Friday, January 30, 2009

TGIF

It's Friday again. I just got home from our basketball game where we lost by one point. We played a great game in every area except for the fact that we just couldn't get the ball to go in the basket. We couldn't hit the ocean from the beach. Oh well, that's what happens sometimes. At least the girls played hard.

It's been a busy week and I have a lot of stuff to catch up on this weekend. But, I'll take time from my busy schedule to give you the links of the week: :)

The Watchman has an interesting suggestion for pastors. Bob Hyatt writes about "Dude-Theology". Scot McKnight writes about Wisconsin Winter Habits. Jeff McQ on evangelism, and Jonathan Brink talks about relationships.

How many of these have you read? Not many, I must admit. (HT: Brother Maynard) Jared Wilson went to hear Tim Keller the other night. His thoughts are here.

Tomorrow, my team is going to spend two hours shooting the basketball. :) You all have a good weekend.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Two Natures

I've been thinking about something I was taught as a youngster about the Christian having two natures, the old sin nature and the new nature in Christ. I believed it and taught it. I even used the illustration of the Indian (no, not "Bowels no move"!). The one where the Indian tries to explain the two natures by saying it's like having two dogs inside - a good dog and a bad dog. The person asks, "Which dog wins?", and the Indian replies, "Whichever one I feed." So, I was taught to "feed" the new nature by reading the Bible, praying, going to church, etc. I was also told to avoid certain things that would feed the old nature.

The more I think about the concept of the Gospel being about us becoming a new creation and of Jesus restoring creation and oneness with God, the less I believe that there are two natures inside the Christian. The classic passage in Romans 7 is used as a basis for this doctrine. Is it possible that Paul is not writing about the struggle that goes on in the believer between two natures? Could he be talking about the state of a person who tries to earn favor with God by keeping the Law and the despondency that would drive him to. Paul asks, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" and then answers his own question by giving thanks to God for his deliverance. In the first verse of the next chapter, Paul goes on to say that there is now now longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ. That seems to me to be saying that when we become a follower of Jesus we have a new Spirit-filled nature and are being made into the image of Christ. It takes a lifetime, but it is not a case of us "feeding" one nature or the other.

What do you all think?

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Presence of God

Have you ever been in a church service and heard someone pray and thank God for the chance to come into his house and worship in his presence? Or maybe you've prayed that yourself? I have. Or maybe you've sung the hymn, "In the Garden." You know, the one that talks about meeting Jesus in a particular place at a particular time and then going out on your own into the world outside the "garden." I think songs like "In the Garden," and prayers that speak of "coming into" God's presence have unwittingly helped foster a dualistic way of looking at the world.

Growing up, I was always taught that it was important to have a time and place set aside to "meet with God", to spend some time reading the Bible and praying in order to be able to face the challenges of the day. We were told that first thing in the morning was the best. On top of that we should attend church services on Sunday morning and Sunday night to be prepared for the week ahead, and also show up on Wednesday night in order to refresh your faith for the second half of the week. Behind it all was the idea that if you weren't in church three or more times a week and having your own devotional time, you weren't spending enough time with God.

Don't misunderstand me. I am NOT saying that setting aside a regular amount of time to read Scripture and pray is a bad thing. I am NOT saying that a time of corporate worship and instruction is a bad thing. I AM saying that we fall short of the life that Jesus came to give us when we act as if those are the only times we are in the presence of God.

I see this in the theology that teaches that salvation is only spiritual and guarantees that one day we will escape this old world of sin and misery and go to our home in heaven. I believe that if we see heaven as "somewhere beyond the blue", it makes sense to believe that God isn't really with us in our day-to-day, and that it is essential that we go to church a lot and carve out a special time to "meet" with God. While folks may protest that they don't believe that, I think the evidence in their lives shows that they really do. Having said that, I know that there are people who use the words of this theology because that is what they grew up with, yet live as if they are always in the presence of God.

If we believe that God fills all of creation and that he is not limited to a particular place, then we can realize that heaven is all around us and that God is making all things new right now, and will finally restore his creation when Jesus returns. If we really believe that, then while we may set aside a certain time and place to focus on the Father, we will live in our day-to-day aware that we are continually in God's presence and don't have to rely on whether or not we had our "devotions that morning. We have the Spirit in us to guide us and reveal to us what God wants us to know and do.

