12.29.2009

Crazy Days...

I have been given reason to ponder lately...

We have had several people make decisions to leave our community in the past month. We have also had some people decide to move to Buffalo to step intentionally into this community, and a few others who have called to say they are praying about moving here.

We also have relationship with several people who still look to us for pastoral care and friendship, but no longer want to be a part of our church community, and are now involved in another church here in the city.

In the midst of all of this, we have had some struggles financially, nothing traumatic, just a little boat rocking...

And just today we had another church in the area offer to support us financially in what we are doing.

Taken together, it all has my head spinning a little.

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It all has me pondering about relationships.

So just what is a healthy way to leave a church?

What are legitimate reasons for Christians to pick up and move?

What is a healthy relationship between churches supposed to look like?

How does Christian community work with people who belong to different church communities?

How should we respond to Christians who leave their church to join ours?

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When it comes to moving and leaving, I think, more than anything else, the process is the important part of the equation. The outcomes may vary from situation to situation, but there are certain fixed points in the way in which the decisions should be made:

1) Decisions should come out of community discernment not individual desire.

2) We should have the blessing of the community.

3) We should have a clear sense of the underlying motivations to our decision.

And a few cautions to think through:

1) Relational funkiness should never be a reason to leave.

2) If I am unwilling or unable to do something here and now, then it is imprudent to think I will be doing that something there and then.

3) I am the cause of most of my problems, and I will be going with me.

4) The grass is rarely greener on the other side of the fence, but when it is, we are probably called to stay and water the grass on our side.

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I am still thinking about relationships with other churches, but I do think there is at least one thing I am sure of:

When people show up to my church from another church, I have an obligation to their spiritual well-being to make sure they have the blessing of their former community.

12.26.2009

Triage

PLEASE! don't major on the minors!

For Grandpa





Christmas/Birthday Fun

Here are pics of the kids enjoying presents from Zane's B-day, and from Christmas...











12.25.2009

Emmanuel: Christmas Reflections

An Unexpected King and an Upside Down Kingdom:

We read in John's prologue that Jesus came to the world that He made, and that world didn't want Him. Jesus' life is framed by a birth in a feeding trough, and a death by public execution. Hardly the way a king should enter the world, or leave it. Of course His birth was announced by battalions of angels, but they sang only to shepherds; and He did rise and then ascend, but only a few women and fishermen were witness...

God's power and glory look very different than we might imagine. This is Emmanuel, God with us; and it isn't what we could have thought up for ourselves. In fact, it turns out that our notions of the gods are almost stood on their heads when the real God actually does show up.

Becoming One of Us:

Jesus, the Second Adam, is not merely God among us, but God become one of us. Fully God, and fully man.

Colossians 1:15-20 gives us a picture of a Cosmic Savior, a fully divine being, and an exact representation of God. Hebrews 2:14-18 paints a picture of the perfect human, a flesh-and-blood savior, and a perfect image of humanity as it should be. Hebrews 4:14-16 goes on to explain the significance of Jesus nature. Because He is a perfect representative of heaven, and of humanity, He gives us access to the throne of grace.

Christmas is Jesus bridging heaven and earth. I would turn to my Kenyan friend Dus to prepare for a trip to Kenya, or to my Rwandan friend David for information about Rwandan culture, precisely because they live here, but came from there. I can turn to Jesus to find access to God's Kingdom, precisely because in his very person He has brought heaven to earth.

Affirming our Humanity in Order to Heal It:

The leper approaches, even though he knows he shouldn't. He is banished from human contact, yet desperate hope propels him forward, "If you are willing, you can heal me!" Jesus doesn't heal him.

He touches him!

It is not until after Jesus affirms this man's humanity, proclaims his dignity and worth as a son of Adam, that Jesus speaks the word of healing that ends leprosy. First, Jesus chose to deal with the spiritual leprosy of alienation and humiliation.

Emmanuel is God touching us in the exact places where we have surrendered to sin's dehumanizing effects. He places His hands on us, not on the clean parts, but on the wounds, the ugliness, the blood and puss, the stench, the filth... It is only after He proclaims us loved and cherished by the Father that He then restores us. Christmas is God with dirty feet, stained clothes, bloody head, and pierced palms; entering our world fully.

12.24.2009

Good and Evil

"But abuse does not destroy the proper use."

NT Wright tossed this little phrase into paragraph about political power, but it implies a definition of good and evil that bears exploring and repeating.

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Sin is not a thing. Evil is not a thing.

Good is a thing (or rather many things). Pleasure, beauty, purpose, power, existence! These are good, in and of themselves. Some of the typical targets of Christian vilification, sex, alcohol, dancing, gambling, tobacco, etc. are not evil, nor is engaging them inherently sinful.

They are not evil, because evil is not a thing!

Evil is the perversion of good, not its opposite. Therefore adultery is the sin, not sexual pleasure; drunkenness is the sin, not alcohol; addiction not smoking; titillation not dancing; you get the picture. Something is evil when it takes some good thing and misuses it; a public official using his political clout to oppress the poor; a woman using her beauty to diminish other women; enjoying the pleasure of food with no regard to issues of larger importance; separating sexual intimacy from personal intimacy; again, you get the picture.

Sin, truly, is "missing the mark."

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...and so, we must realize that engaging in perverse behavior is no greater an evil than abstaining (or encouraging others to abstain) from behavior that is healthy!

Of course, there are appropriate times to set aside pleasurable and otherwise good activities (1 Corinthians 8:13), but there is the equal danger of allowing prudish people to set the agenda in a way that denies the inherent goodness of God's creation (Colossians 2:16-23).

Jesus is the Lord of Life, who has come to share that abundant life with us, and we must learn to embrace His creative goodness. We can no longer be the prudish people who cannot talk about sex without getting red cheeks and hot collars, instead, we must begin to recognize (and to teach the world) that it is not the porn star who is sexual, but the monogamous husband and wife. We are the possessors of the reality, of which the world has only parody.

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Our witness is hampered by drunkenness, surely; but we must begin to acknowledge that our witness is just as tarnished by an inability to enjoy fine wine.

12.22.2009

NT Wright

... once God decides (with the call of Abraham) to work to address the problem of evil through people who are part of the problem as well as part of the solution, there is going to be an awful lot of messiness, which will reach its climax when God not only gets his feet muddy with the mess of the world but his hands bloody with the nails of the world.

12.20.2009

On Earth as it is in Heaven

"We cannot, then, pray the Lord's Prayer and acquiesce in the power and glory of Caesar's kingdom. If the church is not prepared to subvert the kingdoms of the world with the kingdom of God, the only honest thing would be to give up praying the Lord's Prayer altogether."

