EVANGELISTS IN IRAQ
Resentment, not the Gospel, likely to spread
A host of prominent evangelical Christian organizations are poised to enter Iraq with humanitarian aid and missionary zeal. However well-intentioned their efforts are, they are certain to be divisive and inflammatory...
You only get one chance to make a first impression. Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Charles Stanley and various leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention have made their impression through repeated, highly visible proclamations about Islam as an "evil religion," declaring Muhammad a "terrorist" or a "demon-possessed pedophile," and saying that "Allah is not the God of the Bible.".
Oh yeah - this has "success" written all over it... particularly coming on the heels of Religion is a Dangerous Thing.
(Thanks to Andrew Jones for the link.)
Notes from the schedule outline:
We have encountered a transition so big that almost overnight our world changed so dramatically the old maps no longer fit the new reality. What maps will trace the new world reforming around us? Consider premodern, modern, postmodern - see Mars Hills home page for an introduction to some thoughts.
These grinding, shifting, transitional times have shaken the church. It is unsettled, imbalanced, nervous, reeling, often wide-eyed and open-mouthed with anxiety, wondering when the shaking will be over. is the church a dinosaur? will it survive?
A new breed of leaders? looking like what? modeling personal authenticity, requiring team development, seen as a critical resource, trained differently, aware of challenges and suffering ( theirs! ), sages of love and spirituality.
A new possibility? revitalized, vibrant faith that explores and expresses the teachings and mission of Jesus in a fresh, engaging way for 3rd-millenium people? a new spirit of Christianity? where personal, daily interaction with God is more important than church structures, faith is more about a way of life than a system of belief, ones direction is more important than ones present location.
I'm back late Friday night, then we're helping friends move on the weekend. I'll post on the conference - I mean the unconference - when I can.
My kingdom for a laptop. Sigh.
(Also, this weekend some friends "back east" are involved with the Church Shift conference in Ontario... )
I'm so tired of bitching about religion I've let the whole day go by before getting around to writing this post. And I'm not even going to write. I'm just going to point out a very important article that you should read.
Religion is the root of much evil.
It has to be said.
Here is what I believe: There is no god, there is no messiah, there are no prophets plugged in to some divine will. There are no saints or holy men. If there is a heaven or a hell or any other kind of afterlife, we can't know anything about it while we're in this life, so it's useless to speculate and foolish to believe. Faith is an empty box. To believe in Christ is to believe in a rabbit's foot. To believe in the Buddha is to believe that pro wrestling is real. To believe in Mohammed is to believe that the groundhog can predict spring. To believe that the Ten Commandments came from some god on a mountaintop is to believe that television psychics can talk to your dead grandmother. Allah, Jehovah and the Trinity are elves and Tinkerbells. They are no more than desperate hope given a name and anthropomorphic shape by the imaginations of frightened men.
It has to be said.
Religion is superstition. It is mankind crossing its fingers. Its sole functions are 1) to comfort and console those who cannot bear the suffering and death that are ultimately the lot of every human being, and 2) to offer meaning in a world where meaning can never be established. Religion, in other words, is a fortress of lies built to keep out the terrors of existence and nonexistence. For those in power, it is useful in still another way: Since time immemorial, the powerful have used religion to distract the oppressed, to encourage them to focus on the next world so that they will acquiesce to the injustices of this world. If you would have your slaves remain docile, teach them hymns.
This is not saying anything new, but it has to be said again.
On balance, religion has made the world a worse place.
This article makes me want to cry. Not just because there are so many who share these sentiments, but because so much of what they have to say about "religion" is true.
How do we go about separating Christ from "religion" for the world?
Thanks to Bene Diction for the link.
As previously threatened I'm looking to you for some feedback regarding the vision for our ministry. On the one hand I have no business asking as most of you have no idea what we are all about. On the other hand, maybe that's a good thing.
Here's some thoughts we scribbled down last week around a "vision statement" of sorts.
Global Action Canada Ministries - Vision
Creating the Kingdom by restoring God's value of women in the world. Global Action as a Ministry will stand in the gap for the suffering women of the world to release the healing power of the Holy Spirit.
Abuse breaks God's heart and fractures the Kingdom. When the Kingdom is fractured the Unity of the Body is broken. Efforts at reaching the lost become secondary to the daily trial of simply living. God has commissioned believers to share His love with the world. How can we share this love with the world if we cannot even share it with our sister or brother? We must loose the healing power of the Holy Spirit in the world.
1. Mobilize prayer for the suffering women of the world by:
• praying for the suffering women of the world in a coordinated fashion
• raise the issue of abuse and suffering
• eradicate suffering
• soothe those that suffer
• convict the abusers, change their hearts
• strengthen those who suffer
• give hope
2. Address the needs of the suffering women:
• Bringing healing
• listening ear
• Create a network of resources
3. Work with the Church
• the role of women in the church
• acknowledge the problem of abuse
• address it
• a refuge for suffering woman and not the cause, providing a safe place
• Take it from the role of a condoner to an opposer of abuse
Expression of the Fathers heart for suffering women, standing in the gap and releasing his power. One aspect of Kingdom Building.
(Personally I think we could spend the next 1000 years on #3. Abuse in/and the church is an issue many people do not want to talk about, but we've already seen miracles of conviction, confession and forgiveness that give us hope.)
