Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reaping What We Sow


This week, during my hour long commute, I was listening to a radio program that is produced by a national evangelical ministry. They were interviewing a well known leader of another national ministry about recent events leading up to the current financial crisis. Although I do not normally involve myself in politics, I listened for a while, right up until the person speaking said the number one problem with America, and particularly the Church in America was that we have lost our "Puritan work ethic". I changed the radio back to my music channel and began to ponder just what the speaker meant by this statement.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Of Blessings Planned and Unplanned

Everybody say hello to the newest member of the Aldrich clan, Ezekiel Aldrich, or baby Zeke as the nurses are calling him. Baby Zeke was born yesterday, November 7th, at 10:04am by cesarean section and both he and Charity are healthy and recovering well. We are praising God for the blessing of our new child and for protecting both baby and mother through the birth process.

For those of you who know my family and I, you probably already know that things did not work out like we had been planning. After the last two of our children were born quietly at home with little fuss or trouble, we had planned for baby Zeke to enter the world in pretty much the same way. For the last few weeks we have been preparing our home for the birth, gathering and staging the supplies needed. When this weekend came and Zeke's due date approached we had everything ready and we were as prepared as we could be.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Who is the Church? (Part 4)


When thinking about who or what constitutes a "Church" it is really impossible not to look at Matthew 18:20. In this very well-known verse, Jesus says that wherever there are two or three gathered together in His name, He will be in their midst. The words of this verse have long been used by both those inside and outside the traditional denominations to claim the authority of Jesus over what they call "Church". The argument is that if we have a group of people, no matter what size, who come together, and talk about Jesus, or in some way claim affiliation with Jesus then that IS Church".

So, is this really what Jesus is saying to His disciples here, is he really placing a rubber stamp in the hands of His followers that allows them to declare any gathering loosely related to Jesus as the "Church"? Somehow, I cannot see this really being the intent of Jesus; in fact, I think it may be quite far from the actual intent. I will attempt to explain the process that lead me to believe this.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Who Is The Church? (Part 3)

The Para-Church Organization

Growing up in a traditional institutional church, I was constantly reminded that one of the greatest enemies of the "local church" was the so-called para-church organization. An organization that existed outside of the "authority" of the local church and that, more importantly, competed directly with the local church for precious monetary resources. The para-church organization was a parasite sucking resources that should rightly have been committed to the particular local church group, or at least that's what I had been taught.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who Is The Church? (Part 2)


The Local Church

Growing up, I cannot count the number of times the term "local church" was said from the pulpits of the churches I attended. I was in my teens before I realized that the term appears nowhere in the bible. In fact, there isn't really even a Greek word in the entire bible that can be translated "local". To be fair, the idea of a localized group of believers is found in many places, and this idea has come to be known as the "local church".

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My First Guest Blog Post


I have really been enjoying the "Identity" series over at Jennifer Luitwieler's blog. She has been inviting bloggers from around the country that she has come to know to share their own stories and thoughts about what makes our identity. Sometimes, hearing about the struggles of others helps us to put our own struggles more in perspective, and I feel this series has done exactly that for me.

Jennifer asked me to share some of my story and what God has taught me about who I really am. If you have not heard my story go over and check it out, and if you have, this may give you a new perspective on what God is doing with me.

Click here to read my post  "More than a Biker".

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Who Is The Church(Part 1)

How do we define "Church"?

I have been doing some study recently on what the bible teaches about the Church as part of my journey away from the Institutional Church. I started of course with my Strong's and looked at the possible definitions of the Greek word ekklesia, the word that is translated "church" in our modern Bible. Strong's gives the following definitions of the word when used in the "Christian sense":

1) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting
2) a company of Christian, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order's sake
3) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body
4) the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth
5) the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven

Friday, July 29, 2011

Correct Theology or Correct Practices?




The Importance of Theology.

