Monday, August 31, 2009

Genesii and "oui"

Whether you believe Genesis was written completely by Moses, compiled of many sources by Moses, or simply put together by a few different authors during the time of Moses; some interesting things can come from noticing the dividing lines that have been drawn.

The dividing lines of "Creation Accounts" seem to be Genesis 1:1-2:4a, and Genesis 2:4b-3:24. Skeptics have often used this accounts to try and "disprove" certain things, or point out there are discrepancies in the Bible, etc. But recently reading through Caputo's book, he points out something much more calling.

The first creation account includes God creating something (although perhaps not ex nihilo, according to Caputo - which includes a beautiful move from metaphysical debates to a focus on God creating LIFE. Which is a good move to make I think, even if you have to stand firmly on nihilo.) each day, and ultimately making a powerful declaration. He makes his declaration firmly after each step of the process, and ultimately over all things that have been made.

What does God proclaim? "it IS Good."
Or as others have put it - "Yes, YES"

It is the SECOND creation account where Adam and Eve lead all humanity down a path undesirable. But Caputo points out that this is only AFTER God has already put his stamp/proclamation of "it is Good/YES" on all things He has created. Perhaps there is a message in these two creation accounts being placed in the order they are in. There is an incredible emphasis possible here. What does this mean?

Our ability to mess things up is NOT an ability to take away from what God has already proclaimed is our design, and our future. We are, in a sense, writing our stories onto an ancient parchment onto which God has already plastered His giant and irrevocable "YES" in giant letters, although humbly allowing our letters to be seen on the page. I will end with a quote from page 91 of "Weakness of God":

"The yes to life that Elohim sprawls across the space of history, as on a great map in which the letters go unnoticed, the yes that echoes across the ages, is at the same time a vast and resonant no directed against hopelessness and meaningless suffering."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

here's what happened...

So I'm standing there at the check-out counter. I hear the woman buying something in the line next to me say she's from Michigan, and for some reason I think anyone from Michigan might be someone I know. "I'm from Michigan too!" I say, excited. She gives me a very odd look, and walks away.

I hand the man my license without even thinking. He doesn't realize either, and tries to swipe the card. We both recognize the mistake, and I give him the credit card instead. I can't believe it costs over $1,000 to take some hockey lessons, and skate/shoot around a bit each morning. Ah well.

So the first class starts immediately. We have to walk down this ridiculously long hallway to get there. (which is kinda hard to do when you've put your skates on already, like an ambitious idiot)

Some others arrive while we've begun our skatin' around time. Getting the feel for the ice. Pretending I've got a puck on my stick. Trying to impress the old guys. Someone dumps a few pucks on the ice, and we all begin practicing weaving between invisible players. I lose control of the puck a couple times, but for the most part I was in rare form.

Finally, we all gather as one of the oldest guys there starts to tell us stories about his old "hockey days". We line up, and there are window panes in front of us. The warm-up? Shoot the puck. Break some glass. We watched down the line as others began their turns.

I looked up to see the person standing right next to me prepare for his shot. He looked nervous. "Poor guy", I thought to myself. Everyone is watching him. He makes a soft putting motion like he's on the green, a few feet from the hole. The puck glides slowly across the ice and barely taps the bottom of the window. He puts his head down, obviously feeling defeated.

I took a quick slap shot, smashing my window pane to bits before skating away towards the next exercise.

As I brushed my teeth this morning, I thought it was great that even my sub-conscious makes fun of Sidney Crosby. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fearless

Popular books and authors generally cause me to be a bit cynical. Even by authors whose works I've enjoyed in the past. But even more so, when they plan on rolling out a new book in more than one language, along with gift book and condensed versions, video curriculum, a worship album, and all the advertising that says "we know this will be a smash hit, and make us much more money than we're spending on all this advertising". Of course, in their minds they probably think "this book could be used by God in many lives, so let's get it out there in as many ways as possible!". Who knows.But after finishing Max Lucado's newest book "Fearless", I would have to say it's worth picking up. The advertising itself speaks the truth. We live in a world and a culture where fear is everywhere. It's used to entertain. It's used to prod people into action. It's byproduct of worry is used to bait and hook us into drooling over news for the latest updates on any given story. But it's also just happening on it's own. We live in a world where economies become unbalanced, along with everything latched to them. Uncertainty about ourselves, our futures, etc.