Is it enough? Is it too much? Does it give you any clue to what we are about (without getting bogged down in the specifics?) Any and all feedback, either through comments or eMails would be greatly appreciated.
Hoowah!! Here's Robert's announcement (reproduced from his comment on Cool Stuff).
Thanks to everyone for your interest. Adam was born April 27, at 11:28 PM following a short and very pleasant labour. The boy, who has his father's rugged looks, weighed in at 8 pounds, 5 ounces, not bad considering he was almost three weeks early.
Mother and baby are doing very well. Father is now home with Emily, waiting for Mam and baby brover to arrive tomorrow.
Again, thank you for your kind wishes and prayers.
Great news! (Well, great news except for the rugged good looks part. Lets pray that he has his mother's intellect - please, Lord.)
As I've written before I've been focused on some of the spiritual disciplines that are new to me. Here's an animation of the Stations of the Cross. (If the soundtrack doesn't do it for you you can always add your own.)
Thanks to Johnny Baker for the link.
I love this...
Dr. Richard Swenson, an MD says this,
"The conditions of modern day living devour margin. If you're homeless we direct you to a shelter. If you're breathless we connect you to oxygen. But if you're marginless we give you one more thing to do.
Marginless is being thirty minutes late to the doctor's office because you were twenty minutes late getting out of the hairdresser because you were ten minutes late dropping the children off at school because the car ran out of gas two blocks from a gas station and you forgot your purse. That's marginless.
Margin, on the other hand, is having breath at the top of the staircase, money at the end of the month and sanity left over at the end of adolescence.
Marginless is the baby crying and the phone ringing at the same time. Margin is grandma taking the baby for the afternoon.
Marginless is being asked to carry a load five pounds heavier than you can lift. Margin is having a friend carry half the burden.
Marginless is not having time to finish the book you're reading on stress. Margin is having the time to read it twice.
Marginless is fatigue. Margin is energy.
Marginless is red ink. Margin is black ink.
Marginless is hurry. Margin is calm.
Marginless is our culture. Margin is counter-culture, having some space in your life and schedule.
Marginless is reality. Margin is remedy.
Marginless is the disease of our decade and margin is the cure."
Once again Todd Hunter has written something that really has hit home. Something I wish I'd written, because it sounds like my own heart and mind...
You've heard of athletes being "in the zone"; the game seems to slow down, they "see" in ways they don't normally see, etc. This is what I want; to live in the conscious awareness of the Kingdom, God's agenda, his rule and reign, the promptings of the Spirit, to be God's ambassador - and to do it in my whole life, not just in my religious work. I want to actualize God's intention for his people, to be a cooperative friend of Jesus, living a constant life of creative goodness in the power and leading of the Spirit... and not to earn anything, just simple, passionate cooperation with someone - Jesus - I deeply admire and want to mimic.
God help me... or maybe I should just go get a real job... no, there is that dualism again... this is not about how I derive a paycheck, it is about me... so God help ME!
(I can't figure out Todd's permalinks, so look for the Friday, April 25 post.)
From the mindlessly cool file...
Thanks to Robert for sending me the link to this ad. Should it bother me that my financial advisor spends his time looking for stuff like this?
Thank goodness for cable internet is all I can say. There's no place like home, there's no place like home...
Rachel has a great conversation going on over at her place on the issue of postmodernity. Drop by and take a look.
Here is my comment from that post reproduced for you...
Awesome conversation! As a relative late-comer I've quickly come to the conclusion that I am a modern who has become disenchanted, and feels more comfortable with a "postmodern" expression of my faith/worship/etc. But I'm still a modern, so I still have to do a "rough translation" in my head, which is actually kind of disappointing. Hopefully one day that will go away.
If the label bothers you then don't use it, although I agree with Jordon that you need a point of reference if you are going to deconstruct (another of those words...)
I've jumped in head-first, going to conferences, visiting authors, reading everything I can find on it. And as an analytical observers I can say that there are those who are into it because it is the latest "ism". I'm into it because it helps me make more sense of my faith, and it feels more real to me.
Here's my post-modern litmus test: read the introduction to A New Kind of Christian. If your first reaction is "this guy's been reading my mind", then you have to pursue it further, like it or not.
Just when my blood pressure starts to drop I can usually kick start it with a visit to The Slacktivist. Today is no exception.
The AP's Michelle Faul tells us that the children being detained in the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo are being treated very well.
In the mornings they learn to read and write in their native languages, clean their rooms and rake the lawn. Recreation includes soccer and watching movies like "Cast Away," one of their favorites. During afternoons, psychologists work to heal the scars of physical and emotional abuse.
How does she know they're being treated so well? Because, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, she placed a phone call to Lt. Col. Barry Johnson and he told her so. And a reporter should never doubt or try to independently verify the word of an official military spokesperson, right?
The children in question -- at least three detainees between the ages of 13 and 15 -- have been in the prison camp since early this year. Like all of the 600+ prisoners held at the camp, they are deliberately kept outside of the U.S. and therefore outside of the jurisdiction of U.S. courts and, you know, constitutional protections and stuff.
