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...


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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...

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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:

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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!

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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