Wednesday, January 31, 2007

WALTER BRUEGGEMANN, TAKING A SECOND PAINFUL LOOK

“In the small, contained world where we live most of the time, we know whom to trust and fear, whom to love and whom to hate. We get it all mapped out into good guys and bad guys, and everything is scheduled and predictable.

Jesus’ teachings on loving our enemies are not a little romantic lesson in feeling good about everybody and acting silly.

It is rather a rich, evangelical statement that there is more to life than our capacity to contain it all in our little moral categories. For, says Jesus, if you reduce your life to the simple practice of loving your friends and hating your enemies, of being generous only to those you like and trust, and resistant whenever there is risk, what’s the big deal?

Anybody can do that.”

Check the rest of it out here: This is a very good reminder to be careful in thinking you know what God is up to.

http://www.thewords.com/articles/walterjoseph.htm

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A QUOTE FROM CHURCHILL

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

I think that says it all. I believe Democracy is the best man made form of government. I'm thankful I live in one. It's just not the kingdom of God and we would do well to remember that. Or as far as the Church in America goes, to wake up to that truth.

Monday, January 29, 2007

SOME MORE THOUGHTS ON REBIRTH

From ENGAGING THE POWERS

"But rebirth is not a private, inward event only. For it also includes the necessity of dying to whatever in our social surroundings have shaped us inauthentically. We must die to the Domination System in order to live authentically."

I must admit delving into some of this stuff makes me a bit uneasy. You just sound strange when you start to talk about this stuff. But it is consistent with the language in scripture. I think maybe one of our problems is that we have diminished all of the world system to just little distractions that we think we can manage. I'm seeing it in a way that tells me we have been fooled.

This is serious business. The system has no intention of playing nice. It is set against those who would follow Jesus into freedom. I have seen how this has effected me and for a year now I have been fully engaged in disentangling myself from it. The cost at this point has been the surrendering of positions I have held for so long. I have said it before but I am stunned as to some of those position I held thinking I was holding a position Jesus would support.

The awesome thing that just "rocks my world" (as my friend Rob would say) is that as God has revealed this stuff to me there has been NO condemnation. I have said this several times before also, but it deserves repeating. THIS IS INVITATION. It is invitation to leave the things that kill and to step into a new reality that is life.

This makes the lives of those that have gone before us make sense. Jesus, The Apostles, the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in the book of Hebrews, Dr. King and many more............

They lived by a different reality and no one could take away there freedom or their pride.

I want to add a statement here that speaks from a position of freedom no one can take away. This is the life of one who has truly been set free.

John Bunyan: "I will spend the rest of my life in this jail before I make a butchery of my conscience."

IF THE CROSS IS ABOUT DEATH TO THE OLD AND REBIRTH TO THE NEW, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? AND WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

This is taken from a book I am presently reading. ENGAGING THE POWERS by Walter Wink

"The unquestionably authentic religious experience of "rebirth" often fails to issue in fundamentally changed lives because this social dimension of egocentricity is not addressed. Many Chilean charismatics died to their privatized egos, but not to the dictator Pincochet. Many South African evangelicals died to their privatized egos, but not to apartheid. Many North Americans die to their privatized egos, but not to the hybris of American imperialism. Thus, dying to one's ego can be just another delusional spirituality unless it involves dying to the Powers."

Friday, January 26, 2007

FROM "ENGAGING THE POWERS" by Walter Wink

"The Domination System is the outcome of the systematic repudiation by institutions of their divine vocation in order to pursue self-aggrandizement and greed. But these fallen Powers and their vicious system are not the last word. God has acted to redeem us from the Powers----and to redeem the Powers as well. It is, however, a redemption filled with paradox. Its greatest strengths appear weak to those who define power as manipulation. Its wisdom seems foolish to those who grow rich at the expense of others."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A QUOTE FROM BONHOEFFER

"Thus in his own way, Luther confirms Constantine's covenant with the church. As a result, a minimal ethic prevailed. Luther of course wanted a complete ethic for everyone, not only for monastic orders, thus the existence of the christian became the existence of the citizen. The nature of the church vanished into an invisible realm. But in this way the New Testament message was fundamentally misunderstood, inner-worldliness became a principle."

When this quote is heard with an explanation of the Sermon on the Mount as being description not law and that the Sermon is Jesus, it makes much sense. For me this is not about law or following a set of ethics. It is about following Jesus.

