Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Nominis Iesu

Musings on The Return of the King, part II

Evil recognizes Good – Good does not have to announce itself.
In the movie, Aragorn and his companions are stopped by the oathbreakers in the paths of the dead. But in the book, he is never confronted or slowed until he stops and calls to the shadows that have been following him. He merely passes through, and the dead fall in behind. They know whom he is, for when he finally does call to them, he asks why they have come. They answer, to fulfill our oath and have peace. It is then that he confirms his identity and unveils that which was broken but had been remade.

When Aragorn looks into the Orthanc Stone, Sauron recognizes him. Aragorn, in fact, tells his friends later that Sauron saw him in different guise than they see him now. Sauron didn’t just see him and know who he was, he saw him as who he was. Though he stood before the stone as a ranger, Sauron saw him as the king.

So the power of who you are or who is in you is more important than your invoking the name of that power. In fact, there is no power at all in speaking name apart from the will of Him to whom it belongs. In the movie we sense arrogance, anger and resolve from Sauron. But in the book, his glimpse of Aragorn raises fear and questions.

God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out from them. Paul didn’t have to speak any names in order for people to be healed by coming into contact with his clothing. On the other hand, when folks tried to imitate it, they got clobbered. “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches”. The evil spirit answered, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Paul’s clothing was recognized by the evil spirits, these men were not known even when using Jesus’ name.
The use of Jesus’ name is a concept much deeper than we have come to practice. I’ve already mentioned in these cyber pages that I think we often take the Lord’s name in vain even in prayer. We can pray in the knowledge that our prayer can only be heard because of Jesus. If we pray in this humble way, we need not close with, “…for its in Jesus’ name.” We have already prayed in His name. God knows our hearts. If we pray in arrogance or greed, and close with those word’s, no magic spell is performed over our sin. If we pray out of God’s will, “in Jesus name” doesn’t make our will His own. In fact, “in Jesus’ name” implies that one agrees with Him, seeks His will.
Once again we’re confronted with the superficial that allows us to feel secure in our righteousness. We think that we can say that we are associated with something that we don’t even understand; like the itinerant Jewish exorcists. But we won’t be recognized as His. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to be taken into Him; if we let Him live in us, He will be recognized as He was in Paul. God will do unusual miracles and Jesus will be glorified.


Tuesday, December 30, 2003

genetically engineered excuses

The Fam and I went to see Return of the King again this evening. I’ve hesitated to say anything about it after I saw it the first time, but so many other bloggers are talking about it, I thought what could it hurt? So, this is not a Rod’s Review of the movie, just some thoughts that I had after my first viewing that were reiterated today. Now keep in mind that I love the movie, I just missed some things that I drew from the book. There are some concepts and truths that the movie never intended to state. I think I’ll toss them out over the next few days so that I can feel free to ramble on about them.
The first one:

The orcs in the movie are mostly portrayed as evil killing machines. As if they are robotic inventions for the sole purpose of propagating evil. In the books, they are thinking, fairly intelligent beings with free will just like the rest of us. They have decided what they will be an act accordingly. In the movie, I think this was intentional because of the amount of violence. If the audience were to sense that the orcs were anything more than machines, they’d have been offended at all of the killing. In the books, one side is willfully fighting for evil and the other is willfully fighting for good.
The ring has corrupted those who could have otherwise turned out to be like hobbits or men or elves. I think this is an important concept that is a sign of the times in our culture. No one is responsible for his choices anymore. We are all genetically or biologically wired to be or behave in a certain way and it is futile to try to be anything else. It is intolerant and judgmental to expect someone to behave in a way that is contrary to his biological make-up.
Evidently we’ve always been like this, even David after having Uriah killed to cover his own adultery, confesses and asks God’s forgiveness with a bit of an excuse thrown in. I am just a man you know. This is how men behave. It’s not entirely my fault. (I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin, my mother conceived me) But David realized that he was to overcome his predisposition as a son of Adam, to sin, and took responsibility and repented. Today, we use these excuses to avoid the need to repent, to shirk responsibility for our own greedy, gluttonous, prideful, attitudes.


Monday, December 29, 2003

point of know return

I found out today that the world really is flat. Who can prove otherwise? I guess Aunt Hazel was right – all those space photos were just Hollywood images. I saw it with my own eyes. Flat as a pancake.
lighthouse.jpgToday the Fam and I drove over to the ocean. There was absolutely no wind. Tall grass on the dunes just stood there unmoving. The ocean was like glass. I’ve never seen it so calm before. It’s always choppy, rising, falling. When you look out at forever you can impose the curve of the earth on the mere 15 miles that are visible.
Today was very different though. Without the texture imposed, the horizon was straight as an arrow, as level as a… well, a level. It seemed smaller for some reason, I stood there believing I could look all the way across since it was all at eye level. I thought of Daniel over there, a mere five time zones away. I thought if I looked hard enough I might see him preparing for supper. Family gathered ‘round. Threw up a prayer. God, give Daniel a sense of joy I feel right now standing here with wife tucked under my arm and kids playing in the surf. A momentary calm as peaceful as the glassy sea. Even the wind and waves obey. Speak peace into our lives with the knowledge of You and the housing of the Holy Spirit. Implant this moment into the turbulence of the coming year. May Your peace in my life weight the burden for those who don’t know it, for those who grieve with no hope, for those in Iran whose lives have been shattered by literal turbulence.
Peace on the G and J and little squid, as they face the uncertainty of a baby ministry and depend each moment on Your guidance. Peace on Dave as he embraces change. Peace on Timbo as he rises to and is made equal to the task. Peace on Cisco as he learns to shed some salt …
May we know You in a new way.


Sunday, December 28, 2003


As I was writing yesterday’s post and quoting Neil Peart again, I started thinking about the rest of the lyric to that song, “Turn the Page”. The last verse says,
Truth is after all, a moving target – hairs to split and pieces that won’t fit – How can anybody be enlightened?- the Truth is after all, so poorly lit.
It used to sadden me that someone would think that the Truth is so poorly lit, then I realized who it is that is responsible for lighting the Truth. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world, a city on hill cannot be hidden”. We are to give light to all who are in the house. If our lives are based in the Truth, then our light will point to the Truth.
I’m sorry to stay on my soap box so much, but our Christian sub-culture, at least here in America, has long since hidden our light under a bucket. The bucket serves to protect us as we shine our lights on one another.
We’ve come to believe that shining light before men means condemning everything that they do; and standing up for our faith means lobbying lawmakers and signing petitions that seek to legislate morality. Our focus is on others’ behavior and it’s effect on us rather than their hearts and our effect on them. Are we known for our good deeds or for our speaking condemnation over the culture? Again, I’m reminded of what my 9 year-old said in his “Weekend” newspaper bit, “… if you do good other people will see you and start doing good too.”
“Let your lights so shine before men so that they might see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”


Saturday, December 27, 2003

Plus ça change

Every day we’re standing in a time capsule
Racing down a river from the past
Every day we’re standing in a wind tunnel
Facing down the future, coming fast

Neil said that too.

