Friday, September 14, 2007

What's Happening Here?

The dates on all these posts are very recent (even though they are very old posts), but that is because i'm in the process of moving my stuff from an old blog. Bear with me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What is the Gospel?

Great question, which I think we sometimes give very simplistic answers to. Check out Scot McKnight's article about's awesome stuff: Article Link

Left Behind, raptured??

I used to believe this doctrine (rapture of the church), but I don't anymore. Check this out, it's an article from the faculty of Austin Seminary about dispensationalism, the rapture, etc. I know it's long, but it's worth the time to read the first 14 pages or so.

Article link: Austin Seminary writings on the rapture, dispensationialism, etc.

Extreme hyperbole, or innocent phrase?

“If you were the only person on earth, God would have sent Jesus for you”. For some reason, this phrase came to my mind this morning in the shower. How many times have I heard this when someone is trying to “win someone to Christ”?? (I really dislike that “win someone” phrase, but that’s a subject for another posting).

Some thoughts began to resonate within my spirit and mind as I was pondering that statement….”If you were the only person…” First, let me say this: I think I can understand the intention of the person using the phrase. They are most likely trying to communicate to the person that they are talking to how much God loves them, and how important they are to His Kingdom. With this I have no disagreement. God loves humanity, and they all have a part in His Kingdom. My only contention is this (and some may say that I’m being overly critical…maybe, maybe not): what type of message does this send to someone?? Words have power, and carry contextual meaning, to those we are communicating to. What are we communicating by that phrase?

I don’t believe that it’s a necessary hyperbole to use. The person you are talking to is not the only person on the earth (obviously), so why use such extreme hyperbole? I believe that such a phrase is a product of one aspect of our American culture: rugged individualism. The United States was founded on this type of rugged individualism: “pick yourself up by the bootstraps”, “do it on your own”, “it’s all about me”, “with hard work, YOU can do anything”, etc. While I’m not here to say whether that was bad or good, I do believe that this type of thinking has informed some of our language in reference to Christ. By using the phrase “if you were the only person on earth, God would have sent Jesus for you”, are we encouraging an individualistic, selfish journey with Christ? Are we saying, albeit maybe very subtly, “it’s all about you and God only”? I know that in my journey, it was phrases like that, from well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ that led me to a place where I thought that I could be a “Lone Ranger Christian”. Just me, my bible, and God, that’s all I needed.I don’t find that type of language in the Scriptures.

Just to take two examples, let’s look at Mark 12:28-31 and John 17:20-22.

Mark 12:28-31 - One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one” answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." (emphasis mine).

John 17:20-22 – “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (emphasis mine)

Those two passages (and there are tons of others) say to me that God’s intention is for the whole world, not just the individual. If I was the only one on earth, how would I love my neighbor, how would I show the world the unity of the body of Christ (something we all need to work on)? What are fruits for? They are for others, not for the bearer of the fruit. The fruit of the spirit that is born out of our lives is for others, not us. Don’t misunderstand me here…alone time with God in prayer, meditation, and spiritual disciplines are key to our growth and spiritual formation. However, there’s a purpose for having “Christ formed in me”, and that is to love others with Christ in me.

So, what am I saying? I think we should examine our use of language when we are having conversations about the Kingdom to others, because as I stated above, words have power and carry meaning to the hearers. If we can start people off in their journey with God with a missional, community mindset, instead of a consumer, individualistic one, I think we are taking a great step forward in advancing His Kingdom.

Marketing/Auctioning of Christ?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about evangelism and ministry in general, and what the usual approach is that I’ve witnessed. Something struck me recently as I was shopping with my wife for something (exactly what it was escapes me now, but that’s not important). Sellers and marketers have a product for everyone, and they market those products specifically to target audiences, i.e. pre-teens, teens, fans of Star Wars, etc etc. I wonder….do we do the same thing with Christ? Do we make Him into a product, and then target market Him to different audiences under the auspices of ‘ministries’???

What do I mean? Well, most churches these days have “singles’ ministry”, “young adult ministry”, “single mom’s ministry”, “older married couples ministry”. Are we segregating and creating marketing niches like the consumerist culture we live amongst? Here’s a thought: singles and married couples working together…is that such a bad thing? Does not everyone in our church and community have something to offer everyone else? Do only singles have gifts to share with other singles? Are we fostering a segregation mentality? When a church operates as WalMart, providing goods and services to consumer Christians, these types of “ministries” are vital, as they serve US. I think, we should start becoming less consumers, and more servants to our community….taking all the knowledge that we’ve “consumed” and actually, in Love, serve others. I think one of the key things that leads to this type of consumer mentality is the altar call (stepping on toes here I realize). I've seen it done in what I call the "auctioneering of Christ" method…."I see one hand, do I have another hand. I'll ask one more time, anyone want to receive Christ, I see another hand." To me, that's downright shameful. Christ gave gentle invitations to those around Him…"Come, follow me". Anyway, I'll stop there for now.I apologize if my thoughts are random here…I’ll add more to this later as it processes in my heart and mind.