The lecture from Stanley Hauerwas on The Sermon on the Mount is very good. It is linked below:

http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/audio%20files/hauerwas.mp3

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

SO MUCH PAIN AND ONLY SMALL GLIMPSES OF FREEDOM

I have been thinking of this much lately. Too many of my friends and loved ones are getting the hell beat out of them by the world. And it does seem like it is the world overwhelming them. The intoxicating pull of the promises of fulfillment is one of the problems in this consumer driven society we live in. We have grown up in the age of entitlement and too often we feel we are owed these things. Even if they are killing us.

The other thing I have observed is the hold the world and the things of the world have on most people. We feel trapped. We need a home to live in. We need food to eat. We need a car or cars to get from one place to another. We need clothes for our bodies. We need insurance for everything, we are suppose to save for our kids college and we are to save for our future retirement. It takes much money and time to keep all of this stuff going.

Our schedules are so full with work and running the kids to all the things they feel they have to be involved in and in the maintenance of all we own. Oh I forgot about all we need to do to be entertained and the money and time that takes.

AND WE WONDER WHY WE ARE STRUGGLING? Or do we?

I think some of us really don't seem to understand what is causing our troubles. I also think many of us have a sense as to what it is and we just refuse to make the changes.

Why?

When the way that leads unto life is so clear, and what we are experiencing is so painful, why do we refuse to respond to our Lord's call to leave the things of the world behind? Are we so caught up in the intoxicating effects of these things, that we would rather feel the pain and experience the loss of the peace he has offered us?

When Jesus was walking the earth and his disciples continued to carry the message of the "Good News" to the world, the world was beating the hell out of their bodies and killing them. They seemed to express a freedom in the way they lived and died.

We today let the world beat the hell out of our hearts, minds, and souls and seem to miss out on the freedom and peace our forerunners expressed. Remember, the world is under the control of the the "Powers and Principalities of the air". He is our only enemy.

What would you rather have? All the world has to offer or all Jesus promised us if we would just follow him?

I'm seeing through all of this and I am feeling like I am beginning to really believe.

Matthew 6:19-34 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%206:19-34;&version=65;

and Mark 4:19 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark%204:19;&version=65;

He really has made a way for us. The question is, do we believe him?

SOME MORE ON CIVIL RELIGION

Civil Religion in America seems to put much faith in our society's idea of social order. If society is sinful, doesn't it seems it's methods to administer social order would be sinful also?

Jesus' demonstration of love seems to get lost here. We also seem all too often, willing to except the the use of violence as long as it is the less nasty forms of violence.

Does this create a conflict for followers of Jesus in our society?

Here is a quote from Stanely Hauerwas;"Religion is the designation created to privatize strong convictions in order to render them harmless so that the alleged Democracies can continue to have the illusions they flourish on difference."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A PIECE OF THE STORY TAKEN FROM PENAL SUBSTITUTION vs CHRISTUS VICTOR

You can read this in it's entirety under the same titled link under my favorite sites. Written by Derek Flood

///////////////////////////STORY//////////////////////////////
This is the power of story. Story is how human beings have always communicated what they value and what is meaningful. In the past the tribes would gather to hear the leader tell them their stories, today we have our culture's values communicated to us when we go to the movies or listen to the radio. Go to just about any film with Meg Ryan in it and you will learn the western cultural myth of romance as the a way to true fulfillment. Go see an action film with Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger and you will learn the Western value of individualism, and how violence can overcome evil. The reason that President George W Bush's "war on evil" looks more like a Schwarzenegger film then it looks like the way that Jesus confronted evil is quite simply because he - like us - has had that story of the redemptive value of violence hammered into his head until it is the only solution he can imagine, the only solution we can imagine, until we half think it is the "Christian" response. The way of the cross, of "loving your enemies" of "overcoming evil with good" is something that we are virtually illiterate in. And the way we learn it is by rehearsing it in story.

The Bible is about story. It is the story of God's people and his interaction with them in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament it is - as the gospel hymn states - "that old time Gospel story". We as Christians have a part in that story - it is our story too. When we meet another Christian for the first time we will often ask them to tell us their story of how they came to Christ. We find commonality because we share the same testimony of how God has entered our lives, it is how we recognize one another - not by doctrine, but by story. We are all connected because we share the same story as the larger Gospel story - the story of redemption.

SPARK

Just a little lighter way of saying some of the same things I've been posting about lately.

Spark a song by Over The Rhine

It's not the spark that caused the fire
It was the air you breathed that fanned the flame
What you think you'll solve with violence
Will only spread like a disease
Until it all comes 'round again
Was John the only dreamer?

