Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
In the mean time, if you like side-splitting laughter, check out Frank Viola's latest post here.
Be sure to go past the first little bit. Look for the excerpts from high school papers.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
"...The answer to our present dilemma is not to continue down the path of castrating the Gospel of Jesus with insistency upon getting our hands on the mantle of political power. It is to return to the way of the Master. It is by renewing our Christology in a zealous pursuit of his heart. It can only come by taking another look at Jesus and rethinking the doctrine of the two kingdoms. It will call for a fresh interpretation of Scripture within its historical-grammatical context and a discovery of the indwelling Christ. And it will come with great sacrifice."
"It is only the Person and the work of Christ that our entire faith is built upon. No level of human wisdom and ingenuity is relevant to issues that faced us yesterday, face us today, and will be facing us tomorrow. If we want to understand the heart of Christ who is God, we must be willing to abandon human reasoning that is not first captivated by the words of Jesus. Are we willing to lay aside our preconceived notions and our cultural conditioning in order that we might receive the word of Christ? Would we be so bold as to allow the Holy Spirit of Christ to invade our space and reveal to us the “foolishness” of the Gospel that Paul wrote about (1 Cor. 1:18-20)?
May the Spirit give us the ability to say, 'Yes!' to Christ."These words ring true to me. What do you think?
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The beautiful gift of a wife in my life clerks at the front check-out of a nearby drugstore. She interacts with a wide variety of people. Just prior to the election, she engaged an older couple in conversation. She used over-heard comments about a candidate as her lead-in for personal conversation. Before long she knew the two people as US citizens, though the man’s accent and brief story placed him in Europe much of his life.
He commented he really didn’t understand the American emotional reaction across our society to politics generally. In comparison to our culture, elections in Europe produce much open even passionate debate over issues; but in contrast, people’s differences are accepted as natural and do not end friendships or even discussions. The give and take of disagreement are an accepted social discourse. Whereas here, speaking up for an issue or candidate is likely to cause an immediate and often awkward end to a conversation.
Even allowing for some faulty memory on his part, the point is obvious: we fail our own value of freedom of speech. Why? Perhaps we are so spoiled that being emotionally able to handle disagreement is beyond us. We are selfish in this country to want everything to be like we think it should be including the way others think. And in my view, we Christians are very willing to use a cold-shoulder or worse, condemnation and shunning, to enforce our view as the correct one.
It is ironic and pitiful to hear people on the one hand espouse the wonder of a political system which guarantees freedom of speech and religion–intended undeniably by our fore-fathers as a protection of the right to function according to one’s own conscience–and on the other to berate the choices of others in demeaning and disrespectful terms. Or maybe, just become quietly dismissive of the other person.
For those who espouse Christ and mouth words of being an alien on earth to do such strikes me as much more than irony, but a symptom of a lack of faith and a large infection of hypocrisy. These folks need to take two prayers, one of repentance and one begging God to reveal His love in their hearts for all those in the "enemy" political camp, and get a good night's rest.Reality check: when was the last time a conversation with a "politically" different acquaintance or friend ended with a heart-felt affirmation of the person regardless of their views? A kind of statement that assured the other person of a love true to all that 1 Corinthians 13 describes. Counter possibility: when was the last time a conversation with a "politically" different acquaintance or friend ended with a personally held concern for the moral failures of the person evidenced by their views? The conversation ended with keeping one's thoughts veiled under empty but socially accepted niceties.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
The word estate emerged from English/French languages roughly of the 12th-13th centuries. A noble of the day owned a large house amid an expanse of land and from which common folk would gain purpose and security. Working the lord's lands provided food, a hovel in which to rest, and in many cases military protection. The Magna Carta was forced upon the English king by nobles and the church as a guarantee of the rights of Englishmen (read land-owners) in 1215. England thereby entered a time of transition from the feudal period and toward a constitutional monarchy established in 1688. During this period the estate system developed into codified laws around land ownership and thereby became a legal term still used today.
The church has become an estate to be managed. Literally holding real estate, the church estate includes leadership as lord of the manor, a taxation system supporting the structure of governance, resulting assets needing to be managed, and a common people who serve, support and receive from a controlling elite. This organized system evolved from a simple format of association of believers into a structured hierarchical authority system which became formerly state-sanctioned under Constantine. From pre-Reformation to today, ecclesiastical authority has functioned as part of a three-pronged force in culture: a balance of political and religious authority often in conflict over the economic production capacity of human labor. Political and social thinking of Western culture moved from monarchy to democracy; so too the organized church mirrored this progression. Thus, organized church currently includes constitutions, church charters, whole books of instruction, and/or simply accepted practices of governance. These established codes uphold the shared beliefs and doctrines about God and serve to recognize the interests of those whose labor supports the whole. This strikes me as a logical consequence of the historical development of church experience within changing social/political thought over time. That church thinking and expression forms a corollary to human social and political development is predictable. This is not a charge of failure against the institutional church, but an observation of a consequence of the church's historical development.