NT Wright

(Taken from the article linked in the title)

12.17.2009

Open Hands

It is such a difficult thing to hold God's gifts to us with open hands, instead we 'white-knuckle it,' holding tightly to what we have...

...and in so doing we are telling God we don't trust Him. If He were to take away what He has given us, we feel we are lost. What does this say about us? What does this say about our faith in the Giver?

St Paul says that he 'had nothing, yet possessed everything." (2 cor 6:10)

12.14.2009

Theology

Jesus chose fishermen.

How does that communicate theology?

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What theology is communicated by our practices?

12.05.2009

Wanna Start a Movement?

"In fact, in the mind & heart of God, church is another word for church planting school."

Sean McMasters

12.03.2009

More Lyrics From Another Life

All the perfect people- Shallow and deceitful
Staring back at me on TV in magazines
Look so good like a box of fresh wrapped twinkies
What the heck happened to me?

So I took a drive to a rich and wealthy country
Saw everything I wanted and everything I need
Went right up and tried to join their party
You oughta seen the look when they saw me

Crossed up eyes- Stupid grin
Perfect people won't let me in
Who's who list- Where's my name
They won't let me join their game
I bet you think that I'm insane
There's no one left for me to blame
Screw the perfect people
Man, they all look the same

We're not much to look at
Too short, dumb and so fat
Never gonna win a beauty pageant it's a curse
Always gonna be a better doorman
At the best clubs
How could thing's be any worse?

Don't have much to go on don't want your opinion
Don't have much to gain and I ain't got much to lose
Looks like you got it all and I'd really like to
Get some
You got something I could use

12.02.2009

Heteropraxy Revisited

I can't begin to count the number of conversations I have had with friends about theory that quickly moved to practice.

"Yeah, but how does that get lived out?"

That question was sure to be asked early and often amongst the women and men that I was discipled by, discipled with, and those that I was fortunate to disciple.

In a community of practitioners, scripture and theology becomes a lively and practical conversation!

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The reality is, you and I can be on the same page in terms of language, we can sign our names to the same statements of faith or doctrine or ministry philosophy, but be worlds apart in what those statements actually mean. I have seen it happen time and again. Deep and meaningful conversations lead to (what are seemed to be) real and lasting agreements about God, ministry, and life. Then we live or work together, and we discover that we have very different ideas about just what we meant by what we agreed upon.

A simple example:

"God is good!" Does this mean, "I need to embrace suffering in order to discover what God is trying to accomplish through it," or does it mean, "God would never allow anything hard or painful to happen to me?"

We could easily talk through how this applies in every sphere of theology, scripture, ministry, and life.

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Here is the sticky point:

It is precisely this 'fruit' of our theology that God is concerned with addressing. Another way of saying this is, if your theology is good, and your life is bad then your theology is bad!

So the only way to really discover our respective theologies is to engage in lasting intimacy with each other, and to repeatedly ask, "Yeah, but how does that get lived out?"

12.01.2009

Mega Church Envy

I came across an interesting comment on a blog post the other day, it was in response to someone critiquing a Church building a multi-million dollar bridge to ease their parking issues, instead of building wells in poverty stricken places:

"I was an Atheist for a decade until Jesus decided to reach me at Andy Stanley’s mega-church. When I was an Atheist I didn’t donate any portion of my income to build wells in Africa. Now I do.

You call it a waste. I call it an investment."


Wonder what you think?

Click on the title for the link to the church web site specific to the bridge.

11.30.2009

Shift

We must do the theological work of defining Kingdom power and purpose as seen in the Cross, and then move to a more practical, and more important purpose: attempting to call Church practitioners to account for our complicity in ‘better business practices’ that largely ignore the implications of the theology we espouse. While we have given some thought to the implications for individual lives, practitioners are often ignorant of the ecclesiological implications of kingdom theology, and specifically the Cross. The Cross reveals an approach to power and justice that threatens to shift our paradigm. We must allow this shift to happen, not just theologically, but also in terms of praxis.

11.29.2009

Practice Makes Theory

Church planting is a unique crucible for ecclesiology.

Heteropraxy

If you want to know what someone holds to be valuable, powerful, or true, you are better off watching them live than hearing them speak. The unfortunate truth is that our most carefully crafted statements of theology say less about our understanding of God than the simple everyday choices we make. In the area of Church praxis this is most unfortunate, because our practices communicate a theology that is far from orthodox.

11.28.2009

We are Haunted

In spite of all of the literature, conferences, and personal exhortations to ‘administrate your way to a mega-church;’ we cannot shake the nagging suspicion that God’s Church could actually be something revolutionary in its beauty and purity. All over the earth, in every denominational stream, there are those of us who have grown weary and wary of a Church that feeds on high-dollar advertizing, well-funded ministry teams, and the latest and greatest technologies. We are haunted by the suspicion that our notions of Church ‘success’ might actually be an idolatrous distraction from God’s true purposes.

11.24.2009

Leadership

I came across this comment on a blog a while back, and finally got around to posting it, (the title link is to the place I lifted it from), it seems to get at some important aspects of discerning calling, and the role of existing leadership in the training, and releasing of new leaders.

"Despite being late on this one, the last few comments intrigued me. In particular, I find out some of the comments on personal "calling" troubling.
For instance:"But at the end of the day, this is about a particular person's unique calling which always trumps whatever opinions or ideals that any of us could have."
And: "What about the trained, called and gifted women, who are never even considered for ordination simply because they're female?"
I don't find all ordination processes entirely biblical. But one thing that seems to be missing here is that so-called "callings" are supposed to be affirmed by current, qualified leaders. I don't get to, my heart and track-record unquestioned, get to say "I have a calling, therefore you have to give me authority over God's people". NO! Wolves still exist and the most likely wolves are those that claim a "calling" from God. Have you ever heard of a wolf that felt called to pick up after church? I doubt it. It's those that are "called" who prey. Therefore, it is the job of qualified leaders to affirm the calling for the good of both the "called", who may just end up crashing when they actually aren't called, and for the flock, who are vulnerable to poor leaders.
I don't usually get aggressive with my comments. But those who believe that "individual calling" always trumps current, qualified leadership on just word of one's so-called "calling" are quite likely either very ignorant sheep or very wolfish themselves...they certainly aren't shepherds."


Paul Dalach

11.22.2009

Labeling

I had an intriguing conversation with Amy and Nathan about labeling. It was at a neighborhood mixer. They were talking specifically about the labels we place on everyday items and how those labels can actually effect our perceptions of products, our choices of consumption, and so, whole economic patterns...

For example, what do you read on the labels of your foodstuffs? Probably just the price per quantity, right, maybe some of the health information. How does that effect what you choose to purchase? How much you are willing to pay? Etc.? What if there was no health information on any of our food labels, how would that effect purchasing decisions?