They're also -- since the U.S. is steadfastly pretending/insisting that they are not prisoners of war -- kept outside the jurisdiction of the Geneva Conventions. That body of law would not allow us to hold hundreds of people, including juveniles, indefinitely while subjecting at least some to interrogation under physical duress. This is why -- for the U.S. to maintain at least the appearance of legitimacy for this prison camp -- it is very, very important that U.S. officials never refer to the detainees at the camp as "prisoners of war."
I read this, and I also read about US military commanders in Iraq who made battlefield decisions to let surrendering Iraqi soldiers pack up their stuff and go home.
Lest we forget.
Being a transplanted Ontario boy this headline from the Washington Post looks like good news:
Health officials said they were trying to make a new case to WHO that the disease is under control in Canada. They are sending new data to Geneva, where the organization is based, and hoping WHO will retract an advisory warning against travel to Toronto, which has damaged the tourism industry and businesses here.
Some hotels have reported occupancy rates as low as 30 percent. Restaurants in Chinatown report that business has dropped more than 80 percent. And sales have fallen as much as 50 percent in Scarborough, the Toronto suburb where Canada's outbreak began on March 5 with the death of an elderly woman who had returned from a vacation in Hong Kong. WHO officials are set to discuss Toronto's case Tuesday.
Ontario health officials argue that the virus is losing momentum and the number of new cases is rising more slowly. Last month, officials were reporting about 40 new cases per day. Officials say there have been no transmissions outside hospitals in 19 days and continue to say the virus has been contained to certain "households, hospitals and specific community settings."
For all the SARS news be sure to check out Bene Diction on a regular basis.
I'v been meaning to blog more the last few days, really I have. It's just that we are out in the sticks, and these dial-up connections really grate my cheese. COME ON! (We should be back home to the cable connection late Friday. Hallelujah!)
Sincere thanks go out to Robert, who emailed to say he was going through blog-withdrawal.
And he's an atheist. Go figure.
PS. The metamorphosis is complete. I successfully jumped from the Leafs bandwagon to the Canucks bandwagon in between the 2 games last night. Let's go Canucks!
As I'm sitting here (still in Roberts Creek. Probably here for a few more days) I'm doing a little blog surfing and reflecting on Easter.
Todd Hunter has been reading the Passion narratives in The Message (yeah!) and has written a beautiful post. (His links aren't working so look for the April 18 - Good Friday piece).
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, "Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?"
Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back--it was a huge stone--and walked right in. They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished.
He said, "Don't be afraid. I know you're looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He's been raised up; he's here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now--on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You'll see him there, exactly as he said."
Sue and I are off to beautiful Roberts Creek, BC for the weekend to spend some time with our core group/ministry partners/home church/community/whatever. I may blog a little and I may not.
If I don't, my prayer is that this weekend would be significant in a special way for you.
In keeping with our theme of late I came across this great quote over at LiquidThinking...
"If Jesus loved people like we do, he would have lived a long, prosperous life."
--- a quote by someone I don't know
Think about that one for a while.
After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.
Then he said, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as "Teacher' and "Master,' and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other's feet. I've laid down a pattern for you. What I've done, you do. I'm only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn't give orders to the employer.
(John 13:12-16 MSG)
Think of the names of 12 people whose feet you would wash. Now include one who would betray you... to death. I don't think I've ever stopped to think about that one point. It might be easy for you to imagine your very best friend's feet. Can you come up with 10 more friends? Now, add the betrayer. A difficult task just became a lot tougher.
"You must now wash each other's feet."
Alan Creech has been reading Thomas Merton again, which usually means trouble for those of us who read Alan's blog.
Once again I realize the depth of this life we lead as Christians - what that means - that it is far more than merely a set of beliefs or even than emulating the actions of a God-Man. It is becoming the Man than Jesus was and is.
(April 15 post)
Alan goes on to quote Merton who says we must search for the meaning in our lives that is revealed to us by God, which is often not the meaning we expected. I think that describes where I am right now.
It's a pretty cool place to be, but the ground keeps moving beneath my feet. That can be a little unnerving.
(Sorry, it was the only r-word I could think of.) I'm not American, but if I was I think this would irk me...
Every Child a Soldier?
When public high schools opened their doors last fall, military recruiters lined up to get personal student data. When the "No Child Left Behind Act" was signed into law in January 2002, 30 years of closely guarding the personal information of high school students came to an end. Buried in the 670-page act, which was supposedly intended to ensure that every child had access to a decent education, was a paragraph stating that public high schools must now supply military recruiters with students' names, addresses, and telephone numbers. If a school refuses, it could lose its federal funding.
From a sneak preview of the May/June issue of Sojourners magazine.
There seems to be a lot of animosity floating around the blogworld lately. Most of this animosity seems to have a common root – simple misunderstandings. I think a lot of arguments can be avoided by simply taking a few things into account.
Perhaps those of you still engaging in the unproductive name-calling down in Mel's Christ could consider these and decide if the conversation is worth continuing (before I make the decision for you...)
Thanks to Bene Diction for the link)
As a Canadian I've been remiss in not mentioning Mike Weir, winner of the 2003 Masters Tournament!!
Mike received a huge ovation in Toronto Monday night where he dropped the puck before the Leafs game. Check out this edition of Coach's Corner for a clip (You'll have to watch the whole thing - it comes at the end.) For those of you who normally don't see Don & Ron, this is a Canadian institution!
