Archive for January, 2006

Discipline Questions v1.4

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

What is your understanding of the Kingdom of God: the Resurrection, Eternal life?

I believe the path to understanding the Kingdom of God is found by first acknowledging the dual reality of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is at all times both present and future. It is around us and beyond us. It is something which we hope for and also realize in our lives today. As followers of Christ, we live in the tension of the experience of the “first fruits” of the Kingdom and the future hope of the New Jerusalem in which the full restoration of creation is complete.

This present Kingdom is lived out and discovered in our local societies. Within this holy family, we practice the Kingdom lifestyle and are continually sent beyond the safety of our church walls to continue our new way of life. The church serves as an incubator for Kingdom living. Incubators are temporary. Their purpose is not to simply sustain life. Incubators allow us to grow so that we can survive and thrive in the world beyond the boundaries of our temporary homes. While the work of the church is ongoing in our faith development, I believe it is helpful for us to understand that this new way of life was meant to be lived beyond the scope of our faith communities.

Yet, the Kingdom of God is also a reality that is beyond the scope of the life we now live. We look forward to the day when, “never again will their be hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” This is our great hope and expectation. While our communities must continually work to bring God’s kingdom “down” among his people, we also keep the image fresh in our minds of the fully restored creation that lives (in the truest sense of that word) in the New Jerusalem. While we identify and work tirelessly to bring healing where there is pain, hope where there is desperation, freedom and justice where there is oppression, and new life where we find people trapped in spiritual bondage, we recognize that a day is coming when that work will be complete. Pain, suffering, bondage, oppression, injustice, racism, sexism, and every other –ism will be destroyed. God will win the final victory and gather us in. In the midst of the struggle, this carries us forward. We are not alone. We live in God’s world. He will not leave us as orphans. In God’s house are many rooms. Jesus is going to bring us there. The tears that we see, the pain that we experience, and the hurt that we endure is only temporary. Thanks be to God! We have hope!

My understanding of the Resurrection parallels what I have already stated in terms of defining the Kingdom of God. God is in the business of “resurrecting” humanity and bringing about the “final resurrection.” At the point of justification, God brings back to life something within us that has been deadened by the affects of our sinful nature. The process of sanctification begins. If I was to describe it in medical terms, I believe at the time of justification God miraculously restarts a heart that has stopped beating. Sanctification is the recovery process where day by day and year by year the heart is strengthened until the moment when we are released and fully healed. Our full and final healing takes place in the final Resurrection. The physical resurrection of Jesus is a constant reminder to the church that death does not represent the end of life. Death, pain and suffering have been eternally defeated by the Resurrection of Jesus.

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Discipline Questions v1.3

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

What is your conception of the activity of the Holy Spirit in personal faith, in the community of believers, and in responsible living in the world?

The Holy Spirit is the representation of the comforting words of Jesus, “I will not leave you alone.” I believe that the Holy Spirit serves as an active guide for followers of Jesus. This guiding force serves us in multiple ways. It leads us towards a deeper and more fuller understanding of God. Whether it be study, prayer, worship, mission, or some other form of spiritual discipline, the Holy Spirit is the tour guide for the pilgrim’s journey. The Holy Spirit illuminates the Word of God often bringing things to the surface in a particular passage that we had never considered before. The Holy Spirit is active within the community of believers in the process of establishing and lifting up leadership in the church. The Holy Spirit is active within the church in the process of healing, reconciliation and full restoration of all believers. The Holy Spirit guides us in our process of being “perfected in love.” This holy presence in our lives not only guides us in “paths of righteousness,” it also serves to protect the integrity of believers. We confess that rooting out sin and rebellion is not an easy task. On our own, we believe it is an impossible one. Only through the continual guidance, support, and protection of the Spirit can we hope to move forward in our journey.

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Beside every great man…

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

capt.ny11601311250.obit_king_ny116We grieve the loss of another American Hero.

Coretta Scott King

(April 27th, 1927 – January 31st, 2006)

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Discipline Questions v1.2

Monday, January 30th, 2006

How do you interpret the statement that Jesus Christ is Lord?

