Friday, August 29, 2008

TGIF

This was the first full week of school. I'm tired and looking forward to the long weekend. I didn't watch much of the Democratic convention, but I am glad to see the day when a person of color can be nominated by one of the major political parties. Vote for Obama or not, it is an historic time.

And now, what you all have been waiting for. The links of the week:

Philip at The Thinklings writes a letter.

Randy Smith has some good thoughts on "old people". (HT: Jared Wilson)

Tall Skinny Kiwi has a good post on blogging.

This is heartbreaking. (HT: Brother Maynard)

Is your church like this?

Anthony Smith is going to vote.

If Jesus had a blog.

Good poem.

Michael Spencer has some good questions.

imonk thinks we should take Frank Viola seriously.

More "me too" from the Christian subculture. (HT: Richard Wagner)

Camille asks what's left and right.

Barb has some questions for leavers.

Enjoy the long weekend and please pray for the son of a former co-worker of mine who broke his neck in a diving accident. The doctors repaired the break but still don't know if there will be permanent paralysis.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Bible

In Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson describes how the King James Bible is still a best seller almost four hundred years after its initial publication, even though the English in the King James is a far cry from the English used in twenty first century America. I wonder why.

I've heard all the talk about the KJV being a best seller because it is the only translation that is God's inspired and preserved word. I don't think that's the reason at all.

I believe that the fact that the KJV is still a best seller has more to do with the way most people see the Bible these days than in anything special about the language that is used. The Bible is seen by many Christians as a depository of "timeless truths" that can be pulled out and used whenever they are needed. Some see it as a rule book for life or a sort of owner's manual that they can go to and find rules and procedures for the things they do. Others search out promises and use them as something akin to magic words to try to get God to do what they want. Still others read Scripture out of a sense of duty, because someone told them that to be a good Christian they have to read the Bible every day.

What all these reasons have in common is a lack of desire to really let God's revelation of himself and the story of his people get inside them. I know from personal experience that it is easy to read the Bible on a regular basis and not be changed. I've studied Scripture (in Bible college I got A's on both my theology written and oral exams). I learned the inductive, deductive, and any other ductive methods of Bible study. Those things really didn't have much of an impact on my spiritual growth. I knew a lot of information, but it really didn't mean that much.

Peterson tells a story of an adult class at his church that was studying the book of Galatians. His purpose was to remind the people of their freedom in Christ. Peterson noticed that the class was more interested in their coffee and conversation than they were with the Scripture. This frustrated him until he got the idea of taking the Greek words of the original and putting them in modern American English. He writes that very quickly the coffee was forgotten in the excitement of seeing the revelation of God in words that they were familiar with and could understand, words that they used every day. Peterson notes that the New Testament was written in the common Greek of the day - street language.

I think the reason many people buy and read the King James is that it is in a style of English that they don't use in their day-to-day lives, and can therefore be kept separate. It's part of the division between "sacred" and "secular" that many have to keep God from messing with their routine. It's also useful as a sort of "code" that only the "sanctified" can understand. (I've noticed that a large part of some sermons is reading the King James and then translating it into modern English so the congregation can understand).

I believe that the Bible is not a book to be studied the way one would study a textbook or manual. It is not a collection of facts about God or a book of regulations and procedures. It is God's story of himself and his dealings in this world, of how he is building a Kingdom and restoring all things, and of how he will finally bring about that restoration completely. It is a story that invites us to enter in, to join our story with God's story. As we enter into this story we learn, in real ways, how to become like the Savior and King the story points to.

To do this, to enter into God's story and open ourselves to being transformed by it, we must have this story in a language we can understand and relate to. For most people the KJV doesn't fill the bill.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Be Blessed?

The sign guy has another one up. This one reads, "Be blessed. Stay in his favor."

I grew up hearing messages along that line. If you want God to bless you, you had to make sure that you did things that would keep you on his good side. I remember making sure I had confessed any and all sins that I could think of before I would pray for something really big that I wanted from God. I always "searched my heart" before Communion to make sure I was "right with God" so I wouldn't get sick or die. I lived in a carrot and stick relationship with God. The carrot was his blessing if I lived right, and the stick was missing blessings or being punished if I didn't. Even through my teen years when I got involved in things that I shouldn't have, I still held on to the idea of getting "things squared away with God" before I wanted him to bless me in some way.

