Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Apologetics Vs. Action


When i first started studying theology i became enamored by apologetics! Yes, rational argument for the existence of God and the logical (and thereby) rationale for embracing Christianity. i wanted to study and teach apologetics because i felt the surest way to convince others that Christianity was true was through reasoning.

Unfortunately i came to realize that apologetics is filled with a lot of opinionetics, and like the best politicians, the speeches are most persuasive not so much because of the truth of what is said, but because of what is left out. The Proverbs warn us of this, saying "One person's story seems right, until another comes along and questions him."

Apologetics was the attempt at using modernist rationale to destroy modernist rationale. It was an incredibly entertaining fight, but basically equivalent to shadow boxing.

Scott Bader-Saye describes apologetics as "the attempt to prove Christianity to modern skeptics, over witness, the attempt to live in such a way that God's true story becomes visible and attractive to the world."

i am of the opinion that while apologetics has its place, strong dependence upon it leads to arrogance. We begin to entertain ourselves by the thought that we are smart and others stupid. Our acrobatic arguments begin to look like 'common sense' to us though we ourselves can't truly bend our minds to it.

i believe character witness is the only truly effective tool we have. Yet this demands that we truly become more like Christ, which is no easy matter. Perhaps this is why the appeal of rational argument seems so appealing.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Advent Week 1 2010


Isaiah 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:




2 In the last days
the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established
as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
5 Come, O house of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Finding Faith Losing Faith


i picked up Scot McKnight's "Finding Faith Losing Faith". This book was a study on 'conversion'. It explored a limited number of conversion experiences: Conversion from Christianity to secularism, from Judaism to Messianic Judaism, Catholicism to Evangelicalism, and Evangelicalism to Catholicism.

It was only the first one that intrigued me. There were a few reasons why people convert from Christianity to secularism, and most have to do with a need to experience intellectual freedom. Christianity does not genuinely allow a person to question the faith or its doctrines. Those who have genuine concerns and questions often find themselves having to hide their doubts and uncertainties. i can certainly attest to this.

Those leaving the faith often feel an incredible sense of relief. There is a sense of freedom and authenticity. One's intellectual curiosity is allowed to seek answers to the questions it wonders about.

Here is an insight i found interesting:
"Conversions to the Christan faith are nearly always shaped by what one is gaining-forgiveness, heaven, moral transformation, meaning, peace, a new community, or joy. Conversions from the Christan faith are nearly always shaped by what one is leaving instead of what one is gaining."

i definitely resonate with all of the reasons why people leave the faith. Yet i also realize that it is not the "faith" that suppresses question, but the insecurities of others 'in the faith'. i believe wrestling with the questions will bring us into a much deeper understanding of genuine faith and reshape unhealthy ideas and false conclusions. Feeling as though one is not allowed to enter into honest questioning will certainly drive an honest person away from belief.

The irony in all of this, is that those self-proclaimed protectors of the faith, are often unwittingly undermining the faith of sincere believers.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

i too am human


"I am human, and nothing human is alien to me."
-Terence (2nd cent. Roman playwright)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lord of the Flies

In Lord of the Flies a group of boys slaughter a pig in the jungle, they torture it
and place its head on a sharpened steak as an offering to the beast
that hovers god-like over the island.

The black blood drips down the pigs teeth and the boys run away.

Later when one of the boys is alone he weeps, but not for the pig.
The boy weeps for the end of innocence and the darkness of men’s hearts.

-Anonymous

















Friday, September 03, 2010

Liberation Theology

Glenn Beck recently disparaged President Obama for holding a "Liberation Theology" (see Fox News "Liberation Theology"). Liberation theology is perhaps best known in places where oppression reigns, such as the days of South African apartheid. It is the understanding that Jesus desires nations and people to practice justice and to liberate the oppressed.

i hold to liberation theology in the way Bishop Desmond Tutu, or MLK might. A non-violent form of liberation theology.

Conservative Christians are speaking out against liberation theology. The irony is that most conservatives hold firmly to a liberation theology, exactly as Beck described it. A theology of armed resistance and revolution, which is actually an extreme form of liberation theology.

Most conservatives i know support sending American troops into battle zones for the express purpose of maintaining "freedom" and "liberty" and "justice"!

If you believe that God desires these things and that he sanctions the use of violence in order to maintain and secure them, then you believe in an extreme form of "Liberation Theology".

Which means the majority of Evangelical Christians fall into this camp!

Are conservatives guilty of holding to what they profess to be a "liberal theology"? i believe so!

Monday, August 16, 2010

John M. Perkins


i am trying to get back in touch with contemporary music. Somewhere along-the-line i became satisfied with listening to the music i grew up with and lost touch with nearly anything modern.