I don’t think its change that we’re so afraid of, it’s that we can’t choose what things won’t change. A new year – new possibilities. Often, its more like: A new year - new inevitabilities. Its as if we let one thing change, even if its no big deal, everything else will follow suit. We lose complete control of the status quo. We don’t recognize anything any more. We can’t figure out how we fit in the new order of things.
The problem is the time capsule in the lyric above. At some point in our lives we take a snapshot of the way things are and become very afraid of anything that is not in our snapshot. But life is a moving picture, each frame only slightly different from the previous, but different. Scenes change. The movie is in fast forward. We feel like we can’t keep up, and we don’t even want to. But we are swept along.
So its hard to understand why an unchanging God changes things for us. It must be that we have got to change. We have felt You move and cannot stay the same (Robbie Seay). So as He molds us, breaks us, mends us, makes us. We’ve got to remember that He is unchanging. We are in the grasp of an unchanging God. Plus ça change, Plus c’est la même chose.
I’m with Dave on this one, I choose change.


Thursday, December 25, 2003

light of the world

The kids wake early. The throng around the tree is screaming you know. It’s a frenzy, but short lived. The aftermath is a room waist deep in wrapping paper and packaging. The sun has just made its direct hit, having topped the trees in the back. The living room is flooded with sunlight. Will’s suncatcher begins to rotate in the kitchen window. Tiny rainbows make their way across the walls, around the room. I am drawn to the deck. As I open the back door a titmouse flutters off the rail to a tree. There is singing everywhere, in every tree. Do they know it’s Christmas morning? Are these creation’s memories of that morning so long ago. Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill to men on whom His favor rests.
Was it a morning like this when first you opened your eyes to the light of day, full of glorious luminescence? The sun you spoke into existence, blinding with its first rays of morning. Did you remember the brilliance that you’d left and feel the overwhelming darkness into which you’d stepped? Did you desire to shed the flesh that masked your brilliance and overwhelm the light you’d created with the light that you are?
What was going through your little neo-natal cone head that day? What did your little swollen, puffy eyes see? What did your racing heart feel? Completely dependent upon the nourishment and care of those you’d come to care for. Vulnerable, humbled. This is a humbling morning.


Et incarnatus est

You’ve probably noticed a lot of holes in my blog lately. I’ve tried to pretend that I just haven’t had time or anything to say. But that’s not really true. I have had plenty to say, and I’ve said it – I just haven’t put it out there for you. But I think I might be ready to put some of it out there. I’ve felt kind of silly that I seem so consumed, especially here during advent and Christmas. I’ve tried so hard to have an uncommon advent experience, to be spoken to in a new, deeper way, to understand on a fresh level.
But I’m distracted by the encroaching departure of my dear friend. I’m feeling guilt from being distracted, torn for having prayed so hard for something and then being sad because the prayers are beginning to be answered. I’m embarrassed at feeling so deeply everything that is happening and feel guilt from being embarrassed by feeling so deeply.
Why would I try so hard to be open for a fresh advent experience and then be closed by the concurrent events?
I think I’ve found the answer. My dichotomous heart has found the connection of my conflicting foci. I know the meaning of Christmas! I feel like Charlie Brown must have felt when Linus began his monologue.
I’ve asked why we can’t be satisfied celebrating Christmas at Christmas. Has it lost its meaning? Its depth? Why do we have to pack it with Easter? Why can’t we learn from the waiting the way it has been revealed to us?
The meaning of Christmas is the birth of the God thing, the redemption process on earth. Easter is the fruition on earth and in Heaven (Revelation 5). Advent should prepare us for God’s doing through us. Christmas should always birth in us a special remembrance of God’s call on our lives, of our assignment, the coming of God’s ministry to humanity in our lives. We can’t give birth to this call without the knowledge of the completed Gospel. For that is the message that we are given to deliver as the call is birthed in our lives.
Today, a God thing is birthed. The nativity looks like a young couple with a baby headed home with the good news. All around are sheep that have been cared for, changed, and grown by this couple. Now they’re bleating prayers of boldness and protection. Other shepherds pray for them as they embark. Wise men pronounce blessings and advice and wisdom gained from their own years of experience answering the call.
On Christmas day, 2003, Jolie and Conner board a plane to Texas. Greg will follow close behind. Their journey to their native land to give birth to the ministry conceived by the Holy Spirit. A message packaged specially for a specific group of people.
God loves you Austin. And He wants you back. He’s made all the arrangements. The good news is once again given flesh, hands and feet. Incarnation. Embodiment.


Wednesday, December 24, 2003

community loyalty and discipleship

Over at Paradoxology, there is a great discussion going on about community and loyalty and the new face of church committment. I commented, then had more thoughts that took up where my comments left off, so I decided to bring my comment to my blog and follow up.
I think that many up and coming believers were brought to or back to Christ outside a church. There is a slow, but growing revival going on out there, or at least "off-campus". As college students find themselves drawn closer to Christ by para-church stuff, off-campus church stuff, they don't feel as connected to a particular church. I have been involved in several on-going ministries to college students that were joint efforts of several churches (actually several denominations)and in these ministries "the church" is modeled as something much bigger than a group of people that worship at a particular location. The time is coming -it has, in fact, come - when what you are called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
In my church, it is evident that a lot of folks coming out of the student ministry don't consider themselves a part of the church as a whole. I think they are plugging themselves into what delivers what they need.
Many of my students at work, actually come to our church for Bible study and go to another church for worship.
I could be completely wrong here, but I think some of these things will disappear as these students mature and begin to minister rather than having to seek the scratch for their own itches.
Here is where the discipleship problem comes in. They won't grow and begin to minister unless they are discipled. The scary thing is that here is something that HAS been experienced by previous generations and the boomer, "product oriented" flavor, has not succeeded in growing people out of the consumer mentality and into a ministry mentality. That's why they are so defensive of their product. With that track record, discipling split personality emerging Christians is of huge importance.
However, I think there is still an encouraging difference in the way things are happening in the younger generation.
Part of my snapshot church experience involves a paradigm that uses Sunday School as the evangelism and discipleship tool. Certainly the “seeker sensitive church uses “the seeker service” as the tool that attracts people, so there has to be something else in place to disciple. As people come to church, they will be reached through Sunday School and discipled. What happens though, is that nominal Christians in need of discipling often attend worship service at 11:00 and that’s the only time they’re in church all week. They never make the step to plug into anything smaller and deeper to encourage them to grow. The “big” service is where they step into the church and get no further.
On the other hand, it is often the discipling tool that is actually out there, off campus that is reaching people under the new paradigm. These people then enter the church at a deeper level and sometimes don’t make it to “the service”. But they are being discipled. I already mentioned knowing people who go to church one place and bible study someplace else. But I also know people who come to Bible study but don’t come to worship service. When I was in college, I remember singing at hundreds of churches and looking at the attendance plaque on the side wall and seeing a Sunday school attendance that was half that of the worship service. This is obviously a confusing shift as emerging Christians don’t sense enough nutrition at church worship services and opt for the smaller, deeper, more nourishing teaching and studies. Hopefully, this discipleship will lead them to commit for fully to the body and participate in the larger service, but its seems to me that they are in fact already being discipled, experiencing community, and are “in church”.
This seems to me more efficient than plugging into only the larger service where discipleship is slow in happening – especially when the stated purpose of that service is to attract “seeker”, not to disciple believers.
Anyway, this has all started as a response to another's blog so I haven't thought it all out too deeply yet. What are your thoughts?


