Sunday, December 25, 2005

The ultimate gift...

...wasn't given this year. The ultimate gift was given when "the word became flesh and dwelt among us." Can you imagine how incredible the news was -- to Mary, to Joseph, to the shepherds! This was God at his best, breaking all traditions, all taboos, all imaginative possibilities.

Rejoice, rejoice, Immanuel
Has come to thee, oh Israel!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Blog resolution

Two weeks before the new year, I'm already resolving to make this blog significantly better in 2006. There is so much information which presents revelatory power that I want to do my part in spreading it.

However, I resolve to do this understanding that we are warned in Scripture that in the last days, men will be "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." The information society we live in can be a paradoxical positive and negative influence to our knowledge of "the truth," which is Jesus Christ. We must never forget to pause regularly and breathe Jesus deeply.

Perhaps Kathleen Norris sheds light on this in The Cloister Walk, when speaking of Benedictine monks studying the Bible late at night by candlelight:

Their approach was far less narcissistic than our own tends to be, in that their goal when reading scripture was to see Christ in every verse, and not a mirror image of themselves. (quoted by Donald Miller in Searching for God Knows What)

Is there any better time than the Christmas season to be reminded of this?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Book this one

Over the past decade, I have developed a deep appreciation of and love for good books by thoughtful authors on spirituality. I have an extreme weakness for buying books, which can be harmful living in the vicinity (as I do) of over 15 discount bookstores. However, I would best describe my reading habits as sporadic -- I rarely make it through an entire book before another one gains my interest. So sometimes it takes several months to finish a book, if I finish it at all.

Contrast this with my father. While I peruse books, he actually reads them, cover to cover, often more than once. So his voice and thoughts are to be taken seriously, certainly more seriously than mine. Luckily, he's just entered the blogosphere, blogging at "spiritual literacy,"and intends to share much of what he's been reading and thinking.

Add it to your blogroll and visit it often.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

He said it better than I could

Sometimes it takes an artist's words to get some things I'm thinking just right. Ran across another instance today, in which Charlie Peacock writes in New Way to Be Human:

Despite the overwhelming human opinion and evidence to the contrary, Jesus did not come to start a new religion. He did not come to create a two-hour-on-Sunday parasite culture that pious people can stick on the side of their otherwise busy lives. Jesus came to subvert every aspect of life and culture with the relational Word and will of God – what he announced as the kingdom. The kingdom, or God’s rule, is what brings a person’s life into alignment with reality. To live in the kingdom way is to live a real and everlasting life, beginning the very moment you follow Jesus. This means that everything is overhauled or restructured to fit the kingdom way, the new way to be human. Knowledge, education, romance, marriage, sex, parenting, work, play, money, ambition, business, social services, caring for the earth, even being the church in the world – all of these areas and a thousand more now come under kingdom rule and authority. Following Jesus faithfully means seeing to it that all of these areas in our lives are subverted by the kingdom and rebuilt in the
new way.

Here I Go Again..., not singing Whitesnake, but blogging. Blog theory is wonderful, but I'm trying my hand at the practice again. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Describing "disciple"

Preaching now on the six traits of a disciple from Matthew 28:16-20. They are:

1. A disciple worships. "...they worshiped him..."
2. A disciple understands the authority of Jesus. "...all authority in heaven and on earth is given to me..."
3. A disciple is mission-minded. "...go and make disciples..."
4. A disciple is unbiased. "...of all nations..."
5. A disciple knows what Jesus requires. "...obey everything I have commanded..."
6. A disciple is filled with hope. "...I am with you..."

Of course, there's much more to discipleship, but I think Jesus had specific intentions in addressing the disciples with these words before his ascension. Now, if we could only live them.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

In summary...

