May 30, 2006

Sacramental Mustang

So I finally got my '88 5.0 mustang down here where I live. It has been sitting at my parents house, but now the time has come. Hopefully before the end of the summer I will be driving this bad boy.

This is going to be quite a project for me. I'm already expecting to be humbled. The car needs brakes, and not just brakes, but as you can see, totally different brakes than what it has. This way it will have all wheel disc brakes and 5 lugs so I can use different rims and tires.

The interior is in fair shape, it came out of a '93 mustang GT, and already has white face gauges. I've already got a new 5" inch tach to place on the dash. Next to come is a CD deck and speakers. Maybe later I'll get some seats with lumbar support.

Overrall, I hope this becomes a spiritual exercise for me. A way to build community, a new way to pray, and I'm sure I'll learn much about myself. So, I'm calling this project car
"Sacramental Mustang," a way to to give grace and receive grace, and all on a budget.

May 24, 2006


We watched Everything is Illuminated today. I think it first came out as a novel written Jonathan Sofran Foer, which hopefully I'll get to read now that I've seen the movie.

This movie is a must see. It's a great tale about a journey that leads to reconciliation and faith. The story ties in some great humor and thought provoking scenes.

My thought after watching it is, what drives us to reconciliation? Do we find it, or does it find us?


One of the most beneficial spiritual practices for myself has been to question myself and the church through the eyes of an unbeliever (to the best of my abilities). I'm afraid the God that the church sometimes paints for the outside world is a bad potrait: an unjust, intolerant, and unloving deity, or a national, American deity.

I just finished the Da Vinci Code. One of the main conspirators in the book throws out this line,
Proof? You want proof the Priory was influenced? The new millennium has arrived and yet the world remains ignorant! Is that not proof enough? (italics added)
So in light of all this conversation and contraversy, the book itself answers how we Christians should respond. Is the world ignorant of the Missio Dei? Does the world know that there is hope, love, and forgiveness surrounding them? We are to BE the proof the world is seeking in response.

I wonder how the unbeliever or nonChristian thinks about how the church has responded to the Da Vinci Code, or if they even care?

May 23, 2006

Coffee Sign Theology

A while back Jonny Baker posted a great sign from this coffee shop, so here's another.

Thanks, jonnybaker.

May 21, 2006

Gospel Leaf

“What is nearest to God is precisely the need of one’s neighbor.”
- Bonhoeffer (as quoted in Hunsington's sermon).

What is the Gospel? This question has plaqued me for quite some time now, especially after reading Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy (which is a must read by the way). I was raised in a conservative, fundamental church and school where I was taught that the Gospel was the forgiveness of sins by Jesus's atoning act on the cross of taking my sins and washing me clean. That was the Gospel. But is that all?

The Good News or Gospel is God's redeeming and healing action in the world made available to all by way of the Kingdom of God. In Jesus, we are restored to our created image, our image to be like God. What I mean is that in Jesus we are made functionally whole so that by grace we are empowered to bring about redemption of all of creation. This is more than forgiveness of sins and more than Jesus dying on the cross, which are important but partial.

The Gospel is heaven on earth NOW. It is the with-God-life, NOW. Salvation here, but not fully realized. Heaven here, but not quite all the way. The Gospel means that those who are raped will be healed, those who are naked will be clothed, those who are hungry will be fed, and those who are voiceless will be spoken for. It means the earth will be healed, corrupt governments will fall, broken economic structures will be redeemed, and that God is bringing in his kingdom as we wait upon Jesus's arrival.

The implications go beyond simple Romans Road evangelism, or getting people "saved" so they can go to heaven. We, the church, as called out followers of God-in-the-Flesh, Jesus, must be like a leaf. Yes a leaf. We are to catch the wind of the Spirit and blow where God takes us. Our call is to God and to our neighbor. That means loving those who will never love you, serving those who will never go to your church, or accept Christ as their Savior. We are not to be conditional, rather we are to blow wherever God is working and join him.

So what is the Gospel?
“What is nearest to God is precisely the need of one’s neighbor.”

May 18, 2006

Books back on the Shelf

Ah, summer is upon us and that means I get to catch up on some reading.  I've read three books in this last week, hopefully this trend will last once Latin starts this semester.

Cahill's book was fantastic.  The historian takes his love for more than just history and brings the story alive.  He ties in many genres of academia, literature, latin, Roman study, church study, historical study making a well written book and a really good read.  I especially enjoyed the perspective he took in the book in telling St. Patrick's story (which typifies Incarnational mission).  Everyone should read this book.

