To those of you who clued into Facebook, you are invited to join the group there called "Out of the Ooze Volume 1" The contributing authors are there and will entertain questions. Spencer will likely be traveling the country fostering discussion about many emerging voices in Christianity, and the work his website TheOoze has been engaged in.
In the paper I'm doing now, that I hope to pitch to publishers, I was fascinated to learn the Jewish people were not expecting a virgin birth. This is one of the reasons to believe the Gospel are true in fact. Matthew and Luke didn't need to fit a mold when writing their conception narratives. This would be a shocker to the readers of their texts, and likely a detail that came from Mary as a detail of the unusual way her first born came into the world. Though Isaiah wrote "the "virgin" will conceive" he was predicting the birth of Hezekiah the heir of King Ahaz. They did not know this was a double prediction and thought the Messiah would be born to normal parents in a normal way.
The Gospel of Mark can read read as a sermon... performed if you will, in about 45 min. This gives credence to the notion that it came by way of writing down Peter's oration of his personal testimony of Jesus by John Mark. The language and tone of the text has immediacy. It is action oriented. It has dramatic flare unlike the other gospels which makes sense if you are hearing versus reading the words. This gospel is probably one of the best records of what first century preaching sounded like, and perhaps the next time you read mark, you hear it differently.
In the times of King David, the Philistines had the advantage. The reason? Technology. Iron, and mastery of its use in warfare made one’s culture gain superiority. Was David was on the run from Saul and gained favor with the Philistines, he was given a wife and a city. It’s possible he brought the technology of iron with him. Once these secrets and skills were in the hands of Israel, the Philistines domination rapidly declined.
When we’ve found Love to be the answer, we have to master the technologies of our cultures to affect them for the powers of good.
South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu : "Ubuntu is the essence of being human [...] we say a person is a person through other persons. You can't be a human in isolation. You are human only in relationships. [...] So we say that 'I need you to be all of who you are in order for me to be all that I am.' Because no human being is totally self-sufficient. In fact, a self-sufficient human being is subhuman." [...] If you want to be human, we are not going to be able to be human in isolation. It will be that we are human together."
Anger is normal and not unspiritual. It is an expression of hurt, frustration, or fear. An angry person suffers from one, or more of those three things, which is a rather sad thing. Angry people are hurting people. Do you struggle with anger? If so, you have pain you need to deal with. I have pain I need to deal with, so I know how you feel. Part of writing this is part of my healing process.
Anger, though a reasonable feeling, makes us unreasonable as we hang on to it. We get unreasonable very quickly. Anger ferments and becomes a poison and gets ugly and hateful. (We find out we’re indeed sinners.) Acknowledging the reasonable feelings behind anger (hurt, fear, or frustration), and giving anger up sets us free–from the poison anger becomes to us, and the consequences of hurting others by vomiting this poison out in some way.
Maybe we have felt our feelings are inappropriate or unchristian. Feelings themselves are not right or wrong, just like knives in a kitchen are not in themselves wrong or unsafe. It is simply how knives are used that is appropriate or inappropriate, safe or unsafe. Using feelings incorrectly is very unsafe. Using knives incorrectly is unsafe. Chopping vegetables for soup carefully on a cutting board–good. Chucking a butcher knife at your husband–bad. Angry words and deeds are the same way.
Anger, like dairy products, spoil and become useless–so please, don’t let it stink up and ruin your life. When you feel anger rear it’s head, locate its source: Are you hurt, frustrated, or fearful? And why? Be honest with yourself, and grow from your findings. Then, let your anger ease. Give it to God. Lay it at his feet. It’s too much for you to bear and you weren’t meant to carry that burden. Life is painful enough. We really don’t need to make it harder on ourselves. Abandoning our anger quickly will spare us pain and give us more freedom to forgive, love, and be loved.
"Witnessing" isn't just showing others our religion is elaborate behavior modification system. I've seen so many try to SHOW "the world" they are DIFFERENT. They try to protray the --do's and don'ts list. -- the "I'm a good girl, or good boy role" This they think proves something. Something big must be going on, surely "the world", or sinners will wnat some.
