Monday, December 22, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land.
They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring. They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed. It is true that they are “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.”
They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require.
They love all men, and by all men are persecuted.
They are unknown, and still they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they are brought to life.
They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance.
They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated.
They are reviled, and yet they bless; and when they are affronted, they still pay due respect.
When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment, they rejoice because they are brought to life.
They are treated by the Jews as foreigners and enemies, and are hunted down by the Greeks; and all the time those who hate them find it impossible to justify their enmity.
To put it simple: What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world.
The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world.
The soul dwells in the body, but does not belong to the body, and the Christians dwell in the world, but do not belong to the world.
The soul, which is invisible, is kept under guard in the visible body; in the same way, Christians are recognized when they are in the world, but their religion remains unseen.
The flesh hates the soul and treats it as an enemy, even though it suffers no wrong at their hands, because they rage themselves against its pleasures.
The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and its members; in the same way, Christians love those who hate them.
The soul is shut up in the body, and yet itself holds the body together.
The soul, which is immortal, is housed in a mortal dwelling; while Christians are settled among corruptible things, to wait for the incorruptibility that will be theirs in heaven.
The soul, when faring badly as to food and drink, grows better; so too Christians, when punished day by day, increase more and more.
It is no less a post than this that God has ordered them, and they must not try to evade it.
Some modern abandoned cities are actually parts of functioning cities. Perhaps the best example of an abandoned district is found within Detroit. The Motor City gets its name from its former role as the world’s seat of the automotive industry. Henry Ford’s refinement of the assembly line led to cheaper, mass-produced cars and trucks in the 1920s, and the city expanded quickly. By the 1950s, Detroit, with its two million residents, was America’s third-largest city [source: University of Michigan].
With employment rates and income high in the area, opulent buildings began to dot downtown Detroit’s skyline. Ornately detailed architecture adorned the city’s theaters and office buildings. It was a bustling city, and its buildings reflected the power and the wealth the automobile industry accumulated.
By the 1970s and '80s, however, the American auto industry entered a decline. Detroit, inextricably attached to car manufacturing, reflected this downturn. In 1979, Detroit’s Big Three carmakers (Chevrolet, Ford and General Motors) produced 90 percent of all of the vehicles sold in the U.S.; by 2005, that figure was down to 40 percent [source: The Guardian]. Since Detroit was something of a boomtown -- based on cars, not gold -- it couldn’t help but suffer when car manufacturers faced competition from overseas automakers.
But it wasn’t only competition from foreign car manufacturers that led to the demise of downtown Detroit. Suburbanization played a role as well; as people began moving out of the city, their money went with them. The same holds true for the carmakers. Automotive factories became bigger as the car boom went on. With land in the city at a premium, car companies built newer, bigger facilities in the suburbs. Whole sections of Detroit were left abandoned, while in other cases, slumping buildings sat empty alongside struggling buildings that remained open.
Detroit began to crumble. Building owners simply left their investments to decay once they found they couldn’t lease or sell them. Others tried to revitalize or redevelop buildings into new businesses; for example, some stage theaters found new lives as movie theaters. Ultimately, a lack of customers caused many buildings to simply be abandoned. For years, office buildings, hotels, churches, theaters, homes, factories and stores were boarded up and left to rot. Vandals broke windows, spray painted messages and picked mementos from the architecture. Within these buildings, sunlight streams through cracks. Old furniture is overturned in unused hotel rooms. Desks still stand in empty offices. Even the city’s old train depot -- a massive, 18-story transportation hub -- has been abandoned, its intricate shell a reminder of its past importance.
Revitalization efforts are reforming these districts of Detroit. Many of the abandoned areas are being leveled, with new buildings or parking lots built over their former foundations. And an unusual tradition has had an effect on the urban blight. In the 1970s, vandals adopted the custom of burning empty (and sometimes occupied) buildings downtown on Halloween Eve, a custom that came to be known as Devil’s Night. The ritual continued into the 1990s, but peaked in 1984, when more than 800 fires were set from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1
Our incarnate God spoke loud and long as a prophet (Luke 7:16-17, Matt. 21; 11; Rev. 3:14), immersed in the harsh everyday world of tenant farmers and tax collectors and wage laborers and HIV-leprosy sufferers and guerrilla fighters and poverty hustlers and dolled up, street-walkers.
He learned his message from bombastic, uppity women who would not keep quiet in the courtroom (Luke 18:18), would not take “no” for an answer when he was “underground” and trying to hide from the authorities up near the city of Tyre (Mark 7:24-30), would not refrain from wiping him with their hair at hoity-toity dinner parties (Luke 7:36-50), or contaminating him with uncleanness by touching him in the marketplace (Mark 5:24-34), would not even consult their husbands when deciding to “have” him, as a baby, by somebody else! (Matt. 1:18-24; Luke 1:26-38).
This God continued to speak even when he was no longer invited to read the bible in nice, respectable “churches” (John 7:11; Luke 4:16-30; John 11:54), pray for the nice sick daughters of the wealthy or their nice dying servants (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; Luke 7:1-10), or give nice opinions on local events (Luke 13:1-5), because so much of what he had to say did not sound so nice to well-washed and perfumed ears (Matt. 23:1-39; Luke 11:37-54).
He spoke even when accompanied by crowds who smelled (John 11:39), who were presumed to be thieves (Luke 19:1-10; John 12:4-6; Mark 11:17), who organized parades on pretenses (Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:39), and misunderstood everything except that their own exploiters and oppressors were getting a public comeuppance in this guy’s words (Mark 12:37).
He spoke even when the CIA lurked (Mark 7:1), when the FBI jerked his chain (Mark 3:6; Matt. 12:14), when the spin-meisters sought to catch him in damming sound-bites (Mark 12:13; Luke 11:53-54), when the police threatened arrest after a day-long takeover of the national shrine (Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47-48).
He only ceased speaking when the kangaroo court demanded that he speak (Mark 14:60-61).
Then, in the final moment, far from a quiet, complacent passing on, in full control of pain and pathos like some god-in-human-drag, “slumming,” for a brief season, among such poor wayward creatures, this God yelled, yowled, cursed, swore, cried out, groaned, moaned, made it plain this blood-letting was a divine abomination, and even, like job, finally dared put God “himself” at issue, if such doings as this were “the father’s will” (Mark 15:33-39).