The second book I finished this week was a classic for emerging church, postmodern culture, youth ministry reading.  He is very practical and well thought out.  It's such a challenge to read someone who writes so much about early theology, historical development, and philosophical ideas.  Any minister who reads this would be challenged to study more, and implement ancient-future faith practices.  This book is for more than just youth ministers, but anyone struggling to minister in this postmodern world.

Last, I just finished Campolo's book the other night.  He came to campus in the spring and preached a message that I especially needed. The problem with this book is that those who I believe need to read this book, won't.  He challenges views of both the liberal and the conservative in his views of hell, homosexuality, the American nation, and more.  For the most part Campolo was very affirming of my beliefs.  Hi prophetic and visionary style is needed if the church is to continue to make a difference in this world. 

May 17, 2006

Fact in Da Vinci Code

One of the main reasons the Christian community says that Dan Brown is so dangerous to Jesus and the church is because he believes that elements of his story are FACT. The problem is that most Christians didn't read the book, they just heard this from a pastor or radio talk fundi. The other problem is that those who do actually read the book take a bias that Dan Brown presents this stuff as FACT. The FACT is, this stance is false. Dan Brown, nowhere states that what he is presenting in his story is FACT.

Actually, here's some excerpts from an interview on his website;

The Da Vinci Code is a novel and therefore a work of fiction. While the book's characters and their actions are obviously not real, the artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals depicted in this novel all exist (for example, Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings, the Gnostic Gospels, Hieros Gamos, etc.). These real elements are interpreted and debated by fictional characters. While it is my belief that some of the theories discussed by these characters may have merit, each individual reader must explore these characters' viewpoints and come to his or her own interpretations. My hope in writing this novel was that the story would serve as a catalyst and a springboard for people to discuss the important topics of faith, religion, and history.

If you read the "FACT" page, you will see it clearly states that the documents, rituals, organization, artwork, and architecture in the novel all exist. The "FACT" page makes no statement whatsoever about any of the ancient theories discussed by fictional characters. Interpreting those ideas is left to the reader.

These are his words, not mine. He knows that it's fiction and even has good intentions for writing this book.

Here's what happened I think. On the first page he writes that the book contains FACTS in it, but he really leaves it a bit ambigious so that the reader will question what is FACT and fiction as he/she reads. It's simply a brilliant way to sell books if you ask me, not a plot to destroy Christianity or defame Jesus. A careful reader will interpret responsibly what he says and conclude that he is talking about what is real is FACT.

The first page reads,
All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.
This is his way of letting the reader know that when he/she comes across a reference to a church, an art musuem, or an artwork, that D. Brown has done his homework. So in reading the novel one has not only been entertained, but somewhat educated.

May 16, 2006

Love is not a commodity!

Love works like a magnet. Love is not a commidity. Love is not hip. These are some ideas from Donald Miller from an interview ovcr at Out Of Ur.

I like the idea of love like a magnet. Not just that it attracts, but that it attracts the opposite. If I remember correctly, when you try to places magnets together with the same poles, they immediately repel each other. Only do magnets come together when the opposite ends are placed together, one positive plus one negative equals love.

What I see here is a parable of magnets. We Christians focus so much on being cool, relevant, and hip to the our culture that we've become the same pole of the magnet that we are trying to reach. God calls us to be the opposite of the culture though. So there it is. Love is not a commodity, nor is it hip, love is radically different from anything that the our culture has experienced. Radical love plus the unloved, unlovable, our enemies equals magnetic attraction.

No longer are we bound to be hip or dress right. No longer do we need the right technology, or piercings, or tattooes. We need the kind of love that will lay down its life for another, even our enemies. The love of the cross only attracts when it is the polar opposite of that which it is trying to attract. That makes our enemies the perfect recipient for this magnetic love.

New Law

Derek Webb's new album, Mockingbird, is out. He's an amazing artist that we as Christians need to be listening to. You can watch his video for New Law over at work of the people.

May 14, 2006

Absolutely Disappointed!

I may be the only loser who cares about Survivor, but I admit I'm hooked this season. Tonight, Danielle made the worst decision of the game, she voted off Terri. I'm so frustrated, Terri totally deserves it more than either Danielle or Aras. Ugghhh! Utter disappointment.

Da Vinci Continuum

Is how the muslim community protested against the Danish cartoon comparable to how the christian community is acting toward the da vinci code?

