September 18, 2007

Fall '07 Semester in Swing

The fall semester is full throttle right now, so I thought I would take some time to share what I'm taking and reading.

Principles, Methods, and Strategies: I think that anyone desiring to be involved in local ministry here in the states should be in the mission concentration at Truett. It's only here that we read books that really get you to think, and our discussion usually take place outside of the box, teetering on revolution every day. I'm enjoying this class much more than I originally thought I would. Outside of some articles on missionary roles, we are reading:

John Nevius- The Planting and Developing of Missionary Churches
Jonathan Bonk- Missions and Money
Thomas Kuhn- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Roland Allen- The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church

Biblical Themes and Theology: in this class we are picking up a new hermeneutic for reading the Bible- primarily missional. I'm preparing a paper on "Reconciling Economics," a biblical look at reconciliation and economics.

Jonathan Wright- The Mission of God
David Smith- Mission After Christendom
Harry Boer- Pentecost and Missions

TnT 3 (Texts and Traditions): This class is one of the reasons I came to Truett. Although, I must admit that Truett teaches theology historically by reading the primary sources, I am disappointed that my teacher this semester is a systematic theologian. Therefore, we are reading the primary sources, but these sources are structured around the Apostles Creed.

Karl Barth- Dogmatics in Outline
Wolfhart Pannenberg- The Apostles' Creed in Light of Todays Questions
Joseph Ratzinger- Introduction to Christianity
Hans Kung- Credo
Roger Can Harn- Exploring & Proclaiming the Apostles' Creed
we are also reading some Moltmann, Schleiermacher, Achetemeier, and Zannoni

Scriptures 4- Somehow in one semester we are going to cover the New Testament from Romans to Revelation. This class is reading intensive to say the least. I am doing my research paper on Paul and his relationship to Israel in Rom. 9-11.

Raymond Brown- An Intro to the New Testament
Meeks and Fitzgerald- Norton's The Writings of St. Paul
David Horrell- An Intro to the Study of Paul
Jouette Bassler- Navigating Paul
Richard Bauckham- The Theology of the Book of Revelation

As you can tell, this semester is quite reading intensive. With that said, I do have a few other reads I am trying to get through for myself that may or may not happen.

Levitt & Dubner- Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Either Thomas Friedman' The World is Flat or The Lexus and The Olive Tree
Since are not reading much of Multmann, I plan on working through one of these on my book shelf: The Crucified God, Theology of Hope, or The Trinity and the Kingdom
And lastly, maybe to pick up for our Bible Study- Walsh & Keesmatt- Colossians Remixed

September 17, 2007

Worship as Solidarity

I've been mulling over worship the last few weeks, ever since Brian McLaren visited Truett to talk about the challenge of radio orthodoxy. In the hour discussion, Brian shared some lyrics from this song.

Then a week later I read in Jonathan Wright's The Mission of God that mission creates praise and vice versa. And tonight I read Sally Morgenthaler's article over at Allelon. She sums up her experience with worship evangelism, which she can be rightly called the initiator or innovator of this movement. In grief, she admits the church has become narcissistic and misuses worship as the chief means of getting people inside the walls of the church building. As she described the perception of a nonbeliever experiencing this worship evangelism, I was struck by this quote,

No sad songs. No angry songs. Songs about desperation, but none about despair. Worship for the perfect. The already arrived. The good-looking, inoffensive, and nice. No wonder the unchurched aren't interested.
The church has become insulated from reality by its own worship. In Romans 12, Paul urges Christians to worship. He does not say that we should gather on one single day and allow nonbelievers to gather to us. He does not say that we should spend all our time, effort, and money on a single event for adore and praise God. He does not say that we should seek relevant songs or tunes. No, instead Paul says that worship by being transformed, living our lives as a sacrifice. A sacrifice! Now, if you allow me to pull this out of the "spiritual" talk of daily quiet times or prayer times into reality; I think Paul is saying that we must go into the world, into our communities, into our neighborhoods and seek solidarity. For most of us, that means opening ourselves to the grief and suffering of those who don't have their lives together. That means giving up our self-referential, self-sustaining, narcissistic, consumeristic lifestyles in order that others may be experience wholeness.

Most nonbelievers will find Sunday morning worship at most churches irrelevant and probably annoying. Who can fit into this picture of continual happiness and praise? Is there any room for the suffering? Is there any room for the pain of the world? Is there any room for the grief and tears shed over those who don't yet know God?