(Maybe - even more than substitution - this incarnation was about solidarity.)
it's fascinating stuff, but really difficult to find anything worth reading on it.
so, i'm doing a lot of prophetic reading, a lot of study in ezra/nehemiah, and a lot of comparisons between genesis 1-4 and revelation 21-22.
and it's been very cool (though, it's a little early to share any real conclusions yet).
my big feeling, though, which has been haunting me over the last few months is this:
the church is broken
just as the world is broken
and we're refusing to acknowledge that our mission to redeem the world alongside god
is more important than anything
than anything at all whatsoever
what so ever
and i'm feeling really buggered up by our lack of concern to heal the world
and our lack of impatience with the church-as-it-stands
and our lack of passion, verve, commitment, intelligence, and frustration
focused on seeing things transform for the better
Thursday, December 18, 2008
(CNN) — Prominent liberal groups and gay rights proponents criticized President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday for choosing evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration next month.
Warren, one of the most powerful religious leaders in the nation, has championed issues such as calling for the reduction of global poverty, human rights abuses, and the AIDS epidemic.
But the founder of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has also adhered to socially conservative stances — including his opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights that puts him at odds with many in the Democratic Party, especially the party's most liberal wing.
"[It's] shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now," Andrew Sullivan wrote on the Atlantic Web site Wednesday.
People for the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert told CNN she is "deeply disappointed" with the choice of Warren, and said the powerful platform at the inauguration should instead have been given to someone who is "consistent mainstream American values.
"There is no substantive difference between Rick Warren and James Dobson," Kolbert said. "The only difference is tone. His tone is moderate, but his ideas are radical."
Dobson, a social conservative leader, is founder and chairman of Focus on the Family.
Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama, defended the choice of Warren, saying, "This is going to be the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history."
"The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] issues. But it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues."
Douglass also noted Obama and Warren agree on several issues including advocating on behalf of the poor and the disadvantaged, and people who suffer from HIV/AIDS.
#1 the winds was given a Jackson Award earlier this month for being the best "house of worship" (which is, of course, funny in-and-of itself notwithstanding the nifty plaque they sent us yesterday)
#2 we just passed 40,000 views on ustream (indpendent of our vodcasting/podcasting stats) since June of this year.
not bad, eh?
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
i've always like the guerilla approach...hidden within the landscape...no full frontal assault...just normal, but more than normal
and host, of course, refers to the sacrament...though (if i'm honest) i really only picked it because "church" "christian" "faith" etc. were all taken
"guerillahost" has become dear to me
only because i've been using it for almost 4 years
but it's always bothered me that the name doesn't make immediate sense
and that people often think of me as a gorilla
so i'm thinking of switching my blog over to "shadowing god"
which, if you've followed my theological ruminations lately
you'll know is dear to me in many more significant ways
no changes yet
but i am contemplating one soon
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
OK, let me start off by saying this Xterra is only available for purchase by the manliest of men (or women). My friend, if it was possible for a vehicle to sprout chest hair and a five o'clock shadow, this Nissan would look like Tom Selleck. It is just that manly.
It was never intended to drive to the mall so you can pick up that adorable shirt at Abercrombie & Fitch that you had your eye on. It wasn't meant to transport you to yoga class or Linens & Things. No, that's what your Prius is for. If that's the kind of car you're looking for, then just do us all a favor and stop reading right now. I mean it. Just stop.
This car was engineered by 3rd degree ninja super-warriors in the highest mountains of Japan to serve the needs of the man that cheats death on a daily basis. They didn't even consi der superfluous nancy boy amenities like navigation systems (real men don't get lost), heated leather seats (a real man doesn't let anything warm his butt), or On Star (real men don't even know what the hell On Star is).
No, this brute comes with the things us testosterone-fueled super action junkies need. It has a 265 HP engine to outrun the cops. It's got special blood/gore resistant upholstery. It even has a first-aid kit in the back. You know what the first aid kit has in it? A pint of whiskey, a stitch-your-own-wound kit and a hunk of leather to bite down on when you're operating on yourself. The Xterra also has an automatic transmission so if you're being chased by Libyan terrorists, you'll still be able to shoot your machine gun out the window and drive at the same time. It's saved my bacon more than once.
It has room for you and the four hotties you picked up on the way to the gym to blast your pecs and hammer your glutes. There's a tow hitch to pull your 50 caliber anti-Taliban, self cooling machine gun. I also just put in a new windshield to replace the one that got shot out by The Man.
My price on this bad boy is an incredibly low $12,900, but I'll entertain reasonable offers. And by reasonable, I mean don't walk up and tell me you'll give me $5,000 for it. That's liable to earn you a Burmese-roundhouse-sphincter-kick with a follow up three fingered eye-jab. Would it hurt? Hell yeah. Let's just say you won't be the prettiest guy at the Coldplay concert anymore.
There's only 69,000 miles on this four-wheeled hellcat from Planet Kickass. Trust me, it will outlive you and the offspring that will carry your name. It will live on as a monument to your machismo.
Now, go look in the mirror and tell me what you see. If it's a rugged, no holds barred, super brute he-man macho Chuck Norris stunt double, then contact me. I might be out hang-gliding or BASE jumping or just chilling with my ladies, but I'll get back to you. And when I do, we'll talk about a price over a nice glass of Schmidt while we listen to Johnny Cash.
To sweeten the deal a little, I'm throwing in this pair of MC Hammer pants for the man with rippling quads that can't fit into regular pants. Yeah, you heard me. FREE MC Hammer pants.
Friday, December 12, 2008
the graveyard book (novel), by neil gaiman...excellent - highly recommend...creepy book about a kid raised by ghosts in a cemetary
god and empire (theology), by john dominic crossan...excellent - highly recommend...except for the parts where he denies jesus' deity and resurrection (tough to overlook, admittedly)
satan and the problem of evil (theology) by greg boyd...excellent - highly recommend (for dorks)
a feast for crows (novel), by george rr martin...amazing - best series ever (soon coming to HBO)..."high" fantasy for renaissance fair clowns
a little book you'll actually read on... (series of short books) by mark driscoll - not great, don't recommend
rejesus (theology) by alan hirsch and michael frost...pretty good, though a little academic...standard fair for folks at the winds...recommend for keeners
the watchman (graphic novel) by alan moore...overrated, but fun
death by love (theology) by mark driscoll...excellent - recommend (a head-ier version of the same concept for our "images of atonement" series and teaching atlas)
the drama of scripture (theology) by craig bartholomew and michael goheen...solid, helps make sense of narrative theology...recommend
a spiritual formation workbook (discipleship) by james bryan smith and lynda graybeal...recommend - excellent workbook for a formation group (used by several ww satellites)
reimagining church (theology) by frank viola...strangely compelling despite its many, violent, biases...do not recommend unless you've spent the last 15 years studying church history, theology, and know your bible inside and out...viola tells a million little white lies that - if undetected - could be very damaging
anyway...lots more to go this holiday season (i'm on a roll and LOVE this part of my job)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
so, do you think that it's time to invent a new religion?
