August 30, 2009

The Beatitudes - A Progression of Faith

We started a study on the Beatitudes this morning in class which I'm thinking will last us a couple weeks. This morning we spent time discussing some background info on Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" and specifically the Beatitudes. For example, the word beatitude comes from the Latin word beatus meaning "blessed" or "happy". I also found it interesting that the book of Matthew lists 8 beatitudes while Luke mentions 4 (followed by 4 'woes'). I will drop a separate post on the 2 we focused on this morning,

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

but before I do that I wanted to share a thought I had...

...One of the commentators I looked at suggested that "poor in spirit" was the idea of realizing we are nothing without God (human depravity if you will) and that the "mourning" came from the feeling of regret and apology for our sins (I would label this one repentance). This got me thinking, is it possible that through the Beatitudes Jesus was laying out a progression of faith? He starts with being "poor in spirit" (sinful man), moves to those who "mourn" (seeking repentance), and then into what it looks like as someone begins to mature in his/her faith: "meekness"(willingness to submit to Christ's will), "hunger and thirst for righteousness"(study and spiritual disciplines), "merciful", and ultimately "pure in heart"(where one's desires become those of Christ's) which leads to being "peacemakers" and even "persecution"(as Paul says, "to live is Christ, to die is gain") for the cause of Christ.

Obviously I haven't spent a ton of time elaborating on this idea but what do you think, have we stumbled onto something?

August 26, 2009

rethink: Church

I am picking up where I left off in the “rethink:” blog series now that I am starting to experience some sense of normalcy after the loss of my Grandpa (He-Man, Inspector Gadget & Grandpa) and finishing up my essays for my last summer class. You may find it helpful to read the other rethink: posts (Sin, Grace) if you haven’t already.

rethink church

After taking some time to rethink:grace we might begin to how much of a difference this can make in the life of the Church. Taking a moment to rethink:church makes me wonder if Church could be a place where community is found and developed. Can Church really be anything else? Some of us have found a sense of belonging to a community like this, others of us are desperately seeking and wanting.

Now, if you find yourself thinking that Church is just another thing you have to do each week, it may be time for you to rethink:church. Paul describes the Church as a body, a body that is made up of many parts (I Cor. 12:12-27). Each part of the body has a part to play in the life of the Church, you and I cannot simply sit back and experience Church. There is no such thing as spectator community because it requires involvement, engagement and connection. If you are going to attempt to rethink:church, then you must realize that this community needs you. No one can play your part for you so if you’re a foot, be a foot. If you’re a hand, be a hand. This community called the Church needs you.

When we start to think about Church in this way, we quickly realize how good the news of a grace-filled community can be for so many people we know (not to mention ourselves). Realizing how many lost, searching, lonely people cross our paths each day may give us reason to rethink:evangelism.

August 22, 2009

Martin Luther on Authority & Salvation

I have been working on essays for my Church History II class at Asbury Theological Seminary and was asked by a friend to post my essay on Martin Luther's understanding of authority and salvation and how it differs from the Roman Catholic Church of his day. I have written a synopsis of my essay here, if you would like to read the entire 2+ page essay just shoot me an email at or and let me know.


Martin Luther understood authority and salvation much differently than the Roman Catholic Church of his day. For Luther, both of these hinged on the Person and Word of Christ. In his writing entitled An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility, he describes "Three Roman Walls" that the Catholic Church had erected to protect their authority.

The 1st wall was the distinction the Catholic Church made between the religious class (popes, bishops, priests, nuns) and the secular class (everyone else) believing that somehow the religious class was more holy and pious. Luther's argument which said, "For all Christians whatsoever really and truly belong to the religious class, and there is no difference among them except in so far as they do different work." (An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility), was based on I Peter 2:9.

The 2nd wall was the claim by the Catholic Church that they were the only interpreters of Scripture because only the religious class had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and that the pope could not err on issues of faith, regardless of his personal integrity or character. To this Luther asks what the point of Scripture is then if only a certain few could interpret it. He believed that God could speak to any man through His Word, regardless of social class.

The 3rd wall was the claim that only a summoned council could challenge the pope but that only the pope had the power to summon such a council. This setup left the pope in a position of unquestioning power which led to an abuse of authority that Luther believed was harmful to all of Christianity and contrary to Scripture. He sites a passage from Matthew 18:15-17 and then writes it "commands each member to exercise concern for his fellow, much more it is our duty when the wrongdoer is one who rules over us all alike, and who causes much harm and offense to the rest by his conduct" (An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility).

In regards to salvation, Luther believed that the sinner was justified not by any past or future merit but through the person and work of Jesus alone. The Catholic Church believed that the pope had the authority and ability to grant the remission of sins to which Luther wrote in his 95 Theses, "76. We say, on the contrary, that papal pardons cannot take away the least of venial sins, as regards to guilt."