It can be a prison.

In Lucado's book, he confronts some of the most common fears chapter by chapter. It's not a deep theological discourse with exegesis to back it up. It's quite an easy, and fast read. But I would recommend taking your time, especially when reading the chapter that contains the fear you most identify with.

For me? It was chapter five. The fear of not protecting my kids. I'm a pretty laid back guy, and have had a lot of practice in giving issues/fears/unknowns to God. I've grown because of it. But I admit, the one thing in my life that tempts me back into worry on occasion is my ability to provide for, protect, and otherwise meet the needs of my family. Or the fact that even with all my efforts, something could spontaneously happen to any of them, and the loss or damage would tear me apart.

Do I dwell on this? Nope. Am I imprisoned by it? Nope. But his words in this, and many of the other chapters are great reminders that we must consciously and resolutely stand in the name of Christ against unhealthy fears and responses to them.

You may even find, as I did....that there are aspects of many of the other fears I didn't even realize until reading it have been impacting my life. Even in slight ways. This book offers to be a breath of fresh air, and a reminder to be living without fear - which may make us look quite odd as the body of Christ in today's world. That's probably a good thing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Less.

This past Saturday we had a few hours in the evening open, and wanted to do something different as a family. No television. No pile of princess toys. Not even dressing up and dancing to the Cinderella soundtrack. But also - free.

So we went to the park. A couple blankets, a few books for the girls, a few crackers and a drink. We were a little worried as parents, I'll admit. Are we bringing enough for our daughters to be entertained?

Would we set out the blanket, get all prepared for a time of relaxation, and all of a sudden have a three year old with a tantrum, a 1.5 year old that wants 100% of our attention, and a 12 week old that wants to eat?

For a bit of reinforcements, we brought Aunt Mary with us...and set out.

Sure enough, we found a perfect spot. Large grassy field in a quiet area of the park. We set the blankets out, and the girls who could walk immediately set out to explore the grasses around us. It went great. We had a 3 year old proving how fast she could run, and how far she could go. A 1.5 year old who felt the grass was just as comfortable as any carpet- and great to explore.
Sure, our 12 week old wanted to be held a bit...but we were capable. :)

(picture taken with a cell phone - awesome, eh?)

Simple. Free. Easy.
And ended up making Addie's "favorite part of the day" that night. :)


Less is more.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dostoevsky = More than Inquisitive.

Move over McLaren. Look out Derek Webb. Make room Mr. Barna. Heads up Campolo. Check it out Tony Jones.

You've probably noticed it's popular to be critical of the bride of Christ these days. Some do it well, and lead towards encouragement, growth, and maturity. Some have helped us make great steps towards doing "church" better as the Church. And then...some have just simply slammed the church, and left her beaten in the street....convinced she can't possibly be the Church.

As it turns out, those doing it currently are echoing sentiments that have been out there for quite sometime. As I mentioned recently, I read "The Grand Inquisitor" last week. As a standalone section in the book, I can understand why people think it's important. It is quite deep, and can be read over and over again, and lead to some very helpful prayers.

But over the weekend, I continued reading finally. I have to say, I'm disappointed. Disappointed that "The Grand Inquisitor" got all the hype, most likely due to the same reason it's becoming a fad to diss the church still today. The section immediately following is quite a few pages dedicated to the great monk in the story, Zosima. These pages contain very challenging/encouraging words, and sentences that can pack a lot of seeds for growth. If I had to choose a section of "The Brothers Karamazov" that I could read over and over again, it'd be those pages for sure. I'll leave you with a brief example:

"He accumulates wealth in solitude, thinking: how strong, how secure I am now; and does not see, madman as he is, that the more he accumulates, the more he sinks into suicidal impotence. For he is accustomed to relying only on himself, he has separated his unit from the whole, he has accustomed his soul to not believing in people's help, in people or mankind, and now only trembles lest his money and his acquired privileges perish." Page 303, Brothers Karamazov

"Be glad as children, as birds in the sky. And let man's sin not disturb you in your efforts....do not say, "Sin is strong, impiety is strong, the bad environment is strong, and we are lonely and powerless...Flee from such despondency, my children!" Page 320, Brothers Karamazov

Monday, August 17, 2009

The language of church....

