Monday, March 30, 2009

Vote!

Hey everybody. One of the best bloggers around, Internet Monk, has made it to final four of the 2009 SBC Voices Blog Madness. Go here and vote for him. Some of the "powers that be" are trying to band together to defeat him. Don't let that happen. :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

TGIF

This week has gone by very quickly. As Kermit said, "Time's sure fun when you're having flies."

As usual, here's the good stuff:

Wal-Church and the farmers' market. Jesse Medina on community. Be careful not to ride the social justice bandwagon. Who are you dressed like?

I think Bill may have a point here. Here's a good question for the church. Jake Belder on N.T. Wright on heaven. The Bible and alcohol. I'm not so sure about this (HT: Scot McKnight). Josh is scared. Rob Woodrum has a new page of Rabbi Encounters up. This is funny. Missional vs. institutional (HT: Brother Maynard). 'Nuff said (HT: Jonathan Brink). Jeff McQ is remembering. Brant Hansen answers a question. Grace looks at the future. Amy writes about sacred spaces. Theology of bread.

May the Father bless you this weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Christian, follower, or...

I've been reading The Great Omission by Dallas Willard, and some thoughts have been stirred. I became a Christian at an early age, so you could say that I grew up Christian. In the circles I was a part of the definition of "Christian" was someone who had prayed a prayer to ask Jesus into their heart and who assented to a particular set of beliefs. Those who had not said "the prayer" or didn't believe as we did were seen as not Christian, or at the most, not a very good one. We were taught that America was "a Christian nation," and that some folks wanted to deny our Christian heritage and take it away from us. Our job as Christians was to live a good moral life, and stay away from those who didn't. At the same time we were to be a "good witness" to those we were staying away from. We were to tell them that they were sinners and that if they said the prayer, they too could become Christians and live good moral lives and then go to heaven when they die.

As I grew into young adulthood, I slowly began to realize that others beside fundamental Baptists could be Christians as well. They still had to assent to a set of beliefs, but my definition of those beliefs narrowed a bit. I still saw salvation as a moment in time and the Gospel as only a way to get into heaven without it necessarily affecting your life very much. The interesting thing about this is that while I still held to many of the ideas of my childhood teaching regarding God and the Bible, many areas of my life would give some people reason to doubt my own Christianity. I had succumbed to the idea that having a home in heaven when I died was the only thing that mattered, so how I lived here in this life wasn't really important. Of course, I tried to make sure that certain people didn't find out certain things. After all, I had a reputation as a Christian to protect.

The term "Christian" has come to mean something far different from what it originally meant. Depending on who you talk to, "Christian" can mean a politically conservative American, or someone who leans to the left. It can mean someone who is not Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or atheist. Many hear the term and think of a person who is mean spirited, narrow minded, and arrogant. Many who call themselves Christian are simply part of the culture of Christendom that has grown in the West over the past few hundred years. So, to separate from that mindset, I have been calling myself a follower of Jesus.

While I still like the term "follower of Jesus," especially as opposed to "Christian," I'm beginning to think that even that is not descriptive enough of what I am, or at least what I am trying to be. Dallas Willard writes about how the concept of discipleship has been ignored by the Church, or at best relegated to a group of super spiritual folks who want to "go deeper." Willard makes the point that the Great Commission given by Jesus is a call to make disciples. In first century Palestine a disciple was one who apprenticed himself to a rabbi. The disciple made a commitment to learn from the rabbi and had a goal to relate to God in the same way the rabbi did. It was more than just learning information. It was being with the rabbi and watching him, how he dealt with people and situations. It was becoming like the rabbi, not just learning about the rabbi. A saying from that time was, "Follow the rabbi. Drink in his words, and cover yourself with the dust of his feet." The idea was to be so close to the rabbi that when people saw the disciple they saw the rabbi.

That is what I want. I want to to learn from Jesus, to spend time with him and see how he relates to God. I want to obey what he teaches, and follow him so closely that folks see him through me. I want people to see the hope that is in me, so I can tell them about Jesus. I want to be like Jesus. I've got a long way to go, but that is my desire.