It seems that there are some out there in evangelical circles that believe that you cannot go out and evangelize, or even really serve, until you have your theology or doctrine just right. Now, I know that none of these groups or persons would admit that they felt this way, but I have noticed that in many circles they are acting this way. They get into deep theological debates and gather like-minded individuals to argue their cause with them. Once their position is clearly established,  they denounce anyone who may teach something even slightly different as a false teacher, or heretic, or worse.

Now before you denounce me as a post-modern relativistic heretic, let me say that I do believe that theology and doctrine are important; I even once believed that I, or at least some of the men I was following, had figured this whole theology thing out.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Developing True Community (Part 5)


Part 5
Jesus and the Believer

In part 4 of this series, we briefly looked at how Jesus addressed those who were not yet reconciled. At this point in our discussion, we will look at Jesus' interaction with those who have placed their trust in Him for eternal life.  In this chapter, we will look at two types of people, those who have been reconciled with God, and those who have been reconciled with God but whose lives do not reflect that reconciliation.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Community is Hard Work

While I am working on part 5 of the developing true community series, it is taking a little longer than I had hoped. I think part of the reason for this is that the next section is about how Jesus interacted with those who had believed and been reconciled. But dealing with believers should be the easy part, right? In my own church experiences, I have found that it is often easier to deal with those who are not believers, than those with whom we should have unity and close fellowship.

In the last week I have had two examples of this. I do not want to give the details here, but in both cases, the goal of the interactions was to build unity, and single mindedness in serving Christ together. In one instance, theological differences sprang up, and the unity is now worse than before. In the other case, the individual involved agreed to work toward unity and after the meeting began to send e-mails justifying his actions and taking jabs at the other people involved in the discussion.

In both cases, there was a group of leaders who were attempting to build closeness and unity. In both cases, the goal was building a stronger, closer community, and in both cases, the community and fellowship was ultimately harmed. Both of these men I would consider friends, and I wrestle with believing that our unity in Christ has been damaged and at least part of the damage is probably my fault.

My point I guess is that really opening up yourself to other people, really connecting with them spiritually and emotionally, is messy. And the worst part is that the most messy are the ones that inwardly, at least, have been redeemed. Those we have the most in common with are often the hardest to really develop meaningful relationships with. 

FedEx,
President,
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Spiritual Snipers

Snipers

During my time as a military police officer in the Army, I attended the long range rifle course. This course is the prerequisite course to become a sniper, which before my disability, was one of my aspirations. As part of the course, we were required to learn about sniper and counter-sniper operations and tactics.

One of the first things you learn in this course is that once a sniper is in a concealed position, he should do everything possible to keep from revealing his position to the enemy. The snipers job is to reduce the strength of the enemy, by drawing soldiers out of their secure positions and shooting them down. Of course the best target for snipers is the officers and leaders of the troops, but if it is possible to take out some foot soldiers without compromising their cover, then they are happy to do that as well. Snipers use all kinds of ruses, fires, nuisance firing, grenades, and booby traps to draw their enemies out into the open where they become easy targets.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blogging is HARD!!!!

Well, blogging itself is not actually hard, but when I started this blog a few months ago, I had high hopes of keeping up on it a little better. I have discovered that it is sometimes difficult to blog regularly. I have a tough work schedule, a busy ministry, schedule, and a wife and kids that want to see me. I also find that it is difficult to always have something to say that I feel will be valuable to those who read this blog.

I guess this is just a quick post to remind myself (mostly), that like many things in life, blogging is a discipline that needs to be cultivated. I could choose to just stop blogging, but I feel that there is value in it, just like there is in Bible reading, and prayer, and journaling. My goal will be to set aside one to two hours each week during which I can hammer out my thoughts and post them here.

FedEx,
President,
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rider Down, But OK UPDATE

"Double D" Had a doctor's appointment this week and he is healing well. He is now able to bend his knee some, although he is still not able to stand or put weight on it. The doctor is still saying that he will be in recovery for another 8 weeks, but "Double D" is praying that God will heal him more quickly and prove the doctor wrong. "Double D" would like to thank all of his brothers and sisters who have visited, helped, and prayed for him during this time, and asks that you continue to pray for his recovery .