i mean, i know that sounds absurd and absurdly presumptuous.
but what do we know now that is different from what we
knew ages ago?
that the universe is gigantic?
that the universe is old?
that we are made up of matter that used to be other things?
that our actions are seemingly insignificant from a universal perspective?
that matter, at it's most basic level, doesn't do what
we think it would/should do?
i sound flippant.
but really, given what we know about the universe and about ourselves, isn't it absurd to hold on to conventional ideas about our significance and identity and relevance and so on?
again, i sound flippant.
i don't mean to.
but it's hard to describe this in a journal(not blog)entry.
i actually think that the teachings of christ accomodate most of the new ways in which we perceive ourselves and our world.
the problem is that although the teachings of christ accomodate this, contemporary christianity does not.
here's more seriousness dressed up as flippancy:
christ: acknowledging quantum realities.
christiantiy: depressingly newtonian.
does that make any sense?
well, to me it does.
and to some of you it might make sense, also.
i'm sorry that i'm being light and flippant.
i should just be straightforward.
we know things about our universe and about our world and about ourselves that make our previously held ideas about human significance utterly absurd. in order to move forward we need to accept that how we understand ourselves in the future has to be informed by what we know about ourselves from a quantum perspective.
and luckily, there's not a christian(or new testament)perspective that compels us to hold on to much of tradition.
many christians might disagree, but i would ask them to cite scripture to support their dissent.
i know, 'quantum perspective' sounds nonsensical and nerdy.
but we need to move on(no political pun intended).
we all know better.
we're all holding on to past conceptions of human endeavours and human significance, and they're outdated and erroneous and anachronistic.
our human significance is both far greater and far smaller than anything than we've hitherto recognized.
that is the truth.
we are paradoxical little creatures.
we need a new way in which to look at ourselves and in which to understand our lives and our significance.
there, that's all i have to say for now.
thanks for listening.
i guess i'll write more later if anyone's interested.
if not: uh, go, uh, team.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
That’s not entirely bad.
Pastors, for better or for worse, are leaders. And, one of the major setbacks of churches in the early 20th C was poor leadership. So, it’s probably fair to say that a certain amount of leadership development is required in order to pastor well.
Personally, I have read over 200 books on leadership. I have read almost all of the top-this or top-that books on all those top-lists. I have followed blogs and articles. Sometimes, I think I could teach more on leadership than I could on most of the books in the Bible.
And there’s the problem.
At key points, leadership philosophy and Biblical wisdom diverge…and most of us don’t know when that happens.
Take King Solomon, for example, who is almost universally held up as an example of biblical leadership. He was wise, by all accounts he ruled well, and he wrote much of the poetry in the First Testament.
But, I’m not convinced that he was as great a leader, nor as great a follower of YHWH as we’ve been lead to believe.
• Solomon weakened his dynasty to the degree that after his death the kingdom was split in two
• Solomon disobeyed God and made treaties and alliances with his former enemies
• Solomon disobeyed God and took his wife’s gods to be his own, leveling himself in apostasy
• Solomon neglected justice in favor of military expansion – something God had spoken strictly about before
Anyway, my point is not to defame Solomon, simply to point out that most of our material on the “Leadership Secrets of King Solomon” conveniently neglect his failures.
Just as most of our books on “Jesus, the Leader” focus on the concept of “Servant Leadership”, but ignore what servant leadership really means.
Servant leadership isn’t about teambuilding, consensus, profit sharing, or good human resources departments.
Servant leadership isn’t about listening before speaking, or seeking to understand before you beg to be understood, or beginning with the end in mind.
Servant leadership is about death.
Leadership is martyrdom. You lead to bear witness. You die to yourself, to your preferences, to your greed, and to your pride.
So that others can live.
So that others can be made whole, can be healthy, and can have fullness.
Solomon, for all his successes and exploits, was nobody’s servant. Good King Wenceslas, however, and Good King Jesus, additionally, were.
Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would heal the world, bringing salvation to all the nations on Earth. Jesus suffered for his mission to bring healing. He was murdered, illegally and unjustly, for being the Great Physician.
He died so we could live.
That is servant leadership.
Leadership is not rooted in position or privilege, it is rooted in pain. People will follow someone who is passionate to a flaw, who is devoted beyond good sense, and who is willing to be the first to bleed.
That’s the most attractive thing, to me, about Good King Wenceslas: he bled. He walked barefoot in the snow, he worked in the fields alongside his people, he forsook his sexual privileges, he emptied his own pockets, and he gave himself to his land.
And it has inspired no shortage of followership – Wenceslas has become a saint, has his own Christmas Carol, inspired Pope Pious to imitate his humility, and has a collection of hagiographies.
Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Whoever wants to keep his life must lose it.
They had now finally seen their ancient error in asking for human rule (instead of remaining a nation governed simply by YHWH). They had lived through thousands of years of broken government: Saul, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Pekah, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander the Great, Seleucus, Antiochus, Herod, Ceasar.
They wanted something different. The image that best captured their expectation was “the kingdom of God.”
So what did that entail, practically, for them? And, concordantly, what does that entail, practically, for us?
Israel looked to a day when there would be “no king but God.”
• no allegiance to compete with God
• no security apart from God
The holy land, trampled and polluted by pagans, would be cleansed so that Israel could again live in communion with the Lord.
• reversing the curse of Sin and the sweat and toil associated with the Land
• healing the fruit of the land and of our labor
• redeeming workplace tension
• redeeming issues of worth and esteem for men based on their Work
• ensuring there would always be enough to sustain life, and that sustenance would be good
(non-toxic to the body, etc.)
God would return to the temple that he had abandoned and would once again dwell among his people (Malachi 3:1).
• there would be no separation between us and him
• we would be in his felt/experienced Presence every minute
• every place would be as the Temple – a liminal space where heaven and earth collide (…on
earth as it is in heaven…)
The nation would be liberated from its bondage to pagan oppressors, just as it had been delivered from Egypt and Babylon.
• we are freed from the bondage of our addictions, habits, evil desires, effects of sin, etc.
• the narratives of violence, control, dominance, consumerism, amnesia, no-belief,
hopelessness, despair and greed will be exhausted
The rule of Caesar in Rome and of his puppet kings and priests in Israel would be swept away, and the rule of God would set things right.
• authority and government will uphold justice in truth (not just in name)
• we will have confidence that our rulers/leaders serve YHWH and the people (in that order) as
suffering servants, rather than as despots, dictations, or power-hungry bureaucrats
The coming kingdom would mean liberation from foreign cultural dictates and an endorsement of Israel’s status as the elect people of God.