So i decided to check out the top 100 lists. i found this song by Switchfoot called "'The Sound' (John M. Perkins' Blues)", which caught my attention because John M. Perkins is someone i just met a few months ago. He is an inspirational man who was active in the civil rights movement and continues to be active in restorative ministries today. i was able to visit him recently with a group from my denomination.

If you've never heard of John Perkins or haven't read his writings, i encourage you to do so. He recently co-authored a book with Shane Claiborne called "Follow me to Freedom".

Unfortunately i've found that i'm not terribly keen on most of the music on the top of the charts. There were a few songs i liked, but this was not one of them. i'm sure the message is great though!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Beyond Belief Part 2 or 3 or 4...


i've hit upon this theme of 'beyond belief' numerous times over the past five years. It is the idea that Christianity must be more than a set of correct beliefs. There is something shallow about the idea that what separates so many human beings is merely whether or not we believe the right things about certain historical events with present/future implications.

Though i certainly do realize that belief is a part of Christianity. i suppose i see belief as a means to end, rather than the end itself.

As i study the Gospel of Matthew with my congregation, which we've been doing for the last two + years, all sorts of new questions come to mind. Questions i've been seeking, but didn't know to ask.

In fact, i said i was 'seeking the question' (rather than the answer) because it seems that before you can find the answer you need to know what the question is.

Anyhow...i remember being handed down a Christianity that was mostly about believing the right things. Salvation was by grace through faith for those who believed rightly. That is, you were saved so long as you believed you were a sinner, a Virgin named Mary gave birth to a son who was divine and without sin, he died for us/in place of us for our sin, was buried and resurrected and will come again. If you believe this, then you're in. Oh, and if you don't drink, smoke, dance, clap your hands, go to movies, play cards, or kiss before you're married.

While i believe much i've what i've written above, i no longer believe this is the goal of Christianity; the outcome; the conclusion; the main point; etc.

i mean, after all, Adam & Eve couldn't have believed any of those things before the Fall because none of that stuff was true at that point in time. Yet, before the fall everything was just as God had intended it. Humanity was in perfect relationship with God, each other, and creation. No body needed to believe any of those 'not yet historical facts' to enjoy God, others, and creation.

So if Christ has come to "restore", "reclaim", "redeem"...then it seems like his purpose must go beyond such things as giving intellectual assent to historical events with present/future implications.

In fact, with all his talk about establishing a "Kingdom" [a society?] it seems like he emphasizes proper relationships (with God, others, creation) more than right belief about historical events with present/future implications. Though one could say that he insists on proper beliefs about relationships (with God, others, creation), and that those beliefs are to be realized in proper action (toward God, others, creation).

Is this why most of his teachings have little to do with believing the right things about what he has done(or will do), and almost entirely to do with living in right relationship with God, others, and creation?

Parables that emphasize hospitality, proper treatment of others, and use of resources?

Maybe the kingdom is less about 'believing' and more about 'living', unless of course it is about the kind of believing that leads to great living (with God, others, and creation).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

These godless Days!


i'm not convinced that the world is getting worse, or that people are committing more or greater atrocities. Nothing has really changed. Ecclesiastes says as much: "There is nothing new under the sun".

One thing about the world has changed. It's gotten smaller. What was once completely unknown, and in many cases unreachable, is now just a days trip and a moments news headline away. The news is nearly always about corruption, and this makes us feel that things must be worse than ever.

i'm sure that all of today's atrocities have been happening since the world began. Rape, murder, human trafficking, robbery, slavery, oppression, exploitation...etc.

In fact, i tend to think the world is getting better.

As many rant about getting this country back to it's values and 'good ol' day' roots, i wonder what that looks like. i asked a black friend if his parents would like relive the good ol' 40's & 50's again. He seemed to get the point.

When should we go back too? The days of slavery, unfair wages for women, 16hr work days coupled with child labor? How about the days when good honest church goers dressed in their Sunday suites and ties in the morning and traded it for white hoods and robs Sunday night?

Yeah, i think things are either better or the same. They definitely aren't worse. There may be some areas that are worse, but there are other areas that are better.

We have the capability of destroying the world with nuclear weapons, but that doesn't make us worse. That simply makes the same kind of people more dangerous.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thought for the Day

Every thought a person dwells upon, whether he expresses it or not, either damages or improves his life.
-Lucy Malor

We regret losing a purse full of money, but a good thought which has come to us, which we've heard or read, a thought which we should have remembered and applied to our life, which could have improved the world--we lose this thought and promptly forget about it, and we do not regret it, though it is more precious than millions.
-Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Wise Old Man


"Be strict in judging yourself and gentle in judging others, and you will have no enemies."
-Chinese Wisdom

There's an older man at our church who changes our church marquee. He always picks out witty quotes. Last week it was "Praise Loudly, Blame softly".