Way to go, Mike!
This from Saying Three: Others from Rejesus:
Which of us knows what any of the rest of us is really thinking? We can barely read our own minds, let alone those of others. None of us can predict the significance of any of our moments. None of us knows the role we are playing in the invisible grand narrative.
Something to keep in mind today as you encounter others, and they encounter you.
In all the busy-ness of the weekend I almost missed the fact that yesterday was Palm Sunday. (As I write this Sue and the rest of our team have arrived in Frankfurt from Sofia, and in an hour will be taking off for Toronto, then on to Vancouver. Can't wait to see her!)
I won't spoil the surprise, but this morning's (#2) involves one of my "favorite" people in the Bible. I have a short list of biblical characters, most of whom we only see for a brief time and some of whom don't even speak, who never the less stand out for me. This man is one of them.
Apparently GWB's habit of placing God squarely in America's corner is getting the Europeans a little uptight.
German President Johannes Rau, a Protestant preacher's son who makes no secret of his own faith, reacted sharply on television to news reports that Bush apparently believed defeating Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was part of a divine plan.
"George Bush has got a completely one-sided message," Rau said. "I don't think a people gets a sign from God to liberate another people. Nowhere does the Bible call for crusades."
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, a vocal critic of the war, said before hostilities broke out last month that he saw Christian fundamentalism gaining sway in Washington and added: "That is, of course, a dangerous point of departure."
"I believe George Bush's religious views are genuine," Cardinal Karl Lehmann, head of the German Bishops' Conference, told the Catholic weekly Rheinischer Merkur. "But this careless way of using religious language is not acceptable anymore in today's world."
(Thanks to JJ for the link)
Things may be a little quiet around here for the next couple of days. I'll be downtown most of the weekend attending the Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada celebration weekend. One of their board members is close to our ministry as well so he's invited me to go as an opportunity to meet some people here in Vancouver. (I'm going to try and sneak home once over the weekend to check for eMails from our team in Bulgaria).
If you have a minute say a prayer for me. Over the last year or so I've become totally immersed in viewing my faith from a postmodern perspective. Pray that I leave my "pomo glasses" at the door and resist the temptation to sit back and "grade" everything I see on a postmodern scale. Instead, my prayer is that I am able to join in the celebration of what God has done through this excellent organization over the years, perhaps learn from where they want to take it in the future, and most importantly that I hear God speak.
I think He's trying to tell me something if I would just shut up and listen.
Have a great weekend.
My reading this morning followed closely on the heels of Galatians yesterday. I need to staple these verses to my forehead and constantly remind myself that they are not just words - they're instructions to be followed. (The parts in bold really jumped out at me at this time.)
Give Away Your Life
But it's trouble ahead if you think you have it made.
What you have is all you'll ever get.
And it's trouble ahead if you're satisfied with yourself.
Your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it's trouble ahead if you think life's all fun and games.
There's suffering to be met, and you're going to meet it.
"There's trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests--look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.
"To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
"Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that's charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.
"I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never--I promise--regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.
"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults--unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don't condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you'll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back--given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity."
He quoted a proverb: ""Can a blind man guide a blind man?' Wouldn't they both end up in the ditch? An apprentice doesn't lecture the master. The point is to be careful who you follow as your teacher.
"It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, "Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
We won - you lost, and let the retribution begin.
I don't have an explanation for it, but I can't stop listening to this song.
Perhaps its in response to all the "ugliness" that has seeped out of the whole pro and anti argument like so much puss out of a wound. I have a feeling Christ is not on either side of this issue - I think He sat this one out.
Can we get back to not living our lives, but living His now?
Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me
...couldn't resist. Forgive me.
UPDATE: There's some good Thomas Merton stuff on this site too, so I take it back. I'm not sorry!
I had several snarky comments ready, but I'm not going to bother. Look for yourself...
(Link from Andrew Jones)
This news hits close to home, as a couple members of our team currently in Bulgaria (including my wife Sue) spent time in Asia last fall. They came away with the impression that there was more freedom than some of the news reports indicated, so this is particularly disturbing.
They also had the opportunity to attend the "state-sanctioned" International Church in Beijing, which admits only foreign passport holders. Lets pray that this "crack in the armor" continues to widen. They reported that a few Chinese Nationals used their influence to attend the International Church "illegally".
Well, at least we (the Christian blog world) are not the only ones having problems getting along when it come to the issue of the war.
...He learned very quickly that when you talk about war, it's best to tread carefully because opposing views can divide families and friends.
But the conversations are important — otherwise, says sociologist Walter Podilchak, the "civility in conversation can become one of the casualties of war."
After the Toronto man sent out his e-mail, one of his American relatives replied with a snide commentary on Canada and its problems. In short, his relative wrote, America doesn't need you anyway. And furthermore: "We have effectively taken you out of our will."
The final word on the subject (maybe. I'll try. No promises) goes to my brother-in-law Allister, who posted a brilliant comment to What's Missing. On this subject Allister carries a lot of weight with me. He's reconciled his vocation as a police officer, and all the dangers, risks and possibilities of that job, with his membership in a church that holds to a doctrine of pacifism.
In any debate over any topic opinions, comments and beliefs can be all over the map. Whether we are Christ followers or not there will always be a variety of opinions.