He-Man, Inspector Gadget & Grandpa

It is never easy to lose a loved one. I found out exactly a week ago that my 85yr old grandpa, James "Jay" Joseph Lipan, passed away in his sleep. Spending time in Bay City, MI with my rather large family on my dad's side consumed the majority of my week and yet was somehow refreshing. We had a great time celebrating the life of a husband to my Grandma for 61yrs, father of 6, grandfather of 17, great grandfather of 12, brother, original crew member of the USS Midway during WWII and stranger to no one.

I have some great memories of my Grandpa over the 30yrs that I knew him and was fortunate enough to have lived 4 doors down from him and my Grandma for the first 5yrs of my life. Even as young as I was I can still vividly remember riding my Big Wheel (mine had a flat spot on the front wheel from doing all those sweet skids) down to their house right around dinner time to sit with my Grandpa and watch He-Man, Inspector Gadget and People's Court. I got to pick two, he got to pick one.

The thing that I appreciated most about my Grandpa was his ability to bring people together. My Grandma and Grandpa's house was the place people gathered. It was the 'Grand Central Station', the hub of the Lipan family. The place where there was always something going on and always someone coming or going and always a friendly exchange. It was not uncommon to have 50+ people pass through the doors of my Grandpa's house during a holiday get together and somehow he would make every single one of them not only feel welcome but like they were part of the family. He was the embodiment of hospitality, the very definition of what it meant to welcome in the stranger.

Needless to say that our family did not always make the best decisions and yet Grandpa understood what it meant to love unconditionally. Whether it was one of his kids or one of his grand kids he never passed judgment and instead would simply say, "To each his own." and go on loving us. I don't think this meant he wasn't disappointed at times or didn't disagree with decisions that were made but you knew that the love never stopped. I think this is what allowed him to be one of the most, if not the most hospitable person I have known. Certainly a tough act to follow. Thanks Gramps!

August 12, 2009

rethink: Grace

rethink grace

In light of a new perspective on sin can we only begin to understand how incredible the grace of God truly is. If grace has been some sort of “get out of jail free” card that has allowed you to do whatever you want because you know that God’s grace is always available, then you need to rethink:grace.

Grace is free but it is certainly not cheap. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians that we have been “bought with a price.” A price that is beyond anything you or I could ever afford on our own; the very blood, sweat and tears of God’s very own Son. If the things that Jesus endured on the cross in order for you and I to experience grace seems cheap, then I would suggest that we need to rethink:grace.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when talking about grace being costly said,

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it costs God the life of His Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.

Maybe you and I need to begin to rethink:grace in order to better understand its weight. When we stop for a second to rethink the grace we have been shown, despite all that we have done, we begin to see how much of a difference this can make if we are willing to rethink:church.

August 10, 2009

rethink: Sin


I gave a sermon on 8/9 entitled "rethink:" and suggested four topics (sin, grace, church and evangelism) that we may need to spend some time thinking about again or in an entirely different way. Over the next few weeks I am going to blog about some of those different topics that might need some rethinking, some of which I spoke about this morning and others that I didn't get a chance to touch on. Feel free to join in on the conversation at any time.

rethink sinIf sin is something that doesn't disgust us, then it may be time to rethink it. We can read throughout Scripture how much God detests sin, how it disgusts Him and how He wants nothing to do with it. When we think about sin like this, we realize that it so much more than this little thing we do or don’t do.

We often think about sin in terms of good vs. bad or right vs. wrong. I think this can lead us to think that anything that is good can’t be sin. So, who decides what is good or not? If we’re honest, it usually ends up being you and I who decide when it comes to those day in-day out, everyday decisions, right? So that means that anything that I think seems good or feels good is obviously not sin.

We need to rethink:sin as anything or anyone that comes in between us and our relationship with God. If our spouses, significant others, careers, hobbies, etc. come between us and God, they are becoming sin. Even things that are good, like loving my wife, can become sin if my love for her trumps my love for God. The Church, when seeking after Jesus is a good thing but if we make the seeking after Jesus part more important than Jesus Himself…I think we might be sinning.

When we stop for a second to rethink:sin we begin to see it as this thing God detests and that we are all guilty of we realize we may need to take a little time to rethink:grace.

August 7, 2009

New Layout

I've got to ask, are you feelin' it or no?? Do you like the new layout of A Journeyman's Catalog? Let me know what you like/don't like or anything you might like to see here. I would certainly appreciate hearing any thoughts you might want to share.

August 5, 2009

Disorganized Religion?