FedEx,
President,
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Developing True Community (Part 4)

Part 4
Interacting Like Jesus

In our previous discussion, we talked about how God sees people in general. This is a little different from what God sees when He looks at a believer, or someone who is IN CHRIST,  but it is important to start here, as God's mission starts when we are still His enemies (Rom 5:10). Now, God's mission does not end with us simply being no longer His enemies, but rather its goal is the complete restoration of relationship. So as we move deeper into this discussion of community we will need to look at our identity IN CHRIST, but for now, lets look at How Christ demonstrated God's view of people who were not yet in relationship with God.

Nicodemus

So here is this religious leader, someone who was raised knowing the answers to how to get right with God, at least that's what he thought. Obviously, Nicodemus did not have all the answers, because he comes to talk to Jesus at night in secret. Even before Nicodemus has the chance to ask his question, Jesus gets right to the point and Nicodemus has to admit that he really does not understand at all.

We can see from other interactions with the Pharisees that Jesus did not agree with their teaching and here is one of them, a teacher of the law who has led God's chosen people away from relationship instead of towards it. Here is the interesting thing though, Jesus didn't blast Nicodemus for teaching a false way to get right with God; He instead opens up for Nicodemus the true Gospel message. It is as if Jesus is saying "you are a teacher of religion, but you really don't even understand what it is that you are teaching, here let me show you the true heart of God".

The Samaritan Woman

The interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well is probably one of the best glimpses into what God sees when He looks at messed up people. Jesus encounters a second class citizen of second class citizens, a woman whose life reflects one failed relationship after another, and person who has no hope of ever living a fulfilled life.

Now Jesus addresses her life, but not like religious people expect Him to. He doesn't tell this woman to repent of living with a man outside of marriage, or of having been divorced multiple times. Again, Jesus addresses the very core of the issue; He tells her that if she "drinks of His water" she would never thirst again. So what is this about? Think of it like this, Jesus says to her "I see you life, and your thirsty, thirsty for fulfilling relationship, I am offering you the one thing that you most desperately want, true, fulfilling relationship". Jesus does not judge her for trying to fulfill her God given need for relationship; instead He points her to the only true source of fulfillment and reveals once again the true heart of God.

Conclusion

In the interest of brevity, we will not address any of the many other interactions of Jesus with messed up people, but I have chosen these two with good reason.  You see Jesus dealing with a religious leader, one who guarded zealously God's own law, and a woman who had spent her life failing to keep God's law. They represent both ends of the spiritual spectrum. The pattern of Jesus interaction though was not very different,  in fact, you see the pattern repeated in so many of His interactions with the disciples, the rich young ruler, the woman caught in adultery, Levi, Simon, Mary, Martha, and scores of others.

Jesus chose not to judge or to condemn, even though, as God, He had an absolute right to judge a false teacher or a woman who lived an adulterous life. He chose instead to address the real issue; both the Pharisee and the Adulterer were trying to fill the God shaped hole in their lives with something other than relationship with God. Jesus pointed out the futility of their own attempts at fulfillment and pointed them toward the true source of true fulfillment. This is the very heart of God, the ministry of reconciliation that we are told of in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 being lived out by God's very first Minister of reconciliation. The second part of that passage is that we have also been given that ministry.

FedEx,
President,
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Developing True Community (Part 3)

Part 3
"God" Colored Goggles

We ended our last discussion with the idea of seeing people the way that God sees them. So what exactly does that mean, well lets go back to our goggle illustration. Just as allowing our lives to be shaped by external or internal expectations tints the rest of our world with those "expectation goggles", when we allow our lives to be shaped by the truth of God's perspective, this perspective begins to affect the way we view others. So in gaining a better understanding of what God sees when he looks  at us, we begin to replace the "expectation" tinted lenses with a set of "God" tinted lenses.

