Monday, December 22, 2008

The Great Emergence

So, I've been reading this book, The Great Emergence, and have been totally blown away by it! The basic gist of it is that every five hundred years or so, the church has what she calls a "rummage sale" and through that ends up spreading and becoming more relevant. Go back five hundred and you find the Protestant Reformation, five hundred before the Reformation you are at the Great Schism, before that Gregory the Great and the plunge into the dark ages, and five hundred before that the Great Transformation (Jesus and the apostles).

Right now we are in the middle of another one of those "rummage sales." This one is being called the Great Emergence. It's happening as our culture enters the post-modern era, and as the Reformation's motto of sola scriptura, scriptura sola (only scripture, and scrpture only) has been found wanting as an answer to the question of authority. We are asking again: Where now should we place our authority?

That is a loaded question that neither I nor the emergent thinkers have resolved. It is the task of the next twenty to thirty years. There are those who are called to start something new, and those called to reform the old to be relevant in a new culture. I feel called in a strong way to the latter. I look forward to figuring Methodism in a postmodern context, and discovering how God can use our Wesleyan heritage to relate to a radically different world.

If you want to read more about the whole postmodern/emerging church thing here are some books I like:

A New Kind of Christian by: Brian McLaren
The Challenge of Jesus by: N.T. Wright
Postmodern Youth Ministry by: Tony Jones
The Emerging Church by: Dan Kimball

Monday, December 15, 2008

Peace Devotion

Today is the day that my devotional entry appears in our church's advent devotional guide. So, if you don't go to the church, or you do but forgot to read the devotion for today, here it is!

If there’s one Hebrew word you know, it’s this one: shalom. We generally understand peace as the absence of conflict; although, this is a pretty accurate definition of the English term, it is far from accurate in regards to the Hebrew. Shalom is much more. Shalom means wholeness and completeness (in every way: safety, soundness in body, welfare, health, prosperity and connection). Shalom is the presence of God’s goodness in the lives of his people.

One Jewish theological understanding of shalom says that Shalom was created in the Garden as we had perfect connection with God and each other. When sin entered, shalom was lost, and the whole of scripture illustrates the quest to regain the shalom lost in the garden.

Jesus came to restore that which was lost in the garden. Not just peace, but shalom… the presence of God’s goodness. Another verse puts it this way: “Make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life” (Psalm 51:10 MSG). Jesus came to repair the break in our relationship with God so that we could once again be wholly, completely, and shamelessly connected.

In this time of advent, as we await the birth of something needed and new, remember that Jesus came to reestablish the kingdom of peace in the world. As members of that kingdom we must be agents of peace in a world where brokenness and separation is King. We must live lives of connection with God and others so that the peace of God invades the world around us, a world that is crying out for the one thing it cannot create: Shalom.
Today, forgive, apologize, heal, connect and bless others as you have been blessed, be a peacemaker in a broken world.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and the love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord: And the Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always.

God fill me with your shlom, and allow me to be an agent of your shalom in my world today. Open my eyes that I might see your opportunities all around so that I can bless others as I have been blessed.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

God and Time

I thought this might be interesting to share. This subject has fascinated me for years, and reading this book has really brought it to the forefront. So much so that I am going to be writing a much fuller treatment of what I think about it for my final philosophy paper this term (btw... my view is none of the ones below). The following is an excerpt from a review I wrote on the book God and Time: Four Views Edited by Gregory Gnassle.

After the introduction, Paul Helm makes the case for the classical view of divine timelessness. Ascribing to the B-theory of time, Helm asserts that God is timeless and atemporal and rejects the idea that analogies with our temporal existence will be able to describe that which is foreign to such a system of existence. Most of his argument is positioned as a defense against the common, popular objections to the classical theory.

Alan Padgett takes a quite unique stance in relation to the other contributors saying that God is “relatively timeless”. He makes a distinction between measured time and pure duration. The pure duration is defined as a quasi-temporal, changeless time that flows without any measure or increment. He suggests that God exists in this pure duration, and has created the current measured space-time in which we exist. So in this sense, God is timeless relative to the created space-time of our universe.