So, just call me a disciple of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Live

One of the classes I assist is reading The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. It takes place in Poland during the Holocaust. Toward the end of the book the main character, Hannah, sacrifices herself so that another girl can live.
Hannah said nothing. The memories of Lublin and the shtetl and the camp itself
suddenly seemed like the dreams. She lived, had lived, would live in the future--
she, or someone with whom she shared memories. But Rivka had only now.

..."Run for your life, Rivka. Run for your future. Run. Run. Run. And remember."

I was thinking how we, as followers of Jesus, are like Hannah, and how those who are not followers of Christ are like Rivka. We live, and will live in the future. Those who don't know Jesus only have now. As Hannah told Rivka to run, we also have a message that warns those far from Jesus to run to him, to run for their future. Hannah told Rivka to run in order to save her, and in order to preserve the record of what went on in the death camp. A large part of who we are is wrapped up in remembering what Jesus has done for us, and our message is one of salvation.
While we can not trade places with those who are not disciples, we are called to live sacrificial lives and give ourselves up for others.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.

Friday, March 20, 2009

TGIF

Today is the first official day of Spring. Here in the sunny South we've already had spring. Followed by winter. Followed by spring, then winter, a couple days of summer, then winter, and then back to spring. The madness has begun and I'm looking for my Xavier Musketeers to go on a roll and go all the way.

Here's the good stuff:

How to be a an Emergent PoMo pastor-leader person. Rum and restoration. Sounds like an interesting combination. (HT: Jonathan Brink) Bill Kinnon doesn't pull any punches in this post. Evidently, Dr. Lewis used to be a dork. Is the American church too macho? Rich Wagner writes on the missiology of St. Patrick. iMonk has the antidote to the coming Evangelical collapse. Avoiding the appearance of evil. Are evangelicals anti-intellectual?

The Gospel of the Kingdom. Amy writes about the downtrodden among us. Brother Maynard on (consumerist) Christian theology. Jared Wilson reviews Christless Christianity. 1000 awesome things (HT: Brother Maynard).

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day


From "The Breastplate of St. Patrick"


Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.


Happy Saint Patrick's Day. May the the Spirit of the living God that Patrick served fill you with God's grace and love today.


And may your Guinness be cold. :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

TGIF

I decide to change the profile picture. I figured everyone was tired of looking at my arm. This picture was taken off the coast of Florida last summer. Winter is refusing to let go completely. The temperature has dropped from 83 on Tuesday to 40 today.

Here's what's interesting this week:

Why do they hate us? iMonk thinks he knows why. Are you a Christian hipster? (HT: Scot McKnight) There's a woman in the footnotes. The most anti-essential Christian books (HT: Jonathan Brink). A new word. Jonathan Brink extends an invitation to women. Len on Reformation. Brother Maynard is tired, but still finds the energy to review Reggie McNeal's new book. Jared Wilson reviews Christless Christianity. Bob Hyatt has more thoughts on video venue churches.

Have a great weekend. As God brings it to mind, please pray for Josh. He's visiting NYC this week and has been laid low with a really bad sore throat and cold. He's scheduled to fly home tomorrow. Thanks.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Road Changes

For the past few months I have felt as if I was travelling down a road where the tree branches hang over the path, shutting out much of the sunlight. The road was fairly straight and level, but it was dark, and the feeling it gave me was one of uncertainty.

I feel like I am coming out of the deep dark woods into some sunlight. It's a little hard to see as my eyes adjust to the increased light. As I look ahead I can make out that the road ahead is no longer straight and level, but twisting and turning. There are hills and valleys, and the path stretches past the horizon. It's not a wide road, and there are not that many folks travelling that way.

For now, I'm going to rest in the sunlight and wait until it's time to start moving again.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Half Empty or Half Full?