My new friends were talking specifically about environmental impact statements on everyday item labels, and how that might effect our purchasing habits. For example, if the carbon footprint of that item was placed on that label, (let's say in units of trees) how would that effect your purchase decisions? This gallon of milk costs $2.50 and .75 trees, that one costs $3.00 and .07 trees; which one would you choose to buy?

Or how about the percentage of the purchase price that would be recycled into the local economy?

...or the average wage of the person(s) who produced that item?

...etc.

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The basic idea is, that what we choose to put on the label effects how we see the product, and in turn effects our choices with respect to that product. In one sense, nothing has changed about the product itself by changing the label (those things were always true about the product, even though we may have been largely unaware of them), however, by making that reality public, by labeling it, we are potentially effecting change on a large scale.

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My mind immediately went to how we label in the world of Church and religion.

What goes on the label for most spiritual communities?

The number of rear-ends in chairs

The size of the facility

The technological 'wow' factor

How would changing the 'label' effect how we thought about church? What if we found a way to get justice issues, or personal holiness, or cultural diversity, on the label? What if we found a way to get equipping lay-leaders into ministry, or planting new churches, or helping people discover calling, on the label? Not only would that effect the 'purchase' decisions people make (how do I decide which church to commit to), but it would probably begin to have serious effects on a system-wide level. Changing the way churches define themselves, and changing the whole system we have built that equips churches to increase attendance, buildings, and budget, as a sign of 'success.'

May it happen soon, Lord!

11.17.2009

Eucharist and Justice

This theology of the Eucharist, which I am offering to you today, or sketching out with you today, therefore is extremely closely conjoined with a holistic view of mission. Of the mission of God in the world, which is of course all about the challenge to you and you and you and you to repent, to believe, to accept Jesus, to know him for yourself, to rejoice in His salvation, in and through your whole being. But also simultaneously and for the same reasons, the challenge for you to become agents of new creation, where there is hunger, where there is poverty, where there is injustice, where there is danger anywhere in the world.

And, as I said before, this is because God's work in the world is never merely pragmatic. It isn't just we can organize a program to go and do this. If you think you can do God's work like that read the lives of people like Wilberforce and think again. You can't. You need prayer, you need the sacraments, you need that patient faithfulness, because we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and the world rulers of this present darkness.

Read some of the great Christian biographies and see how they did it. Read about Desmond Tutu. Who would have thought forty years ago that at the start of the 21st century there would be a black archbishop of Cape Town chairing a commission for truth and reconciliation listening to white thugs and black thugs confess their sin? Who would have thought that? But God had other ideas, because that black archbishop used to spend three or four hours on his knees every morning, day after day and week after week, and get other to do the same, and was living the life of the sacramental life of the church and claiming the victory of Jesus over the principalities and powers.

You can't do it by just a little bit more politicizing, social techniques. You can only do it through being energized in the sacramental and prayerful life of the church, whatever the "it" is that you have to do.

-NT Wright

11.08.2009

Christian Storytellers Pt VIII

There is a scene in the film A Time to Kill where the lawyer tells the story of the young African-American rape victim. It was her rape, torture, and humiliation that motivated her father to kill the two Caucasian men who committed the act. As he tells the story to the all-white jury he ends with a picture of the young girl brutalized, and then instructs the jury, "now imagine she is white." This elicits gasps from the jury and the entire chamber full of people...

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Art is able to speak to people in one world, about realities in another world. Art speaks in the language people know, but invites them into a world beyond. It is this very thing that is so perplexing and compelling about the parables of Jesus. He invites his listeners into a story that they are familiar with, but it drops them into another world! A world where our enemies are the good guys; where moral people are on the wrong side of God; where rich people are the truly needy ones; and where honest, hardworking, and resentful older brothers are revealed to be just as self seeking as prodigal younger brothers...

...but of course, the real deal is not telling the story, it is living in the Story!

It is entirely possible to tell a story, without it being the controlling narrative of your life, and with this story, that would be a bummer...

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If the call of the Christian artist is to tell the story in the language of the world, then the call of the Christian, is to live the story in this world. To know the plot, to understand our role, our relationship to the plot and the other characters, and ultimately, to take our cues from the playwright!

We are supposed to be living parables, not by our own creativity and voice, (perhaps, not even directly aware of it) but because we are connected to the One who tells the story best...

11.07.2009

Safety and Agitation

One of the questions I often grapple with as a pastor and as a professor is, how do people change? How do they grow? Particularly when I teach a course on discipleship, this question seems to emerge repeatedly. My theory on spiritual growth is that growth does not occur without the combination of two factors: the creation of a safe place coupled with the introduction of discomfort. Having just one of the two factors is not sufficient for growth. If you only create a safe place, you can become too comfortable and feel no need to change and grow. If you only have the presence of discomfort, you generate too much stress to allow for growth. Both a safe place and discomfort must exist to move towards growth. My book is an attempt to introduce a bit of discomfort to the overly comfortable culture of American evangelicalism.

Professor Soong-Chan Rah

11.05.2009

Courage

Click on the title link to read a story of a friend of mine...

(This is EJ's mother, for those of you who met him on the youth trip)

Paul tells us that God works all thing for our benefit. This woman understands that when Paul says 'all things' he means 'even cancer.'

May we have courage like hers.

Best of Both (Hopefully)

11.04.2009

Christian Storytellers Pt VII

...and so the call goes forth!

The world (and the Church) is in dire need of Christian storytellers. Women and men who will tell the story not merely accurately, but compellingly, beautifully, with skill and power. Exciting the imagination, stirring the emotions, challenging the intellect, and directing the will; the creation of culture must not be left in the hands of those who listen (willfully or ignorantly) to other stories...

I have often thought of art as a valid, but peripheral concern to the purpose of the Church. I have in recent years been chastened. The arts are indispensable.

In a very real sense the arts are the medium for telling the story at the meta-cultural level.

The call of the Christian storyteller is neither superficial sentimentality, nor is it raw self expression; rather it is something more closely approaching prophecy. To return to the grey room and the glorious spring of our previous post; much of Christian art is essentially describing the spring flowers; secular art describes the colorless gloom; some Christians in an attempt to avoid painting daisies collapse into the secular pursuit of painting grey windows in grey rooms...

The call of the Christian storyteller is neither to describe the flowers outside the window, nor to describe the shadows inside the window; the call of the Christian storyteller is to break the window!

We must tell the story of the Spring within the world of the room.

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In drama and dance, in narrative and screenplay, in music and lyric, in clay and in paint, in philosophical treatise and in political speech, we need to tell the story. Not in a polemical or proselytizing manner, but in a provocative and intriguing tone. We are not convincing, but rather inviting; we are not fighting, but rather dancing; we are not conquering, but rather wooing...