William Lane follows Padgett with a theory that addresses the problem of God existing before creation, and therefore, before created time. Lane suggests that God exists timelessly and alone until creation of the temporal universe at which point real relation to creation requires God’s entrance into time. In this system of understanding God’s relation to time, creation exists as a causal boundary to God’s timeless eternity.

Finally, Nicholas Wolterstorff delivers a hard-hitting argument for God’s unqualified temporality. Wolterstorff uses narrative as a basis for his argument asserting that any being who has a history that can be communicated narratively must necessarily exist in time, and to suggest anything else is to not take an honest look at reality and scripture.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Prayer

Posted this on facebook first.

God, bless our nation and our new leader. Turn our nation's heart towards you the author and perfecter of justice, peace, and change. Put in place the right advisers and grant your wisdom to our new President Barack Obama.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


So, the more I watch this video we made to help illuminate the metaphor for our next series, the more I really enjoy the play between God's word as a lamp and us being the light of the world. In 2 Tim 3:16 God's word is referred to as his breath. I think Paul chose that metaphor intentionally. I think he was pointing to something deep. We were formed from the ground and then animated (some say given a soul) by God breathing in us. Wow.

I think we share something deep with scripture. Something more than when we read other things. There is something inherent in who we are that finds an echo from the same source in scripture. When we take in God's breath through scripture, we are taking in that same substance which animates us and allows us to be the image bearers of God.

I think this post calls for a "duuuuuude."

I have a feeling it will not seem as deep in the morning.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Silence and Conversion

So, you may know I'm in seminary, and that means I'm doing a lot of late-night thinking and writing. I just finished a short response paper to an amazing book I had read about a year ago and reread for this class. The book is called "To know as We Are Known" by Parker Palmer. Here are some excerpts from what I said in the six pager.

Religion seeks to answer the deepest questions of human existence such as "What is the purpose of life?" and "What is the meaning of life?" and the like. When one teaches in that religious setting, it brings a certain amount of weight with it. Such a weighty setting requires a larger purpose than being merely informative. My teaching in that setting seeks to reflect that in its purpose; I focus on life change and spiritual formation, what Palmer refers to as conversion.

Our youth group is a part of our society. One of the most unfortunate developments in the church (especially the evangelical church) over the past several decades has been its separation from the "secular" world. We have our own colleges, books, bookstores, music, "art," and even theme parks. That being said, the piece of the human experience that has been pulled into our youth group as its main focus is spirituality. Students have gotten the message our culture (the church included) has been feeding them and have separated these questions and their application from the rest of their world for the most part. This enables them to give correct answers and seem spiritual without having to work through the cognitive dissonance (internal conflict) that true interaction with spirituality creates. Unfortunately, for true conversion to happen, those walls must come down.

Palmer says that teaching is providing a space where obedience to truth is practiced. This space needs to be open where truth can be encountered (71), hospitable to diversity of thought (74), but have boundaries that protect the process (72). He uses techniques like silence (80), introducing multiple viewpoints (78), asking questions instead of giving answers (83), listening in a way that can correct all (including the teacher) (83), and being aware of the feelings of the students (83-86).

I personally resonated with Palmer's use of silence. He explains beautifully how we fill silence with words so that we do not have to reflect and deal with who we are in relation to what is being explored. On top of that, adolescents are still developing mentally, and many times need the space that silence provides to process ideas and metaphors to fully understand them. I try to incorporate these times sporadically into our large group gatherings especially after a time of introduction (message) where students can allow their minds to process what was heard so that they can have a basis from which to respond and discuss.. Additionally, I instruct my volunteers to wait once they have asked a question. Not to fill the silence with gibberish until students answer or the volunteer can't bear it and gives the answer himself, but rather give the students space to think.

Silence is an integral part of our ministry as we seek to give voice to God's presence in our midst, and ss I seek conversion as a response to teaching, I must remember that it is through no power of my own that that will happen, but through a relationship with the person of whom I teach and with whom I live.

Not sure, but I think this is *becca's favorite* practice.

btw... I still post a good bit on

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Music and Poetry

This morning I was dancing around with my son to some of my favorite songs, and I was overwhelmed by the depth of meaning in many of them. There are some things that are not best expressed in treatise or logical argument. For me, even proper sentence structure breaks down at times. I find over and over again the deepest truths are often expressed in poetry or song (which is many times just poetry set to music). I feel that the best songs are those that touch on some universal human experience, and draw out emotion and conclusion without stating them directly.

