Thursday, December 31, 2009

Around the Blogosphere: Just some things I noticed

Excerpt: With everyone writing obituaries and whatnot for the emerging church movement, and with myself coming across more and more as a critic, I feel a personal push towards taking a time-out to recollect some positives and praise for a movement, that while mixed, and in many ways losing momentum and splintering, has been significant for me in my journey.

Brian McLaren writes about Five Special Gratitudes for 2009

Excerpt: Five Special Gratitudes for 2009

As I look back on this year, yes, there have been some trials and disappointments, but five blessings have far outweighed them in 2009:

Andrew Jones gives us the Tall and Skinny on Avatar:
Excerpt: I watched Avatar last night with my family. Good flick from James Cameron. Part Tarzan, part Pocahontas with a hint of LOTR Revenge of the Forest People on the Wicked Machines. Romanticism meets pantheism. And an Avatar figure to save the day who just happens to be tall and skinny [yeah!] rather than a mountain of towering muscle.

My good friend David Foreman who posted on the contrast between the Law and Grace in his post called  It Doesn’t Get Much Clearer Than This

Excerpt: The law is “all or nothing,” pass/fail: Gal. 5:3, James 2:10

(There is no “try harder.”)
Those who try, but fail to keep all the law are cursed: Gal. 3:10
The law breeds sin: Rom. 7:5,8
The law brings death: Rom. 7:10
Where law increases, sin increases: Rom. 5:20
The law leads us to Christ: Gal. 3:24

And finally to wrap this up is another good friend Rob Witham who has returned to the blogosphere. Hey Rob! Welcome back.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

The God of Show and Tell… or is it Tell and Show?

The God of Show and Tell… or is it Tell and Show?

The other day my Kids had “show and tell”. You know, when they take something important to them to school to share with the other kids… like when my daughter Ciana brought her silver jewelry box to school and was so excited to show it and tell how her Auntie gave it to her. I began to think about God and what He showed us through Jesus. God did not just “tell” us how to live, rather God told us and then through Jesus showed us… thus, God is the God of show and tell… or rather, Tell and Show. In fact, if you get right down to it, Through the bible we see God telling us how to live and then through the incarnation of Jesus, showing us how to live, and died… and then live again. With this, we have a model of how we are to live, die and live again.

Now many people just view this as living now, dying now and living again later, but what is happening is that we are doing all of this “now” for “later”. We live now to die not for death’s sake, but for Christ’s sake so we may live again in abundant life. This New Life in Christ starts “now” and for those who are “in Christ” continues into the “later” or New Creation, which is the fulfillment of “on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Rob Bell, in his book Velvet Elvis talks about the idea that we live either in or for heaven “now” or in and for hell “now” which then is part of the decision as to where we spend eternity later. This is not about works salvation, but whether one lives out the New Life that comes in us from Jesus or we keep hold of the old life. In the bible, (Matt 25: 31-46) there is the parable of the sheep and goats who hold to their “beliefs” to save them. Yet the sheep find they are the ones that did the things that God desires. The rub is that those who held to “believism” did not enter into the Kingdom, while those who did the work of the Kingdom now, entered in the Kingdom for eternity. This is scandalous if you think about it! Those who believe “rightly” are punished? Why are they punished? They were just tellers of the Word but not, “Show and tellers” of the Word. (Now I know technically it is Tell and Show, yet I am not about to set in stone some formula as I find God sometimes has one show others the Gospel so they can earn the right to tell the “other” the Gospel, so for now the idea of “show and tell” is interchangeable.)