Thought Provoking

The Prosperity Gospel from The Global Conversation on Vimeo.



Click on the title link for an article by the theologian interviewed in the video...

11.03.2009

Christian Storytellers Pt VI

So we have introduced the framing story as a concept, as well as compared several false stories to the story...

...so what?

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Christian Art often falls into one of two categories. Kitsch or a not-so-subtle attempt to avoid kitsch...

Neither rises to either originality or, more importantly, the grand legacy and calling of the christian artist...

Much of Christian art is kitsch, a candle-holder that spells Jesus, or a painting of an idyllic Church building. This is simply an unreflective sentimentality about superficial aspects of our faith that are pawed at through the use of some artistic medium, but there is not much depth or power behind it. There are many Christians who decry such stuff. They create art that is as far from this as possible, and in so doing end up falling into the stories of the world. Art simply becomes an excuse for self-expression. A way of sharing personal experiences, thoughts, or feelings...

Again, neither approach rises to the calling of Christ on the author, sculptor, playwright, musician, or painter.

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We live in a room with a single window. The glass is stained and tainted with soot and grime, impossible to get clean; only distorted glimpses of the outside world can be caught with strained eyes. The grey window colors everything behind it with smokey haze.

Outside the spring is dancing and singing! Delightful colors and sounds, new life, budding flowers and gurgling waters...

The sounds are faintly available to life inside the room, but impossible to see, and so easily dismissed as fantasy.

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I cannot find the quote, but remember once reading a paragraph or two by C.S. Lewis wherein he describes the common Christian experience. We arrive at a worship service, hear the story told in scripture and the creeds for an hour, and then march back out into a world for an entire week, (the world in which we work, play, live, eat, and sleep) in which that story is not so often directly denied, but is routinely ignored. Other stories are told, and in fact, in order to successfully work, play, live, eat, and sleep in that world, we must often act is if those other stories are the true ones... and it is the storytellers who are the combatants in this particular confrontation. This is not a war of ideas and truths, but a war of propaganda. The winner will not be the one who tells convincing truths, but rather the one who paints compelling pictures, the one who tells exciting stories...

In our culture we no longer call them storytellers. Instead we call them artists, musicians, professors, even politicians; playwrights and directors, songwriters and sculptors, philosophers and social critics; advertising executives and tech-company CEO's...

...these are the culture creators, the women and men who tell the stories we live in and live by. And they are largely successful in telling stories so loudly, creatively, and compellingly, that we believe them. Even as Christians who know the truth, we believe the false stories...

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We Christians get to hear sermons about life outside the grey room. We are told, sometimes with wondrous flourish, about the Spring that is erupting outside the window

...we are told for an hour a week.

The rest of the week we live in the room, surrounded by those who tell a different story. "The room is all that there is; the many shades of grey, the taste of ash, the smell of soot, is all that is real."

God help me, I am a sinner

How do we grow in Christ-likeness? What does it look like? I will give you a couple of verses here just as illustrations of where such growth comes out. "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."1 Now just think of the effects of that, and of what it would be like to learn it to the point where doing it is easy—where it was not a strain but was an expression of who you really are—easy for you habitually to see others as better than yourself. Further on in that same chapter: "Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world."2 That’s basic Christian life from Paul’s point of view. That’s a life that wins the world and provides a model of life under God. That’s a life that has to explain its source to an inquiring public, because it stands out and is so different. That’s the New Testament vision. We’re talking about taking I Corinthians 13 and saying yes that’s for me. I will do that. I will let love dwell in me to the extent that, because love dwells in me, I suffer long and am kind. Love also does not envy, does not puff itself up, does not exalt itself, and so on. That would become my natural character. But in the Evangelical gospel preached today there is no natural connection between what is preached as the gospel among Evangelicals and the Christ-likeness described in these verses.

Dallas Willard

11.02.2009

Christian Storytellers Pt V

Jesus's lives out an essentially subversive narrative. He does not push His own agenda on us, but rather subjects himself to the false stories, the destructive behaviors, and the ignorant actors... He offers another story, not by telling the story, but by living it out in such a way that the other stories are shown to be imposters.

He is the actor who arrives onstage and brings a massive course correction to the plotline of the existing play, not in terms of interrupting the play and going over the acts and lines with the actors, but rather from within the story itself, by responding from a place within the world of the play, yet motivated by the realities outside of the play...

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He does not tell the Roman story of progress, nor go the way of the Sadducees who attempt to 'go along to get along' with the Romans. Nor does He tell the various Jewish counter stories of revolutionary aggression, purifying contempt, or retreating isolation. He confronts evil, but recognizes evil in both Roman and Jew. He stands against evil, but not by condemning and shaming people. He spurns evil, but not by retreating from it. He engages the brokenness of the world with love, not violence.

He offers a way of 'being in the world, but not of the world,' a way of confrontation without condemnation, a way of collaboration without collusion, a way of engaging without endorsing, a way of combating without aggression. Jesus clearly shows up the powers of the world for what they are, pretenders.

He does this by living in God's story, even though He is doing so in a world that has largely ignored that story...

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Jesus is the summing up of all of God's hope for mankind, both in terms of Adam (made of dirt and filled with the breath of God, the unique connecting point between God and His Universe; designed to reflect the glory of the Creator into the creation) and in terms of Abram (called from the ranks of sin-stained humanity for the purpose of incarnating God's plan of redemption, the unique connection between the future hope of God's promise and the present reality of brokenness; designed to live out that hope as a light to the dark world). His work, and very person, are the perfect fulfillment of God's original intent for humanity (hence the title 'Son of Man'), and simultaneously the very image and power of the Godhead (hence the title 'Son of God'). His death on the cross is both the suffering of all the brokenness and rebellion of humanity and the victory of God over that brokenness; His resurrection is the foretaste of the fulfilled promises for humanity, and the in-breaking of God's future kingdom into the present.

Jesus is the climax of God's story, the point at which the end of the story crashes into the beginning.

Jesus is also the subversion of the world system; the point at which the alternative power-stories are shown up for frauds and parodies...

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And so we see that Christianity is certainly a meta-narrative all it's own; but it is both controlling narrative and subversive deconstruction of all existing narratives...

11.01.2009

Christian Storytellers Pt IV

So now we come to another story...

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Some would say, "Christianity is it's own meta-narrative; it is a framing-story all its own."

...and on the face of it, perhaps, and after we define some terms, it is; but it isn't so simple as "this is the story of the Christians." We have already alluded to the fact that different people have told the Christian story in many different ways, some in an attempt to tell it faithfully, others in a deliberate bid for control, and still others out of ignorance to God's authorship, design, direction, and action...