So, what do we do with Sunday morning worship? Do away with it altogether? No, connect it with reality. We realize that worship is a time for Christians to be transformed for God's mission, not a time for happiness or comfort. This should be a time of discomfort sometimes, lamenting the pain in the world as well as the weakness of the church to meet it. Then, and only then will true praise for God flow, since it is here that we meet God. In our weakness, seeking to find him in his strenght among our neighbors, communities, and nonchurched.

August 28, 2007

Our Sad American Dream's

After reading this story on CNN, I was prompted to write this prayer.

Creator God, we live in a world that so desperately needs your handWe pray for those drowned by the floods of hurricane KatrinaThose whose voices have been drowned out by the spectators who smile
And mock the reality of death and desperation
Who in hopes of sustaining a self centered realityAllow their dreams and visions blind them to the dismal conditions.So God we pray that as you brought your righteous hand to those who cried out Under the drowning oppression of the EgyptiansTo raise up a Moses to deliver the despised and homelessWe pray that you would bring down your hand to those neglected by the massesIgnite burning bushes in the church So that we may preserve the lives of those you loveSo that we may not vacate where others vacation.We trust God that as you flooded the River full of RedThat it would be your cross that brings down The chariots of Complacency and ApathyDestroy the Spears of Indifference at the expense of the ‘forgotten’And drown the injustice of the self centered American dreamAMEN

July 24, 2007

What I've been up to...

Well, I've taken this second part of the summer to Sabbath a little and not do too much at all especially blog. I've definitely felt like there have been some things to flesh out and to say, but I've been partly lazy and partly just enjoying the freedom of being where I'm at right now. I'm not taking any classes for this second part of the the summer so I have more time to read what I want and to watch all kinds of movies.

What I'm reading:

I'm about half way into this very important work by Volf. This heavily theological and philosophical work explores human relationships and the need for more than the modern altar call for freedom, but for reconciliation both with God and one another. I highly recommend this book, and I still have a ways to go. Though I do warn, this is not for the faint of heart. Volf writes sometimes in a heavily convoluted and abstract manner. I'm not reading much else because of this one, it's taking its toll on me while transforming me.

I've also enjoyed Wright's "fresh perspective" on Paul. I'm prepping myself for this fall semester in which I'm taking a class covering the NT minus the Gospels and Acts. I've only read two other works by Wright, but I really like his interpretation. He takes a more 1st century take on what words like Messiah, Christ, Kingdom, Apocalypse, Covenant, and Creation mean. Instead of some escapist radical founder of some new religion, Paul must be understood within his Jewish context, as a Jew who followed Jesus Christ. Book read for the 3 chapters I've gotten into.

Shane Claiborne is the result of studying under Tony Campolo, and how when you really let the Gospel take root in you heart, it'll wreck your life. Shane tells many stories that reveal the beauty and brokenness of this world and the dire need for Christians to drop the wardrobe of conservative, republican, Americanized Christianity for something more radical. Radical in the sense that he desires a return to more biblical. Shane's one of the founders of the Simple Way in Philly, who are a group of people I deeply respect that are seeking solidarity with the poor, redeeming broken places, and sepaking against legalisms that destroy relationships. I read this book in a few days, easy, but well worth the effort. I recommend it to anyone seeking out a Christianity other than what we've been sold in Lifeway or TBN.

I've also been reading many commentaries and books on Matt. 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, which I've had the pleasure of working through in Sunday School with the college students. I'm hoping God wrecks their life with this challenging piece. For the most part I'm using Living the Sermon on the Mount by Stassen, Reading the Talbert, Seeking the Kingdom by Dockery and my dean Dr. David Garland, Divine Conspiracy by Willard, Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer, Sermon on... by Guellich, Sermon Clarence Jordan from the Koinonia farm, and NT Wright's commentary on Matthew.

Since, my wife is a school teacher she has the summer off, so we've watch too many movies takes to Here's a few that I would recommend and are very good movies.

Sophie Scholl was a movie played at Truett movie night that I missed, but thought I would go ahead and rent it. The movie was really good. I went back and rewatched some of the more intense dialogue between Sophie and her interrogators...brilliant writing. This movie gave me a new sense of perspective for those in Germany who were 1) brainwashed by the lies and story of Nazi Germany and 2) those who were opposed to it. This movie may be one of my favorites, I really like that nonviolent resistance was the stance of the heroine and heroes of the movie.