In God’s telling and showing, we learn that what one believes is not enough. We see this in how Jesus confronted the Pharisees for their “correct” belief, yet their doing or showing was inadequate. They would tithe the smallest of amounts even down to the spices they had, and meanwhile let someone starve in their city. They would pass by someone they deemed “unworthy” or less worthy of God’s mercy and grace as they saw them “unclean” and if touched would defile them. They clung tightly to their own righteousness…

Paul Tillich writes about the Pharisees “righteousness”… (To be honest I am still sorting this out in my own heart and head) Jesus fully acknowledged the Pharisees as “righteous”. Tillich states that the righteousness of a Pharisee was a very high standard; even Jesus stated that one’s righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisee to get into Heaven! To be clear, there is no argument allowed to claim the Pharisees as being unrighteous. Yet, by whose righteousness do we get into the Kingdom of Heaven? The Apostle Paul makes it clear that it is only by the righteousness of Christ we make it in to the Kingdom. Rom 1: 17. For in the gospel righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." It is not our own righteousness that gives us life… For all the righteousness of the Pharisee, the Law could not give them eternal life for the Life is in the Son. (John 3:36; 1 John 5: 10-11) One must have life to live… forgiveness is not enough… I like how Luke puts it in Acts 1:1

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach

Jesus came to tell us and show us how to believe and live and that is our challenge… to allow Jesus to do that today in and through us. We are now called to let Jesus live His life in and through us today and forever and to tell and show others of The Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Changes and choices

Changes and choices

The last few weeks have been tough. School has been a challenge as once again I am taking math, which has never been a strong point for me. Last week I ran a red light and took out another car. Praise God no one was hurt though the car I hit had some real damage. It was surreal in a way as I slid into the other car that was also the same make, color, and model as my own! It was like hitting my self. The young girl was driving her mother’s car. I was thankful she was a sweet girl, as it took excessively long for the police to arrive and take our info. I was on the way to pick up the kids from school so had to call the lovely TES to arrange to get them. A coworker of hers was able to get them as she lived a few blocks away.

On top of all this, math class and Psych class are out of sync. One started a week earlier than the other did so I have to think on terms of one class being in week 1 and the other in week 2. This already has caused me confusion as I did week 2 assignments for Psych which was in week one. The teacher, (who found me on Facebook and we are now friends) was gracious. It turns out that she is also a graduate from a Baptist college. The class is on positive psychology so it should be interesting as I balance my theological views with the psychological views. It is nice to know that the teach is a believer as she will understand my struggles… and even better that she is a friend as she will see me on a more personal level.

Now, all last week I was thinking about all the reading and writing I was going to do this week and get caught up on things like adding Christmas music to my radio station…. Moreover, when Monday came, I was burned out! It is now Thursday and I am finally starting to begin to think on terms of writing. Today will also be the day to decide if iggyROCKS! will play Christmas music or not. Usually I upload a show and just repeat it the whole day so I am thinking that is what I will do again this year. I found last years show so I may just upload it. I am not sure why it is so hard to get the Christmas show going each year but it seems to be a chore every year.

I did finalize my decision to step down from leadership at Vineyard. I am just overwhelmed with school and other things. There are a few personal reasons, yet I will not go into those here. I am thinking on terms of starting a study at one of the coffee houses in town that is open to anyone. I am praying that God will direct me in this. Some of you may already know what direction this ministry is heading, and I need your prayer as many people will find this very controversial as well as not udnerstand what I am doing. I am also asking you to pray and consider helping me out in other ways as God leads you.

Other things I am attempting are trying to find a way to help get funds to some ministries in Africa. It seems PayPal and other such online businesses blacklist Africa. The only way to send money seems to be through Western Union yet even that is limited. I am doing a ton of research on all this, and think I may have to set up a PayPal account here in the states. Then I can send the donations to the ministries as people donate and designate which one they want. I am not that happy about handling the money but see no other way to get the donations to these that need it. I jokingly stated to Ivan who is the director at Afayo Foundation Uganda, that those Nigerians really screwed things up for the legit ministries in Africa… and he stated, “Yeah they have cause real problems for us.” (I am speaking of the Nigerian email frauds that have been going on for years now). If anyone knows of any other way, please let me know, otherwise I guess I will become an Unincorporated Association or Donor Advise Foundation.