• our spiritual practices and preferences would not be watered down or compromised by the
state (or public opinion) in any way
• there will be no interference with worship (or healing [of the world, of others, etc…])
It would mean the reformation of the people in obedience and faithfulness toward God as he poured out his Spirit upon them and “circumcised their hearts” (Deuteronomy 30:6) so that they could obey the Torah.
• we will all be disciples and followers and servants, not merely cultural Christians who feel
entitled to the privileges of religious observation
• we would recognize that we are all on a spiritual journey
• we would all endeavor to continue shadowing God, becoming increasingly hospitable to the
Jews of past generations who had remained faithful to God throughout Israel’s many years of exile and bondage would be raised from the dead to experience—together with the living remnant—the coming of God’s kingdom (Daniel 12:2).
• our elders in the faith will see the fruit of their labors in our lives and in the lives of the
• they will know that their faithfulness has paid off in the lives of those they’ve lead, corrected,
discipled, and formed
• the kingdom will be built upon the extended faithfulness of the saints through God’s grace;
meaning that, to whatever degree is possible in this world, the kingdom will be realized
through God’s people living in God’s way for a LONG time (as opposed to ‘fits and starts’ of
Until the kingdom should actually arrive, the faithful in Israel lived in hope: they prayed, studied the Scriptures, celebrated the festivals to keep hope alive, remained faithful to the Torah, and continued to be ready for military action.
• even though the kingdom has not yet been fully realized in this world, we should continue to
live as though it has
• our lives should be lived consistent with the kingdom, keeping kingdom values and
The Message of Jesus Christ – his primary pet topic – was that the kingdom was both here (now) and is on its way (will be here fully soon). Hopefully, the bullets above can help you to understand what he meant by that.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
she's just plain awesome
fun. cool. smart. playful. mischievous. great mom. hot-as-*%*%
you get the idea.
anyway - from time to time she'll make my favorite recipe. she hates it, but out of her deep love for me, she'll make it and force me to fall in love all over again.
but not just any waldorf salad...oh no...traditional waldorf salad is crap...this is an ancient mcdonald family recipe dating back hundreds of years to the old country
(ok - that last part was a lie...it's just really, really good waldorf salad)
for your culinary enjoyment here is the recipe:
2 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
2 cups green grapes, seedless
2 chopped red apples
1 peeled mandarin orange
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup walnuts
in a bowl combine
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 TBSP sugar
mix all ingredients together...
...and pass out in the alaphylactic shock of pure bliss
(p.s. if you tell anyone i posted a recipe on my blog i'll never agree to pray for your sick grandmother again)
from carmel and i, i'd just like to say thanks to all of you who gave (and gave generously) to us and to our staff. it is very touching to receive such a tangible demonstration of your appreciation for our ministry.
you are too kind.
thanks, too, to all the staff at westwinds who (along with our heroic elders) have walked through fire with us. i think it's safe to say we've put our ghosts to rest, our past behind, and are looking forwards to increasingly wonder-filled days of serving jesus in a one-of-a-kind church.
everything we've won through together has come at a personal cost to you and your families. i am proud to serve with you.
again - thanks to everyone who has made this year at westwinds such a fantastically monumental year of advance.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
As we all know, the Saudis have a habit of constructing mosques in dozens of world capitals while forbidding houses of worship for any religion whatsoever outside its Wahabist brand of Islam. They've gotten some bad PR locally for some of the hate language in textbooks at the Saudi Academy in northern Virginia. Not only are hapless Christians terrorized and jailed for daring to hold private prayer services in Saudi Arabia, but God help them should they try to convert someone to their religion. And that's for a fellow People of the Book: One can only guess at what the treatment of Buddhists and Hindus must be like.
Wouldn't it be so ironic if the Russians were the first Christian body to win acceptance of the right to build a church in, say, Riyadh? (Some of the Russians are calling for a church in Mecca, but the chances of any other religion getting a foothold within walking distance of the world center of Islam is less than zero.) Of course we all know the Saudis aren't about ready to let Bibles or other religious literature, let alone a church, anywhere near their homeland, but all the same, it's amusing to see the Russians give the Saudis a taste of their own medicine.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
open source OS (like linux or ubuntu) is a user-interface created by geeky guys in their bedrooms that will do everything you want on your computer for free. it will run every program (including making programs - for free - that typically cost upwards of $1000) and any problem you ever have can be solved by receiving free advice from other open source users.(they help because they are sooooo excited that yet one more person has discovered the wonder of an open OS.)
open source OS will do anything you need it to. it will run anything you need it to. it's harder to understand...waaay harder to use...but the rewards are infinite.
unpacking the metaphor: we need to be less concerned about making everything "fit" into one system of thinking and more concerned with being open enough to embrace the movement of god...even (or perhaps especially) when it's confusing, mysterious, or unexpected.
we need to read ALL of the bible in its original context in mind of its original audience...not just pieces of the bible that say things we like, or bits of the bible that seem (at first) like they were meant just for us and our friends.
we need to read the bible with our traditions, allowing scripture to edit those traditions when we discover that some of our favorite things actually have no basis in scripture.
above all? we need to realize that the WHOLE POINT of any OS (read "theology") is so that we can use the programs (read "gifts"and "fruits" of the spirit)...so we need to constantly be evaluating ourselves (and our OS/theology) on the basis of whether or not we're loving people better, serving god more wholly, and being more useful in god's mission to save the world.
and dangers? are there any big dangers to this open source theology? YES...absolutely. the biggest danger comes from anyone who latches onto an idea that is neither biblically substantive nor open to testing by other leaders and thinkers (i.e. their idea is complete crap but they refuse to acknowledge it...so they become a cult leader). without systemic accountability anyone can run with any idea regardless of how kooky it is...the only way to avoid this danger is to open ourselves to dialogue, attend to our critics, and lean on the creeds as pillars of our orthodox confidence.
but - even with this very dark danger in mind - the rewards for faithfully following jesus are worth the risk of turning into a weirdo.
it's better for us to uphold the values of studying the scripture and opening ourselves to a more robust and deep-feeling experience of god through prayer and the guidance of the spirit...than simply memorizing a bunch of retread theology done by the swiss and the germans five centuries ago (or the italians and the french one millenia ago).
contemporary examples of the good OS: rob bell, tom wright, peter rollins, michael frost & alan hirsch, len sweet
historical examples of the bad OS: david koresch, jim jones
there's a widerange of availability. the old OS versions often work better than the new ones. it becomes frustrating to upgrade all of the time, but the payoff is pretty good because there is always newer and newer software that works on virtually every computer.