I answer with a story that Peter Kreeft recently told at the CS Lewis Conference at St. Edwards in Austin. He once taught a class at Boston College. where he had one jew, one muslim, and the rest of the 30 or 40 students were christian. One day, during break, the muslim asked about the discolored paint on the wall in the shape of a cross. A student told him that there used to be a cross there, but they took it down.

In response the muslim asked when they took it down (Kreeft thought this was a peculair question instead of asking why). The Jew interceded and explained how the laws changed a few years before, so for the school to continue to receive money from the gov't, Boston had to take the cross of the wall. The muslim then made a witty remark, "i hope you got more than 30 shekels of silver this time." No one laughed, because no one got it. Kreeft had to explain to the class Judas and the silver.

Then the Muslim proceeded to tell them he couldn't believe that they would take it down. He said that as muslims they hold jesus highly in regard as a prophet that will bring in the apocalypse. He then explained that in his country, if the laws all of a sudden changed and men with guns came into the room to take down the image of Jesus from the wall, the students would have surrounded the image and protected it with their lives, even attacking the gunman.

The difference between the muslims and christians is night and day. The muslims (even though i totally disagree with their methods, but i admire their zeal and passion for the sacred) did what they did out of their zeal for the sacred. Christians on the other hand are fighting the Da Vinci Code because of power, not out of protecting Jesus or his identity (it seems we care less about Jesus' real image because we don't protest the Jesus of the Republican Party). Dan Brown's book is ultimately questioning the power of the church. THIS is the problem then: power. Christians want it, but have already lost it and don't even realize it.

Theodicy Weak

After watching Munich and The Killing Fields this week, I realized something. Often we hear Romans 8:28 used during times of tragedy to comfort the victims. This verse can harmfuly be interpreted so that God is the cause of the pain and tragedy. The better interpretation is that God is there in the midst of suffering, sharing in it, so that he may bring redemption or good out of it. He is not the cause, but the healer.

To say that God is not the cause is to imply that God is NOT in control (at least completely and always). I think this is a fair way of dealing with theodicy. The world is fallen, being redeemed, but not redeemed. One day full redemption of the creation will happen, but until then, I believe that God has relinguished control, Eph. 1:18-22.

God has limited himself in creation, and the way that he works in this world is totally unexpected from the God with the omni- attributes. God has chosen to fulfill his mission in the world by using the least: Israel, Judah, captives, the church, etc.

So after watching these movies that display such horror and sickness among man, I must not ask why God, but who God? Who am I to be, Who is your church to be, Who is my neighbor, Who needs redemption? Jesus did not give us the great commision for us to merely go save souls, but he gave us the commision so that we can go out onto the face of the earth and fight against the principalities and powers that cause such tragedies.

What do you think about the possibility of God limiting himself, or God not being in control?

May 12, 2006

Bookshelves Wanted

Now that the semester has drawn to a close, I have to take care of a few things around the house. One thing is that my wife hates clutter, but it doesn't bother me. So the problem occurs when you have more books than shelves. So, yesterday I boxed up some things from undergrad and some of my wife's books (hehehe), and made some room. Now, all my books are coming together in appeasement to my wife, good stuff.

Seriously, though, while sifting through all my books and papers and stuff, I was thinking about how consumerism plays a role even on my book shelves. Now not that I own a bunch of crappy books...only the best baby...but that I have so many. Around 10 or so unread that I really hope to read this summer. I can walk into any other kind of store except a book store and walk out with nothing, and not want anything. So, I find this is something I have to ask for Christ to help me detach myself more and more, so I don't become a book whore.

Da Vinci Converation 2

To further my thoughts from below, and after reading more deeply what BM says about the Code here's some more rant on the Da Vinci Controversy in the church.

I believe it is possible that God is using the Code to bring to surface deeper problems in the church, and here are two we need to face.

The church often swings the pendelum of Christ's deification, either making him overly deity or overly human. Right now, I would say, that Piper is pop theology. Anything that man says is eaten up by many evangelicals (Not that Piper does not have good points or is a good pastor). But when you have this kind of theology, ie. that God does everything to glorify himself, the humanity of Jesus is lost. It becomes all about God's glory, other worldliness, transcendence, and Jesus is the ultimate communication of this otherness(and not made human).

Brown's novel may be revealing a deeper problem in that we've lost touch with the human side of Jesus. Pop theology depicts him in another light, and simply we must regain again what it meant for Jesus to be really human, a hungry, sexual, deficating man.