One of the biggest things the Father has taught me over the years is that he loves and blesses me because he wants to, because I am his child. I am in God's favor because I am in Christ. I did nothing to earn his favor, and I can do nothing to lessen it either. I sin, but my Abba Father loves me far beyond what I can understand. My performance doesn't cause God to love me more or less. I am accepted as a son by the One who is over all, and therefore I want to do those things that are compatible with my standing. I want to do those things that bring glory to my Father and that advance his Kingdom. I don't do those things because I think that doing them will keep me in God's favor and bring his blessing down.

I am through with a performance based religion that keeps its followers in fear that they might knowingly or unknowingly do something that is going to cause God to take his hand off them. I am through with a religion that acts as if God can be manipulated to give favor by man's actions.

I embrace a grace that loves me no matter what, that has already given me God's favor, and that is forming me into the image of Jesus Christ

Friday, August 22, 2008

TGIF

This week was a wake up call for the American track team. Maybe if they practiced more than just a couple of times before the race, the relay teams wouldn't drop the baton. It's a problem that shows up far too often. This week has shown the sprinters that they are not untouchable.

Here's the good stuff:

Dan Edelen has some ideas on cleaning up after Lakeland, etc. Part 1 is here.

AnneDroid has changed over the years.

Dan Burrell writes about church names. (HT: Scot McKnight)

Michael Spencer thinks about the cross.

Jeff McQ is dreaming some more.

Jonathan Brink ponders following.

Anthony Smith is running for President. Who knew?

Here's a guide for sending those nasty e-mails.

This is hilarious. (HT: Brother Maynard)

We're being repossessed.

Gospel = lima beans?

Jared Wilson is being subversive.

Tomorrow night Josh and I are going to see the Panthers play the Redskins. Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Church As Franchise

Slate magazine has an article here on multi-site churches that are being set up by some of the megachurches around the country. I see some problems with this way of "doing church".

First, in these churches the video venues are set up in order for people who live in another area to hear one particular pastor preach. This can create a celebrity status that some of these men will not be able to handle. How many times have we seen leaders of large congregations or "ministries" fall to temptations brought about by being famous and powerful.

The second problem is the lack of opportunity for people to plant churches in areas and be the instrument God uses to have an impact on the community. With the video churches, anyone new coming into an area may have to "compete" with the nationally known preacher who is on the screen down the block.

The first two problems are not insumountable, and in some areas may not even be problems at all, but the third problem I see is one that is far more serious.

The franchising of megachurches and their pastors helps to perpetuate the wrong idea that the "main event" on Sunday morning is church. Too many still believe the old Sunday school song about church and see "church" as a place you go to. This place may be an old, ornate building with a steeple, or it may be a movie theater. It may be a school gymnasium or it may even be a coffee shop or pub. The type of place doesn't matter, they still see church as a place to go on Sunday.

While you are at church you sit and sing a few songs, and then are entertained by the speaker. I have heard it said that the prefered type of entertainment in our churches is the pastor's sermon. You may be inspired. You may be challenged. You may even be moved to action. But looking at the spiritual state of our churches today, how many are being changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ?

In every place the word church appears in Scripture, the idea is that of a group of people, not a building or location. The church is not seen as something you go to, but rather as something you are a part of. To steal Paul's analogy of the church as a body, how well would your physical body function if the arms, legs, etc. only came together once a week to do what you do? I would guess not a whole lot would be accomplished. The parts of your physical body need to be together all the time in order for you to carry out the things you do day-to-day. In the same way, how can we expect the church to carry out the mission of God in advancing his Kingdom if we only get together once, or even three times, a week to sit and hear someone talk. We need to be making disciples of the Rabbi, followers of the true King. The only way this is going to get done is if we get out of the four walls of "church" and realize that we are the church. We need to do what Jesus and the original twelve did, and go to those in need and give them the good news that there is a better way, a way that leads to an abundant, free, eternal life. I fear that a church franchise will do little more than shuffle sheep from church to church.

Friday, August 15, 2008

TGIF

Today we finished up three days of teacher in-service. Things are going to be different this year. As of now, the class I assist only has two students. Of course that could change by Tuesday, but it looks like my duties are going to be a bit different. We'll see.

Here's the interesting stuff for this week:

Barb thinks some of us are dangerous.

Molly takes her kids to the doctor.

Rachel is content with crumbs.