Some pics from the honeymoon in Hawaii

The view from our room at the Ritz in Kapalua, Maui.
Sunset at a restuarant we ate at in Wailea

The Seven Sacred Pools in Hana, Maui

Out our hotel window in Honolulu

Looking at a sunset out of the lounge balcony at the Ritz.

Sunrise over the Haleakala Crater in Maui

A waterfall on the road to Hana

My thoughts on Crumbs from Your Table

From the brightest star
Comes the blackest hole
You had so much to offer
Why did you offer your soul?
I was there for you baby
When you needed my help
Would you deny for others
What you demand for yourself?

So billows Bono in Crumbs from Your Table on “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”, U2’s latest album. The beauty of art is that it’s open to interpretation by the beholder. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my thoughts are what Bono had in mind when he wrote this song, but I would offer they are probably pretty close. The whole album is powerful lyrically and musically, but this song really spoke to my heart as a follower of Christ.

I believe Bono is writing from the perspective of the poor, the oppressed, those held captive by sin, those blinded by consumerism/materialism, etc. (you know, those same people that Jesus talked about in Luke 4). He’s writing to us, the Church. I believe Bono is part of the Church, but his use of first person here speaks volumes to me. Some would say this is an indictment against the whole Church for it’s lack of outreach to the world, and I may agree, but that’s not where I’m going with this. I saw it as God speaking to my heart, calling me to look inside myself and see where I’m lacking. Jesus doesn’t condemn His followers; He lovingly instructs and guides us. He has lovingly instructed and guided me through this song.

The song starts out (as shown above) with an interesting paradox. I am a Light in the world, the church is a city shining on a hill, yet in my life, I sometimes feel like I am the blackest hole to those around me. I have so much to offer those in bondage, but yet I sometimes offer my soul to the bondage that is this world system. I come to look just like the world…caught up in consumerism, schedules, etc. instead of a light shining in darkness. I demand freedom from that bondage, but deny it for others by not inviting them to come to “the banquet table” that Jesus offers….the Kingdom of God among us.

You speak of signs and wonders
I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I'm waiting on the crumbs from your table

God has really changed my heart in this area. I used to make it my mission to “prove” from the Bible that everyone needs to speak in tongues, that the age of miracles is still here, that God wants everyone materialistically wealthy, etc etc. I still believe some of those things (maybe one out of the three listed there), but is that what those in bondage really care about? I would offer no, they don’t. They want crumbs from the banquet table. Just a ‘crumb’ of Father’s love, given through our hands to someone else, is worth more than my need to win a debate about the merits of tongues and miracles. Praise God that I’m waking up, as are a lot in the church.

With a mouth full of teethYou ate all your friends

This goes along with my thoughts above. I, and others, have lowered the value of the Kingdom to those around us by allowing them to see us fighting with each other over non-essential doctrines, whether to use PowerPoint slides in sermons, whether women can wear jeans, etc. I am starting to view the Scriptures more for transformation and less for information to win arguments with. How will the world know we are His disciples? Of course by the thickness of the Bible we carry, and how much doctrine we can quote. No Rob, by our LOVE for one another.

Those are some thoughts that I’ve had in processing through this song. It may sound negative, but it was very positive for me. Positive in that God loves me, and you, so much that He never lets us settle with where we are in His journey.

Into the unknown fellow journeyers…….

Post Wedding Update

So, a little about the wedding and honeymoon. Wedding day was absolutely beautiful weather-wise. Everything went great. Honeymoon: we landed in Honolulu after a 10 hour or so direct flight from Newark. It afforded me the chance to get some good reading done, and spend some quality time with my new wife. We spent a night in Honolulu, went to Pearl Harbor the next morning, and then left for Maui that afternoon. We spent the remaining time (6 nights) in Maui. Food was great, biking down a volcano was cool, weather was great, etc etc.

So, one of the books I got to start and nearly finish while away (I've since finished it) was Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian. Wow, what a book. I would encourage anyone who is seeking to understand just what it means to be a follower of Christ in the time we find ourselves in to read it. It will challenge you, frustrate you, and give you a great sense of hope for what lies ahead.


So I've been doing some thinking lately about the nature of salvation, i.e. one time thing, process?? I came across something from Brian McLaren where he talks about the American church idea of the altar call (something I've always had issues with). He mentioned something about birth. That's when it hit me....John 3:3 talks about the new birth. Birth is a process....a gestation period if you will. I think alot of what we (the church) have tried to do in the past was to conceive and birth a new life in someone all at once at the end of a church service. Is it possible that this is why there are so many who fall away so fast? Pre-mature birth? Or, as a friend of mine likes to say, "we're in the business of sowing seeds, not trying to plant fully mature trees". Anyway.....

Why am I doing this?

To those who are wondering why I did this...I guess I'm not really sure. Those who know me know that I have already questioned the point of these things. I mean, who honestly scans the web for blogs, and then once finding them cares what someone had for dinner, or any other thing they read on someone's blog. I guess for me it's more of a catharsis, but not in the purgation of the digestive system (thanks Websters) sense, but more of a dumping of thoughts so that I can see where they are headed. Feel free to read or comment, but I honestly don't expect anyone to actually read this stuff.