Sleep with one ear close to the ground
And wake up screaming
When we lay our cold weapons down
We'll wake up dreaming

Obsessions with self-preservation
Faded when I threw my fear away
It's not a thing you can imagine
You either lose your fear
Or spend your life with one foot in the grave
Is God the last romantic?

Sleep with one ear close to the ground
And wake up screaming
When we lay our cold weapons down
We'll wake up dreaming

Only love can turn this around
I wake up dreaming
Everything we've lost can be found
We'll wake up dreaming

Saturday, January 20, 2007

CAN CIVIL RELIGION AND FOLLOWING JESUS REALLY WORK TOGETHER?

Civil Religion in America seems to put much faith in our society's idea of social order. If society is sinful, doesn't it seems it's methods to administer social order would be sinful also?

Jesus' demonstration of love seems to get lost here. We also seem all too often, willing to except the the use of violence as long as it is the less nasty forms of violence.

Does this create a conflict for followers of Jesus in our society?

Here is a quote from Stanely Hauerwas;

"Religion is the designation created to privatize strong convictions in order to render them harmless so that the alleged Democracies can continue to have the illusions they flourish on difference."

SACRIFICING THE SACRIFICES OF WAR

Here is a link to a lecture by Stanley Hauerwas on the devastating effects of war. It is given from a perspective of the cross of Christ and the liberation Christ's sacrifice made possible for a world set on a path of war and killing.

This was a sober listen. But as difficult as it might be, it seems it is a message that the Church in America needs to hear. Even if it doesn't change anybody's stance on war or the possible necessity of war at this time, maybe it will plant an idea of a better way in our hearts. Maybe it will plant a dream in our hearts and minds to where we understand that war is too costly for all of us.

Maybe the reality is that even for the victors in war, the cost is even higher?

Jesus set out a radically different way for his disciples. I think he was showing those who would follow that it is through their refusal to use violence that they would be freed from the cycle of violence that is human history. Not that we might not suffer violence, but that violence will not control us and be our tyrant. And in turn, the community of believers (the Church) would not contribute anymore to the ugly violent history of man's sad attempt of living outside of relationship with God.

Maybe it is our participation in this, choosing to suffer instead of causing others to suffer, that helps moves our violent world one step closer to the day the Prophets of old spoke of. The day when nations will not make war against other nations.

Here is a quote from Stanley:

"The work of Jesus was not a new set of ideals or principles for reforming or even revolutionizing society, but the establishment of a new community, a people that embodied forgiveness, sharing and self-sacrificing love in its rituals and discipline. In that sense, the visible church is not to be the bearer of Christ's message, but to be the message."

http://www.gfmuiuc.net/hauerwas4-6-06.mp3

Friday, January 19, 2007

ANOTHER CHALLENGE OF THE AMERICAN-PUBLIC-CHURCH VIEW OF CHURCH

From the book Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon

"We believe both the conservative and liberal church, the so-called private and public church are basically accommodationist (that is Constantinian) in their social ethic. Both assume wrongly that the American church's primary social task is to underwrite American democracy.

In so doing, they have unwittingly underwritten the moral presupposition that destroys the church. Aristotle argued that the primary purpose of the polis(city-state) is the creation of people who are better than they would be without the aide of the polis. Yet what does our society, our polis, do to us? The primary entity of democracy is the individual, the individual for whom society exists mainly to assist assertions of individuality. Society is formed to supply our needs, no matter the content of those needs. Rather than helping us to judge our needs, to have the right needs which we exercise in the right ways, our society becomes a vast supermarket of desire under the assumption that if we are free enough to assert and to choose whatever we want we can defer eternally the question of what needs are worth having and on what basis right choices are made. What we call "freedom" becomes the tyranny of our own desires. We are kept detached, strangers to one another as we go about fulfilling our needs and asserting our rights. The individual is given a status that makes incomprehensible the Christian notion of salvation as a political, social phenomenon in the family of God. Our economics correlates to our politics. Capitalism thrives in a climate where "rights" are the main political agenda. The church becomes one more consumer-oriented organization, existing to encourage individual fulfillment rather than being a crucible to engender individual conversion into the Body."

ANOTHER LOOK AT CIVIL RELIGION

Would it be a beneficial to consider the ill effects Civil Religion might be having on the community we are called to be as followers of Christ? Could it actually be the focus on Civil Religion that is keeping this community from being a reality?

