Tuesday, October 23, 2007

If you want a good laugh

Go here. But beware, this person doesn't know how to use the SHIFT key!!!!!!!


Telling Stories

The disciples came up and asked, "Why do you tell stories?"

"Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they're blue in the face and not get it.

I don't want Isaiah's forecast repeated all over again: Your ears are open but you don't hear a thing. Your eyes are awake but you don't see a thing."----Jesus

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Exploring Church History

For a while I have been on a journey to understand the relationship of church history to today's church. If indeed history can help us from repeating past mistakes, then I want to learn from the past.

So far, I've only been able to wade through about the first 200 years or so. This period interests me the most since it is pre-Nicean (meaning before the Council of Nicea 325 A.D.).

Most of this comes from NT Wright in his book The New Testament and the People of God, that I just finished reading in my spare time. I did consult Forumromanum for some date clarification. These are just notes, so forgive the mess. I'll comment where I feel the need or want. =) As you will notice, this is not a complete nor even a good time line. There are plenty of great and integral time lines on the web (Church History Time line, Year by Year Blog [to 7o A.D.] are two good places to get your feet wet, if you are interested in decent time lines).

Age of Apostles (30-100 A.D.)
The death and Resurrection of Jesus. The lives of the Apostles to the death of John the Revelator.

  • Tiberius (14-37 A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • Pontius Pilate 3rd Judean prefect 26-32 A.D. (These dates have not been confirmed. Wasn't Jesus crucified in 33 A.D.?)
    • All through the time of Christ and shortly thereafter was an expectation that God would save Israel from Roman oppression possible through revolt or political actions.
  • Caligula (37-41A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • Philo at Rome
  • Claudius (41-54 A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • Banishes Jews from Rome 52 A.D.
  • Nero (54-68 A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • Paul's first captivity in Rome 61 to 63 A.D.
    • Epistles Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, and Philippians (I call them CEPP to help me remember the "prison epistles) 61 to 63 A.D. These books were probably written under house arrest (Acts 28:30-31) of Paul in Rome and not during his imprisonment (around 64-67 A.D.) by Nero. Formally, I had attributed those works to being written in the carcere mamertino (Maritime Prison). But hey, it was my first trip to Rome. I was ignorant (still am) about a lot of stuff. When I get a chance I hope to put together "Paul's Rome," or what Paul could have seen in Rome.
    • Great fire of Rome 62 A.D.
    • Nero persecution 64 A.D.
  • Vespasian (69-79 A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • General Titus destroys Temple in Jerusalem 70 A.D. (possible fulfillment of prophecy of Jesus)
    • Construction of Coliseum began 70's A.D. Someone mentioned to me that the Coliseum was able to be built because of the Jerusalem Temple loot that Titus brought back. The inference is that there were hidden riches in the Temple from the reign of Solomon; thus, a pagan sports arena was financed by the former Christian God's Temple. In short, paganism had triumphed over monotheism and the proof was in the "bigger" monument built. While it is possible that Herod's Temple could have contained some valuable things, it is not likely that it contained any of Solomon's treasures. Those were forever lost (or hidden) with the Babylonian invasion. If the Coliseum was financed by the Titus Jerusalem loot it was probably inconsequential. The construction of the Coliseum had already begun before the fall of Jerusalem. I imagine that the Coliseum was built by the taxes of the Empire more than the values hidden in Herod's Temple.
    • Masada 74 A.D.
  • Titus (79-81 A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • Coliseum completed
  • Domitian (81-96 A.D.)
    • Questioned supposed blood relatives of Jesus about the Messiah and his kingdom
    • Felt threatened until the Emperor was told that Jesus' kingdom was heavenly not earthly. By consequence, he stopped persecution.
"We know far less about the history of the church from AD 30-135... [than some have proposed]. There are just not enough sources." --Wright p341. Wright does declare that there are some events we do know with a pretty good bit of accuracy. This gives us at least a picture of the Christian world at this time. He proposes

