In her comment on The Heart of Worship, Lynne pointed out a great article. Listen to this:
As worshippers of Jesus Christ, we live in the tension of the "now" and the "not yet". From the day we received Him, our souls found their destiny and reason. The reality of His love and presence invaded our hearts, and we found fulfilment. The Bible reveals a God who "satisfies [our] desires with good things" (Psalm 103:5).
But that's not the whole picture. We're also unsatisfied worshippers - a people who see only in part. This side of heaven we'll always be carrying in our hearts a holy frustration: the inward groan of believers waiting eagerly for "our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:23).
Amen, Brother. And I also believe that part of our function is to help shorten the distance between the "now" and the "not yet".
OK, I have to admit it - I'm not sure about this one either (just like the $10 Commandments guy.)
Check out these plans to rock the world through everyone wearing the same shirt on the same day. (As a fund raiser I also have to say its a pretty innovative idea.)
Again, at least they're doing... something.
Every so often Oswald Chambers reaches out from the grave and punches me right in the chops. Here's one he landed recently. (I'm not sure what date this is from. It came compliments of my 850 Words From Relevant Magazine weekly eMail update.)
God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Galatians 6:14
The gospel of Jesus Christ always forces a decision of our will. Have I accepted God's verdict on sin as judged on the Cross of Christ? Do I have even the slightest interest in the death of Jesus? Do I want to be identified with His death - to be completely dead to all interest in sin, worldliness, and self? Do I long to be so closely identified with Jesus that I am of no value for anything except Him and His purposes? The great privilege of discipleship is that I can commit myself under the banner of His Cross, and that means death to sin. You must get alone with Jesus and either decide to tell Him that you do not want sin to die out in you, or that at any cost you want to be identified with His death. When you act in confident faith in what our Lord did on the cross, a supernatural identification with His death takes place immediately. And you will come to know through a higher knowledge that your old life was "crucified with Him" (Romans 6:6). The proof that your old life is dead, having been "crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20), is the amazing ease with which the life of God in you now enables you to obey the voice of Jesus Christ.
Every once in a while our Lord gives us a glimpse of what we would be like if it were not for Him. This is a confirmation of what He said - "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). That is why the underlying foundation of Christianity is personal, passionate devotion to the Lord Jesus. We mistake the joy of our first introduction into God's kingdom as His purpose for getting us there. Yet God's purpose in getting us into His kingdom is that we may realize all that identification with Jesus Christ means.
Yup - That was a good one. Do I long to be so closely identified with Jesus that I am of no value for anything except Him and His purposes? Anybody else having trouble answering that question, or is it just me?
BTW - I've added permanent links for Oswald and Henri Nouwen over on the sidebar so you can get your daily doses.
OK - confession time. I was all set to write a sarcastic post about this story. Then I read it again and decided not to.
Maybe if there were more people like this guy in the world...
From the folks at Worship Together:
TOP DOWNLOADED SONG OF 2002
Sheet music of "Here I Am To Worship" by Tim Hughes was the most popular sheet music downloaded on WorshipTogether.com in 2002. And it's no wonder. With a sensitive spirit, musical maturity, and friendly face that easily draws people into worship, Tim Hughes is writing songs that are intimate, passionate and deeply biblical. They are refreshing and accessible to every generation.
Light of the world
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes, let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore You
Hope of a life spent with You
Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You're my God
You're altogether lovely
Altogether wonderful to me
King of all days
Oh so highly exalted
Glorious in Heaven above
Humbly You came to the earth You created
All for love's sake became poor
I'll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross
From the editors of Christianity Today, here's the events, people, and ideas of the past year that they feel have or will "significantly shape evangelical life, thought, or mission."
Personally I find the list a little depressing. Here's my take.
1. Martyrs' Brigade: Militant Muslims murder Christians in Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Sudan, and Nigeria.
This shouldn't surprise us - the Bible warns us of persecution. This is radical faith in action.
2. Might for the Right: Conservative Christians rally as Republicans gain control of Congress.
This isn't Kingdom work - this is politics. Stop wasting my time.
3. Pronoun Politics: Bible scholars dispute gender translation in Today's New International Version.
Him, Her or it. I don't care. Stop wasting my time.
4. Faith Clash: Missouri Synod Lutherans, Baptists, and other conservatives struggle over participating in interfaith services.
Stop wasting my time.
5. Theology-rattling: With an eye on Iraq, Christians debate just-war doctrine, merits of pre-emptive attack.
Give me a break. Here's a thought: Try "pretending" Jesus is sitting at the table with you the next time you debate the merits of a pre-emptive attack, and see how it goes.
6. Staying the Course: 'Confessing' movement of classic Christians expands inside mainline denominations.
I thought this one had promise, until I read the linked article. It's about denominational in-fighting. Stop wasting my time.