Yes, we need to read and know the Bible. Yes, we need to pray. But we should never think that a certain time of the day or day of the week is the only time we are in God's presence. As the Psalmist asked, where can we go where God is not there?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Josh

On Saturday, January 22, 1983 the Washington Redskins won the NFC championship. The next day the joy in the Shope household was increased even more when a son was born. This boy was our firstborn and little did we know how he would change our lives. We discovered quickly that he did not like to sleep, at least at night when we thought he should.

We also discovered early on what a blessing this little boy was to us. As he grew, we marvelled at how he quickly he learned things. We were also concerned, because we wanted him to be able to be educated properly and knew it would be a challenge keeping him interested. Fortunately he loved to read, so we knew that he would learn.

As he grew and became interested in sports, I had the opportunity to coach him during baseball season, and help him with his basketball skills. He even helped me out during basketball, keeping me calm on the bench. It was exciting to watch him develop his skills and his love for sports. As he grew into a teenager, he began to grow and develop those skills even more. During high school he was a multi-sport athlete.

The academic side of life was not ignored either, as this young man continued to be an excellent student, winning numerous awards and academic scholarship money. Not only did he earn good grades but learned to think and to form his own opinions. As we dropped him off at college, we knew he would do well. He did, and began to develop into even more of a unique individual.

After a couple of rough years of learning to trust God, he came back home to pursue what he feels the Father has gifted him to do. Our relationship has deepened and changed into more of a friend to friend rather than parent to child.

Josh, it has been an absolute joy watching you grow and mature. We've enjoyed seeing God work in you and grow your faith in him. We are treasuring the time we have with you now as we have treasured the time we've had since you were born. We are extremely proud of you and we love you. Happy Birthday.

Friday, January 23, 2009

TGIF

This week has been busy and the weather has been on a roller coaster ride. On Tuesday, school was called of because of snow. Today it is sunny with a high near 6o. Today is Josh's birthday. Stop by his blog and wish him a happy one. The country made history this week with the inauguration of President Obama. Of course that kicked the lunatic fringe of "Christianity" into high gear. Oh well. I guess folks have to find some enemy to fight.

Here are the good links for the week:

A Time to Laugh draws lessons from Mary Poppins. Dan Edelen again writes a good post, and Scot McKnight has some good thoughts about our new President and abortion. Lest you think the Israelis are the only bad guys, see this (HT: Scot McKnight). John Frye thinks we need to take Jesus back for America.

Brant Hansen gives a synopsis of the recent "24" episode. Next-Wave looks back at the last decade in the emerging conversation. If you're interested in observing Lent, check out this from Christine Sine. Jared Wilson gives us some classic Larry Norman footage.

I hope your weekend is filled with God's grace and blessing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Evangelism

Barb wrote about evangelism yesterday and asked folks to weigh in with their thoughts, so here goes.

I grew up in fundamental Baptist churches, where the point of evangelism was to convince the person of the truth of a set of propositions and bring them to the place where they agreed that they were a sinner and going to hell and that Jesus died for their sins. After this was accomplished the person would then be led in the "sinner's prayer" and ask Jesus to forgive them and come into their heart. After saying this prayer, usually repeated after the person doing the evangelism, they would then be told that they were now going to heaven when they died. They would also be told to remember the date so they could point back to it if any doubts later crept in.

There were various methods used to try and get people to come to the point of making a "decision for Christ." The Four Spiritual Laws, the Romans Road, surveys where you would ask a series of questions designed to lead the person to pray the prayer. All of the methods were designed to convince the prospect of a set of propositions.

I was mainly involved in the survey method, what I call "hit and run evangelism" because these surveys were usually done in shopping malls or at county fairs, where there was little, if any, chance for follow-up or discipling of those who did make a decision. To this day, I have no idea who really came to faith in Jesus.