Tuesday, December 23, 2003


Back in the Spring, one of my heroes was the speaker for an annual lecture series that we have a school. Each year we have a distinguished speaker for the week. Evidently, in the past, it has been rather dry and academic and sleepy even for the seminary professors. rlandmc.jpgBut for the past several years, it has been one of the highlights of the semester for me. This particular week had me leading worship on the second day of the series. I submitted my worship set and when the speaker saw that I was doing “Be Thou My Vision”, he called to ask if he could play penny whistle. Are you kidding? To make music with this guy!. I was thrilled.
This speaker is a champion of discipleship and community. At work, we speak a lot of community, of our community. We pat ourselves on the back for the love and encouragement that is found in it.
My teaching assignment has me spending weakly scheduled one on one time with at least 12 students. Add to this advisees and drop-ins and I spend a lot of time with individuals. The intimacy that develops over time in one on one student-teacher relationship exposes hurt, frustrations, struggles, sin. It began to concern me that in celebrating our community, we often overlook the hurting individual. When we talk about the importance of community, we often overlook the importance of ministering to the individual. Most Profs don’t have regularly scheduled time with individuals. We discuss the spiritual growth and development that can take place in our classes.
Knowing that we would be considering community in these services, I felt a intense burden to worship corporately as we sought God individually -to prompt for personal worship, confession and thanksgiving.
I have benefited greatly from being actively involved in Christian communities. I feel strongly the need for community in the life of the believer. But I also see how communities can lose their effectiveness and impact on their members. This is something that has taken place as long as Christian communities have existed. In Acts, chapter 6 we read that as the number of disciples grew, there arose a murmuring… Certain groups within the community were being neglected.

So I’ve been dealing with some specific areas in which I see us as communities losing sight of what we are set up to do.
We pray corporately, share needs, encourage one another and put on a good face. We so often rejoice together, but suffer alone. Misery loves company? Not in the Christian community. Joy and contentment are often misdefined in my opinion, and it is implied that suffering is unspiritual. Everyone pretends that everything is fine and the community is intentionally unaware that anyone is suffering. Even when we have prayer together, we ask our fellows to pray for superficial things that don’t even come close to the depth of the needs we have. Some of us wear each other out with scores of unceasing lightweight prayer requests. My cat is not eating well, my cousin Bob’s next door neighbor’s wife’s sister’s husband has just been diagnosed with dust allergies. Is it possible that these are just masks for deeper needs of our own that we dare not share with the community?

Communities develop reputations. A community may exist to disciple and grow individuals and success is observable. Over time the community is known for its corporate spiritual maturity and individuals who threaten that reputation are ostracized to protect the community, rather than discipled and grown. Community can cease to exist as a fellowship of like-minded people who encourage, hold accountable, sharpen, and empower one another and just perpetuate itself as community.

Communities may serve to equip one another to impact the world with their faith. But rather than faith being strengthened and exercised, it grows weak and soft from lack of confrontation and questions. We become more comfortable with the look of our community and thus offended by those who don’t look like us. We are shielded from the need to put on the FULL armor of God because we think the fiery darts come from the culture rather than the real enemy. We begin to sense that we are behind the lines and let our guard down so that we’re struck by the darts that don’t cause immediate discomfort but which stick and slowly release the poison of apathy, comfort and separation.
The community begins to serve to protect rather than to empower?

Righteousness by association. Being a member of a community doesn’t mean that the community assumes all responsibility for you. Having just stood in the midst of a congregation of worshipers does not mean that you’ve just worshiped. Being in a room of corporate prayer does not mean one has prayed, nor does it alleviate the individual’s need for personal closet prayer and communion with God. Individuals too often find identity in the community rather than in Jesus. We can begin to feel or even imply that association with the community means association with Jesus, and personal relationships with Christ are weakened. We develop a corporate or social aspect that implies that our issues are those of the community and that it is the community’s responsibility to address them.

I believe that Christian fellowship and community is more than a good idea, it is a God idea. We are besought to participate, to develop it, to maintain it. My question is then, how do we keep it as it is meant to be? How do ensure that it remains pure, profitable and God-honoring? What are your thoughts?


Saturday, December 20, 2003

freeze this moment

Ok, everyone. I didn't mean to cast some sort of spell on the blog world with my little quote from Rush. I ask that time stand still and then no one updated their blogs. So... will I use this weird ability for good... or for awesome?


Friday, December 19, 2003

carpe momentum

freeze this moment a little bit longer
make each sensation a little bit stronger
make each impression a little bit stronger
freeze this motion a little bit longer

-neil peart


Thursday, December 18, 2003

out like a lamb

Nothing to say. Plenty to feel. How can I keep from blogging? The deckeoumént takes place on leather sofas. Hazy room. C’tron, DP, Mitchy, Gwillie, Timbo, your’s truly. loblolly.jpgAn afternoon moment that we’ll revisit for years to come. The whimper of so many whimpers whose whimpership didn’t really matter when there was more to come. Went out like a lamb.oak.jpgProbably just the way Austin will be entered. Quiet, embodiment of the Gospel, backed by the whimpered supplication of the deck crew. Groan. Spirit, translate the moanings. Father, only You can answer these questions. Even in doing so, You don’t always tell us. Trust Me, You say. Give us strength to trust.
seguaro.jpgFor such a time as this. The time is the same for us all. But the places. We are being broadcast. Brought together from Maine, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia. While the fields are plowed we discuss our germination. We are dropped into the hopper and the crank is turned. We land in the soil prepared for our particular embryo. Far and wide. Germination. Growth. Pollination. Harvest. Oaks. Evergreens. Cacti. Water us. Shield us from the insects. Grow us organic, nothing artificial, nothing synthetic. Prune us. Keep us connected to the Vine.