Love trumps this. True love for them (the world), and true love of God too. The kind of love that is unaware of itself, because it is enraptured with such a great and gracious God. It speaks volumes. It's just rare to see it in the religious, and in "good girls" and "good boys".
Our behavior will follow, but it's not the place to start. Love is the thing. Compassion.
We visited a church. It makes me glad we attend the church that we do. At this one, God seemed sneakier. He was going to be checking up on people A LOT. He was seeing if we were being good girls and boys. Seeing if they were being naughty or nice, checking a list, twice. WAIT A MINUTE!!!!
Maybe that was a false god! I think we were learning about Santa, and it was being presented as the coming Christ. That's the trouble with dogmatic prophetic teachings. You have to do gymnastics to make them all work out, and God comes off looking like a total jerk in the process.
I just kept thinking, if this was my first time at church, I would NEVER return. How sad that God is depicted as such a bad guy, or a sour fragrance.
It is the message of grace that is transforming. The message of "checking up on you" is already covered by speed trapping police hiding in the bushes. That sort of thing is nothing NEW. It doesn't bring people to repentance-- it brings them to resentment. On the contrary, it is the message of amazing love, abounding grace, and reconciliation that melts the hardened heart. It changes the command center of a person to wish to unite with acceptance and love, and feel connected and free for the first time ever.
I think as followers of Jesus, we have to pour out THIS fragrance to an unbelieving world.
I have often wondered whether our propensity for logic is rather terribly wasted on well-reasoned arguments, that get us nowhere, but closer to smugness, rather than logic used as a springboard to become lost in the wonder of the genius of the Creator. Were we really made to debate? Perhaps somewhat. But I don’t know anyone who was converted to something new by debate. On the contrary, I have met plenty who were further ensconced into their already cementing preconceived notions. To be won over, one must be moved by something beyond reason. Don't believe me by my argument, trust your past experience to know. And too, sometimes love and passion do the job right well enough more than logic alone ever could alone!
I was perusing a Christian site today, and I noticed the ads by Google. I realize anybody's ads can be plopped there, but this one said, "How strong in your faith? Take our test." I was curious. How would they base this test. On belief without sight? On overcoming struggle with continued loyalty for Jesus? On persevering upstream within a culture or country that despising them or persecutes them?
So I clicked on the link. I was greeted with schmaltzy music, and green scenery. My four year old daughter asked if I got to the Shrek site. I said "no".
The first question said, “How often do you attend church? Weekly? Molnthly? Yearly? I can’t remember? The second question said, “How often do you pray? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Yearly? I can’t remember?
Just when I thought they were basing faith, the inward journey and personal walking hand and hand with God on a few random outward measurements, they asked for my cell phone number to text me bible quotes, to help me. They were reeally for a bible quote resource service for $5.99 per month.
I doubt this would bolster my faith. This thing only tears away my faith in Christians for sure. Why the sales pitch to make a buck using God and finding wholeness as the bait?
They did test my faith like they promised, but only by their lack of godly scruples. “How strong is your faith?" was their opening pitch line. Well, it’s strong enough to know I don’t need bible quotes sent to my cell phone to help me out of a jam, for $5.99 per month.
I know Jesus didn’t come to make a religion like the one I so often see before me. He wasn’t a gimmick. He wasn’t hawking God, or peace and security with him. Are Christians who are hawking the Kingdom really interested in anything Jesus had to say, or what he was about? It's a giant misadventure by missing the point.
God instituted 5 animal sacrifices for Israel.... these things were tokens..... Most of them feed people - none of them atoned for anything but ritual infractions of the tabernacle, and the others paid tribute to God.
We keep propagating the idea that we have to buy God off. He never set it up that way. Getting right with God has always involved repentance, not a person's sacrifice.
I was thinking about when was the last time someone you didn't know realized that you were a creature who was in eternal being, put here for jsuta short while. I wonder if we show this to the ones we encounter much. Does the supermarket clerk get even 15 extra seconds of our time? Do we know how many grandkids the mailman has? Are we mostly just concerned with those in our bubble, moving from one urgency to the next?