I find it interesting that Jesus never asked people to say a prayer and ask him into their hearts. he simply called people to turn from their old way of approaching life and follow him in the new way, the Kingdom of God. The disciples were called to follow Jesus as Rabbi and to seek to become what he was and to relate to God in the same way he did. The Apostles' message is one of turning from the old way of life and acknowledging Jesus Christ as the true Lord and King. If the Gospel message would have been just "accept Jesus into your heart and you'll go to heaven when you die" the early Christians would not have suffered persecution. The Romans had no problem with folks adding their religion on top of the Roman religion, as long as they hailed Caesar as lord. The reason the Gospel message was so subversive was that it denied all the other gods and proclaimed another King above Caesar.

The older methods of evangelism may have been effective in their day. Then again, they may be a major factor in the rise of American Christendom. I believe that what followers of Jesus need to do today is go back to proclaiming that Jesus is the true King and Lord over all things and that he calls people to turn their backs on their old way of approaching life and follow him as their Lord and Master. As we proclaim this message we also need to live like we really believe it. As an example, how much would the Gospel message be shown as true if we who call ourselves Christians simply loved each other instead of always fighting and condemning. I'm sure you could think of other examples.

I am encouraged by the rise in the number of people who are realizing that the Gospel is for more than just going to heaven when you die, that it is for all of life. May their tribe increase.

Friday, January 16, 2009

TGIF

This week hasn't been quite as hectic as last week. I'm also off work today, so I've been able to do some things that sometimes get pushed to the side. It's cold here in the sunny South, with a high of about 30. I realize that it's a whole lot colder where some of you are, so I'm not complaining (too much). :)

Here is some of the good writing (and other stuff) that's out there:

Here's proof that the nut doesn't fall far from the tree. Jake has some ideas to transform suburbia, and Dan Edelen writes about attraction. I don't think there are any churches like this. Are there? John Fonville responds to Natalie Dylan. imonk has a recommendation and a good question. Scot McKnight wonders what we can do (BTW, The Blue Parakeet rocks!). Now books in Christian bookstores are coming with warning labels? Not enough obviously.

Jeff McQ is thinking ironic thoughts. Do we really have to think alike? Brother Maynard asks, "Where are the doors to the church?" Check this out. TSK is loaning books.

Well, I have to go get ready for a basketball game tonight. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Being Like Jesus

The other night in our emergent cohort meeting, we were discussing what it means to be like Jesus Christ, and if, in fact, we can ever be like Christ. For what it's worth, here are my thoughts.

I believe that there is a sense in which we can never be like Jesus. He is God, we are not and never will be. On the other hand, Paul tells us that the good that God works for us in all things is becoming like Jesus. To the first century Jew, discipleship meant being like the rabbi, learning to relate to God the way the rabbi did. So, how do we become like Jesus?

I think part of the answer lies in the concept of the disciple becoming like the rabbi in the way he related to God. Jesus relationship with God was a relationship of love and oneness. In the Garden of Eden the relationship between God and Adam and Eve was a relationship of love and oneness. Sin broke that relationship. Jesus came to restore that oneness. His sacrifice on the cross removed the barrier between us and God. Now, we can have a relationship of love and oneness with the Father. As we learn to follow our Rabbi closer, and grow in our faith and trust in him, we learn how to relate to the Father the same way Jesus does. The more we relate to God in love and oneness, the more we relate to those around us in the same way. In this way we fulfill the two greatest commands: love God and love others. So, we are formed into the image of Christ.

Thoughts?

Friday, January 2, 2009

TGIF

This has been a good week. The basketball team I coach had our first win Tuesday. Yay! Christmas vacation is almost over as school begins again on Monday.

For some reason a lot of the blogs written this week were about the year that just passed and the one that lies ahead. Enjoy

Barb is painting in gray. My little town made a top ten list! It's number 9 on the list of top 10 visiting cities. Here is another good post from Dan Edelen. Annedroid posts a funny. Josh posts a top ten list, sort of (sometimes I wonder about that boy). :)

Imonk makes his resolutions for 2009. Do you have anything to sell? Brant Hansen might buy it. Jeff McQ has been dangerously musing about equality. Part 1 is here. Jonathan Brink writes on the church crisis. You should check out this very good webcomic. Is Sola on it's way out?(HT: Brother Maynard). Brother Maynard thinks about the missional conversation in 2009. TSK is ready for adventure.

Enjoy your weekend.

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 ...