7. Persecution Archive: New documents from China chronicle 22,000 cases of religious persecution.
See #1. Radical faith again. I wonder how I would stand up in the face of persecution? No denominational squabbling or political aspirations here - these people are laying down their lives for their faith.
8. Public School Pullout: More Christian parents, objecting to pro-gay curriculum, remove kids from public education.
I don't know what to say about this one... but this can't be the way to positively influence others for the Kingdom. (Then again, I don't have kids.)
9. Untying the Gay Knot: Conservatives gather support for Federal Marriage Amendment. Canadian Anglicans split over same-sex unions.
Same again. This is NOT what I want my friends to think of when they hear the words Christian, church, etc.
10. Dalit Turnabout: Asia's 'Untouchables' reject Hinduism; more turn to Christianity than ever before.
There is hope here, although it seems some of the movement "to" Christianity is as a protest to the prejudices of Hinduism.
By my count there are only 2 or 3 of these "top ten" that I wouldn't be ashamed to sit down across from Jesus and discuss with Him.
I can't think of any other way to put it. I love Jesus and want to serve Him, but I am developing a very healthy dislike for "Christianity".
Maybe we can come up with a new word.
This is kind of interesting.
2002 Year-End Zeitgeist offers a unique perspective on the year's major events and hottest trends based on more than 55 billion searches conducted over the past year by Google users from around the world. Whether you are tracking the global progression of the "Las Ketchup" craze or finding out who really is the queen of the Internet, the 2002 Year-End Zeitgeist enables you to look at the past year through the collective eyes of the world on the Internet.
Track the course of the past 12 months on the timeline and graphs plotting the most popular search terms as they occurred throughout 2002. Check out the year's top gaining and declining search terms as well as the most popular brands, music, movies and women on the web as seen by Google users.
Remember what I said yesterday about my life being reduced to a bunch of hyperlinks? I guess it works both ways.
Here's one for you...
Remember I mentioned getting the U2 book for Christmas? Well, this morning on the way to church Sue pointed something out to me on the CD box for All That You Can't Leave Behind. Listen to the story straight from the book...
As well as the biblical reference in "Beatiful Day" and the band's theological take on "Grace", the whole album is drenched in an upfront spirituality. The cover even has a clue as to the state uf U2's spiritual temperature as it features a cryptic Bible verse from Jeremiah 33:3. The band had gotten Steve Averill to doctor the cover shot of the band members taken at Charles De Gaule Airport and change the gate number behind them to read J33-3. Bono called the verse God's telephone number as it reads, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."
There is it right on the box. J33-3.
I think thats cool for a couple of reasons. It's one of my favorite verses. In fact, it was the topic of one of my very first posts way back when (5 or 6 weeks ago). I like the translations that talk about God telling us secrets.
Here's the weird part, though. I was all set to do this post and draw your attention to the gate number. The I noticed something. Go back to the hyperlink to the album on Amazon. Go to the larger image of the cover and take a close look at the gate number. Then go look at your CD - don't tell me you don't have it! The Amazon image has the gate as F21-36. It's the "pre-doctored" shot! I checked Amazon's Canadian, American, German, British, French and Japanese sites. The only one showing J33-3 is Japan.
That is weird.
He wonders (out loud) just who I am, because I don't have an "about me" section on my blog. There are 2 reasons for that:
1. I never gave it any thought
2. I haven't figured out this Movable Type stuff yet
At the risk of scaring off the 2 or 3 of you reading this, here's a little on me. Sorry about all the links. Imagine, my life reduced to a bunch of hyperlinks!
Sue has a degree in Social Work from Ryerson, and spent several years working in the health care system here in Ontario. In 2000 we moved to Vancouver for 1 year. Sue hasn't "worked" since, but she spends her time working with a missions charity. (If she reads the part about not working she may kill me. You know what I mean.)
The last year has been a huge year of change for us. We went from worshipping at The Salvation Army to The Meeting House. We could go on about that forever, but suffice to say it was a big change. And the change didn't stop with our church. To make a long story short, God "told" me to walk away from Bay Street and go work for World Vision - so that's what I did. Also a big change, to say the least.
Sue and I don't think all this change is finished. In fact, we hope it never "ends". If you're not moving forward you're moving backward - "status quo" at best doesn't exist, and at worst is a death sentence.
We want to be apprentices (disciples) of Jesus in the battle to create The Kingdom here and now.
I think the blog is an attempt at a creative outlet, and an opportunity to work some of this stuff out with others who may also be riding God's roller coaster.
There - that's enought about me. Thanks for listening.
Now back to our regularly scheduled random thoughts...
It seems to me that the essence of the emerging church movement, and even the essence of the church itself, can be expressed in three ideas: an inward journey, an outward journey and a journey together. Everything else about our churches - their sizes, shapes, structures etc. - is secondary, and maybe even irrelevant.