however, the OS crashes all of the time, when you need the OS to solve a problem you've caused by overloading it.
to unpack the metaphor: there is great freedom in wesleyan churches...freedom to grow, to learn, to discover christ and the freedom that he brings
but there is also a great deal of confusion...people often feel like there is no "one truth" or that any reading of the scriptures counts as a valid interpretation. grace is often taken for granted and transformation typically ends right after a single sinner's prayer is prayer.
contemporary examples of the good: greg boyd, earl creps,
historical examples of the bad: dennis rader (infamous serial killer), leni riefenstahl (nazi propaganda filmmaker)
they are easy to use and quick to learn. the OS is intuitive and you always know where to get answers. they only work with their own software, however, and much of their energy goes towards advertising the flaws in other operating systems. plus, they prohibit you from doing anything other than exactly what they want you to do.
to unpack the metaphor: these theologies have got everything figured out. they sew up all complexity neatly and tidily. they leave no stone unturned.
or so they think
in actuality, there are a million little questions for which these theologies have no good answer...and you'll be damned straightaway is you start asking them. furthermore, if you ever find some of their "perfect" answers less than perfect, you'll be considered a heretic and promptly be subjected to church discipline.
when these theologies work, they work great - lives are transformed, people find faith in christ jesus, etc.
but when they don't work things fall apart fast - leading to violent and harsh beliefs, lack of love, and love of religion instead of the way of jesus.
contemporary examples of the good OS: pope john paul II, ronald rolheiser, mother theresa, ed setzer, john piper
historical examples of the bad OS: hitler, tsar nicholar II, sam bowens (founder of the KKK)
an operating system allows you to access the programs installed on your computer.
in our little metaphor here, the operating system is our theology and the "programs" are the gifts of the spirit and the fruits of the spirit.
(remember...this is just a metaphor)
anyway, i think we forget that our theology is really just a way for us to better understand how god wants us to live and to whom we owe our allegiance.
god wants us to live self-sacrificially (kenotically...for you theology dorks)
and god wants our total and complete allegiance to him and his kingdom at the expense of everything else.
our theology SERVES THE PURPOSE of transforming us into people who shadow god in every moment.
if, then, our theology does not lead us into this kind of life it is useless and flawed (jesus said: you'll know a tree by its fruit...ergo, if your theology doesn't produce fruit that transforms you into a more loving, self-sacrificial, penitent follower of christ then your theology is broken).
i was angry - having just finished reading 4 of his books in which he blasted other church leaders by name - and felt like i needed to steer our people (and many of my friends) away from his ministry and his influence.
anyway - carmel (my wife) told me i'd committed the same sins i was frustrated with this pastor for making by virtue of writing this angry blog post.
she was right.
so, i've removed the old post; but am feeling a little frustrated about how to interrupt the growing influence of this other pastor whose theology is good and clear (though narrow and strictly reformed) and whose preaching is exceptional (though angry and frequently slanderous).
i just don't want the people i love and am called to serve to think that right theology is somehow more important than right behavior, right relationship, or right missional activity. those four things go together (or at least they should) and when somone emphasizes 1 over the other 3 things get very much out-of-balance and can cause serious real-life damage.
historically, we have many, many examples of people whose theology was perfect but whose lives were almost the exact opposite of christ. everyone from the inquisitors to the crusaders and the nazis to the klu klux klan used pristine, biblical theology to justify dehumanizing other people, using violent rhetoric that erupted into violent action.
theology, then, is obviously not the only thing we need to consider while following jesus.
truth be told, though; most of the justification for acting like an ass comes from an overemphasies on pauline theology.
paul was brilliant, inspired by the holy spirit, and has taught us much about how to be the church.
but he's not the only author in the new testament for a reason.
his harshness (and that of james') must always be read alongside peter (who taught us to suffer well) and john (who taught us to love always) and jude (who warned us against teachers whose lives misrepresented christ jesus).
not to mention jesus' own words which - above anything else - taught us to love god and love one another self-sacrificially.
so - i'm frustrated...frustrated that many good and godly people who are becoming excited about theology for the first time may very well miss the forest for the trees.
they'll get their reformed (regurgitated) calvinist (calculus) doctrine perfect...
...but end up following the example of their teacher and becoming hateful, prejudicial, and unchristlike.
and that makes me sad.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Is that a bit of a stretch? It was for me too when I first began to think about it. Then I started going back again and again to the pages of the New Testament and reading through Santa Claus-colored glasses what we were being instructed to do by the Apostle Paul or what Jesus was instructing us to do. What kind of instructions do we see in the pages of the New Testament text?
I want to read from Ephesians, Chapter 4 in The Message translation. This is Paul writing to the persecuted Church in the region of Ephesus, which is the same region in which Santa Claus was born. Remember, Santa Claus read this letter; this was part of Santa’s Bible. These are the words that made Nicholas, St. Nicholas. These are the words that transformed a fishing boy into the most powerful and significant cultural icon in the last two millennia. He’s more famous than any theologian, pope, charitable person or movie star; everyone knows Santa.
Look at the words now that made Santa, Santa.
While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get
out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to
travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t
want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And
mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts,
but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert
at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction,
so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one
faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works
through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is
permeated with Oneness.
But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same.
Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.
He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled
earth with his gifts.
We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He
keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through
us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.
Think about what those words must have done to a simple, little boy who grew up surrounded by the courageous confidence of men and women who are willing to be put to death for their religious convictions. For Nicholas, as a boy, all of those heroes for him would have been people who looked almost the same. They would have been from the same kind of socio-economic class, gone from place to place preaching and praying for people to perform acts of healing and acts of proclamation.
But Nicholas does something totally different. He makes the mission of Christ his own. He changes the way he is going to express Christian spirituality. Instead of going and preaching, he goes and gives gifts. He doesn’t go and give gifts publicly, he does it at night, in secret, so no one will ever look to him and talk about how great or wonderful he is. He just wants to give because he’s motivated by generosity.
It’s hard for us sometimes to separate the real St. Nicholas from the Santa Claus on the Christmas card, or the Santa Claus on the Christmas ornament, but we must – we must remember that Santa Claus is real. Santa Claus is motivated by affection for Jesus Christ to do things that will never benefit him or make his life better, but will only help to make our lives more full of joy. He teaches us what it means to believe. If you’ve got kids you see what Santa Claus does; you see how he awakens hope. He changes the perceptions of people and families from brokenness to joy, from despair to hope, from poverty to prosperity.
