Monday, July 9, 2012

When Would You Want To Know?

Ever hear this: "If what you thought was true, wasn't, when would you want to know?" The obvious answer is always "Before now!" 

“If we could match current church practices with what the earliest church understood and emphasized about following Christ, then it would be the purest form of what Jesus talked about his disciples creating after his ascension.”  That’s an assumption that many believers readily accept and spend tons of energy attempting to achieve.  In fact, numerous denominations have been founded on claims that they accomplished that task – of course they all came up with different ideas and practices and claim theirs is the most original.

Certainly, that was the assumption that I bought into.  Have you ever heard the warning to “beware of assumptions”?  It’s a lesson that has to be frequently relearned and I just had one of those opportunities. It feels like another time for repenting from what I previously assumed. If you have ever awakened to the fact that assumptions you believed and based your actions on were false, then you realize how foolish it feels.  It is both amazingly devastating and, at the same time, eye-opening and energizing about the possibilities of what now seems so obvious.

Shifting the Image of Church

A burned-out pastor was exploring a healthier way to “do church.” He heard about a growing house-church movement
in another country and contacted the group to find out what was happening to cause the growth. Their model was for people to gather in someone’s home, bring a bowl of food to share and share time talking informally to others. Someone might start a song and there would be a brief prayer as a group.
The pastor wanted more details. “Who leads the study?” “What materials are used?” “What do people share?”
Frustrated, the house church leader repeated, “We gather, share food, share conversation, and pray for each other. People share what they’ve learned about walking with Father that week.”
The pastor’s pragmatic side came out, “What if they were so busy they don’t have anything to share that they’ve discovered?”

Evangelicals Behaving Badly – Inaudacious Grace

“The problem of being in any profession is that you will get to see it’s dark side up close and personal.” That observation was shared with me a by a very wise man and it is just too true – no matter the profession. Sad to say, even the profession of ministry.
Behind the persona that the typical person-in-the-pew sees about church there are often stirrings and rumblings, turf wars and power struggles that may seem at best silly to the typical church attender or at worst appear to be the opposite of Jesus fundamental teaching about loving your enemy.
Roger Olsen is a truth-speaking theologian who does not mind raising the curtain to expose the dark side that is happening in the world called Evangelical. He keeps breaking the rules that keep families and organizations dysfunction and there is a price to pay for it.
If you don’t want to know or could care less about what’s happening behind the curtain called Evangelical then don’t read any more than the small portion of Roger’s post below. If you are ready to break some of those dysfunctional rules then read on.

C. S. Lewis Said What?

Amazing that our “filters”through which we read books and Scripture that keep us from seeing what is in plain sight. I guess it’s just too audacious for us to take in so we don’t see it. How many times have I read C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and not really seen this paragraph!
“What, then, is the difference which He has made to the whole human mass? It is just this; that the business of becoming a son of God, of being turned from a created thing into a begotten thing, of passing over from the temporary biological life into timeless ‘spiritual’ life, has been done for us. Humanity is already ‘saved’ in principle. We individuals have to appropriate that salvation. But the really tough work–the bit we could not have done for ourselves–has been done for us. We have not got to try to climb up into spiritual life by our own efforts; it has already come down into the human race. If we will only lay ourselves open to the one Man in whom it was fully present, and who, in spite of being God, is also a real man, He will do it in us and for us. Remember what I said about ‘good infection’ One of our own race has this new life: if we get close to Him we shall catch it from Him.” – Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, pp. 156-157

Trinity With Us In Our Crap

Jennifer Hunt about her journey into greater contentment in the midst of all the things that can happen to make life less than pleasant – from minor irritations to major problems. She tagged me into her note and I shared a response from my experience with her that I’m posting her to pass on to others. Just one person’s shifting positions that allows me to see more clearly the choices I have in living loved and loving life.
I began practicing and teaching a simply-hard tool and a point-of-view shift that helps me keep perspective on the sort of things you mentioned. The tool is simply the intentional practice of gratitude about everything and everyone. It’s not as easy as it seems to some to be grateful for every situation and every person we encounter. Some people are easy but I find it most helpful to discover something for which I am grateful for the more “challenging” situations with people.
I’m making it a daily practice as I go to bed to review my day and find something to be grateful for in each and every encounter. If you want to keep your heart open, intentionally practicing gratitude is a key.
The point-of-view shift is about a conscious awareness of Trinitarian inclusion. Most of us think about God being “out there somewhere” and our task is to get from where we are to where He is. Frankly, most of us Evangelicals (and Christians generally) are not practicing Trinitarians and at best Tri-theists (we know there are three but have no idea the difference it makes in everyday living).

Healing Our Stinking Thinking #1

A comment to a previous post continues to bounce around in my mind like a pinball machine – thanks Lenny.
I heard believers “…stating that only “Christian(s)” do the “right thing” for non-selfish reasons and non-believers do the “right thing” for selfish motives. These people have been believers since childhood. It is my opinion that they have had little experience with choosing the “right thing” without relating to God. I remember choosing to the do the “right thing” unselfishly before being a believer, so I disagreed with their belief. With this being my experience I have questioned what difference does God make in our lives?
The quality of a believer’s here-and-now thinking and choosing is the issue (not eternal destiny).  How we answer this question makes a significant difference. Dallas Willard has offered important distinctions about this subject.
It may feel audaciously offensive to suggest that a significant part of being a Christ-follower is to seek a complete transformation one’s thinking to be radically different from where we began our faith journey and different from fellow non-believers. It sounds arrogant and offensive in our world of pluralist acceptance. But the embarrassingly simplistic answer given to Lenny is also offensive. What Christ-follower wants to claim they’ve always made a good choice from only unselfish motives?
Yet, that that transformation in thinking from natural reason to what T. F. Torrance calls “instinctively theological” is clearly what the Apostle Paul experienced and called Christ-followers to seek:

More of My Repenting

Slowly, surely and painfully I’ve come to recognize that my theology has for the most of my life been off-center. That is, it has been more experience-centered than grounded on a Trinitarian understanding of grace. I consider myself well read and theologically astute but obviously the lens through which I have  read, studied and even researched has made a significant impact on what what I’ve seen and believed. Removing the lens feels at times like I’ve been blind and deaf the whole time. By “repenting” I mean what the word means – a change of thinking that is deep enough that it requires a shift in the direction of one’s life and choices. Yes, there are strong feelings involved but the feelings are not as important as the changes in direction of thinking and choosing.
J. B. Torrence describes well the problem of coming from an experiential-theological point of view in contrast to a Trinitarian theological view. It’s like that arrow in the FedEx logo – once I could not see it and now I can’t see anything else: