. Not only because he completely fails to affirm the divinity of Christ “The Christ, Who is also God in the flesh” but also because immediately afterward (as we learn in parallel passages) he brazenly asserts that Jesus will never be crucified! leading to the famous “get behind me Satan” quote I offered above.
Now do this one on your own.

How many times does Jesus affirm the faith of children? Of Samaritans? Of thieves? Of people who have no idea how or what or who this Jesus character is but they’re sure they want a piece?

Jesus.

Jesus is who saves us.

Not what we do, not what we know, not the information we have about Jesus. Jesus isn’t what saves us, Jesus is who saves us, and he does it by grace, alone through faith alone.

Amen.

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