While reading Brian McLaren’s book, Generous Orthodoxy, a particular statement related to the Lordship of Christ leapt of the page to me. He says, “Although I believe in Jesus as my personal savior, I am not a Christian for that reason. I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world.” I believe the reason this struck me was my own discomfort with how personal and individualistic we sometimes describe our relationship with Jesus. It’s not that I disagree with the idea. Rather, I believe it does not give justice to the full reality of the Lordship of Christ. I am in harmony with McLaren’s sentiment that the statement, “Jesus is Lord,” is both a personal and communal confession. It is personal because it implies that I have made personal adjustments in my life in order to submit to the authority, direction and will of Jesus. I have placed my hope, faith, and trust in the powerful and holy name of Jesus. I have made a commitment to, “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” Yet to believe that Jesus is simply Lord of my life undercuts the transformative power of the statement. When the statement is understood in the context of it’s dual application, it changes the way I approach my relationship to neighbor as well. My new kingdom lifestyle is lived out “for” and “to” neighbor because they share the fingerprints of the Creator. All of humanity in which I interact with on a daily basis shares this basic and foundational pattern in their DNA.

We are all created to live under the Lordship of Jesus. We are all being pursued by the grace and love of God. This new type of life and love stands ready and available to all, and the way in which I live should give voice to this powerful statement. To live under the Lordship of Christ is to transform the direction of my life. I now live in a restored vertical relationship with my Creator. I also live in restored horizontal relationship with God’s Creation. I believe that we are unable to fully grasp the love and grace of God until we also are able to redirect that love towards neighbor. Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior, but he is also the Savior and Lord of all.

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Everybody Hurts

Monday, January 30th, 2006

Sunday night's message to wrap up our God @ the Movies message series. This last message was from Hotel Rwanda.

Bishop Blogs

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

One of the joys of the blogging world is being connected to thoughts well beyond your geographic region. As a United Methodist, this is particularly advantageous. I know of two Bishops who currently have blogs and I keep an eye on what they are sharing. I really believe that more vision, leadership, and direction needs to come from these important leaders and appreciate the opportunity to hear how things are working within their Annual conference. If anyone knows of additional blogs from UMC Clergy, I am interested.

Here’s Bishop Willimon’s of the North Alabama conference latest entry on the restructuring (big word among Bishops these days) that is happening in his annual conference.

Here’s the blog for Bishop Swanson of the Holston Conference.

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Things we remember…

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

capt.ny34001261916.challenger_anniversary_ny340There are, unfortunately, very few things that I remember from my childhood. At best, they are scattered reflections, but today is the 20th anniversary of a day that sticks out in my childhood memories; the day that the Challenger space shuttle exploded. Like elementary school children across the nation, we had watched the buildup to the launch because of Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire High School teacher, who was selected from over 11,000 applicants to be the first teacher in space. I remember a teacher telling me on the playground that Challenger had exploded. (Do you say that to a 7 year old?) We spent the rest of the day watching the News coverage in a classroom across the hall from my regular class.

Yahoo has an article on the 20th anniversary memorial.

I have no idea why but watching the new’s coverage and seeing this particular picture over and over again that day is one of my most vivid childhood memories.

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Discipline Questions v1.1

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

What is your understanding of humanity, and the human need for divine grace?

Humanity is broken. I say that as something that I instinctively believe about humanity, but I also say that as something that I see everywhere I turn. I do not believe I have to be a person of faith to make that statement. It is simply a reality of our world that I believe we all understand at least on some level. We understand ourselves as vulnerable, fragile, and needy to varying degrees throughout life. Faced with the great questions of life and the nature of our existence, one cannot help but feel a sense of desperation and loneliness if you were led to believe that it all depended on your own knowledge and/or good works. Perhaps that is why so many choose to ignore the question. The implications are just too overwhelming.

The distinction that I make as a person of faith is that if my life is broken that necessarily means that there is some alternative way that I can choose to live whereby I might restore my life. I am broken, but I was not made broken. I was made good. Again, according to Genesis, we were made, “very good.” So “being fixed” isn’t about changing me into someone else who is better. “Being fixed” by grace is about the restoration of my original design. “Being fixed” is about resetting the program that has been corrupted by outside code. (If anyone appreciates a more modern technological metaphor for the New Creation) Yet, I cannot access that program. I cannot change what is so deeply imbedded within my DNA. Only the work and grace of God can do that work.

Humanity is broken, and I do not believe that the work of convincing people of that truth is difficult. The more difficult and pressing task for the community of faith is leading us to the realization that we cannot fix this on our own. Only God’s grace can set our lives free.

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Discipline Questions v1.0

Friday, January 27th, 2006

Most of you are going to be really bored by this… but I am doing it anyway. I hope to be commissioned as a Probationary Member at Annual Conference this year. For this to happen, I have to be approved by the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry in March. For them, I have been working on a long list of items that they require including responses to several questions they ask in reference to our Book of Discipline. I will be posting some of those questions as well as my responses here over the next week or so. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. Here goes #1.

What is your understanding of evil as it exists in the world?