Today I've been thinking about all the times we let the outside determine the inside, instead of the reverse.. when Jesus said "the Kingdom of God is within you." what did he mean. It sounds kind of new-agey . . . . or does it? What is our source of Truth? God. Once reconciled to God, where does he reside? Within us, our spirit with His.
So why do we seek so many external validations?
Are not many largely unnecessary, when Truth is within us?
Have we grown to, or been taught to distrust this truth, to second guess it?
What would happen if we opened the door to trust again? If we said, “Speak to me Lord, from within me”?
From Sherman YL Kuek, OSL Sherman is an itinerant minister and an Adjunct Lecturer in Christian Theology at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM). He spends much of his time journeying with his friends in reflecting on faith, life, and culture in a profoundly theological and yet simple way. Sherman blogs on www.ShermanKuek.net.
In speaking of contextualisation, there are (rather simplistically) two trends of thought:
1) The gospel consists of a "static universal core", a series of articulations which is time insensitive and perennially unchanging. The contextualisation project is simply about enfleshing this core with a cultural facade for the facilitation of communication and understanding. The core, essentially, does not change.
2) The gospel consists of a "dynamic universal core", a series of articulations which is time sensitive and perennially changing with the development of our theological understanding. The contextualisation project, whilst being about the cultural expression of this "dynamic universal core", is also about allowing the enfleshment process to provoke us to re-examine the legitimacy and relevance of the universal core. This means that the universal core, by its sheer dynamic nature, is vulnerable to being modified, changed, eradicated, retained, or reaffirmed in accordance with that deemed necessary.
I suspect that the "emerging" people are those who are more ready to embrace the second of the two approaches, and not anyone is willing to sit well with this methodological vulnerability.
But anyone who is seriously going to engage his/her context authentically would almost immediately see that the second of the two is probably the only way by which one can be authentically contextual in his/her theological methodology.
II This section dwells on some further sustained thoughts pertaining to the "dynamic universal core". If we posit that the dynamic universal core is "time sensitive and perennially changing with the development of our theological understanding", what reasonable sources possess legitimate ascendancy over the dynamism of the core?
It is open knowledge that the emerging people are serious about engaging with the dominant culture confronting the Christian gospel (in the West the postmodern culture, and in Asia perhaps the postcolonial ethos). First and foremost, this engagement is about the vulnerability of allowing the dominant culture to challenge the Christian gospel with serious questions regarding the adequacy, accuracy, and even the absolute rightness of the latter.
But it is probably a misunderstanding beyond proportions that these people engaging with culture are actually permitting the culture to redefine the core. It is most likely that culture raises questions which shed doubt on the perennial universality of the core, but not necessarily that culture redefines the core.
In my observation, it seems to me that whilst culture is permitted the role of the "interrogator", the contextual thinkers are going back into the Great Christian Tradition to seek solutions for these problems raised by culture. They do not claim that culture itself provides the answers. They seem to have an implicit understanding that the Great Christian Tradition itself possesses more than a sufficient wealth of wisdom to provide plausible solutions for challenges posed by culture. The Great Christian Tradition causes one to expand and deepen the core such that one realises that his definition and demarcation of the core may have been overly limited and unnecessarily fossilised.
Thus, it is not uncommon for contextual thinkers to move beyond the boundaries of their own limited traditions (i.e. their denominational / traditional boundaries and familiar scope of theological positions) towards other even older traditions in search of responses to the problems posed by culture. This explains the openness of the emerging people towards the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions and their willingness to listen to other ecclesial voices beyond that with which they are familiar. Again, this is not something deemed acceptable to every Christian thinker of every tradition. Some traditions are, by their sheer nature, implicitly closed to conversations which challenge the rudiments of their all-familiar categories.
The Christian faith is more than 500 years old. In fact, the memory of the Christian Church goes back beyond 2,000 years. The contextual thinker holds on to this wealth of ecclesial life and therefore understands that there is no need for theological insecurity, for he has a long, long history - a Great Story of which he is a part - consisting of multiple voices of wisdom who have come before him and who would be able to infuse wisdom and impart solutions in his endeavour to be a relevant voice within the present scheme of life. This is the reservoir of ecclesial jurors for the contextual thinker which many others fail to observe or choose to ignore all together.