  • 70 Fall of Jerusalem
  • 90 Domitian investigation of Jesus' relatives
  • 110-14 Pliny's persecution in Bithynia
    • Some brought to him accused of being a Christian.
    • Asked Trajan what to do with the areas "infected through contact with this wretched cult."
    • = widespread in Asia beyond the evangelized area of Paul
  • 110-17 Ignatius' (of Antioch) letters and martyrdom
    • killed under the reign of Trajan
    • letters written while traveling to Rome to face martyrdom
    • bishop of important Roman Syrian town
    • preached unity of each local church around their bishop (could mean there had been a schism of the mixing of Christianity and Judaism or the preaching of docetism, which states that Christ did not actually die, it just appeared that way)
    • Christianity born of Judaism but not Judaism
  • 155-6 Martyrdom of Polycarp
    • Born into a Christian family
    • possibly baptised as an infant
    • "86 years of allegiance to Christ"
    • said to have personally know John the Apostle
    • = small Christian community in Smyrna that recognized Jesus as king and denied pagan gods within 40 years of the crucifixion
    • = a Gentile mission of church- an allegiance to a Jewish-style Messiah before the fall of Jerusalem

Some quotes from Wright that I particularly like:

"Why Christianity spread rapidily is because Christians believed that what they had found to be true was true for the whole world." p360

"If we know anything about early Christian praxis it is the engagement of mission...World mission is thus the 1st an dmost obvious feature of early Christian praxis." p360-1

"Baptism and Eucharist were well established in the mid 2nd century." p361

Since Paul had already made theological conclusions about baptism (Rom 6) and the Eucharist (1 Cor 10), there was no need for the gospel writers to investigate these practices in their writings. p362

"[Paul] told the story of Jesus as a Jewish story, indeed as the Jewish story, much as Josephus told the story of the fall of Jerusalem as the climax of Israel's long and tragic history. But he told it in such a way as to say to his non-Jewish Greco-Roman audience: here in the life of this one man is the Jewish message of salvation that you pagans need."p381

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Everyone is a Philosopher

Many people think that when someone gets a degree in philosophy that they are (have) wasting (wasted) their time. It is thought to be a waste of time because all of us are philosophers, or at least most of us think we are. Otherwise, why would we give our opinions as if they are the Gospel? Why go waste time studying something that comes naturally to us all? That is like saying, "I am getting a degree in how to walk upright."

Well, today it is my turn to be philosopher. I do not normally engage much in the Creation vs Evolution debate. I usually just let it be that God created creation however he wanted. If he chose to use evolution, fine, if he didn't fine. The Bible is not a science book and the science books are not concerning themselves with spiritual matters. So, this post is not about trying to figure who wins the day in this argument. It's just about a natural born philosopher who knows absolutely nothing about what he's talking about, but who will talk about it as if he were a complete expert. Enjoy!

"Evolution can only exist in a modern worldview in which one searches for universal explanation of how things are." (pecheur's quote)

In a premodern world, the cosmos is explained according to various myths, some having only local influence, others enjoying more influence, but none being universal. Remember I also think evolution is a modern myth (myth being an explanation of how things are and how the gods (God) or lack thereof have or are interacting with the world.)

In a modern world, the cosmos is explained according to universal principles (whether in science or religion). In a post-modern world, the cosmos could be explained however one wants. I admit this is super over simplified.

Evolution suggest that forms come about because of adaptations and mutations. The survival of the fitest. In other words, the most fit form survives over the weakest form. So, if a certain bird species, for example, undergoes an evolutionary change, the change must take place within the entire bird population. If it occurs within the "entire" population, that suggest a search for an "universal" priniciple that governs a need for the form change. One bird can not evolve. Evolution is concerned with most of the members of the whole community changing.

So, because of the need to find an universal principle of why things are the way they are, evolution can fit well within it, but in a pre- and post-modern worldview, it has more difficulties.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Writer's block or something else

I have been absent from the blogging world for almost two weeks. The first week I was roaming around the capital of Italy (pun intended) and this week, I simply have not felt like writing nor doing anything else for that matter.

Tons of thoughts, some personal, some theological, some silly. But for some reason I've just not felt like sharing any of them. Lady R gets to hear them as we bounce things off each other, but I have not wanted to login and write. I think it is either called laziness or being undisciplined or both with a little bit of apathy thrown in for good measure.