Here is a practice that seems to have been substituted for what Jesus actually called us to do.

I can't find anywhere that Jesus commanded us to worship him? What he said was "Follow me". Civil Religion teaches us to worship him and if Sunday morning observances pass as worship, we do that well. But how are we doing when it comes to following him? Do we with our lives follow Jesus' words and demonstration of what life in his kingdom is to be like?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

DR. KING'S BIRTHDAY

I was going to say something Monday Jan. 15 on Dr. King's birthday (I like being born on the same day he was) but I didn't get around to it. There are people that have come along and have said and done very great things. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of them.

Words of truth are timeless. You can find things spoken years ago that still ring as true today as they did back when they were spoken. Maybe they even ring more true years later. Why does history spell out the sad fact that it takes us way too long to wake up and see it? Why is it so hard to speak up in the moment? Why does it always seem that the majority stay comfortably numb or at least indifferent, stuck in the status quo?

I would encourage anyone to read the letters and speeches of Dr. King. So many of the things he wrote, you could change the names and events and they would fit today's situation just as well as they did when he was addressing the injustices of his day. God's truth in Dr. King's day is still God's truth for today.

When Silence Is Betrayal

Martin Luther King, Jr., at Riverside Church, New York, April 4, 1967

1. "A time comes when silence is betrayal. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men [sic] do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.

2. "Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

3. "We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls "enemy," for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

4. "I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

5. "A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ A nation that continues year and year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

6. "America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities over the pursuit of war.

7. "This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. We can no longer afford to worship the God of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.

8. "We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight…”

This is God's justice, we need to rescue it from the distortion it suffers under today as being seen as punishment.

"Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow". (Isaiah 1:17)

"This is what the LORD says: "`Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed" (Jeremiah 21:12)

"This is what the LORD Almighty says: `Administer true justice: show mercy and compassion to one another. (Zechariah 7:9)

"Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice".( Isaiah 30:18


I have posted this here before but it deserves to be revisited over and over:

taken from:
http://timneufeld.blogs.com/occasio/

"Martens did a masterful job of defining the Hebrew word for justice, mishpat. In western society we have come to understand justice as something we receive (I am a victim, I demand justice) or we dispense (he was convicted and justice was served). But mishpat could best be defined as "honorable relations." Justice is something that we do in relationship with others. It is active not passive. The goal is shalom -- not merely the absence of conflict, but the presence of harmony in relationships. What might a country look like if it practiced this kind of justice?"

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

WHAT IS THE MATRIX?

I know I run the risk of possibly being misunderstood by using a popular movie to speak of some things I find so very important for those who would answer the call to be disciples(followers) of Jesus, but that is exactly what I am going to do.

If discipleship is the way forward for those who long to walk with Jesus, I think it becomes very important to determine if what passes as "following Jesus" today is really what being a disciple means.

How have we come to a place that holding some kind of belief about God and Jesus is really all that matters?

How have we come to believe salvation just means being saved from hell?

How have we come to a place that allegiance to the nation state passes as allegiance to God?

How have we come to a place that we fill our lives with things that can never satisfy and we call it "The Blessing of God"? All the while distracting us from Him?

I could go on but that is probably enough to think about. Please don't misunderstand me, I continue to ask myself these same questions. I will say this though, these questions for me started to "Hound of Heaven" haunt me back at the beginning of last year.

Here is where the Matrix applies. I simply asked God to show the things that stood in the way of me living this truth revealed in Christ, like I really believed it. He started to reveal to me the matrix(the world system) that is all around us. It controls us without us even being aware of it. If we are serving it or controlled by it, it is impossible for us to be serving him. You have to serve someone and it is impossible to serve two masters.

If you have seen the movie, I would ask this, does that sound familiar? No, I'm not suggesting we are in tubes, powering a machine) as in a sci-fi movie. But I am saying this. There is a system(society) that is set up to make possible the lives we live today. It doesn't matter if it is Communism, Socialism, Marxism or Democratic Capitalism. They are systems of domination and they are not a part of the kingdom Jesus proclaimed was at hand. Actually they stand in opposition to his kingdom.

So, I would ask this. Do we care? Do we care enough to ask God to pull the blinders off our eyes so that we can see it? Or, as in the movie, do you dare to take the red pill so that you can see what the Matrix is and see how deep the rabbit hole actually is?

I believe if we don't, following in the foot steps of Jesus will be impossible for us. We will continue to settle for the Civil Religion the world system allows us, where we hold to personal beliefs about Jesus and rarely live as disciples of his are called to lived.