On a personal note, it seems my gastric bypass surgery is still in the hands of the insurance company. There was a change in policy that now makes it that I need 6 months of weight loss management (WLM). Of course, the local WLM did not know of this change in policy so resubmitted my medical claim again. I should know next week if I would need to wait longer or not. I feel a bit in limbo over all this. For those of you who see this as new news, I decided that for health reasons I am going forward. There seems to be a lot of success in helping diabetes with the Gastric Bypass surgery as it seems to through the body in shock a bit and when is stabilizes things seem to kick in and work better. Since my condition with insulin resistance is not only making me fatter, but also hurting me in other ways, I decided to take the drastic measure to improve my health.

So please pray for me in all this as well as the regular family stuff and have a great Christmas!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Control and true freedom

Control and freedom are interesting topics in themselves. If one is in control is he free or reacting to what is happening around them to maintain that control? If one is a servant or slave, there is a sense of freedom from the responsibility of higher things others are controlling so one is free to pursue other thoughts, wants or desires. Yet, that person is still not "free" as they are subservient to the lord, master, or boss.

I do not believe we are at the mercy of others control, yet see this tension that holds these things in place. In a way, I see that we may be a slave to one thing, then free to others, yet also then become a slave to that other thing. Being free to me is more than the fulfillment of my want or desires. I see it as sort of surrender. I may be a surrender to something far superior than one's self that works hand in hand with trusting this superior "Being" which I believe has a person's best interest in mind.

To surrender one self to pursue this best seems a means of freedom to me that leads to higher freedom. It brings the ability to love in spite of hate, to give in spite of need, or to forgive when wronged. It is bringing one's self as not at the mercy or whim of one who wants to harm or does not have a person's best interest in mind.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Paul Tillich: What is Truth?

I have tried to avoid reading Paul Tillich for quite a while, yet I stumbled on The New Being which is a book of his sermons. I decided to read the chapter called "What is Truth?" and found much of it familiar. I had to laugh as I felt I was reading some of the stuff I have written on truth over the years. I always find it strange to read someone else (who is much more articualate then I am) explain what I have tried to express.

Here are a few excerpts from Chapter 8 of The New Being called, "What is Truth?"

"Twofold are the temptations to evade the burden of asking for the truth that matters. The one is the way of those who claim to have the truth and the other is the way of those who do not care for the truth. The first ones are called "the Jews" in our gospel. They point to their tradition which goes back to Abraham. Abraham is their father; so they have all truth, and do not need to be worried by the question which they encounter in Jesus. Many among us, Christians and secularists, are "Jews" in the sense of the Fourth Gospel. They point to their tradition which goes back to the Church Fathers, or to the popes, or to the Reformers, or to the makers of the American Constitution. Their church or their nation is their mother, so they have all truth and do not need to worry about the question of truth. Would Jesus tell them, perhaps, what He told the Jews—that even if the church or the nation is their mother, they carry with them the heritage of the father of untruth; that the truth they have is not the truth which makes free? Certainly there is no freedom where there is self-complacency about the truth of one’s own beliefs. There is no freedom where there is ignorant and fanatical rejection of foreign ideas and ways of life. There is not freedom but demonic bondage where one’s own truth is called the ultimate truth. For this is an attempt to be like God, an attempt which is made in the name of God."

"But those of us who dare to face the question of truth may listen to what the Fourth Gospel says about it. The first thing which strikes us is that the truth of which Jesus speaks is not a doctrine but a reality, namely, He Himself: "I am the truth." This is a profound transformation of the ordinary meaning of truth. For us, statements are true or false; people may have truth or not; but how can they be truth, even the truth? The truth of which the Fourth Gospel speaks is a true reality—that reality which does not deceive us if we accept it and live with it. If Jesus says, "I am the truth," he indicates that in Him the true, the genuine, the ultimate reality is present; or, in other words, that God is present, unveiled, undistorted, in His infinite depth, in His unapproachable mystery. Jesus is not the truth because His teachings are true. But His teachings are true because they express the truth which He Himself is. He is more than His words. And He is more than any word said about Him."