Wednesday, December 17, 2003

rants and rambles

Dear Dr. Lewis,

One quick thought: One only becomes numb to things that they experience or are exposed to over and over for a consistent period, right? Therefore, if "Being in the world, but not of it" were being exercised, would we have this problem of indifference towards the Gospel of Christ?

Dear Person Who calls me Dr. Lewis,
Cease and desist. You may not call me that; at least, not in an email. I may have to call you Dr. --------. No, on second thought, you’d sound like you should be on that tv show, Providence.
And now to your rhetorical(?) question.
In Steve Turner’s book, Imagine, he states the most quotable quote I’ve read in years. He is referring to Christians who separate themselves from the world and develop a pride and sense of superiority among other worldly traits. Turner, witnessing this says that rather than being in the world but not of it, as Jesus has asked us to be, they are of the world but not in it.
So I agree with you, If we exercise this command, we would more strongly feel the urgency of the Gospel of Christ. It seems to me that the danger of growing indifferent toward the gospel by being in the world is less a danger than growing indifferent toward the gospel by not being in the world. If Turner’s observation is true, and I have certainly witnessed it, then the separatist tends to look down upon the harvest (to whom the gospel is given) and because he continually compares himself to those he consciously avoids, develops a self-righteousness and a faulty measurement tool that misleads him as he assesses his morality and Christ-likeness. He ceases to have concern for the souls he looks down upon and therefore becomes indifferent to the gospel and its impact on those by whom he is offended. He becomes more comfortable in his own separation and by it, begins to feel more pure, and thus becomes indifferent toward the gospel and its impact on him. He no longer sees himself in need of a savior and therefore the gospel has no relevance to him at all.
Nay, it seems to me that because the gospel of Christ is for the world (for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life), then being in the world could only make the gospel more relevant, more urgent, more heart wrenching. When we don’t see obvious sin all around us, we sometimes become numb to our own sin.
I doubt that Mother Teresa became indifferent to hospitals because she was among sick and dying people all the time. Rather, she felt more deeply their need, and was constantly reminded of every ailment that was provided for by the great Physician.
Good call Dr. ----------. Perhaps the reason we are so afraid of being in the world is because we are not active Jesus followers. We want to be able to be in the world and be Christians – not go into the world as Christians. The former implies identity, the latter, purpose. If we have received the gospel and go into the world, we’ll exist, but if we go into the world with the gospel, we will retain focus and not grow indifferent. We will lose only what we don’t exercise. If we exercise the gospel into other people’s lives, we will continually be in awe of its power in our own lives.


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

interactive confession

I was re-reading the discussion on relevance at Paradoxology and something that caused very little reaction from me yesterday when it happened suddenly caused an intense response. The response was to feedback to responsive reading for the third Sunday in a row. I was told that there were several people in the congregation that had been talking and had designated my friend to come talk to me about the responsive reading. They said they felt like they were stepping back into their Catholic and Episcopal pasts. They were bothered by memories of mindless written responses to priests lording his leadership over them.
I was told that they appreciated the unison reading of scripture and prayers, but the responsive aspect had a negative affect. So I responded by saying we’ll read next week’s responsive reading in unison. The message is the same. Why let something so silly get in the way of even a few congregation members? Even I have questioned seemingly meaningless methods of congregational readings. At school sometimes we go to ridiculous lengths to break the monotony of congregational readings. Pastor reads, congregation reads, balcony reads, left side of auditorium, women, men, people with red shirts, people with brown hair and blue eyes. I get so anxious worrying that I’m making a fool of myself by reading when I’m not supposed to, that I get nothing from the text. And there is the bottom line. “I mindlessly repeat the text that I’ve read a thousand times and it has no meaning to me at all anymore.”
Here is where the subject changes and I see a connection to my rant on entertainment, lightweight, superficial, application based, consumer oriented worship styles and the baggage that is dried liturgy and mindless doctrinal verbiage. This is as much an admission as an observation.
So we can no longer claim legitimate ownership of doctrine and faith expressed corporately because it requires us to interact with it – to be encouraged by meditating on its meaning and impact. We respond by abandoning it and seek something that soothes and comforts and encourages without the need for thought, meditation, and interaction. We are told what we believe, but have no desire to confess it. We are given 5 bullets and are told how to apply them to our lives this week. Everything is neatly packaged so as to be easily understood without the need for study, prayer, or meditation - all those things that David spoke of that empowered his relationship with a holy God. No one is ever asked to grapple with the mystery, the enigma, the paradox that is the God Who is spirit and the Word made flesh.
Is it the fault of the liturgy and methods that we grow cold? Or is it our tiring of the effort and engagement it takes to keep our faith warm and real? Is it ironic that grappling with our faith and confession of it grows cold while being spoon fed and told what we believe encourages us? Consumer comfort. Tell me where to put my investments, tell me how to treat my wife so that she will make ME happy, tell me how to make God relevant to my life. This is scary.
Imagine the rich depth of the liturgy and prayers expressing timeless faith and needs to someone who has only just been introduced. Countless emerging seekers are finding roots, refuge and respite in the assurance of the stated faith that is the liturgical tradition. People who have tired of, or rejected thoughtless, sign-on, buy-in, shallow, pre-fab, application based theology, are attracted to the mind engaging, heart challenging, faith strengthening ancient traditions.


Monday, December 15, 2003

alphabet soup

Advent, lights, masters degree:
with it, PNP.

Congratulations, LOML!


Sunday, December 14, 2003

rod’s postmodern advent manifesto

Credo in UNUM Deum, Patrem omnipotentum, factorem coeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium.

Et in UNUM Dominum, Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero, genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri, per quem omnia facta sunt. Qui propter nos hominess et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis.

Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria virgine et homo factus est.

Gloria in excelsis Deo
Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis

Laudamus te, benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te.

Gratias agimus tibi propter magnum gloriam tuam.