Along that developmental line a basic theme of the Bible was lost. In Genesis, our Lord warned Adam not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and to only eat from the Tree of Life. God did not want His creation to attempt to establish moral codes of right and wrong. No such code could honor Him, as our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags. He intended Himself as the source of life and the fullness of the goodness possible within the human experience. The sum of the story between the Fall and now includes the revelation that righteousness is by faith, and that faith is in Jesus Christ alone. He is the Tree of Life. He intends His perfect conscience to substitute for our fallen one by the guidance of the in-dwelling Holy Spirit.
I recently read there are about 33,000 identifiable Christian denominations around the planet! Within these are variations and thereby extrapolations of church governance among this plethora of groups. However, I suspect a common denominator. In most, the leader or leaders function with authority over church direction generally, teaching of accepted doctrines specifically, the application of moral codes of conduct usually, and to greater and lesser degrees leaders exercise authority over the lives of believers. This circumstance, a splintered faith yet a fairly common view of authority is a direct function of the passage of time coupled with a knowledge of good and evil. Which of the 33,000 organizations produce life in the spirit as a function of faith in the Presence of the Holy Spirit and which do not? How shall we judge the good or evil of any of these? However, I contend our building of communities of believers into earthly estates with Christian moral codes as the organizing feature fails the plan of God. God is not pleased by moral codes. Examine His correction of the pharisees. Faith pleases God. Our complete trust in His governance, provision, and guidance in life honors Him.
(This post now extends past a usual barrier I have set for myself of length. However, I am going to finish these thoughts as one post. Apologies to those who prefer posts of more nominal length. Here is a good spot to which one could logically return, depending on level of interest, at another time.)
As I examined my experience both with authority and as a designated authority within a body of believers, I found myself lost in a very complicated maze created by the scriptures, the practice of my particular group and the practices generally of the larger church historically. The execution of authoritative practice became an issue for me as previously narrated.
I confronted a huge dilemma.
1.I knew the world and individuals to be lawless. I had fully proven that point in my life experience. I knew personally both as victim and as agent, the pain caused by selfish human decision-making. I had recognized and accepted God's solution to the rebellion--Jesus, crucified and resurrected.
2.However, the entity which held out Jesus to me, the church, had proven to be seriously flawed in practice. I held not just my particular group as faulty. I regarded the historical system as equally culpable.
Among the questions I needed to answer:
- Why do men jockey for position within church leadership and other body life, while faulting others for the same?
- Why do men trust manipulation as a tool?
- Why did submission to church authority as taught from the scripture become onerous to me? And its corollary,
- Was I just re-entering the rebellion?
- How could a group where love had seemed to flow so honestly become so misguided?
- Why did the larger expression of church often produce leadership that could not be personally engaged in the simple human act of eye contact? And its corollary,
- How did some believers manifest personal authority when leaders didn't?
- Does one group represent the Truth of Jesus more fully than the next? If so, why and how?
The solution I came to realize that answers all of the above and more:
God is love.
God's love is the order rebellious humans need.
God calls humans out of the rebellion against Him. This is an authoritative act.
God's love established the spiritual means for humans to escape the power of the rebellion—the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
This is an authoritative plan on the part of the Father, which is entered willingly by Jesus as a personal choice of His in response to both the expressed will of Father and the joy it will bring. Jesus thus exercises the human will in an act of personal authority fully in line with the authority of the Father.
Jesus fulfills the passion of the act itself motivated by His love.
Therefore, God's love is the basis for His authority, and His authoritative actions have love as the end purpose.
God is love is authority.
Jesus taught not to call anyone rabbi (honored one), teacher, or leader (guide or master) for you are all brothers. This is recorded in Matthew 23:8-12. Just prior to this instruction, when the mother of the sons of Zebedee asked that her sons be lifted into His authority sphere by being allowed to sit at His right and left in His Kingdom, He summarized His answer with
Matthew 20:25. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them...”
Authority here and in the companion recording of this incident in Mark 10:42 is the only use of katexousiazo in the NT, which means to exercise authority, wield power. This is in stark contrast to the dominion reign of Jesus in context.
Most uses of the term authority in the NT as already noted are translated from exousia, which bears the first meaning of power of choice. It is a very interesting exercise to read the places where this word is translated as authority and substitute the meanings of
- power of choice; leave or permission
- physical or mental power
- power of authority (influence)
- power of right (privilege)
- the power of the rule of government.
Where I had identified three areas of authority
Within a body, I believe we need to shift understanding elders from “those in charge over the flock” to “those who know the authority of the familial love of God and lead others by example.” When I think about ones of more mature love simply regarding all other believers as brothers to be served, questions I asked on the nature and execution of authority all find logical and reasonable answers.
How the suggested model might function is the stuff of more posts. This lengthy one is ended.