Perhaps this is the best way to sum up what it means to be the Church -- whether our part is through a local congregation, a global missions objective, the emerging church/movement, or any other ultimately significant part. From none other than Richard Foster, written in Freedom of Simplicity a quarter century ago:

As we go, let us clearly understand that global injustice places some new requirements upon global evangelism. The Good News must be contextualized into the culture in which it is proclaimed. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has no cultural presuppositions. It welcomes those elements of the culture that are not offensive to the Gospel message and rejects those that are. The enduring task of cross-cultural evangelism is to hammer out the difference. The Good News must be free of all racism and nationalism. We are global citizens with a global Gospel. Our concern is for the well-being of all peoples of the earth, not the selfish interests of any nation-state.
The Good News must be free of all militarism. It matters little if the militarism is in defense of the vested interests of the privileged elite or is a modern Zealot movement seeking justice through revolution. We dare not allow the little tin gods of our modern nation-states to draw us into their blasphemous intertribal wars.
The Good News must be given to Christ's favorites, the poor and the helpless. We must go, like the Samaritan, among the good and half-dead -- to the ghettos of America, to the slums of Brazil, to the refugee camps of Cambodia, to every hovel and hut of the earth.
The Good News must liberate -- truly liberate. Those who are in bondage to sin, those who are in bondage to poverty, those who are in bondage to brutal social conditions need to be set free. The liberating Gospel of Christ has not fully come until there is freedom from sin, freedom from economic injustice, freedom from structural evil.

The Good News must come in the power of God. No smooth words, no easy cliches, no enticing
gimmicks! All slick image-making advertising campaigns are an offense to the Gospel. Paul said, "The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power" (1 Cor. 4:19).

The Good News must be backed by integrity in our lives. We cannot proclaim his love if we close our hearts to the hungry. We cannot proclaim his salvation if we have not been saved from our
own greed. Falmboyant, properous Christians are an offense to third world peoples by their insensitivity to poverty and human deprivation, whether they come as traveling evangelists or sight-seeing vacationers.

A plea

Tony Jones is unabashed to ask for your help this week.

A few words about words

While reading, it's common to come upon phrases or even sentences which catch my attention and become powerful meditative tools for days or weeks. But Gregory Feeley, an author and blogger, weighs in with an intriguing personal experience in which, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, he is told by a friend about a support group which promotes the phrase, "I am not broken." Quickly Feeley replies that he is definitely broken, "But I still work."

His final words in the post caught my attention:
Interesting how we can be moved by phrases that possess rhetorical power. Say it figuratively or with great concision, and it sounds true.

I think as a minister, I am guilty of doing just that. I suppose we all are at one time or another. I recognize the need for change if the Church will be effective in the 21st century. But we must continually reflect on the true meaning of the things we do and say, lest we become trapped by the "rhetorical power."

Many things inherent in what is becoming known as the emerging church feel great -- not too differently from the emergence of the charismatic movement last century. Where we fail as the Church is to do this because it feels good to us, and let true meaning dissolve.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

On the reading list

From time to time, as you've noticed, I find it important to reference books which I'm reading. In this post, I would like to make you aware, if you don't already know, of two of the most anticipated books of the year from a Christian standpoint.

First is Erwin McManus's latest, The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within.

Second is Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul by John and Staci Eldredge. This is the follow-up book to Wild at Heart.

Both books promise to be revelational.

Bring it on

After a loooooong hiatus, here's the first post of the new year, and the new creation known as CrossRoads. It's amazing to sense the incredible life God is calling us to, and to know at the same time that so many people either can't sense it or don't know enough to care.

I think Brent Curtis and John Eldredge are onto something when they say in The Sacred Romance:
Look at the things people get caught up in: sports, politics, soap operas, rock bands. Desperate for something larger to give our lives transcendence, we try to lose ourselves in the smallest kinds of
stories...All of these smaller stories offer a taste of meaning, adventure, or connectedness. But none of them offer the real thing; they aren't large enough. (pp. 41-43)

Today I'm reminded that the mass of men -- and women -- lead lives not just of quiet desperation, but sometimes of loud nonsense. And instead of shrugging it off, God expects those who are sensitive to realize that it's not about those who are ranting. There are spiritual forces at war, and there is a bigger battle at stake -- the battle for the hearts of those God has created.

My prayer is for CrossRoads to be an open place for people, but not necessarily a safe place. Sometimes, people don't need safety, they need exposure, so they and others can realize the forces which are working in, through, and against them.

I knew becoming a new congregation, a new community, which offers something meaningful and real to people who need healing and hope wouldn't be easy. The battle is raging, even as I type, and we can't accept any outcome except victory and progress. Anything less would be outside of God's providence and provision at this point.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.