Saturday, December 13, 2003

the waiting

Tonight when I came home from the Kim Hill concert, I lugged my guitar and shoes and bags and stuff into the house to find A still up making Christmas decorations. She had “the fellowship of the ring” playing on the tube when I arrived. We had some weird spontaneous discussions about the movie. One thing she said was that she was sad that she couldn’t see it the same way she had the first time – thinking it could be a dark rider rather than Sam outside the window while Gandalf and Frodo are talking. What if you could go back and see it again for the first time, with all the surprises and tension and suspense?
I’ve been having these same thoughts for a few weeks and have mentioned or alluded to them in a few blogs concerning advent. This year, I’m so ready for it all to move slowly. To move with the speed of a child’s December anticipating Santa Claus day, but with my longing set on contemplation of the coming of my Savior; to grip a shred of understanding of the waiting. In real time, even through and beyond Jesus’ time in the flesh. Thoughts of Mary and Joseph and Simeon and even John the Baptizer who being told, still wondered, questioned. Dealing with the prophecies, seeing their fulfillment but not recognizing the form. In real God’s time, having truth revealed. Being given the choice to believe one piece at a time.
Its too easy for us. Retrospect. We have the story. We know the ending. It all just becomes routine so easily. Can we still bask in the wonder, the mystery of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us? I’m wondering if the story has just become so old and ordinary that we are no longer awed by it like the shepherds were that night. That we are no longer satisfied with the trust that Simeon had when his eyes beheld his salvation in the form of a tiny infant. Can we still ponder these things that Mary held in heart? Simeon knew he was seeing his salvation. Mary was told that Jesus would save His people from their sins. But did either know how this would be accomplished? I’m afraid that the Christmas story is no longer enough. I’ve noticed that we cannot speak about Jesus birth without talking about the cross in the same sentence. I’m wondering why Luke doesn’t just jump from chapter 2 to chapter 23. In fact, there are more than 30 years in those 20 chapters between. Surely they are important or Jesus would have come as a man and gone straight to the cross, or been slain as a baby. Here is a period of waiting and revelation that extends the period of silence, but in which Immanuel is already here and speaking. Simeon saw his salvation and died some 33 years before the cross, because in God’s time Jesus was the provision for Abraham as well as for me. I am fully aware of the necessity of the cross and for our remembrance of it. But somehow, and I can’t quite put my finger on this feeling of need, I want to experience the Joy of Christ’s advent and the Hope of my salvation without the knowledge of how it was accomplished. When Easter comes, I want to experience the pain of the surprise of how it was all played out, and the wonder at the impossibility of the reality of the resurrection. Let me hear God tell me a story start to finish without turning to the back of the book first.
There was a promise for which we had to wait. And all flesh SHALL see it together. The glory of the Lord SHALL be revealed.
God, teach me to wait on You. Teach me to trust You to speak to me as You see I am ready. Teach me to be ready, waiting, anticipating, longing for my salvation, Your glory.


Friday, December 12, 2003


I just read desertpastor’s blog at Paradoxology. Woah! What a coincidence. Although he posted yesterday morning, I didn’t read it until this morning and I wrote mine 2 days ago and posted last night. Anyway, at first I thought, well, its just the title that is the same. Then I thought, no, he’s noticing an entirely different trend. But now I think we are noticing the same things, but different aspects of them. I am writing quickly here, so I probably won’t be clear. It seems to me that the cry from the church about pomo’s bent to relativism, etc. is fairly accurate, but the ones at whom the finger is pointing are not the most guilty. So I stand by my extremely charged rant that apathy and fence riding and relativism has come from their parents’ generation. Colson observed that young people now are expressing more specific beliefs and are adhering to more traditional moral values. He sees that as evidence that post modern culture is dying. I think he’s making observations among the wrong group of people. Desertpastor’s blog makes observations about changing beliefs and trends in the traditional church. Most post moderns aren’t there. Could it be that those most vocal against post modern culture and its affects on Christianity are those who’ve been impacted most by its noncommittal beliefs while those being preached to and worried about have returned to more solid beliefs (made their own by questioning and seeking) and traditional moral values?


unbelieving believers and believing unbelievers?

Charles Colson’s editorial in Christianity Today, has caused much reaction and discussion. I don’t pretend to be able to add anything to this great discussion. I’m just jotting down my response. I guess this is for me, because I can’t imagine being able to add anything on the level that others have.
Mr. Colson’s take on post-modernism, is very much like that of most Christians I know. I found it interesting that I read an armload of books this summer and then at the end of the summer I was in a meeting where the speaker got up with the same armload and bemoaned their content. The irony was that much of the content was methodological and spoke of the inability to separate methods from beliefs. I think it was Mark Oestriecher who said that evangelicals have bought into modernism so fully that many can no longer separate modernity from Christianity. So basically they think that THE definition of pomo is the belief that there is no absolute Truth. So when they see pomo Christians impacting their culture, and the neat little definition of a worldview doesn’t fit, it is only natural to think that the culture has changed, rather than realize that you’ve too narrowly defined a worldview.
In fact, for modern Christians to think that post modern believers share non-believers’ relativistic worldview is allow for a believer to be relativistic. This is an oxymoron. A Christian either believes Jesus or he is not a Christian. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by me. So if that is THE absolute Truth, what else could matter about post modernity and its impact on the believer? By the same token, this modern Christian, having used a single issue as definition of pomo, must be defining modernism as the belief in absolute Truth. This is to say that unbelieving moderns believe in absolute Truth, because that defines their culture and worldview. So should I conclude that pomo believers aren’t believers and modern unbelievers are. Is the only criterion that one must believe that there IS absolute Truth? No one said that moderns had to agree on what WAS the absolute Truth. I know I’m writing all crazy here, but I think this illustrates what Oestricher said about the inability to separate modernity from Christianity. The irony is that the very thing they are worried about concerning post modernity is a fallacy that they’ve held themselves - that modernity implies salvation because it allows for the belief that there is one Truth. The unbeliever is under the umbrella of the world view? This is crazy – and I think it at least partially accounts for a lack of concern for the soul of the unbeliever. A people have been so defined by the culture that they see similarity with themselves as assurance that their neighbors aren’t so bad after all. What remains true is that modern or post modern, the lost are lost.
I’m just trying to poke holes in the superficial understanding of an emerging culture, because we’ve been thrown out with the bathwater so many times. My superficial narrow definition is that one has removed itself from the culture and formed a protective counter culture bubble as a defense from the outside world. The other seeks to move into, engage and challenge the culture in ways that will lead them to the Truth. I'm encouraged that this is beginning to happen as Colson's article notices a decline in his defining factors of post modern culture.


Thursday, December 11, 2003

campaign ad campaign

Last Tuesday, I blogged about political candidates ads that said nothing about themselves, but bashed the other candidates. I asked, do the candidates not realize that we can tell that they’ve got no ideas, but have to identify themselves as “not the other candidate”.
This morning I heard, on NPR, a newspot that declared that this year’s swing vote would not be the soccer mom, or the NASCAR dad, but the business woman. The commentator implied that this demographic would have an affect on the look and feel of the campaign because ads don’t seem to work for this group. Ads, she said, are aimed at people who don’t normally pay much attention to politics or issues. So basically, you can feed anything you want into the heads of the target demographic, so long as you target a demographic who do not already have ideas and convictions in their heads. My question has been answered: they do not realize that we recognize their lack of identity, ideas and solutions. In fact, we probably don’t, I’m not part of the target demographic.
But this is not a political blog. Glad I didn’t bring up any specific issue. Its just that it all fits so well into my rant of recent that our subculture has a very similar mindset and modus operandi as the culture at large.
Now there is an invisible second paragraph here that ties this to my subculture experience. But I’ll leave it up to you. Maybe there is no connection for you. That would be great.