It reminds me of some of the language I am growing to love. I want to be an "apprentice" of Christ, so "church" must be the place that equips me for that task. And that's where I think Spencer's three ideas fit in perfectly. I must first be equipped personally/inwardly. I can't be an apprentice if I don't know the master. Secondly, as I come to know Him better, I will want to respond, to do something with that love. I see that as the outward journey - how I reflect that love to others. Finally, I need to do all that in the context of community, and that's the journey together.
More to follow on this one.
Swing by and throw in your two cents worth. I've suggested that maybe one measure of our gift-giving should be a "love factor".
There's stuff that has Kingdom significance, stuff that has a lot of love built in, and then there's just plain stuff.
Lets give (and want) more of the first two and less of the last one.
Here are some words I hope I never see in print right next to my name:
"So he did a Google run on him. Here's the poop..." (Look for the December 29th post).
John picked up on something I've been following in The Toronto Star. I won't repeat the details - you can link through from John's blog.
The beauty of the internet is we get to harness it for the Kingdom's sake. The downside is all this crap out there clutters up the "airwaves".
Warren K. does not.
And Google never forgets!
Despite his discomfort with the term, Campolo is a prophet in the larger sense of the word. He continues to "speak forth," applying the Bible to key issues facing the church. And Campolo, like the prophets, doesn't minister in petulant anger but is instead captivated by a larger vision.
"Tony is a critic, but he's a critic because of his positive vision of the kingdom," says Dwight Ozard, former director of Campolo's Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (eape). Unlike other social critics on both the left and right, Tony Campolo is above all an evangelist who inspires rather than condemns. And his message is the same whether he's speaking inside the church or outside it: give your life completely to Jesus.
I've had the priviledge and pleasure of hearing Tony speak 8-10 times in the last year, as he does several engagements every year for us at World Vison Canada. The man has an incredible gift for speaking. Just try getting him to stick to speaker's notes!
I love the fact that every time I hear him I am challenged. He never says anything the same way twice, even when he's telling his "famous" stories. Most significantly for me, he's changed the way I look at poverty, and missions in general. And he speaks of creating the Kingdom HERE, NOW!
I understand that he and Brian McLaren have co-authored a book that is due out in February. Now that ought to be good!
How's that pile of turkey sitting? Have you finished cleaning up the kitchen yet?
Thanks to LivingRoom for the link.
Christmas Vacation is a holiday tradition with us, so this post on Andrew Careaga's blog caught my eye:
A George Bailey for our times.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies. Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) is the George Bailey for our times. As this article points out, "Jimmy Stewart makes George Bailey a believable sentimentalist. We like him. Chevy Chase makes Clark Griswold a bumbling, well-intended dolt. We are him. George Bailey is who we aspire to be; Clark Griswold is who we're stuck with." Ah, gritty realism. Gotta love it.
Reminds me - we still haven't watched it yet this year...
Just in case you were labouring under the illusion that things seemed a little more "normal" this year, check out this transcript from CNN's Talk Back Live on Christmas Day:
"What would Jesus drive?" or "Would Jesus drive an SUV?" you'd have to answer that, in many cases, you'd have to say yes.
If the answer was that Jesus would have been fuel-efficient and if he were traveling with many others, if he had a large family, if any of these things were true, you certainly would have to say that would be the right choice for him to make.
NEVILLE: And Jesus does have a large family. We're all his family.
PUNNETT: Well, I mean, if you were even just to look at it in terms of Jesus in a business context, traveling with the 12 disciples, if they were traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem, an SUV makes the most sense.
NEVILLE: Maybe they have dinner plans, Ian?
PUNNETT: Pardon me?
NEVILLE: Maybe they have dinner plans?
PUNNETT: Well, whatever the context is...
NEVILLE: The last supper. You go it.
PUNNETT: ... he would be carpooling. So, I mean, I think that these are all fair ways. If Jesus had a family of four and two of them were in hockey, he'd be driving an SUV. And there's just no shame in saying that.
My family has just left - we celebrated Christmas Day #2 at our place today. I'm checking to see if the computer survived the 8 hour marathon of Age of Mythology my nephews put it through. So far so good - and they've got the lava lamp heated up as well.
Remember the Bono quote that I promised would be my last one? Or maybe it was the 3rd iteration of the promised last Bono quote - I don't recall. Anyway, I regret to inform you that Sue and I received a copy of Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 (from the good folks at RelevantBooks) from my sister and her family. I've already read the first 3 chapters, and it looks very good. Needless to say...
What the heck - why fight it? Here's one that resonates with me because it's an issue I feel very strongly about. The Kingdom is here, and now!
U2 believes the Gospel of Jesus Christ has an agenda for peacemaking and justice and a Kingdom coming. They also believe that Kingdom could come now on this side of eternity. As Bono said in Hot Press ad the end of 1988: "I don't expect this pie in the sky when you die stuff. My favorite line in the Lord's Prayer is 'Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven' (Matt. 6:10). I want it all, and I want it now. Heaven on earth - now - let's have bit of that."