Here is a link to another teaching by Theologian Stanley Hauerwas.

The Sermon on the Mount
http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/audio%20files/hauerwas.mp3

Monday, January 15, 2007

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CROSS MEANS?

I have added a link in my favorite sites. I think this is a very important. It is titled Penal Substitution vs Christus Victor. It is pretty long so I am going to keep it there for easy access.

Here is an excerpt from it:

"Despite man's concoctions of what justice "ought to be" the biblical picture of justice is about making things right again, about restoration, about liberation. In the biblical paradigm death is not what "justice requires", rather death is the enemy that justice conquers through the cross (1 Cor 15:25-26,54-57). Man's picture of justice is to put people in prison; Jesus' vision of justice was to release the captives from their prison (Luke 4:18) We need to get away from narrow man-made concepts of justice and understand the godly life-giving justice that God sent Jesus to bring about. We need to stop seeing justice as the world does and see it as God does. This will require a major paradigm shift in our thinking."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

SOME CHALLENGING THOUGHT from Stanley Hauerwas

"The language of rights and liberties can not help but lead to godlessness and the subsequent deification of man which is the proclamation of nihilism."

Here is another excerpt from this lecture:

"Religion moreover is now understood as beliefs, personal convictions which can exist seperately from one's public loyalty to the state."

Here is a link to a lecture by Theologian Stanley Hauerwas: The End of Religious Pluralism

http://frontrow.bc.edu/mp3/2006-02-02-hauerwas.mp3

If you want to download the mp3 file you can do that here:

http://frontrow.bc.edu/program/hauerwas/

Friday, January 12, 2007

A BEAUTIFUL CHANGE

Beautiful Change a song from The Innocence Mission


Oh I'm going to find some peace of mind.
At any time I could change, any day,
a beautiful change.
Some low sinking clouds become reindeer
while I'm standing here at the door,
looking for a beautiful change.

The snow is here. The light is bright.

Flower forth, and soon, branch of Easter.
I want to be here when he needs me,
he will see a beautiful change.
Oh and he wades into the yard.
Nothing has been what I'd guessed so far.

Unforeseen, this most sweet, beautiful change.

I thought of this song while listening to this weeks podcast "Don't Forget to Play" at The God Journey.

This song speaks of longing and living with expectancy instead of expectations.

When we live with expectations of life and what we want it to be, when we place expectations on loved ones and friends, we can find ourselves in places of disappointment. When we live from this place, we all too often can find ourselves blaming everybody for our unrealized dreams. It's not very conducive to strong healthy relationships.

Living with an sense of expectancy creates wonderful moments of discovery, when we can learn to do it from a safe place of trusting God. I'm learning, trusting God is a reality that springs up from a place of knowing we are loved by him.

Things might not turn out like you had envisioned they would, but I'm finding they end up being much more fulfilling.

Unforseen, this most sweet, beautiful change.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

SOME MORE THINGS TO PONDER

I had a conversation with a client today that led to some pretty interesting conclusions about the dilemma of the world today. We discussed the endless cycle of violence. We talked about how stunning it is that most people don't seem to want to consider or talk much about these things. Or at least in a way that is different than the status quo.

We came to the conclusion that the more you think about it you come to the conclusion that there are not any good options. That is, when it comes to the nations of the kingdom of the world.

I am some what stunned that the Church seems to still have it's hope in the arm of the flesh. I'm stunned that the Church seems to be waiting for our nation to solve the problems we face. It seems the Church has come to believe in the use of the sword more so than we believe in the foolishness of the cross. But it is in the cross that the power unto transformation is found. Not just for personal salvation but hope and salvation for all of creation.

The power of the cross and the wisdom of following Jesus as he lived goes so far beyond any power the sword might have to fix anything. We have a choice it seems to make as followers of Jesus. Do we believe what Jesus said or are we going to continue to go the way of all the nations of the world? Don't misunderstand me. I'm not talking about our nation and what it is going to do. I think we know the course it is on. I'm talking about we who say we believe in Jesus and are followers of his.

Something has distracted us and distorted the message of the kingdom. I think it has to do with what and who we trust. Jesus never said it was the easy thing to do. It is the hardest way to live. But it is where we will truely find freedom.

To find our lives(the one hidden with Christ in God) we must lose it( the one that is caught up in trust in self and the flesh).

I feel Jesus laying these truths before me. I have said many times, "I don't know if I can do this?" I feel Jesus saying to me "I know, but I can take you there."

