Monday, August 29, 2005

Being Missional

Once again, Scot McKinght of Jesus Creed cuts right to the heart of the issue. He writes...
"The Real Shepherd, the Pastor of pastors, Jesus himself, was a compassionate person whose compassion for people drove him to prayer and to action for the people. A missional orientation will only be genuinely missional to the degree that it is prompted by compassion."

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Friday, August 26, 2005

Spirituality in America...

Interesting article in Newsweek. Here's a sample...
"You can know all about God," says Tony Campolo, a prominent evangelist, "but the question is, do you know God? You can have solid theology and be orthodox to the core, but have you experienced God in your own life?" In the broadest sense, Campolo says, the Christian believer and the New Age acolyte are on the same mission: "We are looking for transcendence in the midst of the mundane." And what could be more mundane than politics? Seventy-five percent say that a "very important" reason for their faith is to "forge a personal relationship with God"—not fighting political battles.

Today, then, the real spiritual quest is not to put another conservative on the Supreme Court, or to get creation science into the schools. If you experience God directly, your faith is not going to hinge on whether natural selection could have produced the flagellum of a bacterium. If you feel God within you, then the important question is settled; the rest is details.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Where Do You Want to Play Today - Inside or Out?

Here's a great post from Tod Bolsinger (It takes a church blog) that reminds us to get out and be a family.
"When we came upon the rest of the adults on the way out, the kids were a good 20 feet ahead of me. My crawling pace was no match for their scampering little legs. When I finally caught up, my wife said to me, "You should have seen the girls' faces. They were so proud of themselves, so excited." They were genuinely having fun playing in a cave marching a mile in the cold dirt, hanging onto a old gas lantern. This memory is in such stark contrast to the now famous quote from Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv cites a fourth grader who says to him, "I like to play indoors better 'cause that's where all the electrical outlets are.""
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Making church your life - or life your church.

Now here's an article (long but very worth the read) that will stretch your thinking a bit. It's from Len at In the article Len calls us to some radical steps in order to help the church see itself as a living community of faith 24/7 instead of a group that meet together once or twice a week.

Here are some excerpts -

I take my cues for this article from Mike Bishop’s article of 2002 that appeared at Next Wave online. Mike astutely observed that the deeper problem in the Sunday church paradigm may be rooted in our Greek way of thinking about culture. Unlike the Hebrews, the Greeks divided life and culture into categories of sacred and secular. In postmodernity, we are learning anew to question such assumptions.
What does it mean that "all life is sacred," and how will that impact our use of meetings versus "doing life" together? What does leadership look like in a community of friends (if we can even use the "L" word any more...)
"The way many evangelicals worship contributes to a secular world view or at least fails to challenge it. By worship I mean: gathering of people, singing hymns, praying, reading Scripture and hearing a sermon. By secularism I mean a world view wherein God is relegated to the edges of life." (Mark McKim)

One of the challenges we have had to face as we worked through a more incarnational and holistic approach to gathered life was dealing with traditional expectations based on our churched culture. We wanted to move from doing church to being the church in all expressions of our life, but we had people coming to us who were expecting to come to a “home group” or “bible study.” They expected to experience a “service” where various components were prepared and then handed to them on a platter.
But in our paradigm, we thought that description better suited a theatre or an audience than a gathered community. We were not interested in staging a performance, and we weren’t worried about who was in control.. our desire was to celebrate our life together.
The classical elements of a gathering are these. Many faith communities believe they must hit each point in order to have a valid gathering:
* worship (ie singing and meditation)
* word (teach/preach, response maybe)
* sacrament
* in all this, a hierarchy (positional authority) and an order
* an ethos of activity focused on a stage, with little space for reflection
But if the center is not the gathering .. if the focus is life 24/7... and meetings are secondary and not the end but one means of building life.. if a teaching need not be wrapped up with a neat conclusion in 20 minutes, but instead can be more like a learning conversation.. if defined leadership can fade into the background in favor of a real community.. things can begin to follow a different path.
While I don't agree with Len on everything - he really pushes the idea of a time of "detoxing" from church as we know it now - I do think that many of the things he is saying are very important for us to wrestle with AND to begin to act on. The way we currently 'do" church does reinforce the idea that faith has very little to do with everyday life. We meet away from society for a very contained period of time to think about Jesus and His call. We then re-enter the "real world" and live there until our next escape into church. We have to make structural changes that help people to live out their faith in every expression of their lives. We have to begin to see our lives as "church", our activities as "worship", and our friendships as "evangelism.

