Thursday, January 29, 2009
"Never did I believe that I would spend most of my life trying to rescue the Gospel from evangelicals."
"Freedom from guilt. Not pain. Freedom from judgment. Not suffering."
"Taking up your cross meant one thing to the people of the day that heard that...death."
"God treated Jesus as if he had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe though in fact he committed none of them."
I love it!
It's amazing how conscious I'm becoming of writing things on here. I sense more and more the desire not to write a single word that is out of place or un-deliberated on. The fact that actual people, real people with real minds, are reading this stuff is kind of scary. A friend recently asked to see an old blogpost and I had a knee-jerk reaction to wonder if he would see anything that was not Jesus shaped(as Michael Spencer might put it). I hope you all know not to take the blog world too seriously without using the the eyes of the Spirit. I mean, I could write anything here....
I once had this plan to continue with series called "Gospel Uncut" to try to address holes in our understanding about Jesus and the far-reaching nature of the Gospel, and how the news of Jesus acts upon our minds to transfom us and save us. I still have ideas rattling around for that one. The first one is here. And Tim, if you're out there, I really appreciated your comments on that one!
Here's a few words on what my mind has been sniffing around lately(maybe I'll call this Gospel:Uncut part 2):
The assumption is, everywhere I go, that Christians are to be married. Singles are all seeking marriage, and they all, because of certain innate hormonal drives within themselves, should get married so that these don't manifest sinfully. It's patently assumed, across the board, that there is no such thing as lifelong, intentional celibacy. Temporary celibacy, i.e. not getting married as soon as possible, is a silly idea, but we don't live in a perfect world, so some people just have have that lot for a few years. Or maybe they're not pleasing God in some way and are being judged for their sin(which is simply an unacceptable notion to me). To even suggest that lifelong celibacy is good for some is to gain sidelong looks and maybe opposition along the lines of "hrrm..hmm....well, let's not get carried away in extremes here..." This despite the fact that both Jesus and Paul not only led celibate lives, but suggested that(at least for certain people) it was better to do so than to be married.
Now, a simple observation that I have had, mind you not substantiated by any facts whatsoever, is that people are getting married later. Less and less people are married by the end of their twenties. Not that I was around for previous generations to compare, but I've heard tell it was different. It evokes pity in some, disapproval in others, to see this. Again, this even though both Jesus and Paul...
I will say what I think, and then let the chips fall: I think that these are the attitudes of a culture that worships sex and marriage instead of God.
Let me interpret this situation in a new way. Single people are not broken and in need of fixing. They are not in need of some new experience that is going to fulfill them, outside of Jesus. Sex is not something it's impossible to live without, even for a lifetime. A quick look around tells us, unmistakably, that it's simply not good enough to be married. Because scores and scores of Christian married people can't even love their families, let alone their enemies, and consequently destroy those families. This is because they believed that marriage was a solution to a problem, rather than a blessing from God for their joy, perseverence in love, sanctification. Unfortunately the mere rhetoric of wife and children as "blessings" does not mean that one's mind is shaped in such a way to treat them as such. Often, Christian marriages look like people that got too hung up on their sex drive and because their moral paradigm says you can't have sex premaritally, the clear solution was to get married. Or substitute desire for love/affection/companionship for sex and sex drive. What I'm saying is, if you don't consider it from the start something to be entered into not only for personal fulfillment, but also to train you in persevering love through trial, to sanctify you, to make you holy through the sacrifice of your life, you are off on the wrong foot and will experience supreme difficulty as soon as the woozy feelings go away.
If marriage is a blessing towards the end of joy and sanctification, then that makes single people devoid of these possibilities until they get married? No, rather, God uses celibacy and singleness for their joy and sanctification also. "But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another." Paul not only saw this but considered there to be an even higher possibility for these things in celibacy when he said further on,
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1Cor:7 32-35)
The world in its present form is passing away, therefore do not treat the things you have(that means a wife/husband!) as if it will last forever, or should. You will not be married, at least not as we know marriage, in the Kingdom, so do not trust too closely in the institution now for your happiness. I have blogged on this theme before: do you know that you will die someday? And all that you have now will be grass for the furnace. That means marriage...
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away(1Cor:7 27-31).
Theses verses strike terror into the hearts of countless unmarried people, and married people will endlessly rationalize their way around the statements Paul makes about celibacy. They should not. He is signaling that people should not value anything too highly besides knowing Jesus, and commending those for whom singleness is a fact, either chosen or forced upon them, so they will not doubt that God will produce every bit as much fruit through these circumstances. I would add that this passage also the cuts the cord to any ugly, creeping prosperity notion that having a wife is a reward for good behavior, or that it signifies a closer standing, or special blessing, with God. "So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better."
