Friday, August 26, 2005

Call Me Christian?

It’s been a tough week for Christians. Pat Robertson has basically either gone head first into senility or confused national interests with spiritual ones. Or both. When it comes to assassinations of the sort Robertson suggested (and he did suggest it, no matter his belief that he was misinterpreted), I try to imagine Jesus pulling the trigger. Whom would Jesus snipe?

At any rate, one thing I have been gratified for is the almost universal condemnation of Robertson’s statement from the spiritual community. Christians in the blogosphere and in the press have condemned it, but I feel like it’s just been more damage to the cause of Christ and the furthering of the Kingdom. Some days it’s enough to make me want to shed the name Christian completely.

Now understand what I’m saying. I’m not saying that I want to give up my identity in Christ, but the word Christian has gotten so twisted in people’s minds that I sometimes feel to even wear that name becomes a hindrance. If I call myself a Christian among nonChristians, that name immediately has connotations to it, and unfortunate ones at that: judgmental, condemning, holier-than-thou (or holier-than-you, for you NIV folks), self-righteous, etc. etc. It’s almost like any good that we can do as Christians gets wiped out by people like Pat Robertson, the God Hates Fags guy, and Eric Rudolph. The message of Jesus gets lost.

Some days it seems really attractive to drop the name Christian with all its baggage and take on something else, like follower of Christ or disciple of Jesus or something like that. Some name that seems to describe where I want to be in my life, because if people think of Pat Robertson and not Jesus when they hear the word Christian, I’m not sure I want to be associated with that.

One final note: you should go read John Alan Turner’s blogpost from Wednesday, entitled Stop Praying for Vision.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Affirmation or Transformation

The dodgeball tournament went very well. A lot of fun for everyone, even teams like mine that got put out in 90 seconds. This weekend is the monastery and then Donald Miller on Monday night.

As I mentioned last week, I heard a story on NPR, specifically about homosexuals within the Lutheran church. One of the supporters of homosexuality said that the two sides have different perspectives on the Gospel. One side views the Gospels as one of affirmation and the other side views it as one of transformation. This obviously becomes a very touchy subject, not just from the aspect of homosexuality, but overall from the aspect of sin. It begs the question of what sin actually is.

Traditionally, we’ve defined sin as anything that does not follow a certain specified group of commands or directives. Not lying, not killing, not committing adultery, that kind of thing. But I think those specifics were put in place as a representative of a breaking of covenant with God. God calls His people to be holy as He is holy.

The message of the Gospel seems to be a reconciling of that covenant. Jesus talks about how actions are good, but that it’s the heart that he is truly after. What does that mean about our actions? I think that there are actions that break covenant with God, that break the shalom that Jesus came to restore, both through his life and his sacrifice. And a change in our hearts will lead us to do those actions less and less.

So let’s go back to the original question of whether the Gospel is one of affirmation or transformation. I’m going to say that it is both. God accepts us where we are, but loves us too much to leave us there. I’m a better person than I was last year and I hope to be a better person next year than I am now.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Who are these people?

First off, a correction: I'm not going to St. Bernard's monastery next week, as I indicated. We're actually going to the Sacred Heart Monastery, also in Cullman, Alabama (how did Cullman become some hotbed for Benedictine Brothers and Sisters?). Really looking forward to it.

I heard something on NPR yesterday that I'll probably blog about next week: whether the Gospel is one of acceptance or one of transformation. I'll give you a hint on my direction for it... I think it's both. But what I decided I'd do today is talk about my friends, specifically my friends whose blogs I link to on the left. It may give you some context about why I've linked specifically to them.