For him, the challenges posed by cultural confrontations do not cause him to pander into a state of intimidation and self-preserving defensiveness, for he looks beyond himself and his restrained traditional familiarity; and behold, a world of endless possibilities is open before him as he gleans from the voices of his many Fathers who once treaded the path on which he now finds himself. Someone aptly comments (and the contextual thinker certainly mirrors it well): "It's not about the old ways, it's about the much older ways".
Maybe the check list of do's and don't doesn't matter like we've been taught. Maybe God isn't shaking his head in disapproval when we miss ' quiet time". Maybe someone sitting in a wheel chair, helpless means as much to God as Billy Graham, or some other Christian big name. Maybe we trying for all the wrong things.
Trying isn't what it's all about, but we keep doing it. Can Christians emerge beyond the feeble religion they've created to satisfy themselves?
I heard a guy at seminary conclude that emerging church was great for bringing younger people into the church, but they have some doctrine and things wrong. It was as if he thought some concrete idea was agreed upon. Most people are only contributing to a conversation. They are takinga crack at things in their own way. It's all a work in progress, and each experience varies from case to case. But that's not the perception.
How do you convince people a "movement" is a movement unlike any movement they have ever seen, with different rules and looks?
edited from Spiritual ethoughts Monthly installment lisadelay.com
Sometimes I wonder if non-believers think that Christianity is “no fun”, or in most ways unappealing, because instead of living the abundant life Jesus brought from heaven to earth, Christians have become Prisoners of War in our battle of Good and Evil. Do Christians seem a bit dull? Do they seem sort of nasty? Do they seem like whiners? Do they pick on each other? Do they, and do you, down deep in your heart secretly wish for more? We’ve sort of been captured.
It’s not that we’ve become prisoners because our enemy is more powerful, but we’ve willing walking into a prison camp of sorts. Or more likely, we’ve subtly slipped into a cell of lethargy. For some, this happens in the same way a coal chills as it is separated the warmth of live briquettes. It boils down to authentic accountability. The masks stay on, and so no one knows the real struggles. Sometimes we are simply prisoners in a chamber where the doors are already wide open. We merely stay where we are most comfortable.
Regardless of the manner in which it happens, from time to time, the abundant life is not the life we live. Troubles crowd in, doubt sways us, business steals us away, illness plagues us, sin besets us, people hurt us, or in some other ways we lose focus. Some way we miss that our source of life abundant is the only sate for our thirst. Jesus, our Living Water, is the Fountain we must ingest frequently, daily. We don’t do it to satisfy a checklist, but to quench ourselves. To live.
It’s no wonder so many Christians are Missing in Action, or Prisoners of War. We strive so hard to keep a grip on all the moving parts of our lives, and the whole time, we slip into the dehydrated, mundane, un-abundant, and too-thirsty-too-soon-life without the best water.
I know this is the bigger war at stake. It is the more common one. The one between Good and Evil is fought in the skirmishes on the battlefields of Self firstly, and most frequently. These often-overlooked tussles lead to the bigger theaters of combat, which are the powerful choices, the ones that can bring true destruction or restoration in one's life. Victory in the small continual contests are really the only way we can avoid having to fight and lose the worst wars. We were never meant to be prisoners. Jesus came to set us free. We can be free indeed.
As we get to be true friends, we start to know each other. Let me tell you, no one is normal. The next phase of a deepening friendship is the “reality phase”. It’s when you realize the friend you have has problems. They have a terrible temper or jealousy troubles. They are way too sensitive, or inconsiderate, or gossip, or get annoyed at trivial things. Or they have the worst problem of all– they see you as having problems. Which, of course, seems impossible at first. You start to resent them or become confused. It’s frustrating and increasingly complicated. The illusion of the perfect friendship begins to die or become real, which in this world is the same thing. The dream is dying, but like a seed dies and births new life the dream of idealized friendship dies and give birth to a flesh and blood relationship. And then you have a choice to make.
You have to decide if you want to be gracious or selfish. That is harder than it sounds, and most of us don’t even realize that it is this particular choice at stake. Many of us go for it. We try to work with what we’ve got. Some of us, who have more mistrust, or have been wounded, well, we get scared. Some of us, at this point, sort of run off. Or we disconnect a bit. They might not notice it, but we know what we’re doing. It’s a built in safety feature. It doesn’t give us any practice at grace, but it makes us feel better for a while.