Len continues...
Isn’t it odd that we call our worship gathering a “service,” but less readily term our daily acts of service “worship.” We have inverted the priesthood and made it something truly divorced from life. We made something sacred into something secular, relegating it to the margins of life.
These are thoughts worth thinking - and implementing. Read the article and let me know what you think.


Note - Len also refers to an article by Mike Bishop that can be found here.

Pat Robertson clarifies...

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson, who called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said on Wednesday he was misinterpreted and there were a number of ways to 'take him out' including kidnapping. 'I said our special forces could take him out. Take him out could be a number of things including kidnapping,' Robertson said on his 'The 700 Club' television program. 'There are a number of ways of taking out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted,' Robertson added."

Well, maybe, but it seems to me that it would have been smarter to say - "What I said was a bad thing to say. I'm sorry."

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

More on Pat Robertson...

Here's a link with the exact quote (and video) from Pat Robertson. Is this what the world thinks of when they think of Christian leaders? I hope not.


Missing God as He stands there in front of you...

Excellent reminder from Paul Littleton who writes -
"If you are going to take your clues as to what to believe from your parents, grandparents or that preacher you loved growing up without testing and proving it by the Bible and in light of it's historical development then you may, like those religious people in Jesus day, miss God as he stands there in front of you. It was their firmly-held traditional interpretations of the Old Testament that prevented most in Jesus' day from seeing him as the one God had been promising sent to set the world aright."

Monday, August 22, 2005

From the "I can't believe that he actually said that" department...

For some reason this just doesn't seem like "You are the salt of the are the light of the world" behaviour.
"Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson called on Monday for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling him a 'terrific danger' to the United States. 'We have the ability to take him (Chavez) out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability,' Robertson said."

Read more if you can stomach it.

A bit more clarity...

I posted here about my desire for believers to at least give equal time to doctrine and practice. This has been something that I've been wrestling with for quite some time. How do we "do" church in a way that supports and encourages real life change and transformation rather than settling for mental affirmation to set of doctrinal propositions. While my thinking is still very fuzzy in regards to how this might play out, I have gained a bit of clarity, maybe, I hope. What I am envisioning is something very much like a monastic rule. For those of you not familiar with a "rule" the best known rule is the Rule of St. Benedict, used in Benedictine Monasteries all over the world. In a monastic community the rule is the guideline by which the monks or nuns live. It gives a common set of expectations and behaviors that everyone is committed to living out. Now maybe this is a little too much to expect from a church today, and I can see where it could definitely lead to a problem with more legalism, but I only said I had a little more clarity. What I am envisioning is a series of statements, agreed upon by the believers in a given location, that would communicate what Christianity should look like when lived out in the given context. A series of basic principles that are solidly Biblical, but also practical. Values that we hold to be true and the practices that would naturally flow from people who held those values. My goal over the next few months is to spend some time thinking about what this might be.

If you are interested in more about a modern "rule" I am going to print below an example from Brian McLaren. This is something that has developed in the "emergent community". This a long post, but worth the read. It will give you an idea of what I am envisioning for the church. Keep in mind that this is written for those who would consider themselves a part of the "emerging church movement" and as such has some specific details (especially in the last section) that relate to that movement. The first three sections, however, could be applied at a local church level almost verbatim.

Members of the global emergent community hold in common four values and practices that flow from them. In the language of a religious order, we call these four values our rule:

1. Commitment to God in the Way of Jesus:

We are committed to doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, as the Scriptures teach. As lifelong followers of Jesus, we seek to live by the Great Commandment: loving God and loving our neighbors – including those who might be considered “the least of these” or enemies. We understand the gospel to be centered in Jesus and his message of the kingdom of God, a message of reconciliation with God and among humanity.
We are committed to a “generous orthodoxy” in faith and practice – affirming the historic Christian faith and the Biblical injunction to love one another even when we disagree. We embrace historic spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, contemplation, study, solitude, silence, service, stewardship, and fellowship, believing that healthy theology cannot be separated from healthy spirituality.