These things are Christ things. These are Jesus things, the things Jesus taught the apostles, the things they wrote about in the Bible. For us, this year, as counterintuitive as it might seem to talk about Santa Claus at Christmas in a church, it changes Santa from just a pop culture symbol and puts him right in the middle of the Christian Christmas story.
It teaches us Santa Claus isn’t a provider, but an example. We ought to be like him as he endeavors to be like Jesus Christ.
It’s our great ambition and hope for us all this year (and every year to come) that as you look at Santa Claus in the mall or in the cards that you recognize there is in St. Nicholas a power to change the world. That authority, that motivation, is placed there by God in him and it’s ready and able to be placed in us as well.
it seems like, when people become addicted to porn, their best hope is to just stop and hope for the best.
they're like white-knuckle drunks.
sure, there's accountability software which (in my mind) is the best option
but even that only makes failure doubly-painful because now someone knows all your secrets and is forced to act on them
which usually have some painful (and shameful) consequences,
often disproportionate to the crime.
greg has a hunch that there has to be a way to fight porn addiction
much like we fight other illnesses (because it does contain many similar characteristics to mental illness)
and much like we fight other addictions (because it does contain all of the same characteristics of other addictions - alcohol, hard drugs, etc).
so he's on the lookout for some people of passion to dig up some research on porn, addiction, recovery, and re-mapping neural pathways for the next year in an effort to establish a treatment program.
it is very much needed
after all, if someone comes to me and tells me they have ADHD, i send them to greg
but if they confess an addiction to porn all i can really tell them is that they should stop.
people need real help for their real problems,
not just guilt and a high punishment for failure.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
But our actions are only indicative of the deeper, truer, person that we are. Our actions are only servants to us – they are the things we do because of the people we are.
The real issue regarding salvation is not our actions/behaviors, but our allegiance.
Christianity spirituality is about a changing of allegiance. In its most basic sense, it is a changing of allegiance from ourselves to Christ Jesus; in more dramatic scenarios it is a changing of allegiance from some religion, or some servitude, or some dark master to Jesus Christ.
But we find it hard to remember this.
So, when someone asks me: are you saying that God is going to send my friend to Hell for being a homosexual?
I am more than a little hesitant to answer yes.
1. because I don’t think Heaven and Hell are “real” issues so much as scapegoat rhetoric utilized to either:
a. make religious people look bigoted, or
b. make non-religious people look wicked
2. because Heaven and Hell are not determined – as far as I can tell in scripture – solely on our score as good people
Heaven is about allegiance far more than it is about behavior.
However, behavior flows from allegiance; which is why – if forced – I would have to say that practicing homosexuals are not (in all likelihood) Christians.
Because Christians are those who have given their allegiance to Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and He leaves no room for ambiguity on the topic of sexual sin.
Some might think this is harsh, but I’m not sure why…honestly, if loving and following Jesus Christ is the most important thing to you in the world than you should be able to give up whatever else you need to surrender in order to serve Jesus better.
But if you don’t want to serve Jesus, then who cares what you do with your sexuality so long as it is within the law?
Anyway, I make the point of saying all this because people often respond with genuine heartbreak when they hear how narrow the standards are for following Jesus…and it’s true, the Way of Jesus Christ is wonderfully and fantastically difficult to follow, but our primary concern should not be managing our behavior.
Our primary concern should be Love for, and Oneness with, God.
If we are driven into the center of Christ, then our behavior will increasingly conform to the standards of Scripture and no sin will be any barrier against our entry into Heaven.
If, however, we are concerned with issues and sins and particulars more than we are concerned with giving our whole selves to God, than anything can prove to be an insurmountable barrier that separates us from Christ.
Because – again – the issue is not sin, but allegiance.
Which is why I try very hard not to monitor or police non-Christians on their conduct (unless, of course, it is something so heinous or dehumanizing as to warrant a just response). Christians, in the end, should only be ‘sharpening the iron’ - that is challenging one another on their sinful behavior – of other Christians.
So – again – if allegiance is the thing we focus on, then we can have confidence that all the other, less significant battles, will get worked out through the process of discipleship;
But if any one issue, or sin – like homosexuality, or financial generosity, or biblical credibility, etc – is what we focus on then we will spend the rest of our lives wrestling with issue after issue after issue.
And we will never find peace
Monday, November 17, 2008
there's a "best of jackson" awards thing-y, and this year we won best place of worship.
it must be our all-you-can-sin buffet on tuesdays...which is waaay more popular than our we-were-just-kidding-seriously-get-over-here-and-repent-your-face-off wednesdays (2 for 1).
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
when we're first learning how to follow Jesus we stick to the basics
prayer + bible reading
then we maybe move onto other things like
scriptural study + exegesis
thing is...i do all of these and none of these regularly
almost like jazz
in jazz (a word which literally means "improvisation") you've got to know the rules in order to break them.
so, you play swung eighths instead of straight
you mix up your scales and your modes
you play with the music you're playing
and that's mostly how i approach christian spirituality. i've had a host of great experiences in my life, including times of remarkable discipline, that give me something to vamp on. it makes it easier for me to hear the Spirit now that i feel like there are many ways in which He can communicate to me that i'm practiced in understanding.
but sometimes i get uncomfortable explaining this...because i'm afraid people will try and copy or adopt my approach without all of the same background experiences.
so, for example, people who hear me say that i don't spend time each night reading my bible may use that as an excuse to skip out on time in the word
but this is a problem, given that i spend almost 20-25hours a week prayerfully studying the scriptures...so the parallel between my life and theirs breaks down quickly.
see what i mean?
if you want to go deeper in your spiritual life you must begin with some basic building blocks, and then move onto something new-er or more holistic etc.
you've got to know your scales before you can change them
know your modes before you can switch them
know you time before you can bend it
know the Word before you can discern the Spirit speaking to you
Nothing says Christmas like a wreath -- or the now perennial Christmas wars.
Ads proclaiming, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," will appear on Washington buses starting next week and running through December.
The American Humanist Association unveiled the provocative $40,000 holiday ad campaign Tuesday.
In lifting lyrics from "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," the Washington-based group is wading into what has become a perennial debate over commercialism, religion in the public square and the meaning of Christmas.
"We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you," said Fred Edwords, spokesman for the humanist group.
"Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of nontheists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion."
To that end, the ads and posters will include a link to a Web site that will seek to connect and organize like-minded thinkers in the D.C. area, Edwords said.
Edwords said the purpose isn't to argue that God doesn't exist or change minds about a deity, although "we are trying to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people's minds."
The group defines humanism as "a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity."