So with this principle in mind, lets look at some verses that give us a glimpse of God's perspective.

In Genesis 1:27 we see that man was created to "in God's image". The idea here is a little more than just that of being similar to God in some aspect of our being. Man was created as a unique being, nothing like man had been seen in all creation to this point, and the specific God intended purpose of man's creation was to reveal some parts of His being that had not yet been revealed in all of the rest of the creation. In fact, while all the rest of creation was declared to be "good" by God, only after the creation of man did God look at all that was made and declare it to be "very good".  So first of all, when God sees us, he sees His own unique creation and in that creation aspects of His being that are revealed nowhere else in the created universe.

Next, we see that God values us. In Mat 10:21, we hear directly from the mouth of Jesus that we are of more worth than other created beings. David echos this sentiment in Psalm 8, where he mixes the dominion of man over creation, with marvel for God even taking thought of man, and a foreshadowing of mankind ruling over all creation, including the angels, through the man Jesus Christ.  God values man because he has a purpose and a plan for man that is singularly unique among all the created beings, even spiritual beings.

When God looks at us, He sees a broken relationship that He would do anything to restore. We see from the very beginning of revelation, in Gen 1:26 a quote from God. "Let US make man in OUR own image". We see a God who exists in eternal perfect relationship within the trinity. Additionally, we see that one of the aspects of God that man was created to reflect was relationship. This was most clearly revealed through the creation of man and woman (Gen 2:24). As a result of the fall, the relationship of man with God and the reflection of God's relational nature was damaged. After all of this, we see that God chose to sacrifice His own Son to save His enemies (Rom 5:10), and why, because His business is fixing that broken relationship (2 Cor 5:18-20). 

Now, this is not an exhaustive list of what God sees when He looks at mankind. Nor does this list look at some aspects of what God sees that change when a person believes in Jesus Christ for their eternal destiny. But these are some very key things that we can see from the bible are true of all mankind. I would even argue that they are the very heart of God's being, His purpose for creating mankind, and His current mission of restoring a broken world.

In our next installment, we will explore how our example of living with "God goggles", Jesus Christ, interacted with people.

FedEx,
President,
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Developing True Community (Part 2)

Part 2
Why True Community Starts With Individual Identity

It may seem a little odd to begin a discussion of what life in true community looks like with a discussion of our individual identities. My point here, however, is that without a proper, biblical view of our own identity it is impossible to live in unity with other people. To illustrate this, lets think about a pair of motorcycle goggles. When a person is wearing a pair of goggles with a colored lens, the whole world appears to be colored the same tint. No one would argue that the world is in fact the color of the lenses, but to the person wearing the goggles, the whole world appears in that color.

Just as the motorcycle goggle lens lends its tint to the whole world in the perception of the biker, our own ideas about identity color not only our own life, but also the way that we look at our entire world. This is probably most easily seen on the concept of expectation as we discussed in the previous chapter. As an example, lets say that you have spent your whole life being told that good Christian men do not have long hair. It is not only difficult for you to grow your own hair long, but it is also difficult for you to accept that anyone with long hair could be a good Christian. So you see, these "expectation goggles" not only affect your view of yourself, but also your view of everyone else.

So how does this affect community? Well the problem with these "expectation goggles" is that they by necessity create a barrier to true community. If true community is a place where we are free to be real, in spite of our shortcomings, then expectations are deadly to true community. When we believe that we are expected to be a certain way, and we are not, then we are really only left with two options. We either put up the facade of being OK when in reality we are not, or we can give up the hope of ever measuring up and withdraw from community altogether. Either way, the possibility of growing deeper in meaningful relationship is prevented and we are left with the choice between superficial relationship or no relationship at all.

In our next installment, we will explore how being secure in our identity allows us to remove these "expectation goggles" and begin to see others as Christ views them.