It makes us feel better until we realize what we’ve given up. We’ve forfeited something that the core of our heart desires so badly. We yearn deep from that place to be known and loved. We hunger to experience grace. We’ve given it up because we don’t think it’ll work out right. We’ll get hurt again. Things will go badly. So we get stuck.
The “reality phase” is a real bummer. But if we push through it suitably and determine to learn something, we can end up better than we started. We can have deep friendships so long as we can regularly negotiate a gracious environment. If we are intentional about it, things will go so much better. Again, easier said than done.
Beyond our close friendships, I believe, we can have a couple “core people” that we let in even closer. I don’t think these “core people” should just be anybody. This group should be small in number, fairly mature people, mostly kindhearted, and worthy of our trust, but we can’t think they’ll be perfect either. Nobody will be that.
I didn’t have this all thought out at the time, but in the concert line with my friends, I thought it was worth the risk to reveal what they would be getting into. Finally, after a good bit of internal angst, I said to them, “If you really got to know me you wouldn’t like me.”
This, of course, was met with what I expected. “That’s not true.” And “That’s really sad that you would think that.” And “We already know you, and we love you.” And “There isn’t anything that would make us not like you.” And all the things people say before they realize they’ve been friends inadvertently with "the Devil". I didn’t believe them for a second. But I wanted to.
I didn’t believe it, I think, because I know how much of a wreck people are. I know how flawed I am. And in life people leave. They move away or go away. They move on, get fed up. They were hoping you’d be pre-packaged good times, and easy to deal with. They want the perfectly healthy friend, just like I hope to have. The friend that is always there, and always kind, and always supportive. Just like the person you barely know is. The people we don’t know make the best friends, right?
This of course is a lie. A person who barely knows you is an acquaintance. They make only a certain kind of friend. They can be helpful, and nurturing, but a friend, is someone who knows all about your crap, and is still okay with you. They love you and speak truth into your life. They help correct you in a very loving way, not to get you back, or hurt you, but to make you a better person. They are selfless like that. And if you don’t change when and how they want you to they still accept and love you. And you, being a person who is their real friend, do the same.
An acquaintance doesn’t need to operate in an environment of grace. Grace is medicine for desperate times. Grace steps in when illusion and superficiality ends. It’s the thing we need most in the “reality phases” of our lives. Grace defined as unearned favor, is really what deep friendships are all about.
This is why I think it’s much easier to read someone the Four Spiritual Laws and coach them in the sinner’s prayer than actually get involved in their life and be Jesus to them. We have enough trouble doing this with our best friends, doing that with the lost? Are you kidding? That would take the Holy Spirit. Who has time for that? I’m exhausted– show grace? Please!
Isn’t it funny, that this is exactly what we are to do? Not funny, just ironic, I guess. We are supposed to be letting the Spirit heal us, and function through us. We are created to be, or become, gracious and non superficial. When weren’t not,things get messed up. They feel unloved. We feel unloved. And we both feel too overwhelmed to be embodiments of grace. So much of the time, we spend our own energy to work this all out. But God’s power is right at our disposal.
I'm in development talk to host my own podcast show on wireparish.com. What a great outfit they have. You can hear lots of authors, professors, thinkers, and pastors cheaper than buying a book. I'm hoping to be the MP3 Oprah of my generation.
Does your church pray for the lost? How does it show the community God's love in a tangible way? Is your congregation more concerned with maintaining its programs and budgets for things church members can enjoy, or is the heart of your church all about sharing the love and message of God.
Most churches lack greatly in the missional department. That is, they become insular, incestuous if you will. They keep to themselves a good deal. Far too much, really.
Becoming a family with other Believers means we're a different kind of family. We're strange in that we want more family members, and outsiders are just PRE-family members. Sometimes this idea gets lost on us. Sometimes we have our sights on other things, churchy things. Member privileges.
I really enjoyed the podcast about starting to be a more missional church through prayer and community prayer opportunities by Reggie McNeal from wireparish.com. Hope you can hear it too.