If self-denial were not such a bad word in this culture, these would not be huge issues. If you don't consider death inevitable and fast approaching(and good), and if you see personal fulfillment as the bottom line, you will consider singleness a burden and celibacy a curse that God wants to "cure." The fact is, there is great value in not getting what you want. Paradigm shift. For one thing, it teaches you not to trust the subjective desires you feel within you, because they are inevitably misguided to some extent and overrepresented in your mind. It also causes you to depend on the thing you do have, more perfectly, more supremely, and to consider it more sufficient: namely Christ's sacrifice and God's enduring love. I don't know that I would seek to kill a desire for this purpose, but having something withheld, even something you think you cannot do without, is an avenue for God to sanctify you. Remember how fasting works?
For the record, I am approaching 30, single, and "I too think that I have the Spirit of God."
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Preacher guy: Of all the Bibles out there the King James is the easiest to understand. I can't even understand some of these new translations!
Christian Bookstore Guy: Did you know there's over 300 translations now?
Preacher Guy: Amazing the things young people today will believe.
Christian Bookstore Guy: Mmm hmm. They'll just follow after anything nowadays.
Preacher Guy: We don't need but one translation. All them other ones are too hard to understand anyway. Young people don't see that. They'll just believe anything that comes along.
Christian Bookstore Guy: Amazing.
Preacher Guy: Amazing.
Oh, the multitude of issues...
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
A video from the website is posted below. It's a talk given by Dave Fitch concerning missional order, or church planting in post-Christendom. If you have the time, watch the video- there is much that rings true, though maybe nothing really new for those who've been around missional for some time. This is an excerpt, the video is below:
The way we used to plant churches was as organizations...You have an established structure...and you pay somebody to go set up shop, set up the extension of the particular denominational organization that you are a part of, and you plant said church. With the distinctives, the labels and the franchise tags, and the special niches that this particular denomination is good at. That's how we used to do it. That [doesn't] work any more. In fact now the issue is survival...missional order is about surviving. It's about recognizing that ministry is not just a set occupation, but indeed you're going to have to go out and make a living while you plant the seeds for a missional community. You're going to need to band together as a community, and have support and love and care because you're gonna get battered a lot. So we're going from "extending an organization" to survival.
And towards the end of the clip:
In the old days the emphasis was on organizing excelllence and better distribution. Today the emphasis is on a way of life together. That is, gospel in the world.
Dave Fitch - Cultivate Gathering - Missional Order from Missional Tribe on Vimeo.
Monday, January 5, 2009
...we tend to give God the praise when He delivers us from suffering. In other words, we believe we have found God and He has shown Himself at the moment of deliverance and this is the stuff of our testimonies - I once was suffering but now I'm free - praise be to God.
But it occurred to me that such a testimony only has resonance in the affluent west. What do we say of Chinese believers and others around the world whom God delivers unto suffering, not from suffering. For many Christians throughout history their testimony has not been the typical western testimony, it has been the testimony of illness, homelessness, and persecution, to be followed by further persecutions, beatings and death in anonymity.
Thanks for the wake up call, David.
An observation: Almost everywhere I go, I hear people talking about God in terms of how he shows up in their lives. "God is good," "God showed up," "God did this and that for me." This isn't a problem, except when it betrays that the person's perception of God is mostly shaped by the circumstances. Which is usually. This worldview depends on two things that need to draw some fire from the big guns: 1) that I'm an accurate judge of whether the current circumstances fall under the "good" or "bad" label, and 2) that God's disposition, mood, character, and action are identifiable by what my circumstances look like(i.e. My suffering means God's mad, or disciplining me, or teaching me some life lesson.)
I'm going to go out on a limb here. Perhaps people will disagree with me. But there is never, ever a time when you are able to define God's character and intent towards you based on what you see in your life. (Even though that radio preacher I once heard said "if you don't care, God doesn't care.") Because if the "best life now" that you're living is proof that God's smiling on you, then he must be frowning on those in pain. Too bad for them. Those Christians with a testimony of "illness, homelessness, and persecution...beatings and death in anonymity?" God didn't like them as much because of something bad that they did, and now they're gettin' theirs. "That's right, young, starving African woman that was raped and now has AIDS. Clearly God's favor is not upon you because you screwed up really bad." (This is now what runs through my head when people say "God is good" after they got a raise at work. I don't try to think it, it just comes. I swear!)
David, I'm glad you've seen through this fallacy. May he continue to reveal his love and glory to you and your family through your suffering.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. If not our circumstances, what are we to use to describe God's character and intent?