Wednesday, December 10, 2003

what it looks like or what it is

So how is it accomplished? I’m given the task to prepare a worship service about lordship. Do I design a service that challenges us and calls us to surrender and submission? Do I seek to investigate God’s call and leading on our lives and what it means to trust Him? Or do I find several songs that have the word, ‘Lord’ prominently displayed in the lyric? On the one hand, the congregation may leave saying, “that was about lordship” when in fact, it wasn’t. Or they may leave having more deeply committed their day to day in following Christ’s lead, example and model for the disciples He wants to create in us, yet be unable to ‘title’ the exploration of our time of worship. This seems to me to be a very serious issue. The problem with the counterfeit exploration of lordship, is that although no growth, or change has taken place, the congregation may feel like it has because they are able to articulate the thread of the service. I’d rather a Christian go about the week more aware of Christ’s presence in his life than be able to articulate what he thought had happened but hadn’t.
I am thinking deeply about this sad dilemma as I prepare advent worship services.
The point is not to make us think about Christmas; but to make us think about what Christmas is there to make us think about. So what is Christmas about? Peace, hope, love, and joy? Or the source of peace, hope, love, and joy? Yeah, we remember Jesus is the reason for the season. We come to Him for peace, hope, love and joy. We usually inform Him by what means we would like Him to provide them to us. If we were to come to Him surrendered, He would provide these things through discovery and knowledge of Him. Shall we feel peace, hope, love, and joy, or simply sing about them?
This advent, I’m seeking Jesus. I’m hoping that I will find these things in forms that I will recognize. That He will give me rest, renewed hope; but if He doesn’t, I’ll continue to seek Him.


Monday, December 08, 2003

what about the christian daddy?

The other day, Will came in the house crying, he told me that he was being picked on by older boys up the street. They had pretended there was something in his hair, “let me get that for you”, BLAP. I tried for a long time to encourage him and make him feel better. I told him that the Christian daddy wanted to tell him that he should just accept being wronged and walk away. The human daddy in me wanted him to stick his index finger at the guys nose and say, “Don’t you ever lay a hand on me again.” Then when the kid reached out to pop him a second time, he could nail him right in schnoz. Will said, “Now Dad, what about the Christian daddy.” I know, I know.
Turn the other cheek, that’s an easy one to teach. How often are Christians called upon to literally turn the other cheek after the first cheek has been slapped? Ok, maybe we can apply this to having been wronged in ways other than the literal physical. But what about when it applies to areas that are more subtle and that we no longer bother thinking of in a spiritual or moral context? So what do we call these things, these instances when we don’t turn the other cheek? Self defense? Revenge? Lawsuits? Irreconcilable differences? So I begin thinking about how we narrow down literal or specific meanings of concepts and metaphors. Here’s another:
Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. Everyday we hear God’s name mindlessly spoken without reference to Him or direction to Him. I’ve brought this to friends’ attention and heard in reply, “oh, I didn’t even realize I’d said that.” I hear it so often that I try really hard not to notice, to be desensitized so I won’t be so offended. This literal, spoken example burns me every time I hear it. But what about other ways that the Lord’s name is taken in vain? Things that have become just as common, but aren’t even given a second thought. Perjury under oath taken on the name of God, broken wedding vows of fidelity ‘til death do us part, made before God, flippant usage of “God” even in public prayer where His name is inserted at every pause as if it is an “uh” or “ah” to fill space while we gather our thoughts, superficially praying in the name of Jesus without thought or consideration of the depth or importance of that claim. What about claiming the name of Christ, calling ourselves by His name and behaving as if we don’t know what that means?
I pray that God and you will point out to me the areas in my life where I neatly compartmentalize these commands and teachings of Christ rather than let them pervade my entire being and completely shape who I am and how I relate to the world around me.


Sunday, December 07, 2003

extremely charged rant or... i'll regret this in the morning

In C’tron’s words, “warning: extremely charged rant”. It also is all over the place because I’m just in rant mode. Its too long and its jagged. I’m sorry. Just trying to get it off my chest. Feel free to correct me.
I just read an email response to an inquiry from a reader, from Jefferson Scott, co-author with Ryan Dobson of Be Intolerant.
Now I haven’t read the book, so I’m not responding to IT in anyway. I just have a few thoughts that were born of his response via email. Here is a quote:

Specifically, we're targeting young people (aged 16-22) in our youth and college groups who are trying to ride the fence between Christianity and the world; the ones who don't want to offend anyone, assume one truth is superior to another truth, or do anything that is not politically correct.

I’m sorry I always go on the defensive here, but I think that unless we realize where this age group learned to ride the fence, and accept responsibility for it, and stop riding the fence ourselves, no number of books is going to help. First of all, I had to remind myself that he was talking about 16-22 year-olds rather than 40-60 year-olds. I’m having a hard time picturing these fence riding folks reading anyway, I read a Barna stat that explained that books are too cumbersome and geeky. But I digress.
The problem here in recognizing that an emerging age group is too tolerant is that it is only partially true. The part that is true is that they cannot recognize that some things are absolutely wrong and other things are not absolutely wrong. (the book’s subtitle is “because some things are just stupid”) The part that is not true is that they are the first generation to ride the fence. In fact, these kids come from several similar places. Some of them came from families that in order not to ride the fence, neatly outlined behaviors and attitudes that constituted ‘right’, or “appropriate”. Some of these dealt with sin and morality, others dealt with preferences and opinions. But because the law was equally enforced and absolute across the board, the children never learned to differentiate. If they knew the difference, perhaps they would rebel against or disregard only the things that didn’t have eternal significance. Because it is all given equal importance, it all gets lumped in the subjectivity category. In my house, there are 3 kinds of language, that which we use, that which we don’t use because (in my opinion, and I’m the dad) it is ugly and unbecoming, and that which we don’t use because it is dirty, obscene, offensive, or blasphemous. My kids know the difference. They know into which category our verboten language goes. This differentiation is also applied to other areas. If there was ever a possibility that any of my kids would rebel against me, I want them to know the difference between God and me. I want a fire break so that they don’t extend their teenage anger beyond its cause. Woe to me if I should cause one of these little ones to stumble. That can happen in any number of subtle ways. We can become a stumbling block by causing someone to dislike us and associate God with us, (Jesus save us from Your followers) rather than striving to be associated with God. If I can foster a faith in God, then He will bring them back to me. I exist to point them to Christ, not enforce my preferences on them and create them in my image.
Others of those kids come from families in churches where every effort was taken to look just like “the world” so that “seekers” would feel comfortable coming in and hearing about Jesus. But once inside, these seekers, and the Christians already there, heard only how to apply Jesus to your existent life be happier. They learned how to get what we want from Him, rather than learning about what He wants from us. This is terribly confusing.
I see the same results in these two categories. These kids can’t differentiate between this and that because church and everything Christian has been honed to look as much like the other as possible. Christian how-to books are about the same thing as secular how-to books – success, leadership. My first book is going to be called, “Plugging Jesus into your secular life”. But I digress.
So, a confusion has arisen in the off-spring of the Church of Subtle Differences. The first group I mentioned have trouble differentiating the inappropriate (cultural) from sin because the inappropriate was held as important as sin, and therefore, a relativism stance toward the inappropriate spreads toward sin. The second group have trouble recognizing the Truth amidst all the cultural influences in church, and therefore, deem these influences as equally important as the Truth. The result in each case is strikingly similar. Any disregard for one, includes the other.
There is another curious phenomenon related to this pattern. The intentional infusion of the secular look into the church in order to lure the unchurched, feels a bit like a “bait and switch” technique and has turned the emerging generation off. They feel this brand of church is not authentic. They stop coming, but the church goes on in the same manner until the methods serve only us. We become the recipient of the shallow, careful, inoffensive dissemination of the good news that we meant for the seeker, immature, and unbeliever. We stop growing physically and spiritually. We get confused about methodology and theology. We can’t separate our methods from objectives. It becomes about the way we do things rather than the way we do things being about Jesus. The way we do things. Try to look like them and then surprise them with our real agenda. Which brings me to this quote from the email:

People can take an idea like being "radically inclusive" and interpret it to mean they should allow people to do whatever they want: "You want to smoke, shoot up, have sex, steal, break, cuss, blaspheme...? Hey, any and all of that is A-OK with me, friend. I'm radically inclusive because of Jesus, you know?" I personally think that would make Jesus throw up.

Now, I could see someone holding such a party and inviting people in who normally do such things--that's the radically inclusive part--and then once they're there ask them to refrain from doing that here and start telling them about the Truth and purity of Jesus Christ and the life He offers them

That’s radically deceptive and personally I think it would make Jesus throw up.
From this, the 16-22 age group that I know are going to understand that the life Jesus offers them is one of deception. Invite us to a party and then ask us not to party. Forgive me but isn’t this like sticking gospel tracts in your panties and working at a “gentlemen’s club”? I can’t think of any instance where Jesus staged a get-together to look like something it wasn’t and then sprung the message on them. People were drawn to Him because He was real or they weren’t drawn to Him. After the rich young ruler came to Him, it isn’t recorded that He met with the disciples to plan a financial seminar to lure the young man back again.
Jesus, the God of the universe in human form, the provision for our fallen condition, the source of grace to us, was real. He was always up-front and clear as to what He was about. His Father’s business. He always made it clear that it wasn’t even about Him. It was about His Father. He didn’t say anything of His own, only what He heard from the Father.
I don’t think a book asking 16-22 years olds not to be what we’ve become is going to help a whole lot. What they are accused of here, is exactly the same thing that a previous generation has done, it has just manifest itself in a different picture. The only way to stop this is to repent. Right now they are doing as they have seen it done. If we change, maybe they’ll do as they see it done.
If you’ve made it this far, better set me straight.


Saturday, December 06, 2003

rod rambles on about the obvious

I've been thinking a lot lately about how being about the wrong thing, or the right thing in the wrong way, or the right thing for the wrong reasons, or etc... has ramifications beyond the specific thing affected by one's input or involvement. Namely, being about the wrong thing, most likely means that we are not about the right thing. Maybe that seems obvious. But its not so obvious when we're in the midst of it. This, I think, is often a problem in churches. We are usually so in need of help in certain areas that we recruit anybody willing to succumb to our begging. There are times when we serve in an area where we're not meant to be. This is often evidenced by inefficiency or even negative results. But there are equal or greater negative consequences of the neglect that is caused by our not being of service in the area where ARE meant to be. We don't have time to be about what we are supposed to be about, we are too busy being about something else. Maybe something equally important, but not our thing.
So, this is a simple equation. Standing in the wrong place is a double error. Not only are we wrong, we are also not right. Wrong = not right. It is deeper than that because we are talking here about two separate areas, the one in which we are wrong and the one in which we are not right. We've messed up one and we've messed up the other. One is commission and the other ommission.
Beware, because as I've thought about this, I've chased some pretty wild rabbits and observed some pretty bizarre irony that I think warrant a good blogging.


Friday, December 05, 2003

intercessory prayer partner

Yes, it was "Peace". I have been in a magic flotation since yesterday morning over this silliness. Sometimes, the simplest things, ya know.
The song was already a prayer, but then it became Jesus' prayer, then it
became Jesus' prayer for me, then I'm joining Him in prayer.
I'm praying with Him and to Him. He's praying with me and for me and
answering my prayer. Its all just too much.
I wish I could take a listener with me through this stuff when I sing a
song. But alas, we disregard art, not to mention spirituality. We listen
but don't hear. A lot of stuff (worship) goes into preparation for me to
worship, I want so desperately to take people there with me.


Thursday, December 04, 2003

nothing is obvious until you see it

So there’s this song that I’ve wanted to do for about 6 months now. I’ve not done it yet because there was a line in there that I couldn’t quite figure out. All the rest of the lyric was wonderful (probably this phrase too, if I could figure it out). I’m not willing to do a song that I don’t have completely figured out, because people will ask me about it. The phrase was one that sounded familiar, in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it all my life – but where? I searched different translations of the Bible to try and find context and figure out what it meant in the song. No success. After trying to plan the song in several services over time, I had almost given up. Then this week the song seemed to fit so wonderfully with the service for Sunday, it popped back into my head and just sat there. Once again I went on a search, and decided to give it up again.
This morning when I got to work the song was still playing in my head, despite having been listening to something else during the commute. I opened my office door, sat down, picked up my guitar and boom, the song became crystal clear. Even the passages that already made sense took on deeper meaning. Wow, this song is even better for this Sunday than I had realized. I was moved by even a partial understanding of the song and had wanted to do it before. I wonder if God intended it for this particular Sunday and hid from me its meaning until He was ready for me to use it. What do you think? God did stuff like this in the scriptures. Does He still do this?
I know, you’re curious about the song. Sorry. I’m afraid to expose it here for fear that its writer might happen upon this blog via Greg’s and I’d be embarrassed - especially if I’m wrong. Or maybe he’d be embarrassed if I’m right, and he thought it meant something else. Just kidding. Come to church if you want to find out.
So this is the second Sunday of Advent. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and good will to men on whom His favor rests.