The way that man seems to continue to go might seem right but we know where it is leading. Will there be a people that rises up to live a different way? The way of Jesus. Maybe, it could again change the course of history? Maybe we are to be involved in ushering in a better day? Maybe that is why you and I are here? And, maybe not? Maybe this is just about following him regardless of whether we see any positive change at all in the world? I want to trust him with the outcome. I have no expectations, but I want to live with expectancy for what he is doing and that he has invited you and I to come along with him in what he is doing.

What do you believe? Are we willing to risk it all and live like we believe? Or will we go in the same way most people have gone before us? I want to follow him as Lord not just speak of him as Lord. I'm seeing there is a big difference.

DID THIS CREATE A SHIFT IN THE CHURCH'S UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT FOLLOWING JESUS MEANS?

How did the conversion of Constintine change the dynamics of the Church? Or did it change it any any way, positive or negative?

John Howard Yoder saw it like this:

Prior to Constintine it took exceptional courage to be a Christian. After Constintine it took exceptional courage to be a Pagan.

Would this shift have any negative effects on the message of the kingdom of heaven and the teachings of Christ?

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER

Can we put aside our traditional differences in the body of Christ?

Can we put aside our doctrinal differences?

Can we set aside our different methodology?

Can we really learn to live loving and caring for each other instead of attempting to force everyone to believe everything as I do?

I don't know about you, but one of the things I have learned in all my years of trying to live as a follower of Jesus is, I don't see everything clearly. Many times a brother or a dear sister have been my eyes. Sometimes they have been my ears. Sometimes they have been my conscience. Sometimes they have been my corrector. I need them.

I have an ugly confession to make. I lived most of my Christian life from a conservative perspective. Liberal Christians just didn't get it. I couldn't see how you could be a follower of Jesus and align yourself with the liberal wing of the Church. One day while talking to a client who is not only a liberal but she is a follower of Christ also, she said to me,"How can someone be a conservative and be a Christian?" Since I had come to really appreciate this person and her heart, I ask her, "What do you mean?" What she said made me think. It did sound like it was in line with the gospel of Jesus. What she said I certainly wasn't living. I went away thinking about it and couldn't shake her question.

Oh, how wrong I had been. I had already started and was having an amazing time reading authors from this side of the Church. I actually found there are folks that vote pro-choice that live more pro-life than most people who I know who vote pro-life and insist you have to, to be a Christian. I was stunned.

Jesus is building an amazing Church. I just needed to open my eyes first to what the Church is, and then look beyond my little domain that I had lived in to see even more of it.

Check out some of these authors: Brian McLaren, Richard Rohr, Greg Boyd, Ann Lamott, Jim Wallis, Dr. Martin Luther King JR. Theologians Stanley Heuerwas, Walter Bruggemann, John Howard Yoder and I know ther are many more I have yet to discover.

The kingdom of God transcends the boundaries we put in place in an attempt to control the thing. Trying to box in the spirit of God is stupid. I mean, come on, let's get real. I want to look beyond what is comfortable for me. I have let go of positions held in the past that were gut-wrenching to let go of. It was a knew found trust in God that enabled me to risk letting go. What I have found on the other side is so wonderfully big and wide open. Looking back I am stunned by some of the things I had held so tightly to thinking they were the very heart of God.

I am living with an expectancy for what God will do next like never before. Hang on, if you take the risk to trust this awesome Father. This is much better than I could have ever dreamed. God's dream for that which he created is here for all. I want to open myself up and live undefended like I believe it all.

Are you up to going for the ride of your life?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

ARE WE TO TAKE THESE WORDS SERIOUSLY?

When Jesus said 'love your enemies,' Do you think he probably meant don't kill them?

When he said 'turn the other cheek,' do you think he probably meant don't strike them back?

There are many other examples of revolutionary ideas Jesus seemed to be teaching. Do you think we can take them at face value or do you think we are suppose to conclude that He really didn't mean for them to be taken seriously?

If they aren't to be taken seriously, why did those that followed shortly after Him seem to take them seriously? Many of them seemed to follow in His very footsteps when it came to these stunning ideas of how to live.Why don't we? I include myself in this also.

Why do we believe this isn't what He meant even for us 2000 years later?

Could it be that we have wandered so far from the life Jesus called us to, and we have actually added to many of the problems in the world today. Do you think that if we took this seriously, at face value, we would see the demonstration of the life that changed the course of mankind again, right here in our time?