- As Christ-centered people, to understand the gospel in terms of Jesus’ radical, profound, and expansive message of the kingdom of God.
- As people seeking to be formed spiritually in the way of Christ, to learn historic Christian spiritual practices (disciplines), and to use them for the development of character, integrity, and virtue which flow from true communion with God.
- As participants in the historic Christian faith, to be humble learners and to stimulate learning in others, and to give priority to love over knowledge, while still valuing knowledge.
- As lovers of God and God’s truth, to seek wisdom and understanding, which are the true goal of theology, and to engage in respectful, thoughtful, sacred conversation about God, world, and church.

2. Commitment to the Church in all its Forms:

We are committed to honor and serve the church in all its forms – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal. We practice “deep ecclesiology” – rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others, we see that every form of the church has both weaknesses and strengths, both liabilities and potential. We believe the rampant injustice and sin in our world requires the sincere, collaborative, and whole-hearted response of all Christians in all denominations, from the most historic and hierarchical, through the mid-range of local and congregational churches, to the most spontaneous and informal expressions.
We affirm both the value of strengthening, renewing, and transitioning existing churches and organizations, and the need for planting, resourcing, and coaching new ones of many kinds. We seek to be irenic and inclusive of all our Christian sisters and brothers, rather than elitist and critical, seeing “us” we were used to see “us versus them.” We own the many failures of the church as our failures, which humbles us and calls us to repentance, and we also celebrate the many heroes and virtues of the church, which inspires us and gives us hope.

- To be actively and positively involved in a local congregation. We work in churches (as pastors, artists, lay leaders, whatever) seeking to live out authentic Christian faith in authentic Christian community.
- To seek peace among followers of Christ, and to offer critique only prayerfully and when necessary, with grace, and without judgment, avoiding rash statements, and repenting when harsh statements are made. To speak positively of fellow Christians whenever possible, especially those with whom we may disagree.
- To build sincere friendship with Christians from other traditions.

3. Commitment to God’s World:

We practice our faith missionally – that is, we do not isolate ourselves from this world, but rather, we follow Christ into the world. We seek to fulfill the mission of God in our generations, and then to pass the baton faithfully to the next generations as well. We believe the church exists for the benefit and blessing of the world at large; we seek therefore not to be blessed to the exclusion of everyone else, but rather for the benefit of everyone else. We see the earth and all it contains as God’s beloved creation, and so we join God in seeking its good, its healing, and its blessing.

- To build relationships with neighbors and to seek the good of our neighborhoods and cities.
- To seek reconciliation with enemies and make peace.
- To encourage and cherish younger people and to honor and learn from older people.
- To honor creation and to cherish and seek to heal it.
- To build friendships across racial, ethnic, economic and other boundaries.
- To be involved at all times in at least one issue or cause of peace and justice.

4. Commitment to One Another

In order to strengthen our shared faith and resolve, and in order to encourage and learn from one another in our diversity through respectful, sacred conversation, we value time and interaction with other friends who share this rule and its practices. We identify ourselves as members of this growing, global, generative, and non-exclusive friendship. We welcome others into this friendship as well. We bring whatever resources we can to enrich this shared faith and resolve.

-To make an annual pilgrimage to an emergent gathering; to give one another the gift of our presence at annual gatherings whenever possible.
-To publicly self-identify with emergent where appropriate and to represent emergent well whenever we can; to exemplify the best of what emergent strives to be and do.
-To invite others to participate and welcome new participants.
-To seek to be positive and constructive in caring for the emergent friendship. To find some specific way we can help the circle of friends in emergent - by hosting gatherings, by networking people, by recommending good books or other resources, by writing for our website or other publications, by serving in some behind- the-scenes way whenever we can. To honor “unsung heroes” among us.-To stay reconciled to one another. To give one another the gift of commitment not to give up on, betray, or reject one another, but instead, to encourage, honor, and care for one another.
-To stay informed about emergent locally and globally via the website and email updates.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Do you have an 8th grade education?