=======================

From the outset the story of God, is precisely that, a story about His activity and creativity. We tend to tell stories about a reactionary God, we are the primary actors, He the responder. (If we will just X, then He will Y)

The unfolding narrative of scripture says it quite differently... "in the beginning God..." "...and then God spoke..." "...and God said to Abram..."

It is a story of a God who creates, a God who calls, a God who initiates and invents, a God who imbues and inhabits.

This is a story that we are offered a participatory role in, but it is not our story!

=======================

However, the very role that we are offered, the chance we were/are given to shape the unfolding story, to 'put our fingerprints on the world' as it were, is God's risk. He risked love, created something other than Himself, and gave Himself to it in communion. In a sense, God became vulnerable to our choice...

...and we chose poorly. We choose poorly still.

=======================

And so the story continues. The actors on the stage are ignoring the cues of the director, rewriting the lines of the playwright, and abusing the props made by the set director...

Many an author I know would simply pull the play! Fire the actors and find new ones!

God takes another approach. He begins to interact with the actors on their own terms. Within the scope of the story they have hijacked, He makes promises to a man and his descendants, He begins to act decisively on behalf of that people, He teaches and shapes them, He speaks to them of a future hope, of new creation, of redeemed lives, of holy purpose...

And then He writes Himself into the story.

10.31.2009

The Way It Was

A preacher's voice came through the speaker of my work truck. He was lamenting the suicide of a teenager in Florida. She had hung herself in her family garage.

The radio preacher began to get fired up!

"America has gone downhill in the last forty years!"

"We never used to have kids hanging themselves!"

"What is wrong here is we have stopped preaching the truth to these kids, we don't need to be 'relevant' we just need to tell them the truth!"

"We need to go back to the way it was!"

"Back then people got told the truth, they heard the gospel..."

"There was not any of this pandering to people, telling them what they want to hear, all of that liberal nonsense!"

You're right pastor 40 years ago, teenagers weren't hanging themselves...


=====================








=====================



=====================


Sure was better back then wasn't it?

10.30.2009

Church Definitions

It is this complex yet essentially simple vision of the people of God, which is invoked when the Church today thinks of itself as a ‘covenant community’. That is not to say that all uses of the word ‘covenant’ in today’s discussions necessarily imply that the ‘covenants’ we enter into (for instance, those between different Christian denominations) are somehow the same as the essential covenant between God and the people who, beginning with Abraham and renewed in Jesus Christ, are called to belong to him and to take forward his mission in the world. But the use of the word in today’s church carries, and honours, the memory of the biblical covenant(s). It seeks to invoke and be faithful to the themes we have just explored: the sovereign call of God to belong to him and to work in the power of his Spirit for his purposes in the world, and the consequent call to the unity, reconciliation, and holiness which serve that mission.

NT Wright

10.28.2009

Christian Storytellers Pt III

I went to see a staged reading of a play with Tamy the other day...

It was a story about a poetic young man who has dreams of beauty and purpose, yearns for significance, talks about revolution, and gazes at the stars; however, this young man spends his days drunk, having sex with someone else's girlfriend, proclaiming their undying love in one moment and their disgust for each other in the next. His friend encourages him to 'destroy' her...

Through it all is the running theme of limbo, a grey state of nothingness, no pleasure, no pain... a lack of meaning permeates the world of the play.

===============================

It was a brutal play, beyond vulgar, and yet I left the reading (and the audience dialogue after) with my brain in motion. I felt this play had put a finger on the pulse of our culture in a very significant way. This play, in fact, tells the the story of young people caught up in one of the most powerful framing stories of our culture and generation...

===============================

The story is a story of distrust. Essentially, this story is that there is no story, and anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something you don't wanna buy...

It is a fascinating (and depressing) thing to see a whole generation fall for this nihilistic vision of the world. But this play, while capturing in many shades of grey the conviction of pointlessness, the acidic cynicism, and the vain attempts at self-seeking behavior; also captures the sliver of color that is the dissatisfaction with this nihilistic vision. (Not, mind you, a belief that the vision is wrong; merely a, perhaps vain, hope that it might possibly be wrong.)

===============================

This is in fact, one of the most powerful framing-stories on the intellectual market today, it is swallowing up whole swathes of culture. It may or may not be the most popular, there are certainly competitors, but it's pessimism is alluring and it's skepticism is addicting... It is clever, it is sexy. It may not be wise (in fact I think it quite lacking in depth of insight and wisdom), but wisdom is one of the markers of those other framing-stories, the ones people use to control you; "we aren't fooled by your attempts, you can't control us!"

It is the story told by the generation that kills prophets and kings alike. And yet, it is also the generation that longs for prophecy and justice...

10.27.2009

Is This Me?

































You Scored as Neo orthodox

You are neo-orthodox. You reject the human-centredness and scepticism of liberal theology, but neither do you go to the other extreme and make the Bible the central issue for faith. You believe that Christ is God's most important revelation to humanity, and the Trinity is hugely important in your theology. The Bible is also important because it points us to the revelation of Christ. You are influenced by Karl Barth and P T Forsyth.








Neo orthodox

82%






Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

79%






Emergent/Postmodern

75%






Fundamentalist

54%






Charismatic/Pentecostal

50%






Roman Catholic

29%






Reformed Evangelical

25%






Classical Liberal

21%






Modern Liberal

14%






10.21.2009

More Homosexuality Stuff

Hello,

New to your blog, referred by a friend for this article in particular…

I understand the desire to treat individuals who are homosexually (or otherwise) oriented as valued human beings. I applaud it! I pastor a very small, very young church in the center of a small city with a significantly vocal homosexual community right in the neighborhood where we live, play, work, and worship. Some of these wonderful people are joined to Christ and to us…

However, valuing people should lead us to encourage them to submit to God. If we are encouraging people to engage in whatever activities they happen to like, we may be making them temporarily happy, but we are not valuing them.

The real question is not, ‘Do some Christians really enjoy homosexual activity (or are they really oriented in such a way) while simultaneously maintaining faith in Christ?’ This is implied by the Siker quote. The reality is that I know of ‘real’ Christians who engage in all sorts of activity condemned by Scripture, many are convinced that they are not sinning in doing so! For example, how many American Christians live in conspicuous wealth and consumption, with little or no regard to the plight of others around the world? Pointing to Christians who do such things is not the same as a convincing argument that such things are consistent with the Christ to whom we are joined…

Which is, of course, the reason why we turn to the Scriptures-in-Community as a source of God’s definition of humanity. Your post, obviously, does this; attempting to understand what God has to say about the subject.

Which brings us to the main question, and the main contention I have with what was posted:

Your post typifies the conversations we Christians have on many topics, and typifies additionally our usual approach to Scripture. (I don’t mean to come across as pugilistic but if you’ve been blogging for five years you understand that this medium is given to misunderstanding on an emotional level, so understand that I say what I say in the hope of hearing your response, not simply to voice my own ’superior’ opinions.)