Maybe to break the cycle of violence that started with Cain and Abel and has spread like fire throughout history, it can only be broken by our commitment to stand up against the cycle of hate, violence and vengeance for self-preservation by actively demonstrating love as Christ did? It seems to me, this is exactly what Jesus was trying to get us to understand. Love really is the only answer. Not hate or fear hiding behind some twisted version of 'I love you brother, but.....'

Thursday, January 04, 2007

YOU CAN'T EXPLAIN IT TO SOMEONE, THEY MUST SEE IT FOR THEMSELF

Why does it seem everyone is stressed? Or that depression touches it seems, just about every one's family or many of your friends? Do you know many people that don't feel rushed and dragged through life? Families are falling apart, children are shooting other children in school, and I'm sure you can add many more things to this list.

This is the stunning thing to me, most people just keep doing it all the same way they have been doing it, that has led us to this sad condition.

There is a way out but it first takes a response from us. We must want to know what is causing it all and then we must make a decision to do it differently.

Here is what I can't explain to you: The world domination system. We all must open our eyes to see it. It is all around us. It plays itself out in everything we do. We have to serve something or somebody. Do you know what or who you are serving? Do you want to find out? Do you want to live free of stress, depression, anxiety, the sense of being out of control but thinking you can control all things, including yourself? I believe it is possible to live free of these things. I at least know this much, you can live freer than most of us are at this moment, even when there might be a storm raging all around us. I sense the storm is not going away and you probably know that deep down inside also.

Do we want to continue to live lives dragged around by the system or do we want to live free?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

ORIGINAL SHAME

Some more from Richard Rohr in Hope Against Darkness

I'm really enjoying reading through this again.

"What we call Original Sin in Genesis perhaps could be called Original Shame, because the way that Adam and Eve describe themselves is that they feel naked. Then some of the first words of God to his newly created people are, "Who told you that you were naked?" (Genesis 3:11) Next, in a lovely maternal image, God as seamstress sews leather garments for them (3:21). The first thing God does after creation itself is cover the shame of his new creatures. This must name something that is fundamental within us.

We live not just in an age of anxiety, but also in a time of primal shame. I find very few people who do not feel inadequate, stupid, dirty, unworthy. We all have that terrible feeling of a fundamental unworthiness. I'm sure it takes many different forms, but somehow it seems to take shape in each of our lives.

Guilt, I am told, is about things we have done or not done, but our shame is about the primal emptiness of our being. Not what we have done, but who we are not. Guilt is a moral question. Shame, foundational shame at least, is an ontological question. It is not resolved by changing behavior as much as by changing our very self-image, our alignment in the universe. Shame is not about what we do, but where we abide.

Nine out of ten people start with this premise: "If I behave correctly I will one day see God clearly." Yet the biblical tradition is saying the exact opposite: If you see God clearly, you will behave in a good and human way. Your right behavior does not cumulatively lead to your true being; your true being leads to eventual right behavior. We almost all think that good morality will lead to mystical union, but, in fact, mystical union produces correct morality----along with a lot of joy left over. And the greatest surprise is that, sometimes, a bad moral response is the very collapsing of the ego that leads to our falling into the hands of the living God (see Hebrews 10:31)."

MORE THOUGHTS FROM "HOPE AGAINST DARKNESS"

I'm going to continue with some more thoughts from this book for as long as I feel to do so. This is a short one today.

"When a people no longer knows that God is, God is good, God can be trusted and God is on your side, we frankly have very serious problems. Our pain is going to go shooting in all directions, none of them good. That's were we are today."

Monday, January 01, 2007

HOPE AGAINST DARKNESS

I am adding here the opening paragraphs from the book mentioned above written by Richard Rohr. I think the title and the subtitle( The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety) describe the dilemma and condition our culture finds it's self in today, perfectly.

God is our hope. Christ and his message is that hope spoken and demonstrated. It is what we are invited to participate in with him.

THE POSTMODERN OPPORTUNITY

"One reason so many people have lost heart today is that we feel both confused and powerless. The forces against us are overwhelming: consumerism, racism, militarism, individualism, patriarchy, the corporate juggernaut. These "powers and principalities" seem to be fully in control. We feel helpless to choose our own lives, much less a common life, or to see any overarching meaning in it all.

This became all the more evident after the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Everything that has seemed so important---stock options, consumer choices, increasingly affluent lifestyles---suddenly faded. Church attendance increased immediately. Religious websites experienced a surge in activity. We saw a wave of patriotism unseen in decades. Some people even had the courage to look into our collective conscience and start questioning if the developed nations have been doing enough to help eradicate poverty worldwide. All of it points to a long-standing, deep need in our society that we must face with more urgency.