There are some who attend churches worldwide, who hesitate to become "members" of that church or denomination.

The word "Member", often carries its own connotations of exclusiveness. About being "in", and others being "out". We grow up knowing about various types of clubs and organizations. About the perks of becoming a "member". About the down side to "not taking advantage of this offer", etc.

In regards to churches, there's also some confusion between becoming a "member" of the church, and becoming a "member" of the body of Christ. We know these are not the same thing.

Just recently, the Free Methodist denomination made a decent step in a direction of grace/community. "Language isn't that important" - some might say. "That's not why I haven't become a member yet...that's a trivial issue." Maybe to some. But to others, it communicates quite a bit.

A resolution recently adopted that hasn't gotten a whole lot of play, says that:

"in some settings the terms member and membership are unhelpful and can create confusion. In such situations we encourage churches to use the terms partner/partnership as alternatives."

This is not only helpful for those who have hesitated to take on the title of "member". This also offers a new understanding of who we are within the denomination also. We are not just members of an organization that offers us special rights and privileges. We are partners in the important and eternal work of the Kingdom of God. We come along-side each other, and alongside God in what God is already accomplishing...for all creation.

We, as partners with the same Christ-centered things in mind, commit to each other and to God in a covenant partnership that goes beyond what any denomination "allows or doesn't allow". But within that covenant partnership, we offer a denominational partnership of understanding and following that covenant together. Not for our sake, but for the sake of what God is already doing and desiring to be involved in it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Time Travelers Wife

A few years back, I accidentally read a girly book. It talked about time travel, etc...and was very well written to the point that I was hooked, even through the girly scenes.

And just a second to justify myself. I say "girly", because it's not often you see a guy willingly pick up a "romance book". But I wouldn't consider this a "romance" story like so many you often see.

There is more than romance here. There is love. The Love of a husband and a wife. A Love that is built on, and lived in, years and years of foundation. A relationship that is forced to go well beyond the "eros" love that you find in so many romances these days. To deal with suffering, to be forced to talk in ways that stretch each other, and situations that cut straight to the heart of the relationship.

How would you respond, if somehow uncontrollably, you were transported to a scene with your spouse as a 7 year old child? You love that person an incredible amount, but don't want to freak out this young child. What do you say? How do you communicate love?

How would life become intricately connected through that relationship if you were simultaneously building a relationship with that new spouse, and with them as a child at the same time; scene after scene?

It's a very creative idea for a story. The movie is rated PG-13, and I recommend it. The book is very well written also, and explains a lot more (and more importantly - gives more time to respond to the significant emotions present throughout the story); but has some more inappropriate scenes.

As a married person leaving the movie with your spouse, you will be very thankful for the opportunity we have daily to be fully "present" with each other. May we be thankful for each moment we have together, and breathe more slowly the breaths we're able to take.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Братья Карамазовы

So I've been reading the section of "The Brothers Karamazov" famously known as the "Grand Inquisitor". I'd often heard of this book, and this section, but had never read it. Until last year, I read "Crime and Punishment", and realized it was the same author, which made me want to give it a shot.

The book itself is a pretty good, although slow/full read. You know how through an entire day you have a TON of thoughts that actually go through your mind? Well, Dostoyevsky is pretty good at actually fabricating every one of those thoughts for an entire range of characters, and delivering them well. Once you figure out that for some reason, every character is referred to by more than one name...which is a bit confusing at first. :)

In "The Grand Inquisitor", it's a poem written by a Karamazov where Jesus has returned around 1500 AD just to check things out. It's during the Spanish Inquisition. He was captured, and ends up being locked up and questioned by a Cardinal of the Catholic church. The conversation goes all over, but focuses on Jesus' interaction in the wilderness and the three temptations....and what actually occurs when Jesus rebukes satan in each instance, as opposed to accepting the offer.