FedEx,
President,
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Developing True Community (Part 1)

My family and I just returned from the Community Class Family Retreat in Sedalia, CO, where we had a wonderful time. My wife and I lead the discussions and study time this weekend and our focus was on developing true community within the church. My intent is to post a mini-series of topics based on some of the discussions from our time at this retreat.

Part 1
Expectation VS Identity

Living up to Expectations:
What does it mean to live our lives based on expectations? The churchy answer is of course that we should not live our lives based on other's expectations, then we give a list of things the bible tells us that we ought to do. But I think this goes deeper. From childhood, we have expectations placed upon us by our family and friends. Our parents want us to get good grades, grow into responsible adults, make a profession of faith, go to college, get a good job; the list could go on. Our friends want us to fit in, to act cool, to spend time with them,  and so on. The fact is that we are pretty much conditioned from our birth on to live according to the expectations of others so that we can grow into "Good People".

Our spiritual lives are really no different. From spiritual birth, we have pastors, Sunday school teachers, and other Christians who all give us a list of things that we need to do (their expectations) in order to be "Good Christians". We are told that we need to cut our hair, remove our earrings(for men), dress a certain way, go to church, pray, read our bible, and once again the list is almost infinite. Just as in our physical life we find ourselves making decisions based on what we think will please our parents or friends, in our spiritual lives, we can spend all of our time and effort trying to do things that we are lead to believe please God.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, I am not saying that these things are bad. Most of them are in fact taken right out of the pages of the Bible. What I am saying is that we often have the wrong idea about how these things fit into the Christian life.

Living out of Identity
How do we live out of our identity? Before we can discuss living out our identity, we need to look at what that identity is. In John 14 Jesus tells His disciples that they can know the Father, because Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Him. In Verse 20 Jesus then states that the disciples are in Him, and He was in them. Jesus is telling His disciples that those who believe in Him are in Him, just as He is in the Father. So what does is mean to be "in Christ", lets look at some verses that discuss this.

Romans 8:1 tells us that "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". In 1 Cor 1:30 Paul says "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption". Lastly, we see in 2 Cor 5:17 that "if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation". Notice that all of these verses are talking about the present state of things. There is now no condemnation. Christ became wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. We are a new creation. All of these verses talk of things that have already happened or are already true, not things that will be true in the future.

These things that are already true of the person who has believed Christ for everlasting life, therefore these things comprise our true identity in Christ. In Christ, we are a new creation, one that is without condemnation because Jesus Christ has redeemed and sanctified us, and has imparted to us His wisdom and righteousness. THIS IS WHO WE ARE, right here, right now, and living out of our identity is simply living as though these things are already true, not living as if we can make them true. We will develop this idea further in later verses, but we are talking about community, not individuals. This discussion is simply to give us an idea of what is already true on the individual level in each and every person who has believed in Christ for eternal life.

FedEx,
President,
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Welcome

When I decided to start a blog, I never thought the first post would be about an accident involving one of my riders. Praise God it was not more serious.

Anyway, the second post will have to be the one to welcome everyone who will read this to our new blog. We will be posting information about upcoming ministry opportunities, motorcycle events, and community happenings as well as some reflections from myself and other leaders of this ministry. Thank you for visiting and be sure to check back regularly.

FedEX,
President,
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

RIder Down, But OK

Yesterday one of our ministers, Danny "Double D" Diekman was riding on north Academy in Colorado Springs when the car in front of him stopped suddenly. Double D was unable to stop in time and hit the rear of the stopped car. Double D suffered a broken knee and has a sprained shoulder. He also has some bumps and bruises on his head and face, but overall his condition is very good all things considered. He will be in recovery for the next 6-8 weeks, so please lift our brother and fellow minister up in prayer.

Also, praise God that Double D's bike, "Angel Baby" was not seriously damaged in the accident. It will need some repairs (mostly cosmetic), but it still started and ran. Music Man and Little Dawg were able to ride it onto a trailer after the accident. We will post periodic updates here on Double D's condition, as well as opportunities for our brothers and sisters in the motorcycle community to minister to Double D as he recovers.