There is a lot happening in the world out there. And it's all good, or all bad, depending on your point of view. We know that the American economy is in bad shape. The recession/depression is expected to last until the end of 2009/2010/2011... Some think the economy will come back stronger, as it did after World War II. Some think America is going to drift into becoming an underdeveloped, powerless nation.

Some are predicting a cataclysmic event that will bring God's judgement on us. Others are foreseeing the collapse of evangelicalism within this generation. All the while the number of folks who identify themselves as Christian is decreasing and the number who identify with no religion is on the rise. Some say that America is heading down the same path that Europe has travelled.

Is our glass half empty? Is it half full? Or should we wonder who the heck has been drinking out of our glass? As a follower of Jesus, the Lord of lords and the King of kings, I believe that in the midst of all that is going on around me I can be confident in the goodness of my Father and his care for me. This doesn't mean that I just throw caution to the wind and continue to live as if the economy was humming along smoothly and there was no evil in the world. It just means that I know who is in charge and trust the Father to do what is right.

I also see a great opportunity for the Church to be the church. For so long the message of Jesus has been obscured by those who have attached it to realizing the American Dream, or by those who have made it a question of morality and being a "good" person. It has been reduced to a formula where a prayer is prayed and a set of propositions is assented to. Now, as more and more people reject the "gospel" of the modern church, the spiritual landscape seems to be moving toward what it was in the first century.

As the economy continues to slide, the church has an opportunity to show the love of God to those who are impacted by job loss, home foreclosures, etc. It's possible that churches will be more concerned about the hurting in their midst than the next building program. That concern may even spill over into the surrounding community. Some churches may be forced out of their facilities by the economic problems in their area. What would it look like if churches had more to give to the needy around them since there was no need to spend on upkeep of buildings?

As the American Dream fades, those who have attached themselves to Christianity for the sake of material prosperity will drop off, leaving those who are more committed followers of Christ. As this happens, those who are left can be discipled and taught what it really means to follow Jesus. As the number of Christians shrinks (possibly to a minority, as it has in Europe) there will be a more stark difference between believers and the rest of society. The hostility to the church from those in power may continue to grow, and it may actually become somewhat dangerous to proclaim allegiance to Christ above all else. It has happened and is happening around the world. What makes us think we are exempt?

While it may look like a grim future, remember what the church in the first century faced. They had no political, economic, or social power. They were seen as atheists and were considered enemies of the state. They were driven from their homes, imprisoned, beaten, and killed.

Yet, they turned the world upside down.

Now, is the glass half empty or half full?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

TGIF

I know it's Saturday. I was a bit busier than usual so I couldn't post this until today. Now, if I had a decent laptop maybe I could have done this while I was out yesterday afternoon. (Hint, hint) :)

It's been a good day. This morning Jan and I had the privilege of helping out with a project designed to connect the homeless in our city with things like social services, health care, even grooming help and dog grooming. It was an all day event. We helped with the food, serving breakfast and lunch to 75-100 people. It was a real blessing, sort of an Isaiah 58 type of fast for Lent. This afternoon, I was able to work out in the yard for a couple of hours and begin the work of getting it in shape for spring.

Here are the links to some of what caught my eye this week:

A Former Leader has some good thoughts on sin and relationship. Do we really believe that all things are possible with God? Another thing from AnneDroid. Cheerleaders. Yes, cheerleaders. Karen has some unanswered questions. Church or club? Jared Wilson says that it's not about improvement. A failed gospel tract. Twenty-one ways you might be an evangelical. (HT: Brother Maynard) Rob Woodrum has begun a new chapter of
"Rabbi Encounters" here.

Whose history is it? Discipleship is soft (not soft discipleship). Brant Hansen wonders if it's possible for Jesus and christian radion to co-exist. Grace on a perverted gospel. Life in Zimbabwe (HT: Scot McKnight). The South tightens its grip on Josh.

Don't forget to move your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed tonight (or you can wait till 2:00 a.m.)

Weekend Wanderings

It's heating up a bit here in the sunny South. The last couple of days we've been going around our county and the county directly so...