We approach Scripture as if it were a collection of timeless truths and lists of do’s and dont’s that somehow God accidentally gave us in the form of narratives, lyrical poetry, prophetic visions, ancient municipal codes, etc. and so we get about rearranging the Bible into the book God should have given us.

As an aside here is a great article on Scripture…

On this particular topic, this proves singularly problematic; the conversation on homosexuality is dominated by Scriptures that reference homosexuality directly. Rarely does the conversation ever engage the general arc of Scripture as a whole. If it were to do so, the dialogue would be taking place along a very different spectrum. For example, why are Genesis 1-2, Ephesians 5, and Matthew 19 excluded from the scriptures discussed? If we understand the story of God and Man, it becomes a very different discussion.

Shouldn’t our ethical questions be framed more in terms of ‘What is God up to, and how do we fit into it? Instead of, ‘What can we get away with and still call ourselves Christian?’ It is my contention that if we take the former approach we will have to admit that Scripture defines sexuality in extremely positive ways, and that our approach (looking for negative injunctions against certain actions) blinds us to the simple truth that God has defined human sexuality in terms of a deep abiding commitment, a co-mingling of spirit, mind, life, and body, between a man and a woman.

A final point of agreement, we must approach this from a pastoral perspective, recognizing the personal realities involved and the questions behind the question. It is for this reason that our community regularly encourages people to look to Jesus as the definition of their humanity, and allows ethical decisions to flow out of that reality. We do not shy away from talking about situational ethics, but that conversation is always superseded by discipleship unto Jesus. Ethics flowing out of identity, not the other way around.

There are so many other points to be made (the proportionality of Scriptural commentary on homosexuality in relationship to other issues, the need for repentance toward the homosexual community, the endorsement of healthy sexuality as opposed to the condemnation of unhealthy sexuality, outlining sexual sin in more holistic ways that evaluate the union of husband and wife, etc.), but I am sure I have already bored you!

Interested in your responses!

(And a quick plug, on the subject, for Rob Bell’s book ‘Sex God’)

Papa's Watching the Kids

Christian Storytellers Pt II

We also talked through some false framing stories, both from Scripture, and from our current context:

=======================

The Story of Progress

Out of the chaos and darkness of history comes the order of Rome. Through conquest, rule, and organization, Roman power will bring peace, security, and prosperity to the entire world.

This story answered questions about purpose and value, and gave significance and direction to the various peoples, castes, and situations of the Empire. It was a great story, unless you belonged to the throng of unfortunate slaves and subjugated peoples upon whose backs the Roman empire was built!

=======================

The Jewish people were one such subjugated people, and so the beginning of the various stories they told were often identical to each other. Because they were Jews, with a common hope and vision for the future, the end of the stories they told were often similar as well. The middle, however, was quite distinct for each of the major groups of Jews we meet in the New Testament...

The Story of Rebellion

The Zealots told the story of Roman Oppression. God had allowed the Romans to place their boots on Jewish necks; He was waiting for the Jews to rise up, take a stand for their God, and stab a Roman in the belly with sword or spear. When they did this, God would reward them by ushering in His Kingdom. The Jewish people would live in peace and prosperity...

=======================

The Story of Purity

The Pharisees told the story of Roman Oppression. God had allowed the Pagan Romans to invade and interfere with Jewish culture and religious practice; He was waiting for His people to live holy and righteous lives. The people of God simply needed to impose the law upon themselves and the sinful people in their midst. When they did this, God would reward them by ushering in His Kingdom. The Jewish people would live in peace and prosperity...

=======================

The Story of Isolation

The Essenes too told the story of Roman Oppression. If they would retreat from the pagan culture, leaving behind the other apostate Jews, they would be able to create an alternate society of true believers in the caves and deserts. When they did this, God would reward them by ushering in His Kingdom. The Jewish people would live in peace and prosperity...

=======================

Many of these exact stories are told today; stories of progress and purity, or isolation, or rebellion. The Zealots were simply the ancient version of Al-Qaeda, bombing bridges and assassinating dignitaries. Many of these stories are even told in the Christian church; we isolate from our culture like modern day Essenes...

10.20.2009

Christian Storytellers Pt I

We talked this past Sunday about our story. The text was Acts 3:11-26. Peter explains the healing of a man by pointing to the story of God, back to the beginning and forward to the end, as a way of answering questions about the middle. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is really going on? What is the goal? What is important?

It is those large stories about the universe that we tell to give answers to these and other questions. Philosophers call them meta-narratives, on Sunday we borrowed McLaren's term, 'framing-stories.'

We took a quote from CS Lewis, "miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see." We used this to think through the 'now-but-not-yet' nature of the Kingdom of God. The fact that we live in the middle of the story. There is a beginning that explains how we got here, and why things are the way they are; there is also an end that tells us where we are going, what the goal is. But it also explains why we are left hanging, why not everyone gets healed, why some questions don't have answers...

The story is still being told...

So miracles are important at least as much as signs or pointers to the larger story, as they are for the particular healing, or providence, or revelation that they provide.

10.19.2009

More Thoughts

The following is from an online conversation I had with a friend of a friend:

I would still love to hear you respond to my thoughts, although I understand that you probably (like I do) have more pressing things to think about. I feel like the debate on this issue is consistently sidetracked and does not deal with the real issue at hand. So here are a couple of points if you can find time to respond to:

Biology is a Distraction
…as it is corrupt…

I agree with Mr. Williams above: “The findings of Kinsey about the greyscale nature of sexual orientation are valid biologically, but do not meaningfully inform the praxis of our faith commitments.”

While (I hope) all christians can agree that the current state of human nature is an important point of consideration that must be weighed into the conversation, it is ultimately a distraction to argue about the ‘what and where’ of the locus of homosexual desire. We don’t care why/how people come to desire other people’s possessions when we condemn theft, nor do we care about the motivations behind adultery when assessing it’s morality (of course we acknowledge the reality of those desires, and even acknowledge the inability of individuals to control those desires or their natural trajectory into behavior; isn’t this the point Scripture is making when it speaks of ’slavery to sin?’)

The point is precisely that human nature is corrupt; arguments from the reality of human desire should not prevent us from deeming certain acts and states as sinful; the very need for the redemption of human nature is exactly its state as fundamentally out of sync with God’s beauty and purpose.

Jesus is Lord
…not personal desire…

As you point out one of the common critiques is “that we’re allowing culture to dictate our understanding of scripture.” But it is even more insidious than this, it is that we are allowing our personal desire to do so.