He's really the greatest example of someone who lives lovingly toward others. He's always got a good word to say, and is quick to overlook an offense. Though everyone loves him, because that is the result of loving others, he is easy to overlook.

Yet, here is someone who seems to have found the key to life. His is a quiet wisdom and a deep joy. Even after losing his wife, a daughter, and son all within the last three years. He is ready to depart from this world, though the world is not ready for him to leave.

The secret? He is quick to judge himself and gentle in judging others. You couldn't not like this guy, though many fools have thought themselves wiser.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Good Life

"The prerequisite of a good life is peace between people, and the major obstacle to peace is pride. A person should be humble, prepared to be falsely accused, ready for everything; only then can he bring peace into his relationships and into the lives of others."

It does seem true that we are angered the most when it is a matter that concerns our pride. We all deserve to be treated decently, and when we aren't, we understand that the other person is considering his/herself to be better than we are; looking down on us.

Looking down on others is the cheaters way of bringing ourselves 'up'. Rather than doing, or better yet, being someone of worth, we devalue the other which immediately makes us taller. We have not grown, but we are taller.

Most unfortunate is that we are even more offended when someone offends us not realizing they have said or done something demeaning. If they demean without trying to demean, then they truly do see themselves as better than us, and this we cannot stand, or stand for.

Truth is, we all think we're better than most others, and the fact that we are offended by others thinking about us the same way we think about them is ironic, and perhaps hopeless.

We think ourselves better because we think it makes life better, yet it does just the opposite. It causes us to compete, which always ends in someone trying to outdo the other one, and just as with five year olds 'pretend' fighting, it always turns out bad.

Hence, the biggest obstacle to peace is our pride.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Trauma Unit

"A person who broods on revenge only worsens his wounds. His injuries would heal if he would refrain."
-Francis Bacon

i'm still trying to figure out both why a person harbors bitterness and resentment, and how to be released from both.

People do terrible things to other people. Sometimes they hurt us by destroying our trust, other times through physical or emotional trauma, and still other times simply as an insult to our pride. It is usually the attack of one's pride which leads to retaliation in all its forms. The other kinds of hurts disable us in other ways.

i don't know whether i've just not been hurt to such an extent, or whether i've simply found the secret of not harboring resentment. If i have found the secret, it is simply this, to be deeply aware that others are just as or more fallen than oneself. We're screwed up. When we can accept that, perhaps we can move beyond emotional captivity.

Or, maybe i just haven't been traumatized. Knock on wood...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Salvation

"I will never seek or accept merely my own personal salvation. I do not want to receive satisfaction by myself; always and everywhere I live and work, I will hope and strive for the universal salvation of all people and all creatures in the world. Until all have been saved and freed, I will not abandon this world of sin, sadness, and strife."
-Ancient Chinese Wisdom

i wonder if individualism is itself a sin. The very idea of "every man for himself" seems divisive.

Is 'tribalism' just another form of individualism? When we embrace an 'us' against 'them' mentality, aren't we just making the 'i' bigger? [I]

No one can be saved 'alone'. To be separated from others is itself the definition of hell.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

Concerning 'our' Losses

CNN did a great job of putting together this interactive list of casualties in Iraq & Afghanistan. It is rather impressive and is a great way to 'remember'. Yet when i clicked on the link i was expecting to see civilian casualties as well, and was looking forward (in a relational way) to seeing the faces, hearing the stories, and remembering these too.

Unfortunately it was one sided. This bothered me because it reminded me of our 'me' mentality. We know that the greatest number of casualties, by far, have been those caught in the crossfire. Those are the people we say we're trying to protect. Why don't we desire to hear their stories and to consider their loss?

We've got to get beyond this "us vs them" mentality. The loss of the 'other' needs to become our loss as well. Until then, this circle of self-advancement and untold atrocity will continue.

If we can't care about them, then to hell with us.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Four Addictions that Destroy Your Dreams

The Four Addictions by Tom Ferry

I've discovered four addictions we all have that destroy more dreams, more hopes and more lives than alcohol, drugs, food, gambling or sex combined. When I refer to addictions, I am not focused on any of these. To me, those are habitual symptoms or effects brought on by four much larger causes that are the root cause of those symptoms.

They are:

1) The Addiction to opinions of other people. As a society, we're addicted to what others think about us and how others' views of the world affect us.

2) The Addiction to drama. Some people are drawn to and consumed by any event or situation that occupies their thoughts and fills their mind with negativity, which often brings attention to them in unproductive ways.

3) The Addiction to the past. These people have an unhealthy attachment to events or situations that have occurred in the past. They're stuck in how things used to be.