It turns out to be incredibly appropriate fodder for the thinking Caputo's book has been allowing me to chew on. In particular, focusing on Jesus not as powerful Lord over a New Creation Kingdom that somehow "trumps" what is currently....but rather subverts many of the things we try and latch onto it. In response to all of the accusations of the Cardinal, Jesus gives the response of a simple kiss. No defense. No argument to make sense of it all. No miraculous proof of how it's all justified, etc.

I know people spend a ridiculous amount of time reading/thinking/writing about all of this. So I won't summarize/say much more than I have. As it stands I've probably already offended someone who thinks I've completely butchered it all. But word. I have enjoyed/will continue to enjoy finishing the book. Good stuff.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ignoring the Issues

If you're like me, the media over the past few months has focused on so much ridiculous stuff; that even when you're watching it....you're probably not actually watching it. From Michael Jackson's last hours alive, to John or Kate Plus 8, to the endless other stories they play up to make us drool for more drama; it doesn't take long to forget you're watching actual news, and not entertainment.

Because of this, many of us are missing out on the issue of Healthcare Reform. Not because the news isn't talking about it....they certainly throw a few dramatic stories out there to bait us. But it gets lost in the rest of the drama. And not because we haven't heard about it - we've probably all gotten a few forwards from well meaning people warning us that Obama wants to let old people "just die", and is going to use tax-payers money to fund abortions (both WAY false, of course).

So where is a source of information we can go to that talks about Healthcare Reform?

Here are a couple you may find helpful:

1. Cover All Families - Faith-based group dedicated to informing people on facts and truths involved. Why should health care be reformed? What's being proposed? Etc. They have a few printable resources that you can use to read yourself, share with others, or discuss with your small group.

2. FactCheck.org - A general "fact-checking" website for all things related to current politics. It's deep in resources/articles/information right now concerning these health care concerns. Check the "Wire" for the most recent updates.

3. Politifact - Another general "fact-checking" website. This one focuses on accountability and honesty in statements/promises made. They even use little graphics that are pretty easy to understand/grasp at a quick glance, as well as link to other places/previous statements and promises made.

4. Your Local Newspaper - It's interesting to see the range of issues covered, and how the current state of healthcare is impacting our own communities. You'll notice that in our local newspaper, they ran this article, and this article in the same week. I give a lot more credit to the doctor in one of those articles - you decide which one. :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Decatur

An update from the "ONE VOICE" Luncheon yesterday...which I recommend to anyone in ministry around the city. Awesome free food, and you get a chance to sit down with others in ministry, school board members, school faculty and district leadership, principals, vice principals, and our Superintendent.

Here are some encouraging stats from Decatur Public Schools:

- Our drop out rate has decreased to 1.6%

- Our graduation rate has increased to 87.7%

- We've changed bus transportation providers to "First Student", a company very committed to on-time service and strong community involvement/interaction.

- Members of "One Voice" Clergy (even the Pastor of the Universalist Unitarian Church, in case Hemant reads this) who have received a badge are permitted to enter schools, walk the halls, visit lunch times, and even attend a class with a student at any Decatur Public School!!!


I also had a meeting as a member of the Decatur Parking and Traffic Commission. A few locations for proposed "STOP" signs were discussed, as well as overall updates on the city/budget. Some things I learned:

- Placing a "STOP" sign, or any other sign really, costs the city around $200.

- These signs have a life span of approximately 7 yrs.

- Placing too many of them can cost a lot of money to replace every 7 years, as well as reduce how often people take them seriously. They must be warranted due to visibility issues, high traffic volume (attempt to keep accidents below 1.5 accidents per million vehicles entering an intersection), or other safety concerns.