"The Church very early forgot the word of our Gospel that He is the truth; and claimed that her doctrines about Him are the truth. But these doctrines, however necessary and good they were, proved to be not the truth that liberates. Soon they became tools of suppression, of servitude under authorities; they became means to prevent the honest search for truth—weapons to split the souls of people between loyalty to the Church and sincerity to truth. And in this way they gave deadly weapons to those who attacked the Church and its doctrines in the name of truth. Not everybody feels this conflict. There are masses of people who feel safe under doctrinal laws. They are safe, but it is the safety of him who has not yet found his spiritual freedom, who has not yet found his true self. It is the dignity and the danger of Protestantism that it exposes its adherents to the insecurity of asking the question of truth for themselves and that it throws them into the freedom and responsibility of personal decisions, of the right to choose between the ways of the sceptics, and those who are orthodox, of the indifferent masses, and Him who is the truth that liberates. For this is the greatness of Protestantism: that it points beyond the teachings of Jesus and beyond the doctrines of the Church to the being of Him whose being is the truth."

"How do we reach this truth? "By doing it," is the answer of the Fourth Gospel. This does not mean being obedient to the commandments, accepting them and fulfilling them. Doing the truth means living out of the reality which is He who is the truth, making His being the being of ourselves and of our world. And again, we ask, "How can this happen?" "By remaining in Him" is the answer of the Fourth Gospel, i.e., by participating in His being. "Abide in me and I in you," he says. The truth which liberates is the truth in which we participate, which is a part of us and we a part of it. True discipleship is participation. If the real, the ultimate, the divine reality which is His being becomes our being we are in the truth that matters."

The whole book is available online here.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Three Stages to growing in Christ.

      What did happen at the Cross of Jesus and what do many people miss about the Resurrection? Many have tried to answer this so to attempt it in a blog post seems rather ridiculous, yet, to me by gaining an understanding that there is a distraction between the Cross and Resurrection one can gain insight to what God is doing for, in and through you as a believer.

      When I first came to Jesus I was told the basic, “Come to Jesus and give Him your sins and he will save you.” But I never really asked what I was being saved from, let alone realized that maybe that was not the real point and that I was not being saved “from” but into something greater and more wonderful than myself. For years I walked with a “self” focus. “I am not going to hell.” “I am going to heaven.” “God loves me.” And yes all that is true and I am grateful, yet as in the biblical book of Song of Solomon, one must move from “My lover is mine and I am his…” (Song of Solomon 2:16) to “I am my lover's and my lover is mine…” (Song of Solomon 6:3) and again move onto “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.” (Song of Solomon 7:10) from where we grow more in the knowledge of the grace of Christ and knowledge of what God has for us. We become like the beloved who states, “But my own vineyard is mine to give…” (Song of Solomon 8: 12) freely giving all we are to God through Jesus.

      Each stage is like a step unto a fuller and richer life in Christ. Yet so many stay at the first stage and never realize that there is more. We fall at the Cross and never realize it is not only Jesus on that Cross but our self… dead. Some may realize this yet not move into the next stage where we find that “I am Christ’ and He is mine” as we try to still assert ownership of “self” and not relinquish our self to the death that is required of us. Even less find the richness and greatness of the third stage where one finds their wholeness and life comes only from the Beloved. One at this point has found themselves dead, the old is gone! And behold I am now a New Creation!

      Now I know many are saying, “Oh this is basic 101 stuff, yet is it? I do believe one must pass through the stages to develop as a new creation. Do you need each stage to be saved? No, you need Grace for that, yet to grow, God must become all in you through Christ. You must relinquish your life and receive His life. How? The Life is in the Son. By receiving all that Jesus has for you. Have you done that already? Great! You are now on your way to learn how to become the beloved of God!