4) The Addiction to worry. This addiction is comprised of all the negative and self-defeating thoughts that make us anxious, disturbed, upset and stressed, that hold us back in life.

Tom Ferry's Sure Signs of Four Addictions -- these are merely ideas to help you identify how each addiction could be showing up in your life. Do not reject the addiction if you don't relate to the six examples in each category. Think about situations in your life that might be more relevant to you.

The Addiction to the Opinions of Others

1. You Are Concerned About What Others Are Saying or Think About You.

2. You Have Good Ideas and Intentions But Find Yourself Afraid to Act on Them.

3. You Over Leveraged Yourself Financially in the Last Decade With Cars, Clothes, Homes, Jewelry and More.

4. You Are Constantly Seeking Other People's Approval or Avoiding Their Disapproval.

5. You're Afraid to Speak in Public.

6. You're Afraid to Speak Your Mind.


The Addiction to Drama

1. You Love To Gossip.

2. You Are Always In The Middle of a Crisis.

3. You're Glued to the News, Magazines and Stories About X Y & Z.

4. You Have a Tendency Toward Over Reacting Versus Rational Behavior.

5. Everything Is a Bigger Deal Than It Actually Is.

6. You're a Pot Stirrer.


The Addiction to the Past

1. You Constantly Talk About the Past and the Way Things Used to Be.

2. You Resist Change.

3. You Continually Fail to Plan for a Better Future.

4. You Argue for the Past That Things Used to be Better.

5. You've Allowed Relationships to Become Stale, Uninteresting and Without Passion.

6. You have Physically or Mentally Peaked.


The Addiction to Worry

1. You're Depressed, Concerned and Fearful about Everything.

2. You Spend Time with Other Worriers.

3. You Turn to TV and Movies as a Way to Escape the Thoughts in Your Head.

4. You Continuously Wake Up at Night from Your Mind Chatter.

5. You Continuously Go to the Worst-Case Scenario First.

6. You Use Food, Alcohol or Drugs to Control Your Moods and Feelings.

If you were to take away only one message from me, I want you to free yourself from the four addictions. Your life will become instantly and infinitely better.

Live Life by design, not by default.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happiness

It is a great happiness to have what you desire; but it is an even greater happiness not to want more than you already have.

--Menedemus

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No "Favored Nation" Status with God

Below are some links to journal articles and essays that deal with the issue of Christian Zionism, or the recent theology which has emerged as a political movement which supports the complete return of Palestine to Israel.

This theology is very recently developed, spreading mainly through a study bible called the "Scofield Reference Bible" in the early 20th century. This is not commonly known and many who ho ld to the theology believe it to be a historically held position among Christians. It is actually a deviation from the historical stance.

While we are called to love all people, there is some serious theological confusion, blurring the Old Covenant with the New Covenant in Christ, found in this new theology and political stance toward Israel. In fact, it goes against the very clear teachings of Christ who established his Church made of "every tribe, tongue, and language", and the strong declaration that "There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female". In Christ, we become one, not based on the blood which runs through our veins, but the blood which flowed down the cross.

“Why I’m Not a Christian Zionist, Academically Speaking” by Gary M. Burge, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament Wheaton College & Graduate School

Jerusalem in the New Testament by N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham & professor of New Testament St. Andrews University, Scotland.

For those absolutely sold on the idea that God must fulfill the land promise of the Old Covenant in a literal fashion, despite the New Covenant, here is a study on who would actually be legally entitled to the inheritance (Palestinian Arabs included):

"Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem" by Robert Leon Mendelson

Friday, April 23, 2010

Trading the Truth for a Lie

Liberty University, the largest Christian university known, has invited Glenn Beck to deliver the commencement address.

Liberty was founded by the late Jerry Falwell. What is surprising about this is that allegiance to country has trumped allegiance to the Gospel. Beck is a Mormon, which has always been considered a heretical sect by orthodox Christians. They deny the divinity of Christ, and the sole Lordship of God the Father, making him only one among many gods who rule their own universe, while teaching that you too can become the god of your own universe.

i believe we can see clearly where Liberty University's allegiance lies. They are recieving their spiritual exhortation from a man who's religious beliefs are radically contrary to the teachings of the apostles and a clear deviation from the faith.

And so the spirit of Jerry Falwell lives on...

They've exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

Monday, April 19, 2010

One Thing

When the rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus tells him to give all his riches to the poor and then come follow him. Jesus goes on to explain to his disciples that it is extremely difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Why is it so difficult? Because the kingdom calls us to make itself the center of our lives. It is to be all consuming, not just an added benefit in life, tacked on to all our other enjoyable comforts. Therefore, we ought not think the poor to be more virtuous on this account. The only thing that makes it easier for the poor to embrace the kingdom is that they have less to lose.