I've been thinking of a Dave Matthews song all morning. I'm sitting here cruising a few of the regulars, and I see my new blogging friend John Janzen in Japan has beat me to it.
Check out the words to Christmas Song on John's blog.
Merry Christmas to all, and may we grasp the significance of this day in a new way this year.
From Politically correct: Its finest moments
Banner year for shoving aside common sense
Our take on 2002 AD (make that CE, copy desk!) is that it was a signal year for the advocates of political correctness, with the thought police trampling on the individual rights of many. (Eat your heart out, Naomi Klein.) And the usual handful of insensitive idiots did just plain dumb things for all the wrong reasons.
- At the Royal Ontario Museum, the system of dating exhibits from AD and BC was shelved in favour of the Christ-denying labels CE and BCE, whatever they may mean. And this was done --get this Monty Python! -- even as the ROM exhibited an ossuary said to be the burial box of James, brother of Jesus Christ. A ROM functionary, Dan Rahimi, said the aim is to make the museum more "inclusive." Using BC and AD was "really quite ethnocentric of European Christians," he explains.
- Not to be outdone, Toronto City Hall staffers decreed -- at least until Mayor Mel belatedly over-ruled them -- that the festooned fir tree set up in Nathan Phillips Square was to be known as "the Holiday Tree."
- The Canadian Mint perpetuated the stupidity by selling coins marking "the 12 Days of Giving," instead of "the 12 Days of Christmas."
Sigh. (Come to think of it, I've been sighing a lot lately.)
I must admit I've received more than a couple of "Merry Christmas" greetings as I shopped this year. I recall this issue came to a head for me last year, when the only merchant who greeted me with a "Merry Christmas" was my dry cleaner, who is Sikh.
The government is always behind. Maybe the fact that the City of Toronto did their tree stupidity this year means that the cycle is coming around again, and CHRISTmas is back in favour?
His arrival was eagerly anticipated
but not just by children,
He came on Christmas day
but not down a chimney,
He worked in a woodshop
but not making toys,
He had a beard
but it was not white,
He had some helpers
but they were not elves,
He did a miracle
but not on 34th Street,
He rode into town
but not on a sleigh,
He carried a lot of weight
but He was not heavy,
He hung on a tree
but not as an ornament.
He disappeared into the clouds
but not to the North Pole,
His return is eagerly anticipated,
but not predictable.
Steven E. Chaney
While I'm at it, here's something you'll probably want to bookmark:
A Daily Meditiation from Henry Nouwen, put out by the Henry Nouwen Literacy Centre.
I seem to be on a Catholic thing today, so I may as well go for the hat trick. (That sound you hear is my late Scottish, and very Protestant, grandmother spinning in her grave.)
I had breakfast yesterday with the friend who actually got me started on the postmodern path (He gave me my first copy of A New Kind of Christian, by Brian McLaren. I say "first" because I think I've gone through 3. I loan them out, and they disappear into the ether. You know who you are!)
Anyway, my friend told me of a conversation he recently had with a Catholic friend of his. I don't remember the details, but my friend was encouraged to choose a patron saint. What a great idea! I think most of us would agree that there is a lot to be learned from the "saints" of our faith - and some of those saints are Saints!
I'm going to choose one. Or two - or three. And I'm not going to restrict myself to my profession. Let's see... I work with World Vision, so that would be Saint Vincent de Paul, patron saint of charities.
Actually, it looks like there are often choices, and some saints have pretty big portfolios. For instance, Saint Bernadine of Siena lists advertisers, advertising, against hoarseness, chest problems, communications personnel, compulsive gambling, diocese of San Bernardino California, gambling addicts, Italy, lung problems, lungs, public relations personnel, public relations work, respiratory problems and uncontrolled gambling among his patronages.
Public relations personnel?
Seriously, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to learn more from those who have gone before. If you're up to the challenge, here's a couple of resources:
And if you can't choose, you can always check out The Saint of the Day.
Before I get flamed by offended Catholics, Protestants, Postmoderns or any combination thereof, I am serious about this. I'll keep you posted from time to time.
PS. As I reflect on this, it strikes me that my friend who put me on to this is truly a postmodern. Check this out: After spending several years in South America as a Baptist missionary, he's now attending a non-denominational (yet very charismatic) church, reads Brian McLaren and is searching for his patron saint. That's awesome!
Christianity Today has a great article detailing the world as described in the pre-Christian Apocrypha (from the Greek for "hidden" or "obscure"), which Catholics include in their Bible. Growing up in a pretty isolated Protestant tradition I had no clue that these books existed, and my knowledge hasn't come a long way since then, but I'm working on it.
"Nevertheless, as popular Jewish literature of the two centuries before Christ's birth, they are the closest thing we have to a rack of paperback books preserved from the streets of Jerusalem. They remind me of those calcified mummies from Pompeii, which seem to capture the expressions on people's faces the moment Mount Vesuvius erupted. From these books, we learn a lot about Jewish minds in Jesus' day.