- The word "fiduciary" can be used in some conversations.

- The city has over $400,000 in traffic/parking violation fines (here are a few) still outstanding that we have not collected yet. They are going to step up on their methods of collecting, before paying a large amount to find out if we should raise parking rates yet. Makes sense. :)

I enjoy participating as a citizen/father/youth pastor/etc. Thanks Decatur.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dare We Still Hope?

From the blog of Free Methodist Bishop David Kendall:


"I’ve been urging our churches to join Paul and Jesus in praying for the church’s sanctification (see 1 Thess. 5:23 and John 17:17-19), praying that the church would be utterly God’s to do with as God pleases, to use however God chooses, and to participate in God’s ongoing mission to reclaim and renew the whole of creation. We’re way beyond church survival and even beyond church growth—we’re after the most comprehensive renovation of the whole of reality. Nothing short of all God plans will do, if we have anything to say about it.


Here’s the problem, however. Much of the church has been hijacked by the culture. This is not a new phenomenon nor is it a stroke of genius to observe it. It is a recurring problem. Predictably the cultures of this world have deconstructed the gospel, the good news of Jesus and His kingdom, and then put the gospel back to together again in ways that fit or even enhance the culture. For example, in our country people have harbored hopes of an American Dream—a vision of a kind of life that enjoys prosperity and peace. For many generations this dream has exercised enormous influence. So much so, that the gospel is often seen as a means to realizing this dream. To put it way too simply, the dream has deconstructed the good news and put it together again so that accepting Jesus represents a fast track to realizing the dream. Come to Jesus, join the church, be a good boy or girl, and God will bless you and the blessing will look like this dream-come-true.


When the culture stalls and the dream shatters, however, the gospel that was tweaked to accommodate this dream no longer seems adequate. Followers of Jesus, on their way to the dream-come-true, suddenly realize that it’s not happening for them and nervously wonder about where Jesus is taking them. There’s a lot of this going on just now. Huge institutions once thought invulnerable now seem on shaky ground. The economy no longer seems a safe harbor. Many are wondering how life can continue or ever be good again, if things keep going on as they are. Hand wringing is common, sometimes even in the church.


But when God owns us as church, when the church is utterly at his disposal, when there is nothing to lose because it’s all been surrendered for his use, when the good news of Jesus once again asserts itself against the bad news of our world, the good news deconstructs the culture, and helps us shape a life free of that culture’s illusions and idolatries so life goes on but in ways fully compatible with the kingdom Jesus declared and demonstrated. If God were to foreclose on all our false hopes and assume sole proprietorship of the church, the good news would show us how to live even in a world that is passing away.


This is how it was when the church first came to be. Followers of Jesus showed their world that life did not require the gods venerated by their contemporaries. “The way it has always been” was shown to be a lie. In fact, it hadn’t always been that way, and it could be another way that was better. And followers of Jesus were often in the lead showing that better way.


Not long ago in the country of Peru mountain farmers stood up against the drug lords that owned most of the land around them. They had convinced everyone that the land could only grow coca plants, from which cocaine was made. It had always been that way, and it had to be that way for the people to survive. Of course this was a lie, but everyone believed the lie. Everyone, that is, until a Christ-follower refused to use his land in that way and started to plant other crops. Now, everyone knows that the land will produce many crops, most of which can be eaten and directly benefit the village. Christ-followers exposed the lies that had kept people from possible blessing, and led them to a different and better life.


If the Christ-followers who are church courageously follow Christ in these days, dare we believe that once again lies about “the only way life can be good” will be exposed? Dare we trust that if Christ has us wholly at his disposal, we may become agents of blessing and recreation to a world that thinks it’s falling apart? Dare we still hope?"

Monday, August 10, 2009

eternal security?

I don't get it. Even if you believe it...why emphasize it so much? Of course, perhaps it was one thing the pastor said, and it was taken way too out of context. That can certainly happen.