Also, especially in America, there is this political figure floating around. Some call him Jesus, but all I know is that he stands for war, oppression, hatred, fear, and anti-homosexuality. Dan Brown has crafted a good story that takes this figure Jesus and makes him stand for whatever he wants. But of course the church would never do that, make Jesus whatever they want for whatever they want, never.

May the incarnate God live true in these times against all false pictures painted of him, whether by Dan Brown, politicians, or the church.

May 10, 2006

To Hell or Not to Hell?

The oh so contraversial Brian McLaren has contributed a three part series (so far) over hell to Leadership Blog.

Being a fan of McLaren and his contribution to theology, I like his thoughts. I think that Christianity needs to wrestle with hell. It it is healthy to question some of our Dante-esque views of hell.

In good McLaren fashion, Brian rejects the polars of universalism and exclusivism. More importantly, he wants to focus on how to bring in the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, and how to act in that kingdom (or this kingdom now and not yet). McLaren's perspective is very pastoral in concern, in that he is more worried about ethics and actions than exclusivist theology.

Many of the reformers of the 17th century did not rewrite and challenge the theology of their day for fun, much of their struggle to reform was out of pastoral concern. In the tradition of the reformation, I think that McLaren is writing out of a pastoral concern, not just to shake things up or to be contraversial.

So, I stand next to McLaren on this issue, that we need to move past talking about who goes to heaven and goes to hell, and start bringing in the kingdom. The more important question is, "How do we go about bringing in the kingdom of heaven?"

After all that, I must admit, though, that I do have a theory of heaven and hell that connects to the kingdom. It's not the traditional view. It's not fully worked out, heck, it may be someone else's theology. I'll post about it another time, for now, read what BM says.

Faith and Doubt

An individual over at Emergent Houston wrote a good reflection over faith and doubt, here's an excerpt,

"I think faith, by definition, can never be 100%. I can never have total faith in God and this story without some doubt. It requires belief and unbelief at the same time. I don't really like that. I want to know it and prove it and check it off my list."

I appreciate what he says, asking for faith to believe. Since reading Tillich, I've come to appreciate doubt in relation to my faith. Doubt merely expresses how important my faith is to me. It's not a failure or a weakness, but it is overcome by courage to act out in faith.

Great Sermon...Better Timing

Over at Neotheo(b)log, Daniel has posted a sermon he preached on the national day of prayer for the city in front of the mayor and all the big wigs. I love the sermon, and I don't think there would be better timing for it than right now. Daniel is my honorary hero of the week for this one.

In response to his sermon, I wonder how netheoblog would answer,
"Should Christians seek positions of power?"

"Do churches operate on the principle of results, rather than truth?"

I'm always torn when it comes to Christians in positions of power, because many times the structures they are in allow for little change even if one wanted to institute it. Also, I quess this hints on the bigger question of the Christian role in the world. Are we to adapt the anabaptist model of seperation or what?

Great sermon! Go check it out!

May 9, 2006

Jesus Against Contemplation?

"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
Why do some reject traditional ways of praying that include contemplation? Contemplation has been around for centuries and practiced among many catholics and protestants alike. Yet, many argue that contemplation is too eastern and unbiblical. The verse above comes from the sermon on the mt, Mt. 6:7-8. I've personally heard this verse used against contemplation and traditional prayer. The problem with this is the mis-interpration of the verse, the mis-interpretation of contemplation, and this is a full buy in to enlightenment thinking.

In the context of the verses above Jesus seems to be speaking about the motivation for praying, especially in repetition. It would be absurd to say that we are never allowed to repeat our prayers (even over and over again) in light of Luke 18:1-8. In context, Jesus wants the person praying to realize that the power of prayer rests not in the words (thus avoid using empty, vain repetitions), but in God. So, don't pray thinking that it is the words that will effect change, rather pray knowing that it is God that effects change..."your kingdom come, your will be done."

Contemplation is not about empyting one's head as many eastern religions teach, but the exact opposite. Contemplation and the prayer traditions that follow are about filling one's mind, thus contemplation is loving God with one's mind. Some that stand against contemplation are also standing against concentration. In out culture today, concentration is hardly valued if at all, so it's not suprising that a prayer form that needs concentration is so disliked. Maybe, it's laziness that motivates the despising of this prayer tradition.