Maybe it's just arguing semantics but I'm not really sure I understand what people mean when they say they don't like organized religion. Are they actually saying they don't like traditional styles of worship? Mainline denominations? Customs and rituals that can also be known as liturgy? Or the politics that are found within the church framework? Is organized religion seen as a religious or spiritual version of 'The Man' that is holding their spirits down?

It might just be the way my mind works but when someone tells me s/he doesn't like organized religion then I can't help but wonder if that means s/he would rather be involved with a sort of disorganized or unorganized religion, a sort of spiritual chaos where anything goes. This seems more like an attempt to justify doing or believing whatever one wants by freeing one's self from any sort of expectations or accountability. The organization of thoughts and beliefs is going to take place, it becomes an issue of who is going to do the organizing. Will it be at the sole discretion of the individual or a collaboration of church fathers that have gone before with those of us who find ourselves inside the church structure today?

Don't get me wrong, I know mainline organized religion is not perfect (I work for a church), however I do think there is freedom to explore what faith can look like to and for an individual inside this structured framework. Without any sort of framework it can become really easy to find ourselves missing the picture all together.

August 4, 2009

The Dead Weather

So I took another listen to Jack White's most recent project entitled "Horehound" from the band The Dead Weather which is made up of Alison Mossheart on vocals from the Kills, Dean Fertita on guitar from Queens of the Stone Age, Jack Lawrence on bass from The Raconteurs and Jack White on drums.

On my initial listen I was not a fan and after subsequent listens I am still not really a fan. The sound is somewhat unique but I think what makes it that way is that it should have come out 25yrs ago. "Horehound" has a dark, bluesy kind of rock sound that reminds me too much of the 80's, especially with Mossheart's vocals. I have no doubt she has a voice that can rock it out but it never seems like she really has the chance on this album to let it go. And while I am jealous at the freedom Jack White has to pretty much do whatever he wants musically and bring together an extremely talented group so he could play drums, I would rather have heard him on lead vocals. What makes Jack unique from other current artists is his voice and his lyrical way of telling stories, not unlike a number of his tracks with The White Stripes and The Raconteurs. I am really hoping that The Dead Weather does not become his lead project and result in the previous two bands being neglected, especially The Raconteurs (I was surprised at how much I like them).

I would not recommend buying this album but if you find yourself being a die-hard Jack White fan, at least give it a listen first. Despite that, I really liked the guitar on the song "New Pony" and would say that "I Cut Like A Buffalo" and "So Far From Your Weapon" were my two favorite songs on the album.

August 2, 2009

On Health Care

This is not my attempt to explain the health care situation in our country because honestly I have not taken the time I need to understand what is going on. What I do know is that it doesn't seem to be working that well as is and that there are a lot of people that don't have health insurance or access to health care due to its cost. Of course there are as many opinions about this issue as there are potential solutions to the problems and like other major issues, politics play a part as well.

I heard on the news today that the federal deficit is growing as a result of a number of issues, one of them being rising costs of health care. The report went on to say that the federal government was not ruling out the possibility of raising taxes on the middle class in order to help cover the gap in the federal budget.

To be honest, I have no problem paying more of my hard-earned money in taxes if it will help provide health care for an individual or family who otherwise would not have access. I am blessed enough to have access to health care and it seems like if I can help someone get the care s/he needs then that is what Christ would expect me to do. I'm not sure I know which political party has the right answer to the health care question but I am pretty sure that regardless of your political affiliation, if you consider yourself a follower of Jesus you are called to serve all, even the "least of these".

August 1, 2009

The Tech Mask

Technology is great, I really enjoy it and embrace it. One of my few vices is having the latest gadget or gizmo. There has been a ton of buzz over the past few months about all of the social networking sites and technology that has become extremely popular...ala MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and more recently Twitter. And of course there are a variety of ways you can access these social networks from your pc to your phone not to mention all of the different applications that can help you manage your profiles on each of these sites, some even allowing you to update multiple social networks at once. I enjoy all of these though in the last 2 months or so Twitter has become my new favorite passing Facebook. I haven't used MySpace for some time now and I'm still getting use to LinkedIn but I digress.

One of the things I have noticed recently with the combination of advancing technology and the rapid growth of online social networks is the ability they give to individuals to become self-proclaimed "experts". Now, I'm not saying these aren't actually experts, just that I've noticed everyone is an expert of something now. Technology is allowing us to determine our own field of expertise with one of, if not the main credential being the number of followers, friends or connections one has.

If we're not careful we can find ourselves wearing a mask or masks that technology makes possible for us to wear that will eventually fall off because it's not who we are. I'm guilty of this myself as a matter of fact, in my last post even. Technology has allowed me to be a movie critic, or at least wear the mask of one.