Last month, the British Humanist Association caused a ruckus announcing a similar campaign on London buses with the message: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
In Washington, the humanists' campaign comes as conservative Christian groups gear up their efforts to keep Christ in Christmas. In the past five years, groups such as the American Family Association and the Catholic League have criticized or threatened boycotts of retailers who use generic "holiday" greetings.
In mid-October, the American Family Association started selling buttons that say "It's OK to say Merry Christmas." The humanists' entry into the marketplace of ideas did not impress AFA president Tim Wildmon.
"It's a stupid ad," he said. "How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world."
Also on Tuesday, the Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group based in Orlando, Florida, launched its sixth annual "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign." Liberty Counsel has intervened in disputes over nativity scenes and government bans on Christmas decorations, among other things.
"It's the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ," said Mathew Staver, the group's chairman and dean of the Liberty University School of Law. "Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want, but this is insulting."
Best-selling books by authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have fueled interest in "the new atheism" -- a more in-your-face argument against God's existence.
Yet few Americans describe themselves as atheist or agnostic; a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll from earlier this year found 92 percent of Americans believe in God.There was no debate at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority over whether to take the ad. Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said the agency accepts ads that aren't obscene or pornographic.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
check it out at http://grrm.livejournal.com/58155.html
and, yes, i know how pimpy and slobbery this makes me look; but hey - i like this stuff (everyone has their flaws, after all)
jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, to lay down our lives, to prioritize others, and to go the extra mile.
jesus tells us to love our enemies.
but what about instances in which someone is being victimized? for example, should we tell the rape victim to turn the other cheek? to not report her rapist? to forgive her rapist? to "go the extra mile?"
of course not.
see, jesus was calling us to lay down our lives.
martyrs are witnesses (that's the literal meaning of the word). jesus went willingly unto death as a sacrifice for all humanity. his life and sacrificial death bore witness to the immense love of god for all the world.
but he was not a victim.
in fact, at least one other time "they" came to get jesus, presumably to kill him, and he escaped through a crowd. he avoided their malice. he slipped the noose, escaped the trap, and most certainly did not "go the extra mile" in order to allow evil-doers to do whatever they wanted.
they wanted to kill him, but he was not ready. had they done so then he would have been a victim not a martyr because his death would not have born witness.
witness is voluntary. witness is intentional. witness is prophetic.
victimization, on the other hand, is criminal.
i say all of this because of how frequently i hear people tell tales of personal suffering that seem guided and governed by a misunderstanding of jesus' teachings.
they think they should move back in with their abusive husband because they're supposed to turn the other cheek...and so they get abused again, and their children get beaten, and they persist in their misery.
but jesus didn't come to enslave us to abuse; he came to set us free.
free from victimization.
being bullied is not proof that we are followers of jesus' teachings; standing up to bullies in ways that re-value human life and dignity are.
the martyr always understands that people are worth a great deal.
the victim thinks they are worthless.
the martyr goes willingly into suffering SO THAT the powers of evil will be exhausted and exposed.
the victim suffers evil BECAUSE the wicked go unopposed.
there is a great difference in these two things.
Monday, November 10, 2008
the pulpit is a dare
a dare to speak with conviction
say what god might say
bounce a proclamation off the pews of the world
it is an elevated, up-front
bulky wooden dare.
to speak boldly
and stand resolutely
is both necessary and problematic.
because we have an awkward relationship with conviction.
certainty, as a concept, is out of vogue. dogma is the devil. question everything. yet we want to hold onto something, to care enough to give utterance when the moment is right.
while we may hold secret contempt for the preacher who is so sure, so knowing, we also hold a desire to stand up front, if only for a few minutes.
but we know the pulpit also inhibits like a dead weight around the neck of language. it tethers imagination to dominion, sitting there so smug, the center of too much attention, too much piety, and propriety.
[but we've] unleashed the old bulwark from its moorings and hauled it out the back door.
now it's on the loose...
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
- The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis
anyway, great quote on p.45:
when the greeks got the gospel they turned it into a philosophy
when the romans got the gospel they turned it into a government
when the europeans got the gospel they turned it into a culture
when the americans got the gospel they turned it into a business
Thursday, November 6, 2008
we laughed a lot.
but the problem remains: when you introduce people to the depth of the bible, and they don't fully listen, you run the risk of having them make up their own rules as to how the bible should be interpreted.
which is a big deal, and a big risk.
so, for example, during our genesis series we did a little historical-critical work comparing genesis 1 to the enuma elish and ancient israel to ancient babylon. we talked about how these things should be read in context, because context informs us.
which, then - somehow - caused a gentlemen to tell me that jesus' teachings really were all poems and metaphors that we shouldn't take seriously because he was responding to the enuma elish.
jesus was born 1800 years after the enuma elish, never interacted with it, nor was it part of the dominant narrative of the roman empire. he and it have almost nothing to do with each other.
this poor guy confused our homework that applies to genesis with our homework that applies to jesus. they are not the same things, but he - because he only half cared - confused them and combined them unthinkingly.
and the worst part?
he didn't care or BELIEVE me when i tried to correct him.
it was at this point in the conversation that ben asked me: do you sometimes feel like you're giving people guns when you preach?
meaning: do you sometimes feel that people have no idea how dangerous the bible is when they refuse to listen to the basic instructions for how to use it properly?
don't we understand how much is at risk when we're dumb with the bible? uncriticial? unthinking? unreflective?
and not just with the context or the history, but with basic stuff like jesus' commands to his disciples.
don't we get it?
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
our two studies, bloom & the misfit toys, are joining together to build a house for a family outside Johannesburg with my friend sarah (maxie).
here are some fotos of the work maxie has done before. it's modest work, but a massive help for a family in tremendous need. each house costs $750 USD, so between bloom and the misfits we can afford it this month.
anyway - it kills me sometimes to think about how god has remarkably blessed us here in jackson...and how little we appreciate it...and how little with do with it.
taking a small amount of money from a couple dozen people and building a home like this one hardly counts as a major strike against inequity...but it's a start.
and, perhaps, for most of us a start is all that is required for us to begin living differently.
1. "move the fire in your pants to your heart"
2. "why don't you sleep with your wife for a change?"
i'd meant to make note of that in the atlas, but realize now that i didn't.
sorry, pierre - props to you
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
to promote "eat your heart out" at the winds, mexican j and i are going to be posting street signs in a variety of parking lots this morning.
look for these around jackson at: richmond agency, culligan water, big b's coffee, arrowswift, drake waters (cpa), and a few other spots tbd.
here's a sneak peak at the signs:
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Because that’s what we’re seeking: a way to be whole, to be un-separate, to find ourselves.