Historians and biblical scholars estimate these books were written 160 to 220 years before the birth of Jesus. Undoubtedly, much changed in the intervening period. Still, a lot stayed the same, especially Israel's political and religious environment."
With Christmas upon us, the article is particularly timely.
The books of the Apocrypha can be found online.
GAYLE MacDONALD talks to Jim Caviezel, the actor with the soul of a saint who has been trussed, practically naked, to a cross in an Italian field for 15 days. Blame it on Mel Gibson, who is responsible for the strangest Hollywood project to come along in years: A movie about the last 12 hours of Jesus's life, being filmed almost entirely in dead languages
"I think this is a pretty timeless and timely story to tell, involving an area where there's turbulence now, just as there was turbulence then, because history repeats itself. I want to show the humanity of Christ as well as the divine aspect," Gibson told a reporter recently. "It's a rendering that for me is very realistic and as close as possible to what I perceive the truth to be."
Gibson is described as a very devout Catholic in that he'll only attend mass delivered in Latin. While that gets my anti-legalism, irreligious nerves twitching, at least he's consistent. And in the Hollywood environment as well! We could all take a lesson from that.
Sounds like a pretty brave project.
I told you this would happen...
Take the Lord of the Rings Personality Test!
I'm not sure about this one, but I'll give the guy an A for effort. Besides, how often do you get a chance to read The Idaho Statesman?
Santa display criticizes holiday's commercialism
Boise resident stands by cross after complaints
A unique holiday display in Boise has prompted mixed reactions from neighbors and passersby.
Residents of a home in the 6300 block of Ustick Road have erected a cross with a full-size, stuffed Santa Claus attached...
OK, this may be a Bono quote, but it's not a "Bono's on an AIDS awareness tour" quote, but more of a Christmas quote. Why am I apologizing? Just read it.
"That there's a force of love and logic behind the universe is overwhelming to start with, if you believe it," Bono told the Chicago Sun-Times as he road past mown corn fields west of Omaha. "But the idea that that same love and logic would choose to describe itself as a baby born in shit and straw and poverty, is genius. And brings me to my knees, literally.
From a manure pile to a cross on a garbage heap.
Thanks John, for catching this one.
OK - there's no hiding from it - the release of The Two Towers tonight will unleash the latest, greatest in blog fodder. (And you thought we were hung up on Bono!) Coming from the "if you can't beat them, join them" camp, I thought I'd wade right in.
I admit it - I loved the books when I was younger, and I still do. Now, though, I'm much more intrigued with the Gospel parallels.
This is taken from ChristianityToday.com:
With the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in movie theaters today, many people are examining the faith of J. R. R. Tolkien, who completed the trilogy in 1948. Several books have been published on both the faith of Tolkien and the religious values underpinning his tales of Middle-earth. We asked the authors of two of these books to talk via e-mail about their work and Tolkien's.
Bradley J. Birzer is assistant professor of history at Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he specializes in the history of the American West, and related topics. His book, J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth (purchase | read the foreword | read chapter 1), was just published by ISI Books.
Mark Eddy Smith is a graphic designer at InterVarsity Press, which published his book, Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues: Exploring the Spiritual Themes of The Lord of the Rings, earlier this year (purchase | read the introduction | read chapter 1 | read chapter 3).
This online discussion will continue through Friday
I promise I won't post all of the conversations, but take a look at the first one.
" ...and marveled that with all of the world's turmoil and current miseries, the Lord would care about something as small and seemingly insignificant as a little girl wanting a big Christmas tree. But now, knowing and understanding, as best our fallen minds can, the depth of God's sacrifice for humanity, His willingness to meet our ultimate need in the gift of Jesus Christ ...Why wouldn't He?"
Or what man is there among you who if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9-11).
In response to my Grace post, Danielle responded with a comment on a recent Relevant mag article. She knows what she's talking about - East Van is where Danielle, Steve and Zion are building the Kingdom.
Here's the original article.
While I'm sitting here contemplating the common theme that seems to be running through a lot of these posts (and my thinking) these days, along comes an eMail update from George Barna, confirming it all:
With the new year rapidly approaching, this week's report is an overview of some of the key findings from our 2002 studies. In looking over all of the studies we've released, one theme seemed to run through many of them: contradiction. The seven contradictions I wrote about in this report include:
· adults and teens claiming to be deeply spiritual and devoted to their faith, but relatively few describing themselves as "absolutely committed to Christianity";
· the widespread attention devoted to the choice of music in worship services when the real issue is not musical style but connection with God ? an issue largely overlooked;
· although most people call themselves Christian and claim they have made a personal commitment to Jesus that's important to them, a minority trust Him alone for their salvation.
Sigh. Sometimes there is nothing else to say. We know what needs to happen.