Wednesday, December 03, 2003

it could happen

I’ve blogged twice this week a rant that has turned too mean and ugly and so I stuck it back into a folder until it can be edited into some semblance of kindness. So I guess what happens here is that I blog backward. As if I have an answer to my ugly rant which you have not yet read. In fact, I don’t have an answer, but some fleeting glimpse of a vision of what impact our subculture could have on the culture at large if we took an active role. You’ve probably guessed then, that my ugly rant has to do with our failure to impact the culture because of our preoccupation with finding ways to lessen the negative impact the culture has on us while still enjoying all the things it has to offer.
The fleeting glimpse has come from a most unlikely source. I’ve been serving on a routine task force to evaluate one of the programs at school. In digging around through documents and interviewing students and alumnae, we’ve observed some interesting things and have been inspired to model some new ideas. One thing that may seem like just an encouraging statistic has deeply inspired me. One of our students did a very important and detailed study that was tied to his prison ministry. The bottom line of his finding (which caused a huge stir state wide) was that among prisoners (statewide) who became followers of Christ and were plugged into consistent discipleship programs while incarcerated, the recidivism rate was 0%. None returned to prison. This is in contrast with something like a 70% recidivism rate nationwide. Interesting that I opened this week’s New Yorker this morning and saw a cartoon with a sign hanging in a cell block that said, “Welcome Back, Recidivists”. The cartoon caused me to revisit the importance of the findings. Every year we spend badrillions of dollars on rehabilitation, counseling, education, skills training, and anything else we think might help keep folks from returning to prison. Here we have seen hard proof of the faithfulness of Jesus to keep His promises. Jesus claims the words of Isaiah, “… to proclaim liberty to the captives and to set the prisoner free”. This is literally being done. Jesus said, “as the Father sent me, I send you”. This works! How can society not notice that Jesus has accomplished what they’ve failed to do? In fact, they have noticed. They are asking for more bible studies, mentoring, and discipleship programs. This impacts the culture. It makes us a contributing factor to the larger culture rather than just a consumer and editor of the larger culture’s contribution.
This is just the impetus of my fleeting glimpse; I probably can’t say much more without reporting from a report that we haven’t presented yet. Suffice it to say that I think it is possible to go beyond simply baptizing secular culture and allowing it to mingle with ours. We so often mask the power of God by attempting to inject it into the world’s methods and procedures and philosophies. We spend our time, trying to figure out how our theology can accommodate them. If we truly believe that Jesus is relevant to the culture, then we can shape its methods, procedures and philosophies based on the impact that is obvious. If our love and caring and discipling changes peoples lives, the world will notice, and they will begin to see a source of relief for their hunger.
Well then, I will revisit this as I’m at liberty to share more of our ideas, and my fleeting glimpse becomes a concrete vision. I’m praying for that.


Tuesday, December 02, 2003

what DO you do?

How could I expect anything different? We are getting ready to step into an election year and already, I’m hearing the potential candidates wax lengthy on the evils and ills of their opponents. Vote for me because I am not he. Do the political wannabes not realize that we can tell that they don’t have any more answers than the next guy, but can identify the same problems the incumbents identified but have failed to fix?
This same phenomenon trickles into our subculture as well. This little bubble that above all others, should be identified positively (by what it is), is also identified by what we don’t do. All it is is what it’s not. Don’t drink, don’t smoke? What do you do?
You don’t have to worry about what you might hear on the radio. It’s guaranteed safe for the whole family. We don’t play all that questionable material that the other stations play. Christian radio actually has commercials that advertise that they are not selling anything. They spend sixty seconds telling that they aren’t spending sixty seconds selling. Now I’m not saying that we should do the things we are bragging about not doing. I just don’t think it’s a great idea to brag about it, and a worse idea to let it define who we are.
How are we to impact society when we are only known by what we avoid? Don’t drink don’t chew, don’t go out with girls who do. In probably the least legalistic Christian subculture in history, we’ve ceased to be about the dissemination of the gospel and have taken up segregation and self-protection. When the most important thing that Christians can proclaim is that they’re inoffensive to one another, we are more than implying that this is for us. We are taking care of our own. Of course, we could be about reaching the culture, and that would probably result in broadcasts that are inoffensive to Christians, but our priorities are askew, and we’re more worried about ourselves.
In a single year’s time, Wheaton’s alcohol policy and first dance make national news. This can only be news if it is nationally known that we didn’t used to do what are now doing. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t appear ‘set apart’, I’m saying that what sets us apart should be what we do and who we are, not what we don’t do and who we’re not. I’m afraid the bottom line is that who we are is no longer different enough to be noticed.
Now we are set apart only by abstinence, defensive stance, protection, and disassociation. We’ve announced to the world that this is what defines a Christian. No wonder they chuckle when one of us messes up.

©2003 rod lewis


Monday, December 01, 2003

Unspeakable and Full of Glory

Joy. Perhaps it's the Christmas word that does the most damage when misunderstood. This is a hard one to talk about because I'm typing away all this stuff all week and each morning I wake up sad and can't figure out why. I search my mind looking for what might be bothering me - can't put a finger on it. I start the day trusting that it will occupy my mind and bring trust back into focus. Its hard and my stuff is nothing compared to others I know.
I often hear that Christmas time is the most depressing time of the year. Disappointment, loneliness and feelings of abandonment abound. Perhaps this is because we've wrapped our expectations for Christmas in the wrong things. It happens in marriages when we look to our spouse for something that only God can give. Most of us often look elsewhere for something that only God can give us.
The true joy of Christmas has nothing to do with snow, a fire in the fireplace, cookies, sausage balls, cider, eggnog, or anything but the gift of God to humanity in the form of a human baby come to bring salvation to all who would believe. That aspect of Christmas will never change. When we get the wrong gift, Jesus is still savior. When the kids leave the nest, Jesus is still savior. When loved ones have passed on and there is an empty seat at dinner, Jesus is still savior. When our spouse has gone home before us, Jesus is still savior. Now all this could sound like an empty happy sentence if we claimed that joy and the results of these other situations were mutually exclusive. But once again we have to consider Paul's meaning when he said, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength". We can be content in Christ no matter the situation in which we find ourselves. It is not our situation that brings joy, but our condition. We are reconciled to God; that is joy.
I know that seems like a tall order from someone who seems to have no reason not to be filled with joy. But it is a promise. We've got to claim these other three as well. We'll have trouble, but Jesus gives us peace. We hope in the promise. Again I remember Job: "though He slay me, still I will trust Him."
If Jesus is the source of our Joy, then no situation can rob us of it. We can feel crippled with grief but still have joy in the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus himself agonized emotionally over his coming crucifixion. He experienced physical agony during his crucifixion. However, "for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame". What could His joy have been? In knowing that going through that agony would bring us back into relationship Him? If we can be a source of joy to Jesus, then we can make every effort to allow Him to be our source of joy. This Christmas, may we not depend on dinners and decorations or even our loved ones to provide joy, may we gather our loved ones around us to share in the joy of our Savior.