Friday, July 25, 2008

High theology

Friday's posts over at In The Clearing are devoted to only the finest theology. The Doe-See-Doe consistently provides the deepest insight into God and spiritual life that I can find. Painstaking research and hours of meditative transcendence go into discovering what is presented there. Today's theological titans are Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. You should check out their videos, or better yet, just go see them live.

Scroll back on In The Clearing to find past videos of theological prodigy such as Old Crow Medicine Show and John Prine. Here's a long list of them all on one easy to access page.

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song,
It takes a worried man to sing a worried song,
I'm worried now, but I won't be worried long.

I went across the river, and I lay down to sleep,
I went across the river, and I lay down to sleep,
When I woke up with the shackles on my feet.

Twenty-nine links of chain around my leg,
Twenty-nine links of chain around my leg,
And on each link is initial of my name.

I asked the judge what might be my fine,
I asked the judge what might be my fine,
"Twenty-one years on the Rocky Mountain line."

The train arrived, sixteen coaches long,
The train arrived, sixteen coaches long,
The girl I love is on that train and gone.

If any one asks you who composed this song,
If any one asks you who composed this song,
Tell him it was I and I sing it all day long.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Waybacks do Scrapple

Learning how to post videos. The Waybacks w/ Bela Fleck play Parker's "Scrapple From the Apple" at 2008 Merleest's Midnight Jam (Which I shmoozed my way into without having to pay)

Interview With John Frye, author of Jesus The Pastor

Over at Jesus Shaped Spirituality - where you will find the best (post-)evangelical blog tagline ever: "God is Jesus" - we have Michael Spencer interviewing John Frye, blogger and author of Jesus the Pastor. Haven't read the book, but I'm thinking I'll be getting it soon. Here's an excerpt from the interview:
I believe in praxis, that is, every behavior is an expression of belief (or theology). We will be evaluated in the end on our works. As N.T. Wright repeats, “We are not saved by believing in justification by faith. We are saved by believing God in Jesus.” Here’s the verse that should rock every Jesus-follower to the core: 1 John 2:6 “Whoever claims to live in him [God], must walk/live as Jesus did.” If I claim to be a Christian, that claim is verified in a way of life-the Jesus Way of life. I must walk as Jesus did; it is not an option.

Also note the part of the interview where Frye describes his study of Paul and the epistles to the "glaring neglect" of Jesus and the Gospels. Heavy stuff. Frye's blog is here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these..."

Well, I don't know how to do that fancy link-to-a-Youtube-video-and-have-the-video-frame-show-up-on-your-blog thing, so I will just provide a text link to a video that addresses what will be, if it isn't already, the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. This is (in case you've been living under a rock) the lack of access to clean water that 1.1 billion people face in the world today. Many project that in the 21st century, clean water will be the cause of more violence and international tension than oil was in the 20th. Here's the video, also posted at Bill Kinnon's blog .

Blood:Water Mission is an organization that seeks to build 1,000 wells in Africa, and sees as its greater vision the elimination of AIDS in Africa, and access to clean water for all Africans. What they are doing is quite amazing to my mind. They are 340 wells on their way to their goal, and you can track their progress or donate money on their website.

World Vision UK is another vessel God is using to provide clean water to the world's poorest and here is what they have to say about why clean water is important. (Duh!)

Where the Jesus paradigm fits in to all this: No crisis, water or otherwise, will be solved as long as the "comfort and security paradigm" drives how Christians think and what Christians do. Thankfully, Jesus tore that paradigm to shreds and replaced with his own, so we are in fact given a path that can lead to the solving of crises like this one.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Jesus Paradigm in Preaching

Jared at Gospel-Driven Church hits a homerun:
The logic is simple but somehow evasive for so many pastors. If week in and week out you are feeding your congregation a steady diet of self-help, of personal improvement, of application for someone’s walk with Jesus as their “personal” Lord and Savior, you may not exactly be stirring the desire in them to be connected to other believers. If your preaching is consistently of the “How to Win at Work” or “How to Be Your Best You” variety, you are only feeding and coddling the insidious individualism of the average evangelical churchgoer and the consumerist culture he is the product of.
So to continue my discussion yesterday of the Jesus Paradigm in Scripture: Preaching that does not reveal the Jesus paradigm, that uses Scripture self-servingly to promote subjectively defined values that are not the fruit of the Jesus Paradigm, that focuses on someone other than Jesus(i.e. you, the listener, 0r me, the preacher, or so-and-so, the model Christian/Biblical figure) and how he thought, related to the Father, interacted with a desperate world, conducted himself towards the salvation-agenda that God is inexorably committed to, embraced suffering and death; in the end can be defined as self-righteous, performance-rooted, unBiblical preaching, and can do nothing but produce non-disciples. As Jared says elsewhere in the post, there is no magic bullet, though evangelicals insatiably hunger for it. It's just the Gospel, it always has been, and it always will be.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Never Read the Bible Without the Jesus Paradigm

Scripture looks like Jesus. If it doesn't your not reading Scripture.