8th Grade Final Exam: Saline, KS - 1895

Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case. Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bushel, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
8. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
9. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of theRebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates:


Orthography (Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u'.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e'. Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentence:

cite, site, sight,
fane, fain, feign,
vane, vain, vein,
raze, raise, rays.

10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver,Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fermandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.

Wow. Makes you wonder if we're not getting what we used to get out of our education system.

For more info on this exam click here. The reality is that most of the students who took it failed it. But I'm not sure that any Grade 8 students that I know could pass it.

From the "Too much time on your hands" Department

"AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A former Hollywood stunt man now living in the Netherlands launched his greatest project to date Tuesday: a 45-foot replica Viking ship made of millions of wooden ice cream sticks and more than a ton of glue. Rob McDonald named the ship the "Mjollnir" after the hammer of the mythic Norse god of thunder, Thor. After the 13 ton boat was lifted into the water by crane, "Captain Rob," as he is known, stood calmly on the stern as a team of volunteers rowed the apparently sturdy vessel around the IJ River behind the city's central station."

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Laying all presuppositions aside...not!

It appears that one of the key ideas that undergirds true scientific inquiry is being left by the wayside. What I remember from my science classes was that one of the keys to a successful experiement was to set aside your expectations and seek to look at the data objectively. From the article below, it seems as it the intellectual elite of Harvard University have forgotten this basic premise. They are funding a multi-million dollar research project to investigate the origins of life on planet earth. Here's a comment from professor David Liu:
'My expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention,' said David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard."

Shouldn't he wait to see the data before assuming the outcome of his research?

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The Necessity of Humility

This week I'm preaching on Acts 9-10 - Peter's education in regards to the gospel going to the Gentiles. I have been reminded once again that one of the fertilizers for spiritual growth is humility. In my web wandering I came across the following which just reiterated what I was learning.

Professor Tim Huffman writes about the great reformer Martin Luther and the need for humility as we seek to follow Jesus:

“For Luther, the enemy of the grace of God was not irreligion but religion itself, not one’s distance from God but a confidence in one’s nearness to God. The cross, as Forde (Gerhard Forde - “On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518”) puts it, “reveals that the real seat of sin is not in the flesh but in our spiritual aspirations, in our ‘theology of glory’.” (p. 1) The “theology of the cross…attacks what we usually consider the best in our religion.” (p.2) “The delicate thing about it is that it attacks the best we have to offer, not the worst.” (p.3) It is the most religious, the most pious, the most virtuous of Christians for whom the message and impact of the theology of the cross are hardest to hear and to appropriate. Its message is that our devotion, our piety, our deep religious commitment are the hardest barriers of all for the message of the cross of Christ to break through. Yet, our only hope is not to rely at all on what we do, not even the best we do; nor on what we avoid doing, not even the hardest work of self-denial; nor on how much we conform ourselves to what we take to be God’s will—because all of these finally constitute works of self-righteousness, and their effect is to wall us off from the true righteousness that comes only from Christ, the Christ of the cross. The “better” we are, the harder it is for is to acknowledge our total depravity, and our total need for God’s utterly undeserved acceptance. This is a painful but necessary reminder that every one of us comes before God and the Christian assembly as a sinful and helpless person, full of gratitude for God’s love in Christ. But where is theological humility in our churchly debates and struggles? Far too often the debates reveal what are really personal ambition or a defense of cherished personal positions…What could happen if we began our discussions and debates with the confession of our own sinfulness and our own lack of worthiness before God? What if we granted to others the grace that comes from acknowledging that we, like they, stand judged by the Law; and that they, like we, are redeemed by the cross of Christ? What if all parties set aside their confident assertions that they are right, and they alone? Would (our debates) develop differently if (they) were approached in the spirit of Luther’s theology of the cross, rather than in a theology of glory, in which each debater were confident of his or her own goodness?”

Peter had some lessons to learn. Odds are that we do too. Can we follow in humility? Think about it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Kingdom at work.

World Magazine tells the story of First Baptist, Leesburg, FL. It appears to be a church that takes seriously the truth of Scripture without ignoring Jesus' concern for the needy.