In a series of discussions in a home church enviroment the topic of the war came up (it could have been any topic). It was obvious that people were struggling with their opinions and what they thought as Christians their opinion should be.
A consensus grew out of those discussions around a very simple concept. In human relations we tend to be very polarized. But in reality there is always a third option. The third option is looking at ourselves, our relationships with others and more importantly our relationship with our God.
So many things in this world are beyond our control. I don't know who frightens me more, peace activitists who use violence as a means to achieve peace or militarists who use violence in the guise of peacemaking.
The consensus was that we should care and pray for one another. Bitter debate makes us bitter. Nothing is more important than maintaining a relationship with our Lord and those around us.
Amen, Brother. I'm going with the third option.
FYI 250 posts ago I did a piece on Mel Gibson's upcoming movie on the last 12 hours of Christ's life. I'm fascinated to see that it is still getting comments. There has been some very interesting conversation going on there as well. - take a look.
... in case you missed them.
1. Laura, Robert and myself have a good conversation going in the comments section of Back Online. Anyone else care to enter in?
2. Somebody else comment on Hurt, please. I can't really explain it, but the video blew me away. Do you like it, hate it or just don't care? What about the crucifixion imagery - what does that say to you? How about the fact that the lyrics were written by a "non-Christian"? ( I know at least one person was a little indignant about that!) I was disappointed by Kid Rock and Cheryl Crow's introductions to the video here, although I guess I shouldn't be. They looked at it from a musician's viewpoint. Let's look at it from a Christ-follower's perspective.
3. Miscellaneous Trivia.
Today is April 8 and it's raining. We arrived in Vancouver on March 12 in the rain. It's rained (at least a little) every single day since we arrived. A lot of rain is expected at this time of year, but its consistency has even the locals a little jittery. Oh well, it sure beats what's falling out of the sky back in Toronto (and most of the country for that matter). This stuff goes right down the sewer - no shoveling required.
Oh yeah - I got my salad tossed this morning (haircut). First time since moving out here. This is one of those days I'm glad I don't have a web cam. Thought you should know, seeing as we're trying to build community and all.
With Josh's question from Lord, Lord still banging around in my head, I found these words particularly powerful this morning...
Work the Words into Your Life
"You don't get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It's who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.
"Why are you so polite with me, always saying "Yes, sir,' and "That's right, sir,' but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.
"If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss."
Mark is asking some great questions this morning. Here's one that struck me...
Where are the pastors willing to give their assumptions to God and then follow him on his terms?
I added a comment to the effect that he should use the word "disciples" instead of "pastors", as these are questions for anyone who wants to be an apprentice of Christ. Make sure you check out his whole list.
(Blogger's permalinks are out so look for the April 8 - Questions I'm asking myself today post.)
Over at Signposts Dan has written some great posts on blogging etiquette we should all review every once in a while:
Did you know there are robots that scan christian web sites to scoop up all the email addresses so they can sell the names? Thats why my email address does not appear in true form on this site anymore - i would advise you guys to do the same.
These Christian companies go to enormous lengths to track down believers and try to sell them something. WHY DONT THEY GO TO THE SAME LENGTH TO TELL PEOPLE GOD LOVES THEM? I wish more people had done that for me when i needed to hear it.
Preach it, Kiwi, Preach it!
(Link from Jordon)
With rain, with sun
With much, with less
With joy, with pain
With life, with death
The only things that satisfy come from You
They come from You
Everything that's beautiful
Everything that's wonderful
Every perfect gift comes from You
Your grace, Your heart
Your voice, Your touch
Your word, Your peace
Your hope, Your love
A thousand words could not explain
A thousand worlds could not contain
Every perfect gift comes from You
It comes from the Father of Lights
It comes from the Giver of Life
It comes from the Heavens above
It's coming straight from Your heart
To the people You love
The last few days I've noticed that the Sacred Gateway wasn't updating the prayer content daily. I'm not sure why that is, so I've added Sacred Space, which is the source for the Gateway, to the list.
This man is incredible. You could spend a lifetime analyzing this video.
(More here as well.)
BTW I had an eMail from Bulgaria this morning, so that's a relief.
"...Comments afterwards showed that the abuse is so deep, but also there are men who are realizing that they have not been the husband God called them to be and their hearts are searching for what He wants so they may love their wives more. They would love to have some Godly men here visiting to share how this works. So this is a consideration for another visit."
This week I need to work on a "purpose statement" for the ministry, as well as a job description for my position. Depending on how far I get, I may be coming to you good people for some help. I know what we do, but it's been difficult to put it into words. When it was just a group of people who shared the vision doing their thing (and paying their own way) it wasn't an issue. But now that we have charitable status and will be doing some fundraising it is critical that we clearly articulate our mission.
In a nutshell, this ministry started as a way to mobilize prayer around the world for suffering women. It is constantly evolving, and God seems to be directing us to focus at least some of our efforts on women who suffer abuse within the church, or even at the hands of the church. It's a global ministry, which includes right here. We certainly don't need to get on an airplane to find what we're talking about.
How does all this make you feel?
This post from Rachel brings a whole new meaning to the term "easter egg hunt"...
Lots on my mind tonight.