Here's some more from Hearing God:
"In many cases our need to wonder about or be told what God wants in a certain situation is nothing short of a clear indication of how little we are engaged in his work."
Willard goes on to say
"So our union with God - his presence with us, in which our aloneness is banished and the meaning and full purpose of human existence is realized - consists chiefly in a conversational relationship with God while we are each consistently and deeply engaged as his friend and colaborer in the affairs of the kingdom of the heavens."
Wow. That really challenges me. Do I sit and wait, saying "Yes God, I'll throw myself right into your work as soon as you tell me what to do"? I think Willard is stating the opposite. As we work at creating and expanding The Kingdom, we will come to know what God wants! Without realizing it I may have vaguely touched on some of this in The Yoke
(Check out my earlier post on this book)
I admit I had to read this article twice, but it was worth the effort.
Consider the bumper sticker: "Dear God, please save me from your followers." Or the ubiquitous Christian "fish" that has mysteriously grown feet courtesy of the Darwinian crowd—a symbol of faith sarcastically twisted by the culture.
Even Christian bookstores carry such titles as: "Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God," "Toxic Faith," and "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse."
With fingers pointed at Christians, we're obliged to identify the underlying accusations and offer a response. Three questions are at the core.
Why should I trust you?
Isn't that just your reality?
What good is Christianity?
... when I said my last post on him would be my last post on him. Whatever. I came across this summary from John Janzen.
Two streams of thought on all the recent Bono posts:
Okay, I kinda hate doing this, but I can't help myself any longer. There is a lot of talk about Bono and the whole AIDS crisis in Africa... The whole world realizes that this is Bono's crusade... you don't need to talk about it any more, we all know. The man is getting enough press coverage, he doesn't need your help. How 'bout you quit talking about Bono doing something about it and start letting Jesus doing something about it through you. ENOUGH ABOUT BONO PLEASE! Thank you, sorry for the outburst.
or Derek Eidse:
Bono's constantly changing my views on fame, and the value of having a universal voice. As I said in my last entry, his opinion may not be any more valid than yours or mine, but he's been thrown into a place where his voice can be heard world-wide, and he's using it for the good of people and for justice and peace.
OK. Now THAT was definitely my last post on Bono.
So I went from a blog to a blog to a blog to Levi's Table.
"Levi's Table aims to be a network of micro-communities of the friends of Christ. These communities are located in and around Saint Louis, MO. We consider ourselves to be missional groups, which is to say that we believe God has called his people to live for the sake of the world. Our common bond is that we all are in constant dialogue and experimentation in regard to key questions such as
"What does it mean to be an apprentice of Jesus Christ?"
"What am I here for?"
"What is 'Church'?"
Sounds like people worth knowing.
I've been watching the political situation in the US with a certain morbid fascination of late. The growing anti-war movement is something I think we'll hear more from.
In that context, this Technical Difficulties page is very interesting. (Warning - high bandwidth. And turn the sound down if you're at work.)
I don't know who these people are, and I can't quite figure out the Vote motif, but it's pretty profound. (Thanks Richard)
I've just started reading Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, by Dallas Willard.
(Yes, there's a link to Amazon.ca there, but No, I'm not an Amazon Associate - yet - so there's nothing in it for me!!)
I'm only at Chapter Two and it's already stretching me. I come from a tradition that (at best) looked with disbelief at anyone who would say "God spoke to me about..." More likely we looked at you like you were crazy. Willard quotes comedian Lilly Tomlin, who says "Why is it that when we speak to God we are said to be praying but when God speaks to us we are said to be schizophrenic?" Well said!
Here's a couple of points I've hi-lited:
'How could there be a personal relationship, a personal walk with God - or with anyone else - without individualized communication?'
'Sometimes today it seems that our personal relationship with God is treated as no more than a mere arrangement or understanding that Jesus and his Father have about us.'
'Our personal relationship then only means that each believer has his or her own unique account in heaven, which allows them to draw on the merits of Christ to pay their sin bills.'
'The biblical record always presents the relationship between God and the believer as more like a friendship or family tie than like merely one person's arranging to take care of the needs of another.'
First, to those of my fellow postmodern Christ-followers who may be twitching at the liberal use of the word "personal" - get over it. I have no interest in believing in, following, loving, worshipping or listening to a God who doesn't know me personally. (As Tony Campolo says - God has a picture of me in his wallet!)
Secondly, how come I've never thought of this before?! How can there possibly be an intimate relationship without specific two-way communication?
I think I'm going to enjoy this book.
Len Sweet has posted a great piece on his website. Here's a glimpse:
I used to be a learned professor. Now I'm a learner.
When I was learned, life was a quiz show. Now that I'm a learner, life is a discovery channel.
When I was learned, it was a question of how much I knew. Now that I'm a learner, it's a question of how much I'm being stretched.
When I was learned, knowledge was everything. Now that I'm a learner, kindness is everything.