Catch a fire is set during the Apartheid, which sadly I'm way too ignorant on especially since it happened in my lifetime. This is a story of one man transformation from peaceful, to violent, back to peaceful. Focus films has created another social piece that speaks into the injustice of our world that still exists. Watch this one.

We actually went last night and watched the new Harry Potter movie. I'm not into the books, mostly because I'm reading other things, and have other fiction on my list right now that I'm trying to read. After that, the Potter series will still have to wait, but the movies will do. I think has been the best of the Potter movies and probably the darkest. I'm not that big of a fan of the whole series, but I enjoyed this movie well enough, so I would recommend it.

From what I can remember these have been the better of the movies I've seen this summer. With our free time, we've watched too many such as the Aliens Quadrilogy, Fast Food Nation, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Shut Up and Sing, Road to Guantanamo, Smoke Signals (really good), Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (also really good), Jesus Camp, The Mission (another good one), Freedom Writers, The Last King of Scotland, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. I do recommend any and all of these listed though, very good celluloid if you ask me.

June 8, 2007

Faith, Values, and Poverty: Politik

Something I've never been very good at is politics, keeping up with, understanding it all, remembering names and incidents, so this presidential election I have decided to follow the race more closely and vote (maybe) with an informed decision.

With that said, let's get to the good stuff. Recently the top three democratic presidential candidates gathered in connection to Sojourners for a forum on Faith, Values, and Poverty.
As I read the unofficial transcript I liked some things and did not like others. I thought I would share how I feel about the whole thing with a quote I came across from Bono, and ask what you think about the forum.

"They have taken language hostage. We wanted numbers but this is bureaubabble. ... It is not real in any language. We are looking for accountable language and numbers. I might be a rock star but I can count." - Bono

May 7, 2007

The Bitterfly Effect... intentional play on words.

Christainity creates paradox: the Father, Son, and Spirit are one in the same but each individually unique; life is received ONLY in death; to receive on must give; to be made new on must be transformed, to be strong one must be nonviolent.

The paradox supplanted in my life lately is the anticipation of transformation. This summer, I am entering into a time of my life I am so very excited about, the very thought of this summer makes me a little nervous because I get so excited. Exciting/transforming for me= the college ministry at FBCgT, missional formation with my classmates, monastery prayer, and missional life together.

Why then are these opportunities a paradox? A butterfly becomes beautifully transformed by a grotesque, scary, and hard process. To be transformed is bittersweet. Absolutely sweet, but bitter nevertheless.

So, I face this summer and the rest of my life with the intentionality of continually being converted and transformed, knowing that this process will not be glamorous, easy, or fun. There will be good times, probably mostly good times. But good times are not the times that make things new. Thus, I anticipate and look forward to the transforming times when I will be revealed as a sinner in need of a mediator, priest, and King.

Bitterfly= the transformational process catalyzed by the grotesque, and it is to this that I wait.

April 28, 2007

Sacramental Mustang, Summer '07

So, here in a month or so we are going to move about 10 minutes down the road into a rent house in Morgan's Point Resort (fancy huh?). My semester will soon wrapping up and I'll have more time to focus on my ministry at the church and on the Mustang. I really want to get the Mustang at least mobile to help in moving it.

Update on Sacramental:

I've completely replaced the wiring harness, which is a long story, but right now the body/fuel pump harness and engine harness are from a 1993 'stang, while the dash harness is from a 1992. I've recently situated everything and tried to start it up but the fuel pump didn't come on. So, first I'm going to test the circuits and see if I can figure out the problem before having to put the 1993 dash harness. I may just need to go ahead and put the '93 harness in to make everything match up.

Once I can get the fuel pump wot work, I think I know the reason it has been running so badly. The main thing I was unsure of in setting up the engine was the valve train. I think my pushrods are not the correct length or the roller rockers are not adjusted right and the valves are being held up too long so that I'm not getting any power. I bought a pushrod length tester and will be fixing that if the problem is still occurring after I get the harnesses all lined up. Hopefully I can get Sacramental up and running to help move it and to just be done with it.

April 3, 2007

In God We Trust

How do people react when they think that God is on their side and when they believe that God condones violence?

A recent study held at both a religious and secular institution found some unsettling results. Both believers and nonbelievers are more likely to act violently when they believe that God is on their side and that God condones violence. Bushman, the main researcher says,
"Even among nonbelievers, if God says it's OK to retaliate, they are more aggressive. And that's the worry here. When God sanctions aggression, when God says it's OK to retaliate, people use that as justification for their own violent and aggressive behavior.
What I find most interesting about this study, is that unlike Sam Harris, Bushman has a personal, as well as professional interest in the research because he believes in God and reads the Bible almost daily. So, its important to reflect on Bushman's final words from the article:
"What worries me is when people use God as a justification for their violence. There are scriptures that say you should not take God's name in vain. This is the most extreme version of taking God's name in vain,"
I don't think most American Christian believe this, we don't get what it means to use God's name in vain. As a matter of fact, the conclusion of the article tells the situation and belief of most Christians I know.

Yet his own research shows that whether people consider
themselves believers or not, they are more likely to be aggressive,
perhaps even willing to start a war, if they think God is on their side.

March 31, 2007

Wonder-ful Trees

I love it when I stumble across something
that makes my imagination run wild.
Here's a link to the top 10 trees in the world,
which created a nice little escape into the crevices off my imagination to find myself and
my Creator.

Check it out! The oldest known tree is named
Methuselah and is dated to be around 4,838 years old. Now that's staying power.

God's creation is so much greater than anything we can contrive. Some of these trees are things of science fiction or J.R.R. Tolkien.

I would love too see these magnificent trees in real life. Especially those that have let man know what's up, like the one to the right.

Supposedly in this tree, you can see shapes that resemble elephants and jaguars, thus making it the "Tree of Life." Very cool.

March 29, 2007

Bursting Forth of Deconstructionism

I'll begin by admitting my own ignorance of deconstructionism. I haven't read anyone outside of Caputo, and only snippets and secondary sources on many of the philosophers of deconstructionism. This post is meant to be a follow-up on Tony Jones post over at churchandpomo that I posted below.

Although the comment below is powerful, I missed the forest for the trees. One problem I have with "my" understanding of deconstructionism is that it leaves us stripped and bare with no bearing, but Jones argues something different. He calls it a hermeneutic of bursting through our own understandings. The final goal of this bursting is justice.

The images that I have with this bursting forth is one that allows us to hold onto who we are and what we've learned while moving beyond those experiences. If deconstructionism truly does this, and Jones is not just biased toward this system, then I'm very sympathetic. Otherwise, until I get some Derrida, Kearney, and Caputo under my belt I'm unsure.

March 26, 2007

Spring Break '07 Baby!

This year we went with some close friends to Arkansas and stayed in Ouchita National Park in a cabin off the Creek. You can click on my flickr badge on the sidebar of this blog to see the pic's.

The trip was wonderful and a needed break. Enjoy the pic's!

Is Desconstructionism Safe?

No, and it shouldn't be. Maybe its our drive for control and comfort, but I've heard weariness over the abundant use of deconstruction philosophy and hermeneutic among emerging churches. I recently read Caputo's Philosophy and Theology, which helped me to understand Caputo better. This was important for me because of some issues raised over the use of deconstructionism and Caputo being the key speaker in the Emergent '07 Theological Conversation. It was an excellent read and I trust his assumptions.

Anyways, here's a piece from Tony Jones on the use of deconstructionism and how it highlights our faith in the Bible...

This connection between deconstruction and the Bible is especially meaningful, methinks. I am quite convinced that the Bible is a subversive text, that it constantly undermines our assumptions, transgresses our boundaries, and subverts our comforts. This may sound like academic mumbo-jumbo, but I really mean it. I think the Bible is a f***ing scary book (pardon my French, but that's the only way I know how to convey how strongly I feel about this). And I think that deconstruction is the only hermeneutical avenue that comes close to expressing the transgressive nature of our sacred text.

February 26, 2007

NextReformation's Jesus Creed

We have confidence in Jesus
Who healed the sick, the blind, and the paralyzed.
And even raised the dead.
He cast out evil powers and
Confronted corrupt leaders.
He cleansed the temple.
He favored the poor.
He turned water into wine,
Walked on water, calmed storms.
He died for the sins of the world,
Rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father,
Sent the Holy Spirit.
We have confidence in Jesus
Who taught in word and example,
Sign and wonder.
He preached parables of the kingdom of God
On hillsides, from boats, in the temple, in homes,
At banquets and parties, along the road, on beaches, in towns,
By day and by night.
He taught the way of love for God and neighbor,
For stranger and enemy, for outcast and alien.

via NextReformation.
Just thougt I'd share it, I like it.