I believe this insight is relevant for American Christianity in particular. I have become convinced that Jesus truly means we are to love our enemies and bless those who curse us. As Tony Campolo so cleverly noted, “I think that means we shouldn’t bomb them”. I believe it is difficult for American Christians to embrace this clear teaching of Christ because they know they have so much to lose. So we print “In God we Trust” on our currency, while using 56% of the national budget to support military expenditures.


At least the rich young man had the common decency to walk away. Many might have tried to reconcile their contrary lifestyle with the Gospel, rather than submit to it.


Friday, April 16, 2010

It's Only Ok When I Do It

The following quote is from the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer (who is the AFA's Director of Issues Analysis)

“Muslims continue to have as their objective the Islamization of the entire world, including the U.S., and are taught by their god to use force where necessary to accomplish the goal. The current objective of Muslim activists is to create a brand new Islamic state - meaning a state like New Jersey or Montana - out of existing jurisdictions and establish a virtual Islamic homeland in our midst.”

Many Muslims are on our shores on student visas and such and have not yet become citizens. We must politely decline their request for naturalization (becoming an American citizen is a privilege, not a right) and use the money we would otherwise spend on their welfare, their education, their medical care and their incarceration to graciously assist them in returning to their countries of origin.

Those who are willing to convert to Christianity and renounce Islam, Allah, Mohammed and the Koran may be welcomed, for they can become not just good Christians but true Americans."

----------------

It would seem that many Americans also have an objective of “Christianizing” the entire world. This is revealed in Bryan’s suggestion that American Muslims convert to Christianity in order to become “true Americans”.

In addition to this, our history, both past and current, would suggest that American Christians are very willing to “use force where necessary to accomplish their goal” of “Christianizing” the world. The code words they use are “democratizing” and “capitalizing”, which serve dual purposes. One is to make money, while the other is to open the door of Christian evangelization in Muslim countries. How do they open that door? By blowing a hole through the door “with their tanks, and their guns, and their bombs…”

“Conservative” Christians are extremely supportive of military intervention to bring about “democracy” and “free trade” with the justifiable end result of ultimately opening the door to Christianity in otherwise hostile environments. And we all see how good Christianity has been for America, the truly Christian nation that distributes more porn and guns that any other country in the world.

What is it we’re spreading?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An Unsortly Sorta Fruit

God’s reaction may have seemed a bit strong when he responded to Adam & Eve’s waywardness. Yet it wasn’t just about taking some fruit from a forbidden tree. God was reacting to all of the yet unwritten history that would occur from that act. It wasn’t about a piece of fruit, it was about a woman being raped, a child being kidnapped, a drunken brawl that ended with someone dead, a bomb being dropped, a people group being enslaved or annihilated, a region undergoing famine while excess food rots away in dumpsters elsewhere in the world.


The fruit Adam and Eve picked was a strange fruit indeed. When they tossed the core of that fruit to the ground, an unsortly sort of seed was sown. A fruit that turns out to be more like a weed, and spreads through the garden, chocking out that which is good, useful, productive, and sucking all the nutrients out of the soil to feed its worthless self.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Guest Post: Brian McLaren

Is God Violent? How about Jesus? How about ...?

One of the most important subjects addressed in my recent book A New Kind of Christianity is the question of whether we believe God is violent. There is no question that Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others have been violent in God's name (although, happily, there are a few denominations and movements in each religion that oppose violence as a tenet of faith). The question is whether we believe violence is inherent to the character of God. A nonviolent God cannot be enlisted to sanction aggression, but a violent one is handy for that purpose.

The potential consequences of a violent image of God are illustrated by today's news story about so-called Christian militia.

It's strange and sad that this subject would come up during Holy Week.

This is the week we recall that Jesus was willing to be killed, but not to kill ... to be tortured, but not to torture. This is the week he told Peter to put away his sword, saying, "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). This is the week he contrasted his kingdom in this world with the kingdoms of this world by their opposite responses to the violence question (John 18:36 ff). (The prepositions in and not of are important.) Many of us believe that Jesus embodies the image of a nonviolent God, an image intended to transcend and correct violent images.

But others portray Jesus as a violent avenger with "a commitment to make someone bleed," reinforcing rather than overturning a violent image of God. To do so, groups like the militia group in today's news point to an anticipated second-coming Jesus, especially as portrayed in Revelation 19:11 ff. There, they suggest, Jesus is described with a sword, so even though he wasn't violent in his first coming, he will be violent when he returns. They fail to note one small detail in the text: that the sword is in Jesus' mouth (!), not his hand. Might this not be unveiling* for us a deeper truth ... that the Jesus who rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday upon a humble donkey with tears falling from his eyes and with a word of peace on his lips was in fact more powerful than Caesar, Herod, Pilate, and their violent colleagues - who would ride proudly into town on chariots and white stallions, with one fist raised triumphantly in the air, and with the other holding a sword of violence? Might Revelation 19 be restating and reaffirming rather than contradicting and supplanting the Jesus of the gospels?

Here's how I say it in A New Kind of Christianity ... (after the jump):


From pages 124-126, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith:

To repeat, Revelation is not portraying Jesus returning to earth in the future, having repented of his naive gospel ways and having converted to Caesar's "realistic" Greco-Roman methods instead. He hasn't gotten discouraged about Caesar seeming to get the upper hand after his resurrection and on that basis concluded that it's best to live by the sword after all (Matt. 26:52). Jesus hasn't abandoned the way of peace (Luke 19:42) and concluded that the way of Pilate is better, mandating that the disciples should fight after all (John 18:36). He hasn't had second thoughts about all that talk about forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-22) and concluded that on the 78th offense you should pull out your sword and hack off your offender's head rather than turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39).

He hasn't given up on that "love your enemies" stuff (Matthew 5:44) and judged it naive and foolish after all (1 Cor. 1:25), concluding instead that God's strength is made manifest not in weakness but in crushing domination (2 Cor. 12:9). He hasn't had a change of heart, concluding that the weapons he needs are physical after all (2 Cor. 10:3-4), which would mean that the way to glory isn't actually by dying on a cross (Phil. 2:8-9) but rather by nailing others on it.

He hasn't sold the humble donkey (Luke 19:30-35) on eBay and purchased chariots, warhorses, tanks, land mines, and B-1s instead (Zech. 9:9-10).... He hasn't decided that the message of the cross is a little too foolish after all (1 Cor. 1:18) or that Christ killing his foes is way more exciting than that lame, absurd, "hippie" gospel of "Christ crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).

He hasn't decided that ... nobody can be expected to worship a king they can beat up (Matt. 27:27).... Jesus matters precisely because he provides us a living alternative to the confining [violent] narrative in which our world and our religions live, move, and have their being too much of the time.

Revelation celebrates not the love of power, but the power of love. It denies, with all due audacity, that God's anointed liberator is the Divine Termintaor, threatening revenge for all who refuse to honor him, growling, "I'll be back!" It asserts, instead, that God's anointed liberator is the one we beat up, who promises mercy to those who strike him, whispering, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).


*The title of the "Book of Revelation" or "The Apocalypse" means unveiling. Increasing numbers of scholars suggest it is not intended as a prognostication about the end of the world, but rather as an unveiling of the real meaning behind events in the time of its original readers.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hosanna: A Palm Sunday Message

Jesus comes riding into town on his donkey and people rush out to get their "I love Jesus" tattoos, which proves to be a big mistake. He's not the guy they thought he was and the relationship quickly goes from "He's everything I ever hoped for" to "I wish he were dead".

"Hosanna!" A Palm Sunday Message
(Matthew 21:1-17)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Recieving/Rejecting Jesus

Palm Sunday is coming. This is the Sunday where we celebrate the story of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem and all the folks give him a king’s entrance. The celebration is short lived though. The next scene in Matthew (ch 21) is of Jesus overturning tables in the temple. I think this is where the narrative takes a turn.

What a drastic turn it was; from receiving Jesus as Messiah to treating him more poorly than a dog who bit your child. Why the change?

It seems that when Jesus is coming into Jerusalem, what the people are actually celebrating is all their ideas about the Messiah, and not the Messiah himself. When Jesus begins to speak for himself (overturning tables in the temple), the illusion quickly fades.

Well, Jesus isn’t physically here with us today, which leaves all sorts of room to speculate and postulate without the real Jesus being able to speak for himself. How then can we know when our ideas about Jesus, and Jesus’ ideas about himself, are at odds?

Would we want to know?

How would we respond if Jesus started overturning our tables?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spiritual Evolution

Just a bit of a blurb here as i continue to think about the implications of the New Covenant upon the Old. i have come to understand that we no longer live under any of the stipulations of the Old Covenant (Testament) accept that which is reiterated under the New.

The Old Testament therefore becomes a guide in the process of the spiritual evolution of humanity. It has it's place, but has effectively served its purpose. When the new comes, the old is set aside.

In 2 Cor 3 Paul makes clear that the old covenant was a covenant of death.

Oh, and i'm liking this new idea of "spiritual evolution". That the fall was a "devolving" and God's relationship with humanity since that time is an "evolving", not biologically, but spiritually. Therefore, it is the story of the "spiritual evolution" of humanity.

Strangely enough, i owe the inspiration of the idea of "spiritual evolution" to Richard Dawkins. i've been thinking a lot about evolution on account of his book "The God Delusion".