This is, of course, true of all people, not just homosexuals; and is even true of all people in the realm of sexuality. I fight with my wife about sex. That is just as much an elevation of my own sexual desire above God’s beautiful reality as is homosexuality; my contention is that both are perversion. Heterosexual sex is not the goal! (Replace heterosexual sex with anything else, sobriety, tithing, reading scripture, not cussing, praying, etc. depending on the setting.) The goal is being redefined by Jesus, the true man, allowing His humanity to become the source and scope of ours.

This, of course, comes dangerously close to threatening our identity. But what else did we think Jesus meant when he explains ‘no one can be my disciple unless they follow me to the place of execution,’ or Paul when he speaks of being crucified with Christ? It is our identity that is precisely the problem! Both for the Gentile and for the Jew, for the Gay and the Straight, the Virtuous and the Foul, etc.

At the center of Paul’s theology we find the phrase ‘in Christ’ and it is this that must become for us, the center of our theology and praxis. If we operate from this place, we are Christian, if we operate from some other place, we are not.

It is for precisely this reason that the homosexual community may perhaps have greater theological insight than the straight community; perhaps the better question is not why are so few homosexual people willing to follow a Christ who ‘bids them come and die?’, but rather why are so many heterosexual people claiming to follow Christ without dying?

Jesus is Lord, even of my sexuality.

The real question needs to be what does God want?, as opposed to what do I want? Which is why we turn to Scripture. (I would add, Scripture, properly enacted and interpreted in community.)

The Answer Book
…the problem with systematic theology…

You acknowledge that “one of the many critiques of those of us who are affirming of LGBT persons is that we are completely disregarding scripture.” I am simply reiterating that critique, however, I do so in a different vein of thinking that I really desire to hear a thoughtful and engaging response to.

“One of the strengths of Rogers’s book is that he actively engages with Scripture all throughout his book.” I am obviously dealing with your presentation of his material and not directly with his book, but, quite simply put, I am not convinced. As I said in another thread, I do not see Roger’s dealing with Scripture, but rather dealing with isolated passages, removed from their context, and ignoring the general trend of Scripture as a whole. The story of God’s Creation and Covenant, the story of Exodus and Atonement, the story of Redemption and New Creation.

“However, Rogers shows that the interpretations of the few passages typically used to speak of the sinfulness of homosexuality are simply incorrect interpretations.” What I need to see instead is someone starting from the point of God’s activity and working through the significance of that in the creation of gender. I need to see (as Paul continually does with ethical questions) the natural outcome of being ‘in Christ;’ not simply trying to figure out what is right or wrong, but what is Christ!

There is a paradigmatic difference between reading the Scriptures as a ‘Cosmic Answer Book,’ by thumbing through trying to find to the ‘Homosexual Question;’ and allowing Scripture to ‘read us,’ by defining our reality for us. Systematic analysis of Scripture is helpful, but must be kept in check!

I need to see the process mapped out for me by which someone could come to Scripture seeking to understand God, and come away with an endorsement for personal sexual fulfillment. My contention is that the debate has been framed in inappropriate ways by both sides, and has devolved into looking to Scripture for an endorsement of what both sides wanted to find.

Conservative Bigotry
…if you disagree with me you are a Nazi…

You are obviously not saying anything remotely this obtuse I just like to exaggerate for effect! (And I wouldn’t personally claim the Conservative label without some real clarification) However what you do say “…spend some time actually getting to know someone who is gay,” implies that if we loved gay people we would not say that homosexuality is a sin; and conversely we only say homosexuality is a sin because we do not love homosexual people throughout the course of our day-to-day lives.

This isn’t true.

I have several relationships with gay men and women, most of whom know my stand on Scripture, none of whom are offended by me. One of them is walking out a commitment to Christ (that he believes includes a denial of his homosexual practice and identity) in the midst of our community. We call each other ‘friend and brother’ and this man is at my home several times a week.

It is precisely my love for them, and my commitment to them, that compels me to preach Christ’s pre-eminence over and above their sexual desire, and even more, over and above their own identity (homosexual or otherwise).

Listen

10.16.2009

You're wearing WHAT?



(If you click on the picture you can see it blown up)

A pair of velcro sneakers
Tamy's garden gloves
Three pairs of shorts
Boxer briefs (over the shorts)
Zoe's pink purse
(Don't forget her lipstick turned warpaint)
Superman tank top (over the top of the dinosaur tank top)
Zoe's fairy skirt (with matching fairy wings)
Red 'snow white' cape, with white fur lining
Armed with a foam sword
And a stuffed cat shoved down the front of his pants...

And for the record, his mother dresses him!

10.14.2009

Wounded Idols

For Keller an idol is “anything more important to you than God, anything which absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” Elaborating on the book’s title, Keller writes that a “counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life, that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.” What does Keller have in mind? Well, everything: family, children, career, earning money, achievement, social status, relationships, beauty, brains, morality, political or social activism—even effective Christian ministry.

The above is a quote from the Out of Ur blog (linked in the title).

=======================

Tamy and I were just talking about how easy it is for Christians to make comfort and security an idol, specifically in the realm of family.

It is perhaps a Christian virtue to idolize ones children. They become the focus of our lives in a way that only Christ should; the focus of our dreams and plans, our sweat and sacrifice. We live for them, they become our ministry and mission. They become, in point of fact, the very reason we abandon our posts as followers of Jesus.

We all talk disapprovingly of 'those ministers who abandon their family for Jesus.' We, however, live for our children. We 'offer our bodies as living sacrifices' to them, this is 'our spiritual act of worship.'

They are our idols.

=======================

Many of us have insider knowledge of this process; we are those idols.

A product of a Focus on the Family type of home. Where we were what was most important. God was important too, after all, He was the one who provided the justification for our esteemed place at the universal center...

...and this has not been good for our souls. Is it any wonder that our generation is walking away from Jesus?

10.13.2009

Do We Aim High, or just Ignorant?

"To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment."

Ancient Chinese Proverb

This is for You

The simple truth is this, Jesus is everything.

Love Him!

There is nothing else to our lives, our callings; just loving Jesus.

======================

Men will whisper and shout about many other things. They advertise and admonish, they tell stories, hoping you will believe them. Even godly men will do this. It's just the edited version of 'get rich quick.' Don't buy what they are selling. Success is not what you need. It will not be 'living water' it is not 'the bread you don't know about.'

The key to advertising is to create need and desire in people who didn't previously have it. You have had paraded before you endless caravans of Church-Growth success stories; 'yes-men' prophecy shiny new facilities and fully funded staff members. Large gatherings of worshippers dance in your head. "You too can be successful," they whisper in your ear.

...and you wonder why you are tired and defeated?

YOU ARE NOT CALLED TO BE SUCCESSFUL!

======================

Spill your lives on Him as an offering of praise and worship. Love Him more. Learn to relish in His lavish love for you! In Him truly are riches without end; wisdom, mercy, and power.