I haven't heard from Sue and the team in Bulgaria for two days. That doesn't really worry me (I'm lying) - they're on the move and no doubt somewhere without internet connections. Last year when they went we didn't hear from them for a whole week. Still... it would be nice.
This debate thing has got me troubled. Even in saying we shouldn't be getting angry... I'm getting angry. What's that all about?? I'm going to stick to my no you-know-what blogging fast for now.
Funny - I've had the book for almost 3 years. When I open the inside cover this is what I see:
August 1, 2000
To Sue & Mike:
Thanks for a great holiday!
This book will radically alter your Christian life - it should be read over and over.
Love, Dad & Mom
(It's kind of ironic. They gave us that book when they were visiting us the last time we lived in Vancouver! Now we're back and I'm reading it)
Anyway, that's what I want - a radically altered Christian Life.
I have no doubt I'm taking this post way out of context, but it really struck me in light of the "debating" - among Christians - that is going on in the blog world right now.
"A Roman Catholic nun representing herself against charges she and two other sisters allegedly defaced a missile silo tearfully told jurors that the peace protest was worthwhile, even if the nuns are jailed. Sisters Ardeth Platte, 66, Jackie Hudson, 68, and Carol Gilbert, 55, are accused of breaking into a Minuteman III missile silo site on Colorado's northeastern plains October 6, swinging hammers at it and painting a cross in their own blood on the structure." (see full article here)
Compare the nuns' pictures with this picture of Mother Teresa. Granted, there's difficulty in comparing the images because the nuns' pictures appear to be their mug shots (or especially bad DMV photos) and Mother Teresa's picture has been turned into a holy card (for which the publishers would naturally choose a flattering picture).
Still, is it just me or is there something missing from the nuns' photos? I can't say -- and would never say -- the light of Christ because, for all I know, these sisters may be personally holy, if misguided. Perhaps it's the joy of Christ that's missing. They simply look bitter. In her picture however, Mother Teresa -- despite years of suffering and grueling work in Third World conditions -- still radiates the joy of Christ. Had she been arrested for praying outside an abortion mill, I think even a mug shot could not have failed to capture the deep serenity and peace of spirit that is part of the joy of Christ.
And that may be the difference.
A couple of thoughts came to mind when I read that this morning. First, I don't think the picture of Mother Teresa really reflects what the writer is after either, but I know what she's saying. We can all see a picture of her (or others) in our mind that illustrates the "joy of Christ".
Secondly, and more to the point, I don't detect the joy of Christ in much of what I've been reading lately around the issue of war. Yes, I know that there is no joy in war. I assume everyone would at least be in agreement on that point. But it's more than that. I've seen some very graceful responses on both sides of the debate. But I've also seen cynical, sarcastic, even hateful comments and responses as well.
How can this be?
How can we do this and claim to be Christ followers? Certainly I have an opinion, but it shouldn't matter. I'm not asking how we can have such diverse opinions on the issue and claim to follow the same God (although that is a question that keeps me awake at night). What I'm asking is how can we argue about it among ourselves?
Somehow I don't think Christ is sitting there, watching like some moderator in a debate, waiting for us to figure it out and someone argue their point to a successful conclusion.
I don't think the debate should even be held.
To me, the Bible is clear. I must do to that intruder as I would hope he would do to me. Since I don't want him to kill me, I can not kill him. It's as simple (and unbelievably hard) as that. The Bible gives me no "out" from this. Christ commands I turn the other cheek, it's as simple (and unbelievably hard) as that. Once again the Bible gives me no "out" from this.
The question for me is this "Do I trust God enough to obey his commands even when my human mind is telling me to do something different?" For instance, the Bible does not say "DO to others as you would have them do to you... UNLESS they're about to hurt you or your family". The Apostles had to watch their Lord and Master be taken away to be murdered... and yet Jesus told them not to fight because His kingdom is not of this world (John 1)
Do we trust Him? When all our "common sense" says we can't walk on water, it's impossible, will we get out of the boat anyway? When our "common sense" says we can't cross the Red Sea! Will we walk into the water anyway? When our "common sense" says we can't allow ourselves to be thrown into a fiery furnace, we'll surely die! Will we willingly go in? When our "common sense" says rubbing a bunch of mud in our eyes isn't going to cure our blindness, will we rub the mud in anyway? When our "common sense" says we can't get blessed by giving our things away, will we give anyway? And when our "common sense" says I can't turn the other cheek and love this enemy who is now harming me and my family... will we do it anyway?
Will we trust Jesus? Will we OBEY Jesus? Or, will we tell Jesus that there are worldly circumstances that do not permit us to follow him? Will we tell Him the world is greater than Him, and He must not have taken OUR situation into consideration when he taught us these lessons.
It's hard, very hard. But Jesus never said following Him would be easy. However, even though it's hard (almost impossible really) it's also very clear. It's not up for debate. This is what Jesus taught... the question now is, will we follow or default back to our human way of thinking?
I visit John's blog everyday, but somehow I missed that one. Thanks to JJ for pointing it out.
There's been a couple recent additions to the blogroll and links section to the right.
I finally got around to adding Bene Diction who has been inspiring, particularly through his/her (?) comments around the blog world. And it was from Bene that I first heard about Who Links Who. It's a great way to discover new blogs to visit.