Of course, there are many distractions along the way – especially concerning our sexuality.
Many of us, for example, try to find complete wholeness through sex. But this is an illusion. Sex itself, having sex with another person, is not able to supply what we need.
No one ever believes this, though; we all seem pathologically incapable of grasping the fact that no orgasm is good enough, big enough, quick (or slow) enough, or repeated often enough to cure the sense of isolation we feel.
As soon as it’s over, we feel alone again, unless we are Loved.
But – again – no one believes this.
Sex is so much fun, it’s easy to put off the bothersome tidbit of loneliness we feel in the afterglow of our acrobatics. But the more we live the more we require to stave off that feeling. We have become a culture of sex addicts – always needing another quick fix – in order to just make it through another day.
We are separated, sex-ed, and cut off.
There is something inside of us which longs for wholeness. That something is the Divine Spark. We want to be wholly with God, we want to be whole people.
The desire for wholeness with God is our spirituality.
The desire for wholeness as a person is our sexuality.
That Fire inside of us is the drive towards wholeness, whether spiritual or sexual.
Wholeness occurs through covenant.
The covenant between man and woman is marked by sex.
Wholeness happens through covenant marked by sex.
We want to be whole so we are driven to have sex; however, in the absence of covenant, sex doesn’t make us whole it commodifies us.
Sex must be exclusive and perpetual to be covenantal.
Sexual wholeness comes through exclusivity and perpetuity before God.
It is God who makes us whole sexually as author of the Covenant.
It is God who makes us whole spiritually as author of our humanity.
The Fire inside of us is the drive for wholeness, which can only be experienced through complete union and communion with God – whether sexual or spiritual or, most accurately, both.
pollsters had realized that less than 51% of canadians professed to be christians, and so our "status" had changed forever.
this was something that was lamented in every church, christian school, youth rally, pastors gathering, etc. from then on (and continues today, albeit in a less "raw" sense).
but - here's the thing: i'm not sure canada was any different when i was 28 than when i was 8 or 18. the cultural issues were largely the same, the sense of dislocation felt by christians was largely the same, and the irrelevance of the church was still a big issue.
thing is, i don't think canada was ever christian
statistically, even when we were 75% christian, most of that was a cultural version of french catholicism practiced predominantly in quebec and among other francophones.
that's not to say that catholics aren't christians, just that most francophones consider themselves catholic much in the same way that midwesterners consider themselves christian even when neither group has paid any attention to jesus, the movement of the spirit, the mission of god, prayer, daily investment in the scriptures, etc.
their christianity is cultural, like a civil religion
if the olive garden is italian, these people are christians
if vanilla ice is rap, these people are christians
if the detroit lions are a pro football team, these people are christians
so...to recap...i don't think that the label of "christian nation" ever truthfully applied to the beautiful, honorable, greately missed, great white north.
but neither do i think it applies to the united states of america.
and neither do i think it rightly applies to any nation on the planet...ever.
of course, i make these claims for entirely different reasons.
see, i think that the idea that a nation is christian based on how many christians live there is entirely flawed. even if canada were 100% populated by christians, you could never call canada christian.
everything written about nations in scripture refers specifically to the nation of israel. so, when scripture talks about a nation being saved it's referring to the covenant people of god coming clean before god and making themselves right with god.
it's not talking about canada, america, mexico, uruguay, etc.
furthermore, in the second testament we're made to understand that christians are a nation unto themselves - meaning, christians are the people (read, nation) of God regardless of where they live.
you and i live in the same "christian nation" as our christian brothers are sisters in india. we are all part of the city of god. we all live as the people of god. and our "of-god-ness" has nothing to do with national or political lines on a map.
there are no christian nations because the real christian nation is comprised of those who follow jesus, regardless of wherever they live.
this is a difficult concept to grasp - i get that - and by talking about it i run the risk of being dismissed as abstract, obscure, or idealistic.
but the apostle paul himself refers to this as a "great mystery" in ephesians.
because it is so hard to grasp.
there is no such thing as a christian country. our countries are not good because they are christian.
our countries are good only to the degree that our policies and laws, practices and agreements, bring life to the world...but that doesn't just happen because the people who make those policies claim to be christians.
now, a couple closing caveats before anyone goes weird on me:
1. nationlism is still ok - love your country, serve your country, support the leadership of your country, but don't confuse loving your country with loving christ, and never think the former is somehow equal or (god forbid) more significant than the latter.
2. believing for your country to be saved is still ok - we can mine the scriptures for all kinds of hope and promise about canada, or the usa, being healed and made whole; about violence diminishing and cities being rebuilt and children being looked after. but don't confuse this with the notion that we are a christian nation and everything we do is in service to God because we've won this label.
3. believing that your country should be ethical is still ok - we should still demand that our governments make ethical decisions (and hold them accountable when they do not). we should still oppose evil, as a nation, wherever it is found through political, economic, and - yes - sometimes military intervention.
so...what am i really saying?
1. the church has to retain its right to criticize the government. that is the role of the prophet in scripture: to keep leaders honest before god. too often our churches have gotten political, and then there's no one left being spiritual. our role is to uphold ourselves, our world, and our people before god and demand that our politicians do the same to whatever degree they are able.
2. the state + its bureaucracy are soulless, meaning they are neither good nor evil. our goodness is determined by our actions. do we heal or harm? do we cultivate life or end it? does our intervention preserve justice or compromise it? we must insist on adjudicating our nation this way, rather than simply assuming that what we do is good because of who we are; or, as has become much more popular lately, assuming that whatever we do is bad because we think our current administration is evil somehow.
3. the people of god have a responsibility to live differently in this world. we often abdicate our moral responsibility to the state and then blame them for our own lack of courage. if you want to be a genuine follower of jesus christ then live differently. don't wait for america to become a christian nation in deed as well as in name; you should begin living now as a follower of jesus in deed and in name, and when that crosses over with your duty to your country (as it must on nov.4), you should spend deep time in prayer seeking the counsel of God and the movement of the spirit and vote with your conscience.
anyway, i write all of this out of concern for christians. many of us have swallowed some bad mojo about what it means to be a christian come election time.
many of us think that christians should all be republican.
many of us, an increasing number, have found that republicans don't really feel all that christian and so we're excited (almost unthinkingly) about being democrats.
but being a christian has nothing to do with whether you land as a republican or a democrat. neither party is the party jesus would support.
neither party is godly to its core.
every choice is a choice made despite our misgivings and in spite of our disappointment.
every christian is a republican with misgivings.
every christian is a democrat with misgivings.
it's not the party that makes us christians.
it's the misgivings and what we do with them that make us christians.
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.