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday, February 05, 2010

You're A Born Winner!


Don't ever call yourself a loser.

Consider the fact that you were once a sperm! You were once with a group of more than five million other sperm. Then all five million of you lined up at the starting line. And at the end of a long, long tunnel there was one egg.

There was a race!

And you won!



Don't ever call yourself a loser.
The odds were five million to one against you, and you came through.

You're a winner!

You make the Olympics seem insignificant by comparison. You are here by divine appointment. You are here because God chose you to be a winner in the struggle for existence.

--Tony Campolo
Let Me Tell You A Story

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

How to Kill a Bear


When people wanted to kill a bear in the ancient times, they hung a heavy log over a bowl of honey. The bear would push the log away in order to eat the honey. The log would swing back and hit the bear. The bear would become irritated and push the log even harder, and it would return and hit him harder in return. This would continue until the log killed the bear. People behave in the same way when they return evil for the evil they receive from other people. Can't people be wiser than bears?

You should respond with kindness toward evil done to you, and you will destroy in an evil person that pleasure which he derives from evil.

-Leo Tolstoy

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Disovering


If you want to study Yourself--look into the hearts of other people. If you want to study other people--look into your own heart.

-Friedrick von Schiller

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You will do Greater Works than These


We are baffled by the idea that we could perform greater things than Jesus did. Some, promoting the idea that we should be operating with miraculous power today, point to the above statement from Jesus’ own lips to verify it. When we think of the “greater works” we get caught up with the “miracles” Jesus performed. The focus is often on his power and not the outcome of his “work”.

Jesus fed the 5,000. That was an incredible miracle. We have it within our ability to feed the whole world.


Jesus healed the sick, the lame, the blind. We too can do much to cure a myriad of diseases and disabilities anywhere around the globe…if we so choose.

I believe Jesus wasn’t talking about the miraculous nature of how his “works” (miracles) were employed, but on their overall effect. They supplied the need of the other. He made people whole again.


He was one person, with (self-) limited mobility, locked within a specific region of the world. If we look not at the magnificence of the miracle itself, being wowed by the power, but at the outcome of the “work” Christ performed, I believe we’ll understand why we haven’t encountered someone with the ability to do the supernatural to the extent Christ has, and yet we still have the capability to do “greater works than these”.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Way of the Cross

Here is a link to this weeks message which explores Christianity's call to Love One's Enemy with a special emphasis on the example of Martin Luther King Jr. The emphasis is on a call to take another's suffering upon oneself in the hope of redeeming the other, especially when the other is an enemy. Responding in love catches an oppressor off guard and opens up the potential for awaking their conscience and bringing transformation.

i think this message may be timely in light of the recent exposure of New Testament Bible passage references found on military weaponry.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Means to an End (2)

Be sure that the means you employ are as pure as the end you seek.
Martin Luther King Jr. "Strength to Love"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A New End

There's always been lot of talk and interpretation about the end times and how to interpret biblical books like Daniel and Revelation. The Left Behind series, from what i've heard, offers an interpretation that has been fairly standard since the time of Darby and the Scofield reference Bible. i certainly don't claim to know much about the end times and i'm fairly convinced that the prophecies of Revelation were complete by AD 70.

Many Christians believe that the end will be accompanied by a one world order which will be religiously motivated and volatile toward genuine Christianity; that there will be a one system currency, and that people will have to have the number 666 printed on their forhead or hand, which may be a computer chip. This has unfortunately led some to oppose peace treaties between nations and to inadvertently accept war as more comforting than peace. Anything that looks like we might actually be trying to work together is considered suspect.

i tend to think that if there really are still prophecies to be fulfilled, we'll likely miss them altogether because we'll be looking for the wrong things. It's easy to look at things within a very limited preconceived scope, which is why the Jewish people missed the Messiah. What if the one world currency isn't a coin or paper money, but a Visa card? What if the one world religion isn't Catholicism, or Islam, or anything we generally think of as religion, but something more like "Capitalism". Isn't this an ideology we've attempted to advance in all places at all costs?

Again, this really isn't a prediction of any sort. i lean toward the idea that prophecies in the book of Revelation described events that occurred in the 1st century. Babylon was a common code for "Rome". i simply think some of the modern interpretations are too narrow and may actually be causing more harm than good. We are so worried about what we think is to come that we may actually be missing the fact that we have been and are now living in it and perhaps even a part of it.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Patriotism = Militarism

Serving your country by enlisting in the military is no doubt a commendable act of citizenship. Doesn't patriotism take many other forms as well?