Under Links I've added Emergent, Emergent UK and The Ooze, just because I figure the more conversations, the better. As an added bonus I'll point out that Tony Jones has put up a lot of his Emergent 2003 material on Spiritual Disciplines on the Emergent Multimedia page .
You may recall that one of my impressions following Emergent was that I was missing out on the richness (and riches)of the disciplines, and I needed to change that. It was from Tony's presentation that I found Sacred Gateways, which I've added to A Daily Dose, and my morning routine. What a great exercise!
Josh has articulated something I've been on about for a while far clearer than I ever have:
I asked the question last night in a message, "Can Jesus be our saviour and not our Lord?"
I think, sadly, I know the answer to that one.
PS. It looks like his permalinks are out, so here's the whole post...
God has really been dealing with me about being "Lord" of our lives. I asked the question last night in a message, "Can Jesus be our saviour and not our Lord?" I believe in church today we've watered down having a radical relationship with Jesus. Jesus is to not only be savior but also our Lord. Lord basically means "supreme authority" in our lives. Jesus stated "Not every one who says, Lord, Lord will enter in to the kingdom of heaven but only those who do the will of the father. Yikes! He says in Luke 6, "Why do you call me Lord and do not what I say?" He goes on to say we must come to him, hear from him and do what he says and we will be like the man that the builds his house on the rock! Through my relationship with Him, I'm striving to make Him Lord in every area of my life. Is He Lord?
I've come across the writing of John Fischer before (primarily through the InDeed devotionals) and have always been challenged by him.
1. We admit that our single most unmitigated pleasure is to judge other people.
2. Have come to believe that our means of obtaining greatness is to make everyone lower than ourselves in our own mind.
3. Realize that we detest mercy being given to those who, unlike us, haven't worked for it and don't deserve it.
4. Have decided that we don't want to get what we deserve after all, and we don't want anyone else to either.
5. Will cease all attempts to apply teaching and rebuke to anyone but ourselves.
6. Are ready to have God remove all these defects of attitude and character.
7. Embrace the belief that we are, and will always be, experts at sinning.
8. Are looking closely at the lives of famous men and women of the Bible who turned out to be ordinary sinners like us.
9. Are seeking through prayer and meditation to make a conscious effort to consider others better than ourselves.
10. Embrace the state of astonishment as a permanent and glorious reality.
11. Choose to rid ourselves of any attitude that is not bathed in gratitude.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we will try to carry this message to others who think that Christians are better than everyone else.
A number of these hit close to home...
Oh yeah - that TV set is living on borrowed time.
Besides, we need the room.
(I have to choose my words carefully so as not to break my no you-know-what blogging fast...)
On a couple of occasions I've encouraged everyone to read Brian McLaren's A Sermon for President Bush. I think I've quoted from it a couple of times, but I'm not going to go hunting for it in my archives.
As a corollary to What is Peace...
Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
Once you have started seeing the beauty of life, ugliness starts disappearing. If you start looking at life with joy, sadness starts disappearing. You cannot have heaven and hell together, you can have only one. It is your choice.
If you'll indulge me I'd like to share an eMail with you from our team in Bulgaria that just arrived...
It has been another day where we started with a few snippets of what was going to happen but as we waited for God to unfold the day He revealed the appointments in His book of today.
This morning after we had gathered at the church for breakfast, we had our time to pray together and see what God wanted to share with us from His heart. John 4 - the woman at the well and the water of life, Luke 13 - the woman bent over who Jesus spotted and called out to and brought healing to. What did God want to share at the meeting in the evening at the church where women were going to be coming specifically to hear a message?
Last year at the church coffee shop many women had come and shared their struggles, some for the first time sharing stories of abuse. This year no announcement had been made about this gathering so we didn't know who God would bring or what would happen. Having the prayer journal in Bulgarian is such a wonderful gift for this trip. The lady who runs the coffee shop prepared us a wonderful lunch and while we were eating she picked up the prayer journal and then asked our translator, Mimi, if we would pray with her afterwards. Only last night, her husband, an alcoholic, had beaten her and she was desperate for prayer. While some sat outside chatting and praying, some remained inside to interceed for and with this beautiful young woman. The appointment at the coffee shop was specifically for her. Whether for a crowd or individuals, Jesus always knows what is right for that specific moment.
We returned to the church where Pastor Timotea had arranged for us to be part of the evening service. How could it be a time or worship and of healing, using the gifts of our team? Gwen spoke about the women in Luke 13 who was bent over for 18 years and of her seeing only the ground. Jesus could see her though and brought her out to be touched and set free. Donna is a wonderful artist and as Gwen was speaking, Donna drew the various stages for this woman - bent over, rising up, then standing straight in freedom! Then Pat shared her testimony and we could see how many women were affected by the story of hurt, then of healing and freedom in His amazing grace. Tonya then danced a blessing as the women of the church stood up to receive it. It never ceases to amaze me how worship, whether by song, dance or art, will be the keys to open doors of the heart locked for so long, and allow the pain to be released and Jesus to reach in and touch it.
The team is tired tonight but it has been a wonderful day. Praise God for His protection and His mercy to us all, and for the love that flows so freely, going beyond the language barriers. Petya and Mimi are wonderful translators and we continue to be blessed by having them on our team.