An interesting article on abortion.

Cerulean Sanctum is about grace.

Michael Spencer writes about Jesus and our bank accounts.

Jeff McQ is wondering what to do now that the manna is gone.

Jonathan Brink knows what side God is on.

Shaun Groves asks if size matters.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

China

In the midst of the coverage of the Olympics and the gushing about how wonderful things are in China, please don't forget that there are many in that country that do not have the freedoms that we enjoy here in the United States. This comes from Voice of the Martyrs:

Pastor Zhang “Bike” Mingxuan, known for traveling across China on a bicycle to evangelize, was arrested by Chinese police just two days before the Olympics began. Pastor Bike was the inspiration for the recent partnership between The Voice of the Martyrs and China Aid Association to create the Olympic Prayer Band.

Pastor Asks for Prayer BandEarlier this year, Pastor Bike pleaded with VOM staff to ask Christians to pray for persecuted Christians in China during the Olympics. The pastor voluntarily preaches the gospel openly in China despite being persecuted. He has asked for his identity to be revealed to bring continued attention to the persecution of Christians in Communist China.
Thanks to Pastor Bike’s inspiration and the commitment of concerned Christians across the United States, more than 800,000 prayer bands have been circulated. On Aug. 6, Pastor Bike was arrested while trying to deliver medicine to his ailing wife. His wife and another pastor were also arrested. We have also learned this week that Chinese officials are opening a full investigation of the Olympic Prayer Bands that were distributed to house church members within China. Despite this increased pressure from Chinese authorities, Chinese Christians continue to ask for prayer and to make their plight known.

You can learn more about the Olympic Prayer Band here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Melissa Has Been Found

On Saturday, I posted a plea for help in finding a young women who had been missing. She has been found and her family and friends are praising God for her safe return. Thank you for your prayers.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Disclaimer Needed

Barb says I need to put some sort of disclaimer on my blog. For some reason she thinks that I, along with quite a few other bloggers are subversive and dangerous. Now I don't even pretend to think I'm in the same league as Brother Maynard, Internet Monk. Grace, and others. But if a fellow blogger thinks a disclaimer is necessary, who am I to refuse .

WARNING: Reading this blog may cause you to rethink some of the beliefs and assumptions you have about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. You may even question some of the things you were taught by parents, teachers, and pastors. It's possible that you may begin to look at the Bible in a different way than ever before. You may even come to believe that God's grace is not just for a "home in heaven", but is for all of life, and that the Kingdom is here and now as well as to come in the future. You may realize that you are free to follow Jesus as he leads you, not as an institution directs. You could possibly become discontented with "church" as you've known it, and you may wish for authentic community and desire to advance the Kingdom outside of the four walls of a building, seeing that we don't go to church, we are the church. This may cause a dislocation in relationships as friends have a hard time dealing with your strange new ideas. You may even lose friends and learn what Jesus meant when he said he came to divide. You may experience any of this by reading this blog. You will probably experience it by reading any of the blogs listed below. You have been warned.

*Edit*
After I posted this, I realized that Barb's idea was for this disclaimer to be posted:

Beware all who land on this site. This site may enable you to see truth for the first time. Seeing truth may be just what you are looking for but you need to be careful. Once you have tasted truth you will never be able to stomach lies. You are on dangerous ground if you ever want to fit into the established system. You may lose all your friends. You may not have anyone left to worship with. Your children may be left only to you to raise. God will not be controlled any longer. He will be good but no longer safe in that you will not be able to predict his every move. And as for many of your friends. You will need to be willing to loose them. They may (probably will) shun you, dismiss you and turn away from you despite what you now may think. You need to think long and hard about this because it will affect your life. Please be careful with this site. Only enter at your own risk.



Saturday, August 9, 2008

Your Help is Needed

A friend passed this on. Melissa Chalmers Haller has been missing from Gaffney, SC since Thursday, August 7. Check out the website here and help in any way you can. Thanks.

Friday, August 8, 2008

TGIF

I'm watching the Olympic opening ceremony and while I have some problems with one of the biggest violators of human rights being awarded the Olympic Games, I must say that I am very impressed by the show the Chinese put on. It was one of the best, if not the best, opening ceremonies I have ever seen.

A lot of blog posts made me think and entertained me this week:

Todd Hiestand wonders why we hate the homeless.

Jared Wilson has a good article on Searchwarp.