YOU ARE CALLED TO BE FAITHFUL!

You are not a business partner, you are a spouse; you are not His servant, you are His BRIDE!

======================

Now I know that there are questions about purpose and fruit, and even 'success' that need to be adressed, but they do not reflect what is central. You don't make the wind, you only hoist the sail. He is the wind.

Is your sail up?

There is a place to ask about proper knots, and how many sails, and how tight they ought to be, but as you ask and answer these questions, remember, the wind blows wherever it wants, and you have no idea where it is going!

Don't worry about where or how fast you are going. You are only called to the sails, do your part. Don't be afraid of the storm, don't be disheartened by the calm. Tend to the sail.

======================

You are right where you should be, and only the whispers of the storytellers has brought you to doubting...

10.12.2009

Water the Grass!

Water The Grass from Quest Church on Vimeo.

Exegesis and Eisegesis

I came across this phrase, "biblical texts are used to establish, not generate, the view..."

It wonderfully highlights the difference between being formed by the text, and imposing our own agenda on it.

Do we use the scriptures to establish certain truths? Or do we look to scripture to discover what concepts, stories, values, agendas, are generated in our engaging with it?

Critique

"A number of recent books have looked at Christianity’s image problem among those who were born in the late twentieth century. Young adults today see the church as:

hypocritical
judgmental
sheltered
overly political

Young adult pastor Russell Rathbun responds to these perceptions with a challenging invitation to be transformed—from unChristian to nuChristian—by taking seriously the critique of a new generation"


This was from an advert for a new book, but it got me thinking...

Why is our first response to critique to get defensive?

Shouldn't our first response be to listen?!

Then evaluate, then respond?

10.11.2009

WHAT are you WEARING?



Just what is my son wearing?

Any guesses?

Come back in a couple of days to get the list...

10.09.2009

The UnChristian Church

A good friend just came back from hearing Tony Campolo speak to a conference of older Christian pastors, professors and leaders. My friend quoted Tony as saying, "there is a generation in their 30's that is dissatisfied, and is going to challenge the established church because it's not Christian enough."

What dya think?

Is this really what the generation gap in the Church is about?

Is this what is at the heart of the 'emerging' Church?

10.05.2009

Informed or Transformed

You’re saying that preaching doctrine leads to spiritual growth?
Actually, I would say that preaching doctrine can lead to spiritual growth. But I think it’s a big mistake to assume that people will necessarily love and follow Jesus just because we preach sound doctrine. People’s hearts have to be touched. As I like to say, there’s a big difference between knowing that honey is sweet because you’ve read about honey in a book and experiencing the sweetness of honey by tasting it for yourself. The Devil has sound doctrine, and it hasn’t done him any good. We should help our congregations taste the sweetness of God. That’s when transformation happens.

10.04.2009

There is Only One, but Which One?



Left His seamless robe behind
Woke up in a stable and cried
Lived and died and rose again
Savior for a guilty land

It's a story like a children's tune
It's grown familiar as the moon
So now I ride my camel high
I'm aiming for the needle's eye

I chased the wind, but I chased in vain
I chased the earth, it would not sustain

There's only One who never fails
To beckon the morning light
There's only One who set loose the gales
And ties the trees down tight
When all around my soul gives way
He is all my hope and stay
There's only One, only One Holy One

Lord, You are my Prince of Peace
But this war brings me to my knees
See, there's a table You've prepared
And all my enemies are there
But where my Shepherd leads
Where else can I go?
Who else fills my cup 'til it overflows?

There's only One who never fails
To beckon the morning light
There's only One who set loose the gales
And ties the trees down tight
To the Solid Rock I fly
Though He bids me come and die
There's only One, only One Holy One

9.30.2009

Guarding Pompeii

I heard someone describe something they had seen at Pompeii, I don't know if it is true or not, (I haven't been able to find any info about it from a second source) but the illustration still holds whether it is true or not.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story of Pompeii, there was a famous eruption of Mt Vesuvius in Italy sometime in the first couple of centuries AD. The city was so close to the volcano, and the eruption happened so quickly, that much of the city was buried in ash and volcanic material before the residents had any time to flee.

The city was completely buried and eventually lost to the rest of the world until some 1400 or 1500 years later. It was eventually discovered that the ash had preserved the burial places of the people and animals of the city. As the city was excavated they would fill with plaster any cavities that they found (cavities left behind after the bodies decomposed in the newly formed rock), and then continue the excavation to reveal a plaster cast of the person exactly as they looked at the time of their death.

There are dogs in anguish, people fleeing or huddled into corners, or even still sleeping!

The story goes, however, that there is one plaster cast in particular worth mentioning.

A roman guard standing at his post. Unmoving, and unflinching as the clouds of super-heated ash, and the eruption of rock and earth come hurtling toward him...

ObortionCare

9.29.2009

Life Has Changed

"For thousands of years people have experienced both the pain and pleasure of working with their hands. People could measure and visibly see the impact of their work. No one could deny that a carpenter had put the finishing touches on a house or that a farmer had produced a crop in his field.

The modern workforce is different. It is hard to measure the transmission of data. It is hard to feel like you have accomplished anything when the fruit of your work is lost somewhere in cyberspace. Life has changed."

-Hermanito

9.26.2009

Which One?



'Oh yes, I've read that book!"

(Click the title link if you want the whole thing)

You see, the flow of human events around academics proves that they too are sinners. They too are ready to give in to the pulls and pushes of the social context. Another little piece by Lewis called "The Inner Ring" is one of the most important things for any Christian academic to read. It is a story about how we hunger all of our life to be included. And that is one of the main reasons why reason has to be redeemed. I often jokingly say, but not so jokingly, that the lie most commonly told in my context is "Oh yes, I’ve read that book." Now why do we say that? Because we want to be included, we don’t want to be left out. We want to be "in." The whole word "party" is an interesting word; it means "to be a part of." We like to be included; we like to be brought in. Only the strength of a greater community that is provided by Jesus Christ can stand against that. And that’s why Paul refers to the church as "the pillar and ground of truth" (I Tim. 3:15).

It is only the person in a redeemed relationship to God that can stand for truth. Truth is too hard. You often hear the verse quoted to the effect that "The truth will make you free." The truth will not make you free! That verse doesn’t say that! Read the whole thing! It’s about discipleship: "If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-33) But today we no longer have to know the truth. On the elevator in the Humanities building at USC it just says "…The truth will make you free." Truth will not make you free - it’s probably better said "the truth will make you flee." Truth is hard to live with. And that is one reason why there has to be a community of redemption that comes down to earth and provides a context in which people can truly walk free, in the truth, because they are supported by their spiritual redemption before God in relationship to Him. They’re living in what I call "a conversational relationship with God."

Dallas Willard