In honor of great song writing, here is a song that talks about being a follower of Christ rather than a Christian. It's by Mutemath:

Come on, can’t I dream for one day
There’s nothing that can’t be done
But how long should it take somebody
Before they can be someone

‘Cause I know there’s got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I’m feeling like it’s now or never
Can I break the spell of the typical

I’ve lived through my share of misfortune
And I’ve worked in the blazing sun
But how long should it take somebody
Before they can be someone

Cause I know there’s got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I’m feeling like it’s now or never
Can I break the spell of the typical, the typical, the typical, uh huh

I'm the typical
I'm the typical
Can I break the spell of the typical

Because it’s dragging me down
I’d like to know about when
When does it all turn around

I'm just the typical
I'm just the typical

Yeah I know there’s got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I’m feeling like it’s now or never
Can I break the spell of the typical
The typical, the typical, uh huh

Of the typical
Break the spell (of the typical)
Break the spell (of the typical)
Can I break the spell of the typical, of the typical
I'm just the typical

In the words of Cake: I want a girl with the right eye locations (I'm glad Laura meets this one)

Friday, August 29, 2008

An Amazing Poem

By one of my favorite Poets: Kevin Max Smith

Jesus in the Arena

Johnny Cash
on a Billy Graham Stage
Inner City Buses pulled up on the pavement
it doesn't run like that at all these days
there's no more funk in the soul cages
representing the Nazarene
with a Jesus Freak tee
and some ripped up jeans
but deep inside
those holes aren't dreams
but empty eyes
with a list of schemes
from the record company and the Church board
they learned to take the song from the source
turn them into banners
and anthems for the worst
type of narrowminded gimps
that limp about on borrowed verses
so give them back independence
give them back some reverence
historical precedence
coinage for some relevance
to put in their pockets
and use for the future
instead of being used up, sutured
like a monster
robotic, and devoid of real posture...
Jesus in The Arena
Give us Freedom.

My thoughts exactly.

Monday, August 25, 2008


So, as I've been getting ready for the adult class I am teaching this fall (Jesus, the Jewish Theologian), I have been reading a new book by Brad Young called Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation. There is a brilliant section talking about the parable of the Fair Employer in Matthew 20:1-16 (the one where the employer gets people in the morning and throughout the day, but pays them the same).

He talks about how this parable is a perfect example of the Jewish theology of reward for obedience not performance. This theological concept is based on Jer. 15:1 that talks about how Moses and Samuel both stood before the Lord. The rabbis point out that though Moses served for 120 years and Samuel only 52 years, they are both rewarded the same.

I love that. I mean, that is a huge shift! It helps free us of our enslavement to being the best. When I begin to focus on being obedient instead of efficient, talented, polished, knowledgeable, or well-respected, I move my focus from myself to God. Instead of pursuing perfection, I can pursue God (I think Mike Yacconelli said that).

Man, That Jesus guy was really tuned in.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


It's been almost a year since I blogged, and it's been interesting getting back in to the bloging groove. When I was super into blogging, I read the blogs of all my friends all the time, but when I stopped updating my blog, it was like I assumed my friends stopped as well. That was not the case; in fact, the whole time I had been not bloging, my friends had been blogging away despite my lack of attention.

It's always random stuff like that that reveals my selfishness to me. Today I was reading the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4. Probably because of my recent selfishness revelation, I noticed something that had not always stood out. Every temptation Jesus faces in that passage is at its root a selfish temptation. And the more I thought about it the more I realized that all sin has selfishness at its core. We are either putting our plans before God's, our wants before the needs of the poor, or our image/reputation before the happiness of others. It's all the same: selfishness.

So, as I go on this mission trip to Texas, I am hoping that God will use this to break me of my selfishness again. Maybe this time it won't take blogging to reveal to me when I've slipped back into that well-worn selfishness groove that feels so normal. And maybe my next blog post can top this one for blog-derivative use (10 uses of 'blog-" oops... 11 now).