When I was learned, knowledge went to my head. Now that I'm a learner, knowledge travels the longest foot in the universe–-the foot that separates my head from my heart.
When I was learned, I used to point my finger and pontificate. Now that I'm a learner, I slap my forehead all the time
When I was learned, I used to think I was the best. Now that I'm a learner, I do the best I can.
When I was learned, I was frightened of new ideas. Now that I'm a learner, I'm just as frightened of old ideas.
When I was learned, I looked to the past: to have confirmed the set of beliefs I already had. Now that I'm a learner, I look to the future: to grow, be stretched, and remain open to what I don't know.
When I was learned, I knew where I was going. Now that I'm a learner, I don't know where I'm going----but I know whom I've going with.
When I was learned, I loved to talk. Now that I'm a learner, I'd prefer to listen, because that's when I'm learning.
When I was learned, I had something to teach everybody. Now that I'm a learner, everybody has something to teach me.
Thanks Jordon for pointing it out.
So I installed a site meter yesterday. Big mistake!
Now I can't hide from the reality of what was previously only a fear - the fact that you and I are the only two people reading this. And I'm not really reading it; I'm writing it. And you're not really reading it; you probably stumbled here by accident.
Spread the word!
And please - no voyeurs. Make a comment, for crying out loud. Agree, disagree, call me an idiot, tell me what you had for lunch. Whatever.
Monologue = BAD!
Dialogue = GOOD!
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Somebody - please make it stop. I knew I should have gone to work today.
Looking for the perfect seasonal gift to impress your pastor or priest? Well sing hallelujah, for your search is over! Welcome to the Ship of Fools 2002 12 Days of Kitschmas, with a choice selection of Gadgets for God. Here are our 12 favourites, one for each day of the festive season, with Bobble Head Jesus topping the lot. All the items can be ordered online. Click and be blessed...
Sometimes it's the spoofs that speak the most truth.
"To reduce this Christ to Santa Claus - and an excuse to buy yourself a new Rolex - is unacceptable. And I will no longer be a part of this trivialization, sir."
"Ah ha! So you admit you stole Christmas, Mr. Inch!"
Darrow rises wearily to his feet.
"No sir, Mr. Failwell. Christmas was lost long ago, co-opted by consumers and capitalists and secularists. The greatest insult of all is that it wasn't stolen by these people, it was given away by the Christians themselves. They lost it without a shot being fired in anger.
"Mr. Inch didn't steal Christmas. No, his fervent hope is that we someday can find it again."
Read the complete Santa Claus vs. The Lord of the Dance
At first glance I may appear to be wandering off the beaten track here. I've spent a lot of years in the corporate world, and now I work in corporate fundraising, so I know a little about it.
If the Kingdom is going to be created here on earth (or if indeed the Kingdom has already come, just with sin thrown into the mix) then a very big factor is how we treat each other. And why shouldn't that apply to the workplace as well?
The corporate world is at a crossroads of sorts. The market is fixated on profitability (therefore cost cutting), while the public is also holding companies to very high corporate social responsibility standards. Apparently seeing more than a few CEO's and CFO's carted off in handcuffs on the 6 o'clock news is getting through to people.
Now I'm babbling. Read Lean and Downright Mean.
I need a touch of grace today...
Man, it seems like I'm being bombarded of late. I think God is really reaching out to His Church in a last-ditch effort to "unteach" us what we have come to believe.
See if this resonates:
"Thus, if we view the gospel to be, "say this prayer so that when you die, you can go to heaven," it will naturally lead to one way of doing church. Cradle to grave programming to warehouse people until they die is usually what follows. This view makes discipleship optional, something serious Christians might do.
The effects of living in a wrong story are devastating to our churches. Countless thousands of well-intentioned pastors are left to try to disciple people who have no intention of ever seriously following Jesus or practicing their religion. The church is in serious trouble when discipleship (apprenticeship to Jesus) is viewed as extracurricular or optional."
That hits me between the eyes. Know any churches that fit the bill?
Check out The Tale of Two Gospels by Todd Hunter.
"Without introduction, Bono steps onto the Wheaton College stage and pandemonium erupts. A standing-room-only crowd leaps to its feet and cheers as if it were a rock concert.
Wearing black pants, a dark sweater and an army green military cap, the lead singer of U2 slaps a few outstretched hands and launches into what may be the two most surreal hours in the Christian school's history.
He swears. He quotes Scripture. He cracks jokes and chokes back tears. He chastises Christians' occasional blind eye, then praises their hearts.
He listens with great humility to a welcome telegram from the Rev. Billy Graham, the college's most beloved graduate. Minutes later, he confidently tells the students they have a moral obligation to battle the AIDS virus that plagues Africa."
"Would somebody shut these Jesus People up?
What would Jesus do? What would Jesus drive? How would Jesus pick his nose? What do they think Jesus is, the Dr. Phil of the first century?"
It's good. It's very good.