We all heard about the man in Pennsylvania this past week. He was teased by women his whole life, and apparently had a chip on his shoulder for many reasons that he blogged about. But there is some new insight offered in this article about the church he used to attend.

A quote from the killers' own blog said about the pastor of that church: "This guy teaches (and convinced me) you can commit mass murder, then still go to heaven."

Here's a quote from the article:

"We believe in permanent security — once saved, always saved," Rickard said. "He will be judged, but he will be in heaven. ... He'll be in heaven, but he won't have any rewards because he did evil."

Wow. Remember, that's a public statement from someone who is a LEADER in a church RIGHT NOW. Not some crazy, off the wall, long ago statement. He's a Deacon at the "Telestai Church" (from Greek, meaning "it is finished") in Pennsylvania. This church is a great testimony to why I believe strongly in being a member of (even imperfect) a denomination. It's scary to think of how many well-meaning groups of Christians have become cults like this...very far from the Truth communicated in Scripture.

The problem is, even among the main evangelical churches, probably even among the congregations at your church and my own - there are plenty of us seeking Christ with some sort of "Kingdom-economy-based" reward beyond whatever God has in store for all humanity. (not Christianity, as Jesus was about) The line of thinking that brings up thoughts like "another jewel in my crown", or "a larger mansion", or even "special powers or blessing (that I can somehow earn)".

May we recognize that there's just as much wrong with both mindsets:

"I can do whatever I want, and still get into Heaven."

"Sure, he's probably in Heaven, but not getting as (many rewards/good experience/etc.) because of how he lived. That's why I'm living better than he did."

The Kingdom of God is not simply a "new economy" that operates on God's terms.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

John Wesley on "Dress"

From Sermon #88 "On Dress" (just for fun)

9. The question is, What harm does it do, to adorn ourselves with gold, or pearls, or costly array, suppose you can afford it; that is, suppose it does not hurt or impoverish your family? The first harm it does, is, it engenders pride, and, where it is already, increases it. Whoever narrowly observes what passes in his own heart will easily discern this. Nothing is more natural than to think ourselves better because we are dressed in better clothes; and it is scarce possible for a man to wear costly apparel, without, in some measure, valuing himself upon it. One of the old Heathens was so well apprized of this, that, when he had a spite to a poor man, and had a mind to turn his head, he made him a present of a suit of fine clothes.

Eutrapelus, cuicunque nocere voiebat,
Vestimenta dabat pretiosa.

[The following is Boscawen's translation of this quotation from Horace: --

Eutrapelus, whome'er he chose
To ruin, deck'd in costly clothes."
-- EDIT.]

He could not then but imagine himself to be as much better as he was finer than his neighbour. And how many thousands, not only lords and gentlemen, in England, but honest tradesmen, argue the same way! Inferring the superior value of their persons from the value of their clothes!

10. "But may not one man be as proud, though clad in sackcloth, as another is, though clad in cloth of gold?" As this argument meets us at every turn, and is supposed to be unanswerable, it will be worth while to answer it once for all, and to show the utter emptiness of it. "May not, then, one clad in sackcloth," you ask, "be as proud as he that is clad in cloth of gold?" I answer, Certainly he may: I suppose no one doubts of it. And what inference can you draw from this? Take a parallel case. One man that drinks a cup of wholesome wine, may be as sick as another that drinks poison: But does this prove that the poison has no more tendency to hurt a man than the wine? Or does it excuse any man for taking what has a natural tendency to make him sick? Now, to apply: Experience shows that fine clothes have a natural tendency to make a man sick of pride; plain clothes have not. Although it is true, you may be sick of pride in these also, yet they have no natural tendency either to cause or increase this sickness. Therefore, all that desire to be clothed with humility, abstain from that poison.

