Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Image Bearing Society

N.T. Wright says that the church, at it's essence is to be an Image Bearing Society. Now, that sentence in and of itself is not something that would really make anyone uncomfortable. "Of course," most people would say, "We are to be the body of Christ. Of course, the church should look like Jesus." Wright, however takes it a little further. He has this peculiar habit of wanting to put things in their historical context and tries to envision in light of history and culture how the original hearers or readers would have understood statements and ideas (crazy, I know). He insists that they would have understood this idea in light of Rome, who's leaders(Caesars) put statues(images) of themselves in their colonies so that the people would know what the leader was like. The idea is that, however slowly it may happen, this place (the colony) becomes more like that place (Rome). The implication is that we, as the church, and we as followers of Christ should, as a matter of first importance, bear the image of Christ in the culture that surrounds us. Then, however long it takes, this place (earth) starts to look like that place (heaven). Scripture also refers to the idea that "our citizenship is in Heaven." It should, however, be noted that Rome's primary goal for their colonial citizens was not that they would one day come and geographically reside in Rome itself, but that the colonies themselves would become so much like Rome that you could no longer tell the difference.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A New Kind Of Restoration Movement

I am a child of the American Restoration Movement. That comes with many treasures and much baggage. While I'm not really into the "restoration" of forms with no regard for cultural context anymore, the very Biblical concept of "restoration" has captured my heart.

The main theme that runs through the vast majority of Jesus' teaching (and life) as well as the remainder of the New Testament (not to mention the Old Testament) is an idea he referred to as "The Kingdom of God" (also, synonymously as "the Kingdom of Heaven") This does not refer to a place you go after you die, but rather to the reality of God's real and actual reign on this Earth as it is in Heaven (the realm of God). You see, there was a time when the two were in synch, but mankind made a choice that disrupted it. It is important to note that this disruption was not just between individual people and God, but rather had ramification that affected the relationship between all creation and God (read Romans 8). Since that time, God has been in process to bring the two realms back together, in line and in synch with each other. Does this involve the salvation of individual "souls"? Of course! But, it involves so much more than that. You see, the church is meant to be a catalyst for the Kingdom of God. One of the main purposes for its existence is to be catalytic in God's Kingdom coming and His will being done "On Earth as it is in Heaven". That's why (if you read it right) the first chapter of the Bible and the last chapter look so surprisingly similar. That's why, in Revelation, you find Jesus saying things like "Behold I am making all things new". It's because God never gave up on His project. He isn't just killing time until one day when He's gotten tired of it all, He pulls all the people who believed the right things off of the failed planet and destroys it. He intends for this earth He created to be what He has always planned for it to be. If you remember, when He created the Earth, he thought it was "good".

You see, the church's role was never intended to be defensive. Our mission is not to just believe the right ideas, convince others of the right ideas and defend those ideas against all challenges. The goal is not to simply "restore" the structures and forms of the church in another time and culture and then maintain it. The mission of the church (and consequetially the Christian) is to be catalytic in the restoration of all things to God's dream for them. That's a "Restoration Movement" that I can get behind.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Opening Up The Can of Corn

Well, the unthinkable has happened. We're leaving the sunshine state. Dana and I have decided to accept an offer from the Grand Central Church in Vienna, West Virginia. You read that right, West Virginia. I'm pretty surprised by it myself. However, we believe that this is where God is leading us and are excited about the adventure. We are very thankful for our time at Palo Alto and incredibly proud of the group of teens that we had the honor of working with. We told them about the move last night. There were lots of tears and lots of hugs, but they reacted to it so maturely that we feel like we've done what we were here to do. We will miss them more than I can possibly express by typing on a keyboard, but we know these kids are going to change the world.

So, my last Sunday at Palo Alto is currently slated for May 1. After that, we will move to West Virginia. We would love to have your prayers for everything and everyone involved in this transition. It was not an easy decision to come to, but we believe it is the right one. West Virginia, here we come. I guess I need to go buy some John Denver CD's.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Stan Grenz January 7, 1950 – March 12, 2005

Stan Grenz is a phenomenal author and theologian. He suffered a brain hemmorage and died on March 12, 2005. I didn't know Stan personally, but his writing has been very influential in my own theology. The world is poorer because of his passing and I am sad that his voice will no longer be heard, but happy becuase his profound work lives on in his writing. I've listed a few links below to comments on Stan's passing by some emerging leaders:

Brian McLaren
Tony Jones
Doug Pagitt


Friday, March 11, 2005

Dallas Willard and Creamed Corn

To use BST's phrase, there's alot of creamed corn (stuff I can't really discuss) going on in my life this week (though some readers will certainly know what it is. If you do, please DO NOT comment on it here). I will say that I ask for your prayers for God's guidance in some important decisions that we have to make. Needless to say, I have a headache from all the thinking I've been doing about these decisions and am afraid I don't have much theological insight to offer this week (I'm even a day late posting). However...
I will point you to Dallas Willard's book, The Divine Conspiracy. I'm only about 100 pages into it, but it basicly says everything I've been trying to say on this blog, only more eloquently. You could do alot worse than to add this book to your reading list ASAP.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Laughter, Tears, and Forgiveness

Ben Harper has a song with the line "I am blessed to be a witness" (great song). That's how I feel about last night with the teens I work with (Wednesday).
We started with everyone together (middle school and high school). We sang and played Napoleon Dynamite Trivia. We laughed alot. Then we split and I just had the High School kids. I gave them 2 cards. Their instructions for the first card were as follows:
*Write the initials of someone you are angry with, disappointed in, or are holding a grudge against.
*Then List all of the things they have done to upset or disappoint you.
*Then list all of the reasons you have for not forgiving them

(as they did this, I played the song "Going Under" by Evenescence)

Then, I showed them the NOOMA DVD featuring Rob Bell called "Luggage" (powerful stuff. If you are in any kind of ministry and haven't checked out NOOMA, you should)

Then I asked them to take the 2nd card and do the following:
*Write your name at the top of the card
*Write all of the things that you have done that hurt and disappoint God and other people
*Write all the reasons that God and others shouldn’t forgive you

(while they did this, I played the song "Who Am I" by Casting Crowns)

Then I had them take both cards and do the following(I have a huge wooden cross on our wall and had a station set up with a hammer and a bowl of nails):
Fold the 2 cards together
Pray that God would forgive you as you forgive others
Nail the 2 cards (folded together to the cross)

(While they were doing this, I played the song "My Cross" by FFH and then "Amazing Love" by the Newsboys)

We also talked about the Lord's prayer as recorded in Matthew and Jesus' comments about forgiveness directly following. We talked about the fact that as a recipient of God's grace and forgiveness we have no right to withhold grace and forgiveness from anyone. We talked about the fact that our sins against God and other's sins against us are nailed to the same cross.

There were lots of tears and lots of hugs. When I ended things there was sheer silence for another 10 minutes...some kids just sitting in their chairs and some on their knees in prayer. One on his face at the foot of the cross.

"I am blessed to be a witness"