Here's something I've been chewing on for a while...
"Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as `Lord,' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. On judgment day many will tell me, `Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' But I will reply, `I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized. (NLT)
Only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven? What is the will of the Father?
They replied, "What does God want us to do?" Jesus told them, "This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the one he has sent."
To believe! What kind of work is that? Doing the work of God is not doing anything at all; it's believing.
In order to believe in someone, we have to know them and trust them. We have to trust that they have our best interests at heart. It means being in relationship with Jesus - a continuous, vibrant, growing relationship. According to John, that's the will of the Father!
Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. (NLT)
Being has to come before doing for Jesus. (That's how he may say he didn't know us.) It's not that the work is bad; it's just that Jesus didn't know the person doing it! The doing isn't the being.
God has his work to do, and we have ours. Often we are unclear about whose work we are doing. If there is transformation, it's the Spirit who did it, not us. He does his work (transforming, developing, etc.) if we do ours; believing.
Then Jesus prayed this prayer: "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves so wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way! "My Father has given me authority over everything. No one really knows the Son except the Father, and no one really knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light." (NLT)
A yoke is not a restful metaphor; it's a tool for getting hard work done. What did Jesus mean? How can a yoke be "restful"?
Think about how a young ox is trained to work on a yoke. The young one is yoked with an older more experienced ox. The kind that have been doing it for so long they don't even need anybody to point them in the right direction. The young one will fight the older one - trying to wander off, not keeping a straight line, etc. It's pointless, though. The older one just keeps walking along in a perfectly straight line. Eventually the young one learns not to fight, and the work becomes a partnership (and a lot easier!)
If we are tired is it because we are resisting, or, even worse, are we trying to do His work, and not ours? If we are doing our work, we start to walk along side Him, in step, in relationship. There is no rest for our souls if we are not doing our own part. Surrender the Gospel to the only One who has the authority to carry it out.
Yes, we are supposed to commit, to self-sacrifice, to use the gifts we are given. But we are supposed to do our work of knowing Him, and leaving Him to his work.
The questions to ask are not "how are you doing?" but "how's your soul? Do you know Jesus? Whose work are you doing?"
As Bono's US tour rolls on, he continues to challenge followers of Christ:
"Christ's example is being demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy, which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here. If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't, it will be irrelevant."
Read this article.
Here's an excerpt from the Larry King interview I referenced below. We need to listen to this. Bono is telling us a lot about ourselves (as Christ-followers), and a lot about how the world views us. We have an incredible opportunity to do a lot to expand the Kingdom here on Earth, or to set it back:
KING: If there is a God, he must be angry at a lot of this.
BONO: I think God is very angry at the moment, and I think it's shocking what is going on in the world. And I think it is an extraordinary moment. Right now, I can tell you this: Our age will be remembered. This moment in time will be remembered for three things: the war against terror, sure; the Internet, probably; and how we let an entire continent, Africa, burst into flames and stood around with water in cans. This is not acceptable. It is not acceptable to let people die because they can't get the drugs that you and I take for granted....
KING: Why did we? For example, that wouldn't have happened in Europe. We wouldn't have let it happen in Europe.
KING: OK. So, is it racial?
BONO: I think there's an element that people have written off in Africa.
KING: They're black.
BONO: And it's not even that they're black. I think deep down, if we really believe in equality, we would go to the side of our brothers and sisters in Africa. What I would say is we don't really believe in equality. And - I mean, equality is evolving, you know. The idea that black people could vote here in the United States is relatively new...equality is like a pain in the ass, if you think about it. You think of these Jewish sheepherders walking in, in front of pharaohs, you know, without their shoes, and the pharaoh is going, "You think you're equal to me?" And he looks in the book, and he goes, "Yes, that's what it says. All of us are created equal in God's image. That's what it says here." And it's like you're mad, you're out of your mind.
Well, it's true, and we accept that now between our own borders. We accept that women and Jews and blacks and Irish are equal and have equal opportunities, but we don't really believe that for the rest of the world, because if we did, we would not be letting two-and-a-half million Africans die next year.
Check out the entire transcript.
Today is World AIDS Day 2002, and I just finished watching Bono on Larry King Live.
I bet/hope/pray you can't.
I'm particularly close to this because I work for World Vision Canada. Because of that, I happen to know that some of the biggest resistance to this issue come from within the church. We followers of Christ are so quick to imbrace the concept of Grace as it applies to us, but for some reason cling to the concept of the Law as it applies to others, particularly with regard to AIDS.
It makes me sick.
A month ago I heard Stephen Lewis speak at a World Vision function on this subject. Here is a self-professed "Philistine" who speaks on this subject with more passion and rage (his word) than most Christ-followers I know. He has become close to World Vision and shared some thoughts recently.
As Bono put it tonight one of the things this age will be known for will be the fact that we stood by and watched an entire continent burst into flames. I pray that is one future that can be altered.