There are lots of prophets that came before Jesus. They told Israel certain things about what the living God was like, where Israel stood in regard to his plan and work. These prophets point forward to Jesus, and can be fully understood only when you have seen Jesus, "gotten" him, and then looked back and dealt with the prophets under the new paradigm that Jesus has inaugurated, with his person and character at the center.

There are also lots of laws and rules that came before Jesus. These were so that Israel would have a picture of the living God, and be able to bring their corporate identity under the character, work, and plan of God. So to speak: God[subscript]Israel. These laws, and this character, cannot be understood or applied without first re-calibrating your understanding to the paradigm that Jesus presents to you.

There were a bunch of letters written after Jesus lived. They were written to groups of people trying to follow Jesus, by followers of Jesus. These letters cannot be read properly without a clear, rock-hard agenda to affirm and walk out....Jesus.

There was also this one prophecy written by a follower of Jesus, the source of much debate and agonizing among Christians ever since. It's really a lot simpler than they have made it. The prophecy, called The Revelation of John, is simply a vision of Jesus. His return, and his establishment of an eternal Kingdom in which he reigns. This prophecy cannot be understood(and it certainly wasn't written) without an unshakable commitment to the paradigm through which Jesus understood God, the Church, and world events. The paradigm makes the interpretation.

The paradigm, people, the paradigm....It's Jesus!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Live Like the Gospel Is True

If Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and I believed it, would it be possible for me to proceed upon ambitions and desires that were more important to me than the ushering-in of that Kingdom?

If God loved me so much that he sent his only son to die for me, and I believed it, would it be possible for me to live in fear of God's or man's opinions about me?

If Jesus rose from the dead and showed his followers that death has no hold on him, and I believed it, would it be possible for me to be afraid of dying, or of suffering, to manipulate my life so as to delay the one and minimize the other?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Title

I've changed the title of this blog. "Into the Desert" represented a former incarnation of my writings, one that I feel is now over. To best represent the thrust of my writing at this point, I'm now calling this blog "The Jesus Paradigm."

I know, I know. All 2.5 million of my readers are wondering "what writing?" Which brings me to my next point: I will try and post to this blog semi-regularly. However, I will not feel obliged to do so. While this is not the best recipe for developing a solid readership, it will allow me to say only the things that I feel are worthy of being said in public. But I just cant' stop the ol' wheels from spinning, so I might as well let someone know what's going on up there.

Here's to more public discussion on following Jesus...

The Jesus Paradigm

5These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;
6but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
8"Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.
9"Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts,
10or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support.
11"And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city.
12"As you enter the house, give it your greeting.
13"If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace.
14"Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.
15"Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.

-Matthew 10

Michael Spencer at Jesus Shaped Spirituality writes, concerning the modern pastoral office:

There is an increasing understanding that we’re producing scholars, entrepreneurs, managers, comedians, commentators and promoters rather than shepherds, apostolic leaders and disciple-makers.

What Michael says here is way too on-the-money. And is only the tip of a massive iceberg, I suspect.

The question that is haunting me is this: Do we really get to write off things that Jesus said about what it meant to follow him? I've heard, concerning difficult texts like Matthew 10(with its "don't take any money with you" clause), that it was his particular word for those particular guys, and console ourselves with statements like "Don't worry, not every Christian has to take this literally, after all we need to be balanced?" There is a deep dread that Jesus is saying it's not okay for me to own a $500,000 home and 2 SUVs.

I'd rather not water his words down to some pathetic liberal-activist notion that I'm not allowed to enjoy anything as long as there is suffering in the world. But is it possible that Jesus was not speaking in metaphor at this point, or to an isolated group of people, or speaking in a way that needs to be "interpreted in light of the modern world?" What haunts me is that in Matthew 10 and all over the gospels, Jesus doesn't really leave any room for the paradigm that I see all around me, that I myself am entrenched in, that Christians everywhere swallow without question. But Jesus, over and over again appears to rip to shreds that very paradigm, the addiction to success and consumption. But each time we would prefer to neuter it so that we don't have to feel challenged.

If I dare take this liberty with his words, it's as if he was saying: "My disciples are not consumed with their own needs like prosperity, financial security, a respected profile for themselves and their ministry; these are things that the heathens seek after, because they do not know the gospel. My disciples, on the other hand, will preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand, often at great cost, because they know that everything in their lives is subjected to the gospel."