11. Secondly. The wearing gay or costly apparel naturally tends to breed and to increase vanity. By vanity I here mean, the love and desire of being admired and praised. Every one of you that is fond of dress has a witness of this in your own bosom. Whether you will confess it before man or no, you are convinced of this before God. You know in your hearts, it is with a view to be admired that you thus adorn yourselves; and that you would not be at the pains were none to see you but God and his holy angels. Now, the more you indulge this foolish desire, the more it grows upon you. You have vanity enough by nature; but by thus indulging it, you increase it a hundred-fold. O stop! Aim at pleasing God alone, and all these ornaments will drop off.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Holiness as Happiness

This morning during my YMCA workout (where I lifted over 10,000 lbs....woot), I was listening to an old sermon. It was a "Hypothesis of Holiness as Happiness". The preacher was speaking about how John Wesley often connected the aspect of Holiness with "happiness".

This is not a "happiness" as often referred to as an excuse for whatever you want found in the Declaration of Independence as our unalienable right to pursue. This is a happiness that goes much deeper. A person who is happy, lives a grateful life. Takes pause often to purposefully "be" grateful for the day passed, or day ahead, or moment we find ourselves in.

I recognize that in reading a ridiculous amount of books, studying for youth lessons coming up this fall, and trying to be husband to my wife, and father of three - I don't naturally pause and be thankful for all that my life contains, and all my life is heading towards.

So this weekend particularly....even with the busyness of family in town, celebrating my daughters 3rd birthday, dedication of my youngest, enjoying our new senior Pastor being in town, and the Decatur Celebration.......

I will breathe slowly. I will be thankful for the moments. I will be grateful for each smile, each tear dried, each spit up cleaned or diaper changed. I want to live a grateful, and happy life. Not because by "being happy" I somehow attain "holiness"....but because I've been reminded that they are very closely related...and desire both in my life.

Thanks to the random mp3 while I worked out. And perhaps also...Jesus. :)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Crucified Jesus as true weakness, not "power in check"?

"The power of God is not pagan violence, brute power, or vulgar magic; it is the power of powerlessness, the power of the call, the power of protest that rises up from innocent suffering and calls out against it, the power that says NO to unjust suffering, and finally, the power to suffer-with (sym-pathos) innocent suffering, which is perhaps the central Christian symbol." Caputo - The Weakness of God

Caputo brings up an interesting topic, one that I've not given much thought (though I remember it being thought of briefly in college, under the topic of "trying to get a good grade in theology, and not doing well"). The question is this:

When we look at Jesus hanging on the cross, do we see a God-man holding back his infinite power and ability to call "ten thousand angels" to save him from the situation?

Was Jesus really nailed/bound/held to the cross by nails? Or was it his devotion and love for humanity in that moment that made Him refrain from unleashing some sort of powerful Kingdom to kick Roman butt?

Or perhaps something else?

"..Jesus was being crucified, not holding back; he was nailed there and being executed very much against his will and the will of God. And he never heard of Christianity's novel idea that he was redeeming the world with his blood. His approach to evil was forgiveness, not paying off a debt due the Father, or the devil, with suffering or with anything else. His suffering was not a coin of the realm in the economy of the kingdom. The kingdom is not an economy, and God is not in attendance at this scene as an accountant of divine debts or as a higher power watching the whole thing from up there and freely holding in check his infinite power to intervene....if not power now, then power later, when we can really get even with those hateful Romans." - Caputo

Challenging stuff.

But I like a bit of this. We don't hear it very often. I can see why this would go well balanced with NT Wright's writings. That all of the talk about "new creation", and "new life" is not about being "empowered" to live somehow "above" the older ways/things. Not about getting some new super-human strength to back us up as we live now and forever.

But perhaps it's more about aligning ourselves with the letting go of power. The proclaiming of "no" against persecution, violence, and victimization...along side of God. A new life made possible by a God who transcends being itself...and a Spirit who calls strongly to all of "being" more than he transforms us from man to He-man.

So much more to read. :)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

1 Peter 2:2

"Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation."

I memorized this verse back in high school. But never really gave it much thought. "Grow up in my salvation?" I was saved, wasn't I? I said the prayer that talked about asking Jesus into my heart. Bible says that covers me, right? Done deal.