"Ministry is not an elective. It is a divine mandate. Any church not involved in ministry is guilty of high treason and spiritual disobedience. . . . For too long we've evaluated a church by how many people stream in the front door on a Sunday.' He proposed an alternative: 'Evaluate a church by how many people serve the Lord Jesus by serving the hurting all week long.' Mr. Roesel referred to the main sin of Sodom and said it was not homosexuality: That was a sin, but it was part of the Sodomites' overall tendency to be 'arrogant, over-fed, unconcerned.' He said many of today's churches are like Sodom: 'staff members strutting on platforms,' with the church becoming 'the knife and fork club . . . ignoring the needy, callous and unconcerned, committing silent murder. . . . We don't spend time with those who are lost, we spend time with each other.' Mr. Roesel began emphasizing what he calls 'ministry evangelism' shortly after he became the church's pastor in 1976. The church's typical attendance of 200 leaped to 600 six months later, but not everyone was on board with the plan to make First Baptist known for its compassion. When the pastor pushed for the church to create a children's home, only 51 percent of congregation members voted for it. 'I backed off and started expository preaching through the New Testament,' Mr. Roesel recalls. 'The centrality of ministry to the needy comes up over and over. I hit it hard.' One couple decided to give $25,000 for the children's home, and additional money came in once the home opened and stories about the needy children circulated within the congregation. One 9-year-old who came to the home trembled when anyone tried to hug him, didn't know what a bathroom was, and at first slept in the closet rather than on a bed, because that was all he knew."

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A picture is worth a thousand words...

...but sometimes that really isn't enough. I was looking at some pictures we have from a family trip to the Grand Canyon. They are amazing, but once you've seen the real Grand Canyon, a picture just can't do it justice. I can show people who have never been there my pictures and they say things like, "Isn't that pretty", or "I'd like to see that". But when I show the picture to someone who has actually been to the Grand Canyon they automatically look at me with their eyes wide open and say, "Isn't it amazing how big it really is. A picture could never do it justice." For those who have experienced it, the picture serves as a link to their experience. For those who have yet to visit it, the picture gives a tiny taste of what is actually there.

I'm learning that when Jesus described the Kingdom of God that something very similar as happening. So many times He said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like...". He was giving pictures to all of us. Pictures that could never contain the whole of the Kingdom, but pictures that would give us a tiny taste of what is actually there. The Kingdom and the way it functions can never be contained in an idea, the ideas only give us the ability to see a little part of what is actually going on there.

In the same way, when people begin to experience life in the Kingdom, they will never be content with mere pictures again. When you begin to describe it their eyes light up and they say, "Isn't it amazing how big it really is. A picture could never do it justice."

Words of wisdom...

...from my 11 year old daughter.
"Getting married is alot like burping. If you try to force it is is never as good as you had hoped. But if you just take your time and wait for the right moment it will be satisfying."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Sin of Shrinking Sin...

I have realized in the past year or so that I have had too small a concept of sin. I have always seen sin as something that is personal rebellion against God. And I think that is obviously true. What I am realizing is that sin also happens corporately. During Apartheid in South Africa there was the personal sin as individuals created and perpetuated Apartheid, but there was also the corporate sin of the system itself. Now maybe this seems to be an unimportant distinction to you, but bear with me. If sin is not just personal, but also corporate, and Jesus came to free us from sin, then it follows that Jesus is in the business not only of changing individuals, but also in changing structures. As I read the Old Testament Prophets they seem to speak against both personal and corporate sin. And they promise that the Kingdom of God, established by the Messiah, will overcome these powers. I've been reminded of these ideas by a book I'm reading - Good News and Good Works by Ron Sider. Here's a quote -
"Jesus' kingdom is clearly wholistic. Thank God that it does bring forgiveness with God and personal, inner sanctification in the power of the Spirit. But it also challenges and changes the social order. The kingdom impacts the soul and body, individual and society. The church properly communicates the Good News of Jesus' kingdom by word and deed: by proclamation, miracles, acts of mercy and justice, and living out the gospel as a winsome example to others. The Good News precludes an inward-looking preoccupation with the church. Howard Snyder puts it pointedly: 'Church people think about how to get people into the church; kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; kingdom people work to see the church change the world.' The church, to be sure, is important. Indeed so important that Jesus' new redeemed community is part of the Good News. God wants the church to be a little miniature now of the coming kingdom." (p.75)