  • Mere Discipleship Discussion - This is a discussion blog of Lee Camp's book. The book is one of the best works of practical theology that I've read and it asks some hard questions and really points to Jesus and the Kingdom of God for some answers. The discussion is really good as well with many people asking how to live as a disciple today.
  • Adam Ellis - Adam is one of the stranger additions to my list. He and I met online at the Grace Centered message boards. Both of us had mentioned Brian McLaren in posts and we sent private messages, emails, then instant messages. I consider him a close friend, even though we've only met in person once. His blog reflects his marriage of practical faith and deep thinking in his life and youth ministry.
  • Brandon Scott Thomas - What to say about BST? He's a great insane guy who also works as the worship leader at Otter Creek, my home church. He and Mike Cope are a couple of pioneers in Church of Christ ministry blogging and his reflects a transparency about his life as a father, husband, and minister. He and I have grown close over the last 3 years, due to a combination of me being AV guy at church and the fact that our spiritual journeys have been mirroring each other too.
  • Judy Thomas - Brandon's mom and my adopted blogmom. A beautiful woman who walks a simple, deep faith and is an example of a life lived in the service of Jesus and others, not always great in the world's terms, but of present and eternal significance.
  • Preston Shipp - Another great friend. The thing I admire about Preston is his commitment to walking in the steps of Jesus with regard to a life of serving others but also asking really hard questions and coming up with answers that I may not always like or agree with, but always make me think. It took him a while to blog, but he's making up for lost time.
  • Clarissa Cox - I've known Clarissa since the 8th grade at Caldwell Middle Magnet. She is another great example of someone struggling to live out the ways of Jesus in really hard ways. She's also really funny and really, really honest.
  • Rob Cox - Rob is Clarissa's husband and has just started in the blogworld. He's getting gastric banding surgery in a bit and has been blogging about that experience.
  • Tony Arnold - Tony's another fellow pilgrim and one of the originators of the Mere Discipleship blog. His recent posts have been about his faith walk and the places that God has brought him in the last year or so.
  • David Carden - Another good friend and fellow struggler with faith. Another one who's asking hard questions and coming up with hard answers.
  • Fajita - Chris Gonzales is BST's brother in law. You may be sensing a theme in the links here, but he's also someone else who really makes me think when I read his blog. He has a talent for narrative and punching you in the gut with a thought.
  • Tiffany Fox - Tiff is one of the organizers of the trip to Loughborough, England. She's also an incredibly funny woman.. girl..., whatever the respectful term is. Today's post in particular is pretty dadgum funny.
  • Jana Young - Jana is another person I go to church with. She has blogged about her political views, religious ideas, and being a young mother struggling with Post-Partum Depression. It's been eye opening to me to see that side of things and I can always count on great thinking.

So that's it, that's the list. I could probably push you to several others that I read when I'm trying to avoid work, like Joe Hays' or Clark Christian's or the Nashville Cohort or Sacred Nashville, but this post would be even longer than normal. So have fun and be safe out there. It's a big world with a lot of dangerous people, but I think I've warned you about who most of them are with this post.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Random thinkings and the next two weeks...

Random comments before I have to get to work, and I don’t really want to think deeply today…

  • To raise funds for our England trip in October, Sheryl and I sent out 80 letters asking for donations to help us. To date, the response has been insanely wonderful. People have blessed us with their money in a way that is really humbling. We’re not quite there yet, but it doesn’t look like that side of finances will be an issue. We definitely are thankful for that and for those people opening their wallets and hearts.
  • I think I’m starting to believe in original sin again. Why else would a four-year-old out and out lie about something she did? I mean I know it’s to not get in trouble, but something would have to be inherent for her to do that, right?
The next two weeks are going to be crazy, but crazy in a good way.
  • Next Saturday, the England team is having a dodgeball tournament to raise money for the trip. It’s going to be fun, but it’s a lot of work and I still have things I need to get done. However, if you want to play, leave me a comment before Sunday and I'll get with you.
  • The next weekend, Sheryl and I are going on a retreat. Some of the people who plan the Wednesday night contemplative service at Otter Creek Church of Christ are going down to St. Bernard’s, a Benedictine monastery, in Cullman, Alabama. We’re going to commune together and think about direction for the service this year. Most people are coming up Friday, staying the night and leaving Saturday. Sheryl and I have arranged for Kinsey to be with her parents that weekend and we’re going to stay Saturday night and into Sunday as well. We’re really looking forward to it and relaxing on a weekend when we don’t have to worry about the sound and PowerPoint on Sunday.
  • On that Monday, August 22, Donald Miller author of Blue Like Jazz will be speaking at Otter Creek. I’m really looking forward to it and I hope that some of his ideas about mission can seep into the fabric of our congregation. If any of my four readers are interested, call the church at 373-1782. Admission is free, but you have to have a ticket to get in and they’re going fast.
  • Two days after that, on Wednesday the 24th, Phil Keaggy is doing his annual concert at Otter Creek. I always look forward to them, even though I’ve seen Keaggy more times than I can remember and he’ll probably do many of the same songs that he’s been doing at Otter Creek for the last five or six years. Something about watching him do his loops and harmonizing into the mouth of his guitar always blows me away. As a buddy of mine said one year, “Most guitar players make we want to go home and try what they do. Keaggy makes me want to go home and smash my guitar." It’ll be good.
Well, that’s what’s going on right now. I’d ask your prayers about the fundraising and if I’ve never said it before, thanks for reading. It’s an honor knowing that people out there are considering the things that I write about.
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