Then life/college/post-college hit. Turns out, this salvation and all that God desires/is/is doing is something quite a bit larger than simply "coming into my heart". Overwhelmingly so. But not overwhelming in the tidal wave of death that's about to swallow an entire village. Overwhelming in the sense of a tidal wave of new life (that may included death) that's about to swallow all of creation.

Pretty cool stuff.

There's also the aspect of craving something like a newborn baby. We've all seen them. Even as a student in school I could understand this concept. But to actually be the parent of several newborn babies, who all naturally CRAVE milk. To see as they've been unsuccessfully attempted to satisfy by bottles, or pacifiers, etc.

I also pray that I do crave PURE spiritual milk. Not watered down. Not easier to swallow because it's been processed and rid of certain nutrients. It's a good craving to practice, and there is plenty of time and spiritual milk out there to be satisfied, and yet continue to crave....

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Weakness of God

"Suppose our thought of God is not domesticated by Sunday sermons by His Reverence or co-opted by ecstatic visions of a great military show of arms in a massive square, visions of the super eminent power of the supreme creator of heaven and earth, of the hyper-eminence of the arche?...

..Suppose that we reverse these gears and thrust theology in the direction of weakness and the disavowal of power?" John Caputo - The Weakness of God

We don't have to talk for very long to see the influences he's calling out here. Or the benefit of emphasizing God's connection (not out of pity, or even sense of religious duty) with the marginalized and powerless of the world. Perhaps we've clung to, and over sold God's nature of...well...what we would say "being God". For many of us, that means things like "all-powerful", and "over all things" (able to control, exert His Lordship, etc. etc...) Of course, with all of that in mind, it's easy for us to swear our undying allegiance to Him. As the bumper sticker reminds us..."we win".

But what about swearing our allegiance to the God of the weak? Not that God lacks in anything, but that God is so beyond needing to trump any "power" or "prove" Godself in any way that we could think of. That the real power behind God is not in winning some sort of triumphal "end times battle" where God and Darkness duke it out in a ring (located somewhere near Armageddon, right?) But the triumph comes in revelation of Truth. Darkness was/is powerless from the beginning.

That can certainly offer us freedom for how we exist even now.
As individuals. As a church. As the Church.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

personal pictures allowed publicly?

I saw this story on CNN the other day. The reporter was very adamant about how this is just a small example of why it's a horrible idea to post pictures of your own personal family on a blog accessible to the public. Her attitude and expressions during her story seemed like she was proud for having conclusively convinced the general public to never be so stupid and naive again.

I agree that this would be freaky to find out. I'd probably be a bit upset, and want to expose the fraud. But I'm not sure I'd be offended as much. (easy to say, since it didn't happen to me)

This is a topic my own mother and I have gone back and forth on, for different reasons. Is it okay/safe to post personal pictures of my children on the internet where they can be accessed by anyone who wants?

I would say sure. I love my kids. I'm stinkin' proud of them, and I think they're cuter than yours. So I'm gonna show 'em off, whether it's a pretty new dress or whether it's a peanut butter smear across their face. I don't want the older people from my church, or communities I've been involved in the past to have to become a "member" or figure out some internet routine to have to "access" my family that they are loving and praying for. And honestly, I know that the world needs to see more pictures like the ones my children are capable of generating. Such pictures can brighten a day for sure.

Does that mean someone could steal their picture, and pretend they're a child from Europe seeking adoption in a foreign country? I guess.

Does that mean (and I confess, this one disturbs me a bit) that some creepy old man who likes to look at pictures of little girls could view my family? Yes, unfortunately.

Does it mean that some crazed maniac could make paper dolls and tape my daughters faces to them, pretending their real - and even get updated pictures so that the dolls seem to "grow up"? Yah. I suppose someone could.

To that, someone who does/has been offended in these regards would say "you'll care if it happens to you, and I hope it doesn't for your sake". They're probably right.

Still, I love sharing my pictures publicly, and hope for the best.

Is it still naivety if you understand/acknowledge the risks involved, and yet continue to move forward...or simple stupidity?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Small Relationships

(the number of them in our lives, not the size or quality of them)