More than anything else, I believe, we face a crisis of meaning. The world seems so complex, and we feel so small. What can we do but let the waves of history carry us as we try to keep afloat somehow?

But maybe we can look to that same history for some patterns, or for those who found the patterns. That is the thesis of this book, and in that sense it is a very traditional book, even though many of these patterns point to revolutionary suggestions. I am going to point particularly to the man who has one of the longest bibliographies of anyone in history: a thirteenth-century Italian called Francis of Assisi. He must have had some kind of genius to have attracted so many cultures and religions, and to be contemporary in so many of his responses eight hundred years later.

Saint Francis stepped out into a world being recast by the emerging market economy. He lived amid a decaying old order in which his father was greedily buying up small farms of debtors, moving quickly into the new entrepreneurial class. Francis stepped into a Church that seemed to have been largely out of touch with the masses. But he trusted a deeper voice and a bigger truth. He sought one clear center and moved out from there.

The one clear centerpiece was the Incarnate Jesus. He understood everything else from that personalized reference point. Like Archimedes, Francis found his one firm spot on which to stand and from which he could move his world. He did this in at least three clear ways.

First, he walked into the prayer depths of his own tradition, as opposed to mere religious repetition of old formulas. Second, he sought direction in the mirror of creation itself, as opposed to mental and fabricated ideas or ideals. And, most radically, he looked to the underside of his society, to the "community of those who have suffered," for an understanding of how God transforms us. In other words, he found depth and breadth---and a process to keep you there.

The depth was an inner life where all shadow, mystery and paradox were confronted, accepted and forgiven. Here he believed God could be met in fullness and truth. The breadth was the actual world itself, a sacramental universe. It was not the ideal, the churchy or the mental, but the-right-in-front-of-you-and-everywhere----the actual as opposed to the ideal.
And, finally, he showed us the process of staying there---the daring entrance into the world of human powerlessness. His chosen lens was what he called "poverty" and, of course he was imitating Jesus. He set out to read reality through the eyes and authority of those who have "suffered and been rejected"---and come out resurrected. This is apparently the "privileged seeing" that allows you to know something that you can know in no other way. It is a unique baptism that Jesus says we must all be baptised with (see Mark 10:39). My assumption in this book is that this is the "baptism" that transforms. It is larger than any religion or denomination. It is taught by the Spirit in reality itself.

One can argue doctrinally about many aspects of Jesus, but you can not say he was not a poor man, that he did not favor the perspective from the "bottom" as a privileged viewpoint. All other heady arguments about Jesus must deal with this overwhelming given. Francis did. It became his litmus test for all orthodoxy and for ongoing transformation into God. Who would have thought of it, except God?

For Francis, the true "I" had, first of all, to be discovered and realigned (the prayer journey into the True Self). Then he had to experience himself situated inside of a meaning-filled cosmos (a sacramental universe). Finally, he had to be poor (to be able to read reality from the side of the powerless).

Francis taught us, therefore, that the antidote to confusion and paralysis is always a return to simplicity, to the actual right-in-front-of-you, to the naked obvious. Somehow he had the genius to reveal what was hidden in plain sight. It was so simple that it was hard to get there."


Speaking for myself now, I found God answering a long running prayer of mine at the beginning of this year. I had been praying for true leadership to emerge in the world and here in America. We must live and learn that it is his spirit that leads us, but we also have a long history of people that have gone before us. To see how someone else is relating to and being changed by the spirit of God can be an encouragement and help to us.

Father led me back in history to some who had moved and lived in ways that helped changed the course of human experience and seemed to live out of a place that was so different than anything around them. They all seem to have one thing in common. They were willing to sacrifice the safety and security of the easy life that many in their time were living and we in America have become so accustomed to. This seems to be the way forward that I am seeing and feeling Father challenging me to walk out into. I don't pretend to be there or to know what this all means. But I do know this, we have made a mess of things and it seemed to me that I needed to look to something that trancends all I had known and through that experience have my life set right in him. He has been faithful and is changing much inside me. I'm beginning to trust that as this continues to happen, we will see a people live in the way of Christ, so they can help give others hope as they try to make sense of it all in this age of anxiety.

MORE ON LOVE AND TRUST

Things really begin to change in our lives, when a growing friendship with Jesus allows us to take the risks of trust....