Much of Evangelicism and Christendom today is expressed in enlightenment terms, thus whatever does not fit into this enlightenment/modernist model is not Evangelical or Christian. Contemplation is tied closely to mysticism in the church, therefore when the Reformation rolled around, we threw out the baby with the bath water...even if it was good. One such thing we lost was contemplation. Contemplation realizes that our words and thoughts do not always express what we need and who God is, therefore contemplation is a way of experiencing God deeper using the language we have. Those who are against prayer traditions like contemplation hold strongly to this dead view that God cannot be experienced, therefore any use of proof texting is useful.

Contemplation has been around too long to just write off with proof texting, and is too valueable to lose due to laziness.

Contemplative Tour for Yaconelli

Bob Carlton has put together a blog tour for Mark Yaconelli's new book, Contemplative Youth Ministry. From what I've seen so far, I can't wait to get my hands in the book. Yesterday, the tour kicked off at Jonny Baker, and today it's over at Gavin Richardson's blog. On May 26, my buddy Lucas will be hosting, so hopefully I can come up with some good questions before then.

Today, Gavin brought to light that there are some that are against contemplation and the prayer tradition that stands behind it. Here at Truett, we practice different kinds of prayer including contemplation, the Jesus prayer, the centering prayer, and lectio divina. In my next post, I'm want to try to engage with one of the arguments that I've heard against contemplation: using proof texting.

May 8, 2006

Almost Over...

Finals are coming to a close here at Truett. I've had a really hard time studying this semester for finals. I felt like this last semester, but I think this time it's 10x worse. Instead of just cramming all this info in, I feel like I should really know it, so simple memorization is out. Plus, I've lost all motivation for the semester, don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed it, but I'm done.

Last Thursday was a Scriptures 1 Final which was tough (Genesis through Kings), and a preaching final. Today I tooked Rady's TNT 2 final, which covered reformation theology. Now that I've run out of juice, tomorrow is Hebrew.

May 4, 2006

Mission or Mission Statement?

Link One of the developments in the church right now that I am particularly interested in, is the emergent movement. Although I'm not heavily involved, I am engaging and being encouraged by the conversation.

One vehicle for this movement is Emergent. With leaders like Tony Jones and Brian McLaren, Emergent catches alot of crap from critics. Conversation is such an important theme for Emergent that critics often become frustrated with a lack of a clear mission statement or statement of faith. In the face this call, LeRon Shults says that such a thing would be unnecessary, inappropriate, and disastrous for the Emergent. Here's some of his thoughts,

The very idea of a "statement of faith" is mired in modernist assumptions and driven by modernist anxieties
Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction from another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.

a "statement of faith" tends to stop conversation

This does not mean, as some critics will assume, that Emergent does not care about belief or that there is no role at all for propositions. Any good conversation includes propositions, but they should serve the process of inquiry rather than shut it down.

Check out the rest of what he says here.

Update: Over at Generous Orthodoxy Thinktank, this conversation continues with a contributor's response to Shult's arguments. His conclusion:

So the next time Emergent is asked to produce a "statement" of faith, why not just hand them a copy of the Nicene Creed?

May 3, 2006

Theology Geek Shirts

Lucas over at myfourwalls has put together some shirts for the theology inclined. So far my favorite is the one I thought up seen to the right here. Though, "Kate Turabian is my homegirl" hits home many a semesters here at seminary.

May 1, 2006

Called for Ministry?

When people speak of calling, what do they mean, especially in the context of ministry? This seems to be a topic often brought to the forefront here at seminary. Do you have a call? What are you called to do? When or how were you called? But I ask, where did this idea of calling originate, at least in the way we understand and use it today?

Calling is a popular term used often in relation to the Reformed Tradition or Calvinism. Isaac Backus was especially important to the development of the inner calling that one receives from God to preach the Gospel. Backus was fighting an oppresive system, none but the educated could preach...even if they were unregenerate and wicked men. Backus and the New Lights were driven by thier pietistic faith to defend the inner call for ministry.

Calling then and now seems to be a justification for authority. In any heirarchical style of leadership, one is called over the congregation to lead its affairs, thus authority must be established. Something I value, which I have had too little experience with, is flat leadership. In flat leadership, some are called as apostles, teachers, prophets, preachers, etc, but none are called over the congregation, rather all are called for the congregation. Everyone builds the body, not just one or two. Calling seems to be a modern linguistic trick to preserve power for the top of the ladder in the church whether that be a pope or a pastor.

Another thought, can anyone be called without a a church calling them? I can say that God has called me to preach, but until a congregation calls me then am I really called?