It seems the most consistently used test to determine if someone is patriotic is to measure their support of those serving in the military. If we are accused of being unpatriotic, it is usually not due to our political differences, whether we are Democrat or Republican, or even our support or lack of support of the current president. It falls squarely on our support of military action, and more precisely those who serve in the military. In the late 60’s & 70’s, being against the war in Vietnam qualified a person as being “unpatriotic”. Today, the winds are shifting…slightly. You can oppose the war and still be considered patriotic, so long as you support the troops. It is a great lesson we learned from Vietnam, that while we might demonize the war, we must never demonize the troops who serve in those wars. I agree.

Back to the main point. Patriotism is defined by one’s support of the military, and especially military personnel. Military is one area where Democrats and Republicans can often find common ground. If they differ, they usually differ on the most effective methods or means of using the military and not so much concerning final outcomes.

This constricted definition of patriotism leaves the majority of our society's most positively influential people out of the picture. It seems to me that patriotism ought to be defined along the lines of those who are seeking to make the society we live in a better society for all who live in it (not just a safer society). Under this definition, Martin Luther King would have been considered one of the greatest patriots this country has ever known, along with those who call for nuclear disarmament, women’s rights, and equal rights. Yet those who denounce the evils of a society, and seek to bring about positive change within that society, are often demonized by being characterized as “unpatriotic”? (though many years later, after they’ve been murdered, their good intention might be recognized)

How is it that we are patriotic for seeking to bring change outside of our borders, but too often considered “unpatriotic” when we seek to bring positive change within our borders? Shouldn’t patriotism be first and foremost a measure of how we are positively transforming the communities we live in?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Peace Targeted


i had a little bit of hope...


Until escalations in Afghanistan proved we would use the same old method to deal with the same old problem

Sunday, January 03, 2010

St. Francis of Assisi & Self Portraits


St. Francis’ thoughts on how one ought to view themselves and their enemies seems right. We ought to consider our enemies better than ourselves, and no matter what position we may currently serve in, we ought not admire it any more than we would the job of washing others feet. We are ever only who God sees us as being.

This final thought put me in conflict. I’ve been taught that God sees me as righteous in Christ. I wonder how he could be so blind. I see myself as a sinner saved by grace. I don’t really want him to see me as any more than that. I need to know that he can deal with the truth. I am happy to think that he sees all he can bring about in me. I also need to know that he can see me for who I am today, because the present me is the true me, at least for the moment.


We spend too much time already, trying to evade the truth.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Non-Violent Attitudes

i came across this letter in a book i am reading. The letter was written by David Nyvall and is directed toward the writers of a Christian Newspaper. The Newspaper was confronting the publishers of another, which it saw as a competitor. This is not a recent letter, it was written in 1893.

i quote this here only as a reminder to myself of the spirit of love which needs to flow out of every challenge. Our desire must always be the good of the other. We must always seek to build up and not tear down. While we can desire to tear down dangerous views and contrary teachings (contrary to the Way of Christ), we must always do so in a manner which seeks to build up those whose teachings we oppose. We are never to oppose the person themselves, only what is contrary to Christ. The Scriptures tell us "We wrestle not against flesh and blood".

i think this is good advice to anyone who seeks to win another over for any reason they deem to be good. Confronting in anger only serves to motivate the other to erect walls of hostility and adversity, which of course will not serve your point.

"I hope that you will have good fortune in the future. May you be given, not only a sharp pen, but above everything else more and more of a burning and loving heart. Write with red ink oftener than with black. Encourage more than criticize. It is through the good that we do that we recommend ourselves, not through the evil that others do. The faults of others never become our merits. Others' sins never become our virtues. It is sin to criticize when it does not happen in a spirit of pure and guileless love--a love which aims to help."

-This is a great challenge for me as i seek to find new ways to encourage the church to embrace Jesus' call to non-violent, self-suffering, transformational action. It is easy to be sarcastic, especially when you see the others position as obviously flawed. But if our desire is to win Christians over to the way of Christ, then it must be done in love and with every good intention to serve the spiritual benefit of those we challenge. The desire must be to transform, not to "win".

i also recognize that part of the challenge in this is that by simply asserting that what you believe is the more accurate interpretation, will itself be interpreted as pretentious and insulting. i believe this is why it is all the more necessary to challenge people in an obvious spirit of love.

May God help me to make this a New Year's resolution and give me the grace to actually practice it consistently!

And yes, i do believe that non-violence, coupled with the desire to win our enemies over to the way of love and charity, is a definite New Testament teaching. i do not feel i can hold it as merely a personal perspective, though it is that as well. i do feel an obligation to challenge the Church toward these ends.

i also believe that we can worship alongside those whose view is different, without making this a volatile or divisive issue. If we are to win others over, it must be done first and foremost through our compelling example, not merely words or arguments, which often rattle around in the head without reaching the heart.