February 3, 2007

Blasphemy Challenge

In Mark, 3:29, scriptures says this,

But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, he is guilty of an eternal sin.
I'm not sure how you interpret this passage, but it seems dangerous in ways. Well, not if you're an atheist. A group of atheists calling themselves the the rational response squad have begun a "one way street" dialog on the verse at blasphemy challenge. They have called out all atheists, targeted mostly at younger teenagers, to denounce God publicly on the video sharing community, youtube. According to their site, the only requirement is to say "I deny the Holy Spirit," and then to commence denouncing God in any way you would like.

There has been a Christian response with a group on facebook, and also a site called challenge blasphemy, calling Christians to post videos on youtube. The only requirement for this site is to say that the scripture provides proof that the blasphemy challenge is committing the "unforgivable sin." Here's something else that was in the news.

I think both responses are misguided. Atheists are one of the most misunderstood groups in America. They are cast in the light as scumbags, and the worse people on earth. In ways, I can sympathize with some atheists in agreeing with the atrocities that uncontrolled religion can create. But, this call will never create any useful dialog. If anything, this will only make things worse.

Also, as far as the Christian response, I think we need to focus more on dialog. With atheists, we cannot try for conversion, but simply to open pathways to understanding and cooperation among the two groups.

January 29, 2007

He's Back, maybe...

Well, as you have noticed, I've really been off and on here lately with the blog. Like I said below, the semester has started up and I think this will be busiest yet. Anyways, with my classes in cross cultural living, church planting, the prophets, and Christian ministry I've had many things to ponder and think about, but just no time to get them out there.

Something short that I've been thinking about. How "relevant" or "applicable" is the Bible to other cultures. I was reading a blog today, and the author wrote that he does not liek the terms relevant and churches wanting to be relevant, because he thinks that the Bible is relevant to every culture and everyone. Well, let's say we took a Bible and dropped it into some Masai people of Africa. Let's say that they've never heard at all the Gospel in any form and the Bible is in their language, translated word for word. The Masai, being curious, pick up the book and begin to read form the beginning. Of course, the "relevant" Scripture would only serve as a stumbling block as they read of a a farmer killing a cattle man. (the first murder in Genesis). The Masai, who view farmers as weak and enfeebled to the land, would see this as an attach on their way of life, thus the scripture, would be rendered useless, because it does not speak into the context. I do believe the message is relevant, but we have to be careful to just assume that Scripture is applicable in its present form. We also can't assume that our interpretation of the Bible is "the message."

Culture World Map

I think this is handy and pretty cool.

This resource is found here.

Philosophical Podcast

For those wanting to learn some more philosophy or are just interested in ethics, epistemology, logic, and more savory philosophical musings, check this out.

January 16, 2007

Semester Is In

Well, hello everyone, or two that read my blog. I' ve taken a vacation from blogging and pretty much reading all forms of blogs, but I'm back in the game now. I thought I've let you know what's going on here lately. I've started back this semester and I'm taking 12 hours this semester. On Mondays I'm taking Christian Ministry and Church Planting. For the Christian Ministry I have to take another, more hands on clinical class where we meet on Thursdays at the hospital. I'll find out next week which unit I'll be visiting. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my main courses are Scriptures 2 (Prophets, Wisdom Lit., Psalms, etc) and Cross Cultural Living and Ministry. Also, this semester I've decided to change my concentration to Missions. Alright, that's what I'll be focusing on this semester, plus this coming Spring mini-term I'll be taking Wilderness Spirituality where we go out into Arizona (I think) and visit a Monastic Community.

What I'm reading this semester:

For my sanity and escape:
The Hobbit and the LOTR Trilogy

For Christian Ministry:
Intro to Pastoral Care by Gerkin
Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge by Maxwell

Church Planting:
Planting Churches Cross Culturally by Hesselgrave
Planting and Growing Urban Churches by Conn

Scriptures 2:
Theological Intro to the Old Testament by Birch and Brueggemann
Exploring the Old Testament, ed. Lucas
Theology of the Prophetic Books by Gowan
Spirituality of the Psalms by Brueggemann

Cross Cultural Living and Ministry:
The Church and Culture by Luzbetak
Participant Observation by Spradley
Appropriate Christianity by Kraft