The church is God's picture to the world of what the kingdom is. So we not only need to speak of God's forgiveness for personal sin (and His transforming power over it), but we need to show the world by our actions that God can forgive and transform corporate sin too. That's why care for the poor and needy is so important. It's a visible reminder that God's kingdom has a completely new societal structure. The things that drive the world today just don't fit in the kingdom. Kingdom life is life by totally different criteria. And that challenges all the sinful structures of our society. That's why they killed Jesus. And that's why the church, properly understood, is the most subversive organization/organism in the world today. Jesus came to change our hearts and our world.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

America - a Christian Nation?

James L. Evans, a pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama writes some hard words in a recent column at Ethics Daily. His words are heavy and may offend many Americans, but there is the ring of prophetic truth to them. He writes,
"If we are serious about this Christian nation stuff we might want to re-visit our attitudes and practices towards the poor. As Jesus himself noted, it is not how energetic we are in shouting his name that matters, but rather how faithfully we attend to the matters he taught were really important."

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

random musing

Cyndi at Random Musing shares a powerful challenge to "love messy".

"'Let people in'. That's is how my sister summed it up for me as I spewed random thoughts at her. That's actually a pretty good analysis. I learned or I should say that I'm learning that I need to let people in. More specifically I have to let ALL people in - not just the ones I like. God loves Hope BC. He loves our community full of wealthy, poor, middle class, healthy, sick, mentally ill, addicted, liars, thieves and everyone inbetween. And because He loves them - I need to as well. And to care for them requires sacrifice, generosity, forgiveness, and the overwhelming unconditional love that only God can supply.

I've always loved people - but in retrospect, I've loved without sacrifice. I've loved in convenience and in tidy little packages. I've never loved messy. I never gave when I didn't want to, when the person got on my nerves or carried me out of my comfort zone.

So I'm going to try, with God's help, to let people in. I'm going to try, with even more of God's help, to love messy."

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Defining "Kingdom of God"

Scot McKnight of Jesus Creed does an excellent job at defining this rather nebulous thing that Jesus called "The Kingdom Of God"

The Kingdom of God is the society where the will of God, as taught by Jesus, is done. And that Kingdom is a redemptive work in the triune God designed to restore humans to union with God and communion with one another, for the good of others and the world. Nothing less will do.

A Transformation Reformation...

I've been wondering about something lately. What if we elevated the importance of a "lifestyle" statement in our churches? What if instead of being focused on what Baptists or Presbyterians or Anglicans "believe" we really tried to grasp (and apply) how Christians "live"? Please do not jump to conclusions and think that I am trying to ignore biblical doctrine. I know we have to have doctrine, it is VERY important. But maybe in our rush to quantify every single aspect of our doctrine we have neglected some very basic things about our practice. Maybe we have been so concerned about what we believe that we have forgotten to be concerned about how we live.

I was reminded of these ideas by a recent quote from an Associated Baptist Press article about Rick Warren at the Baptist World Alliance congress. Warren says that what we need now is a transformation. Warning that Baptists often are "known for what we're against rather than what we're for," Warren said, "I am praying for a second reformation of the church" that will focus more on deeds than words. The first Reformation was about beliefs. This one needs to be about behavior. ... We've had a Reformation; what we need now is a transformation."

How would this look? I'm not really sure. Maybe we could start by coming up with a "Statement of Essential Beliefs" that would probably be much like some of the creeds of the ancient church. This would list the biblical doctrines that we could never compromise. Our foundation. From there we could develop a list of values or behaviours that reflect specifically the teachings of Jesus. After all, He said,

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

He didn’t tell us to "teach them to believe all the right things." It's food for thought. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Planning a short-term mission trip?

Then you really need to think through these ideas from Tod Bolsinger
He shares his...

"...own short list of suggestions for those who are considering being part of a Short Term Mission and especially for pastors and mission committees who are responsible for structuring and funding these trips."

Read the list here