Bill at The Thinklings remembers.

Gospel Driven Church reveals what attracts the unchurched.

TSK wonders what we should do with the term "Emerging Church". I think we should keep it a bit longer.

Brother Maynard provided the next two: What happens when you become a Christian?
and The Font Conference.

Jonathan Brink asks about your most important moment.

Jeff McQ asks three questions.

Grace went to church.

John Armstrong reviews The Shack.

Michael Spencer has a series, "Where is Jesus?" Part 1 is here.

imonk thinks the Suburban Jesus hates him.

I think you'll find this amusing.

John Fonville begins a series on Galatians.

Bob Hyatt found some real Modalists.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Falsetto Spirituality

In Soul Graffiti, Mark Scandrette writes, "A fascination with the supernatural can be a sign of spiritual fragmentation, a falsetto spirituality that strains to reach beyond the normal". As I pondered that statement, I realized that it is so true in much of what is called Christianity.

The obvious examples of this "fascination with the supernatural" are those who run from place to place seeking signs and wonders and "fresh anointing" from God. The supposed moving of God can keep arenas, and ministry accounts, full for months as people swarm to experience a touch from God to lift their lives above the ordinary sameness of their daily lives. While some would consider these events on the fringe, there are other examples that hit a bit closer to home.

Mainstream evangelicalism is concerned with showing people how to have their best life now, with programs that will enable folks to experience a life that rises above the ordinary. Church leaders are given opportunities to learn the secrets of success from The CEO: Jesus. Congregations strive to be extraordinary and have bigger and better facilities and programs. Supernatural power that gets prayers answered and our needs (wants) supplied is constantly sought.

Even those of a more conservative, fundamental bent are not immune to a hunger for the supernatural. They seek a home far away in heaven, a home where the physical no longer matters, a place to escape this broken world. Many of the rules and regulations in fundamental groups seem designed to limit contact with this physical world and its "corruption".

I'm not saying that the supernatural does not matter. I am awed when God performs genuine miracles of healing, and when he provides for his people in supernatural ways. I rejoice when prayers are answered and when godly leaders influence others to follow Jesus Christ. I too believe that this world is broken and corruption runs deep.

What I am saying, and what I think is the point of the quotation from Scandrette, is that the normal, ordinary parts of our lives matter. We are called to follow Jesus here and now, not in a future existence outside of this world. Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom was here, that the King had arrived. Christ's Kingdom is not of this world, but it does have an impact on this world. We have been given the commission and privilege to participate in the work that God is currently doing in this world.

If we look around us with eyes that can see, we can notice how God is working in the day-to-day of our lives. In fact, I think the really supernatural and miraculous thing is that the Creator of all things uses broken, ordinary people like us to do the work of restoring his creation, a work that will finally be complete when Jesus returns. The work of the Kingdom is not just those things that we see as "spiritual". It sometimes involves getting dirty and dealing with ordinary things. But, then again, Jesus used ordinary things. He used spit and dirt to heal a blind man, for goodness sake! Why do we think we have to "rise above the ordinary".

Look for God at work in the ordinary, and ask him where he wants you to fit into what he is doing. Don't run after the supernatural. Remember, many times a falsetto voice doesn't sound very good.

Friday, August 1, 2008

TGIF

I just finished reading Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson. It's his story of growing up in small town North Carolina during the days of the civil rights struggle. It's a compelling read for anyone interested in learning more about the history of race relations in the United States, particularly North Carolina. There are things in the book that have been ignored by most historians. When the movie comes out, go see it. My daughter, Jennie worked as a location assistant so you'll see her name in the credits.

Here's the good stuff this week:

Check out these milk reviews and try not to laugh so hard that it comes out your nose. Thanks to Bob Hyatt

Pam has issued herself a writing challenge. The first post is here.

This link came from Michael Spencer at Jesus Shaped Spirituality. Brandon D. Rhodes shows how Ghandi was wrong.

John Frye reminds us to listen.

Jeff McQ is leaning.

The great battle: Change vs. Tradition.

Jared has a great post on our call.

Dan Kimball has found an interesting musical group.

Have a good weekend. If the Church Basement Roadshow is coming to your area, go. You won't regret it.

A Poem: Home Again

I wrote this one a couple weeks ago. HOME AGAIN It’s been said that you can’t go home again I decided to see for myself, so ...