I understand evil to be a corruption of God’s original design for creation. In Genesis 1:31, God declares, “all that he had made… was very good.” This passage and the understanding of creation we glean from it is critical in my understanding of evil and it’s entrance into the human condition. Looking at the creation account in Genesis, we see that evil was not created by God. Rather, evil was a fruit produced by the disobedience of humanity. It is within our own ability to refuse and disobey God that we allow the presence of evil, suffering, and oppression to continue in our world. Why is this distinction so important to me? Because I believe it is too easy to distance ourselves from it. It is too easy to place the blame back on God and invalidate the call for our own repentance for the actions which has supported, encouraged, and allowed evil to flourish in our world.

There are times when evil is made manifest in our world because of individual sin. Pain and suffering are introduced because we make poor decisions, act in selfishness, and hurt each other and ourselves. Yet we can also see the existence of evil in the social sins which we all bear some responsibility to overcome. For example, racism is an institutional and social sin which I along with all humanity must work to root out of our social condition. I do not bear this responsibility because of what I may or may not have actively done to promote the agenda of racism, but because God cries out for justice for all people and seeks the full restoration of all humanity. It is therefore the responsibility of faithful followers of Jesus to work against our own personal disobedience, but also to speak out and against the more difficult institutional sins that allow evil to continue.

Finally, I would like to note that I believe it is very important for all Christians to adequately define what is and is not “evil” and “willed” by God. We live in a natural world that has natural consequences. I believe it is a dangerous ideology that confuses the natural acts of our world with acts of punishment or direction from God. As Christians, we must take an active role in defeating structures, systems, ideologies, addictions, and other types of sin which seek to enslave our minds and steal away our life. In my understanding, evil is most closely attached to the things in our world that have that simple goal in mind. Evil steals life. The Gospel seeks to set it free.

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Healthy Dialogue

Friday, January 27th, 2006

Below I have printed some of Jason Clark’s thoughts in reference to a recent post by Mark Driscoll. Driscoll was actually responding to some of McClaren’s comments. Rather than focusing on the specific issue that each are discussing, I think Clark’s guidelines for “healthy conversation” are worth “conversing” about. His thoughts give expression to what was perhaps the most impressive thing to me during my time at the Emergent Convention last May. The conversations that I had were fundamentally different than other “theological debates” I had been a part of because they had adopted many of the standards for which Clark is arguing. They were sincerely about broadening perspectives rather than trying to convince the “other” of your own opinion’s superiority. They were not aggressive. Don’t think for a moment that we didn’t deal with very controversial topics or that everyone in the room had the sam opinion. This certainly wasn’t the case, but what was evident was that the participants were committed to a “grace-filled” life that genuinely valued understanding more than being understood.

Clark’s thoughts again lift up the idea that the emergent community is about more than a new worship style or a new way to organize the church. In this specific case, he addresses our need to fundamentally alter the way we communicate with one another. It changes the way we live in community.

Here are some issues/reflections as I read and responded to it, that I think relate to the whole area of what makes conversations healthy.

1. Christians Shouldn’t Rant: It got my attention immediately, as I am convinced that Christians have no place to rant, especially against each other. Now we are supposed to speak the truth in love to each other and go to each other in love to help each other, especially for correction. But to write publicly and to rant, flame, make accusations, surely does little more than polarize, belittle, and make genuine conversation and understanding impossible.

2. Don’t use sarcasm: Unless it’s about yourself. They say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. It’s cheap and easy, and can be very hurtful. Another thing is that we can often say someone was using sarcasm when it wasn’t, it was just plain rude. But it’s hard to differentiate between the two, and the person on the receiving end won’t notice about the difference.

3. Ask Questions, don’t accuse: Ask for help, ask for clarification, own the struggle to understand, and it is less argumentative. In this case if someone thinks Brian McLaren is evasive, instead of saying ‘you are evasive’ say ‘I might be wrong but I find the reply unhelpful, as it seems evasive, can you help me see how it answers the question/issue?’. If we invited each other into dialogue I think things would go better for everyone.

4. Don’t be manipulative:Proof texting, claiming to know God’s thoughts and feelings to support your argument, when the other person is a christian who loves Jesus, is a slippery slope to using God’s name in vane. Better to ask together, I wonder what God makes of this?

So in the case of this posting by Mark Driscoll, I think Mark is concerned that Brian McLaren was evasive and for someone who believes the bible say clearly homosexuality is wrong Brian’s answer was less than helfpul for him. But Mark seems to use perjoratives, like ‘homo-evangelical’, calling Doug Pagitt ‘Tonto’, which I am sure was the word for ‘Stupid’ and was used for the indian in the Lone Ranger for that reason, and he seems to suggest that he knows God is upset by Brian’s article.

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