"If we don't know what peace is and practice it in our own lives how can we hope to bring it to our world?!"
He also claims that is his last war post. I think I'll join him in that self imposed exile.
So... now what do we talk about?
The world is an abnormal world. Because of the Fall, it is not what God meant it to be. There are many things in this world which grieve, but we must face them down. We never have the luxury of acting in a merely utopian way.
Utopian schemes in this fallen world have always brought tragedy. The Bible is never utopian. Authentically biblical morality, and not a non-Christian and romantic counterfeit, demands that people have our prayers - but not only our prayers.
From my own study of Scripture I would say that to refuse to do what I can for those who are under the power of oppressors is nothing less than the failure of Christian love. . . .
This is why I am not a pacifist. Pacifism in this poor fallen world in which we live - this lost world - means that we desert the people who need the greatest help.
I can't say as I agree, but it's thought provoking. There's something I can't quite put my finger on about his argument, something circular about discussing "pacifism in a fallen world" that just doesn't make sense to me.
Over at Sakamuyo 2.0 Kevin is talking my language...
I think a new church is rising. I don't think any of us know what it will ultimately look like. I think community will be a big aspect. But, unlike the current model, the new church will be about working within existing community, rather than creating its own community.
People in the old church are going to fight this. They are going to have all sorts of "biblical" reasons why this is all wrong. But, honestly, they are going to be fighting about issues of culture and tradition, not faith and truth. I will listen politely. I will even be happy to converse with those who actually want to dialogue.
But, I will not argue. I will turn my back on those who only want to argue and go about my life. I just don't have the time or energy for it any more. It's time to leave my abusers behind and go on with my life.
Now you're talking. I've been on that road, Kevin. It's not a lot of fun... at least not until you get to the turning point you've just articulated. Now, let the roller coaster ride begin!
My two major themes for the past couple of days have been intercession and TV/war stupidity. There may not be much variety here lately, but you must admit I'm going between some big extremes!
Anyway, my spies have been hard at work this morning (thanks Pete) and here is our latest finding:
Fox News, military reach deal on Rivera
Correspondent will leave Iraq rather than be expelled
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Fox News Channel executives and the Pentagon reached a deal Monday in which correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who raised the military's ire when he reported operational details, will leave Iraq voluntarily rather than be expelled, Pentagon officials told CNN.
Well, that's it. With Geraldo out of the picture I have absolutely no faith left in the integrity of reporting from Iraq.
Romans 8:27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (NIV)
Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (NIV)
And I love the way The Message puts these verses:
Romans 8:27 He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. (MSG)
Romans 8:34 Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us--who was raised to life for us!-is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. (MSG)
The Spirit is keeping my file at the top of God's inbox. Wait, you say. That's not necessarily a good thing! It's OK, because Christ is right next to Him "sticking up for us". Wow!
Do we need any more arguments than these to become intercessors-that Christ "always lives to make intercession" ( Hebrews 7:25 ), and that the Holy Spirit "makes intercession for the saints"? Are we living in such a relationship with others that we do the work of intercession as a result of being the children of God who are taught by His Spirit? We should take a look at our current circumstances. Do crises which affect us or others in our home, business, country, or elsewhere, seem to be crushing in on us? Are we being pushed out of the presence of God and left with no time for worship? If so, we must put a stop to such distractions and get into such a living relationship with God that our relationship with others is maintained through the work of intercession, where God works His miracles.
Beware of getting ahead of God by your very desire to do His will. We run ahead of Him in a thousand and one activities, becoming so burdened with people and problems that we don't worship God, and we fail to intercede. If a burden and its resulting pressure come upon us while we are not in an attitude of worship, it will only produce a hardness toward God and despair in our own souls. God continually introduces us to people in whom we have no interest, and unless we are worshiping God the natural tendency is to be heartless toward them. We give them a quick verse of Scripture, like jabbing them with a spear, or leave them with a hurried, uncaring word of counsel before we go. A heartless Christian must be a terrible grief to our Lord.
Are our lives in the proper place so that we may participate in the intercession of our Lord and the Holy Spirit?
That part about God introducing us to people we're not all that interested in really hit home. How many times have I dropped the ball and failed to engage with people I encounter because I've been "too busy being in God's service"? Maybe that person was my service for the day, for the month, or for my lifetime.
Lord - help me to see the people you bring me in contact with as my focus, as opposed to roadblocks to what I think should be my focus. Amen
Now I'm an intercontinental clock-watcher.
(Keeping tabs on our team in Bulgaria)
Oh yeah, this makes me feel much better about stuff...
Battlefield Is A Showcase for Defense Firms
Arms Exporters Could Thrive On Televised Success in Iraq
When the war in Iraq winds down, the U.S. defense industry is likely to launch a major new offensive to sell its battlefield-tested weapons to countries around the world.
If the weapons systems perform in Iraq as Pentagon officials envision -- with power and precision -- then significant commercial benefits probably would follow, industry analysts say. Overseas buyers are expected to have their sights primarily on inexpensive, satellite-guided weapons rather than high-priced tanks and jets, because they've already bought about as many of those systems as they can afford.
The new weapons are being featured in nonstop television coverage, providing the kind of publicity that helped fuel a surge in international arms sales after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.