I wouldn't call what's going discouragement. I can't quite put my finger on the source of the unsettledness. I think it is similar to what artists may call being "uninspired." But that can't be exactly it either since I've just returned from my trip. Maybe it is France, but I doubt that too. I do know "work" is going very slowly. Day in and day out, there are those feelings of unfulfillment. I ask myself sometimes, "Am I making any progress in what I am suppose to be doing, is learning two languages somehow a spiritual discipline like prayer?"

A verse that keeps coming to me is James 4:8 : Draw near to God and He will draw near to you Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. So, I think I will try to do just that. Draw near to God and clean up my act.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Spirituality outside the Church

"This ["positive"secularism] means nothing of the sort that the Churches have to dominate society, to impose on it their rules, to attach to it a moral code and even a calender. First, because the religious fact can be independent of Churches. One can "believe" without belonging to any "organization." p16. (emphasis his)

So, if I have translated this correctly and if I understand Mr. Sarkozy's words, he is saying there exists a "spirituality" (emphasis mine) outside the institution of the Church.

While this concept is not new, we've seen it in America during the 19th century Romantic literary movement, I am surprised to hear it every time it is said. And I partly believe it. Sarkozy used the plural, Churches, when he spoke about spirituality. This is to say there is spirituality not only outside the Roman Church, but also outside any institutional church, which would have to included every flavor of Protestantism in France.

So what does this mean in regards to our own spiritual life outside the Church (to whichever one we may prescribe ourselves)? I think it means that no institution has the right to impose itself on society as a whole. And I would agree to a point. Having the Church as a political force is a super bad idea. But I also want the Church(es) to be able to practice its religion as it sees fit. However, if anyone wishes to practice religion differently, they should be given the freedom.

Besides, I think many would agree that we have our own spiritual life outside the congregation that we visit on Sundays. But what happens on Sunday is that we come together with similarly liked minded folks. Granted, some people get "spiritual" on Sunday, then forget about it for the rest of the week. But there are others who are truly trying to live their faith daily.

On the other hand, I ask, "Is there a such thing as 'church' authority? If so, how much influence does it or should it have over the people?" Most of us would agree, it shouldn't run the State. But outside the political realm, how much do I conform to it, as imperfect as it is? I am not a Transcendentalists, in the strict sense, but I also believe I can connect with God and other believers outside Sunday worship.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Keeping the conversation going...

...or at least trying to.

Two previous posts, Universalism and Apostates, have brought up a couple of things I want to address. I am sad that Mr. Thompson of Bride has decided not to discuss his recent theological shift. But who needs him! We have some pretty sharp people stopping by and commenting. I am honored and glad that you all have taken the time to talk about what's on my mind.

Dr. Lobojo has raised some questions about the authorship of the book of Hebrews. I think he and I would agree that it probably does not matter nor can we really know for sure who the author is. So, then why write about it? I would say maybe there is a bigger picture.

That would be of canonicity. But more on that in a little bit. As stated, I don't know that it matters, but here are my thoughts on authorship of Hebrews. It was probably not Paul. Dr. Lobojo suggests it was a Roman Greek; i.e. it was written in Greek by a Roman (see Heb 13:24-Those from Italy send you greetings.) At first I disagreed. But he does have a point. It was written in Greek and seemingly from Italy. And among all the possible candidates a "Roman Greek" could be possible. Here is the list of potentials

  • Barnabas
  • Apollos
  • Silas
  • Priscilla and/or Aquila
  • Clement of Rome
  • Peter
  • Luke
  • and others that I have not come across
So, if you look at the list most of them could be situated in Rome and writing the book of Hebrews in Greek. (I have personal doubts about Peter, his Greek is atrocious and the Greek of the author of Hebrews seems to be "polished.") At first, I understood "Roman Greek" to be a Greek national who had been Romanized culturally. And maybe these were, but in my mind I was thinking someone who had no connection to Judaism, and the author of Hebrews is intimately familiar with Judaism of the day and is addressing a "Messianic" people. Therefore, the author and audience couldn't have been completely Gentile (a Roman Greek) without any connection to Judaism.

Now that that is out of the way. Dr. Lobojo and ER both are supicious of the canon. ER is more concerned over conveying the Word of God instead of being the Word of God. Dr. Lobojo questions the canon's legitamacy. So, before we stone them for being heretics (smile), let's hear them out.

First, who got to decide what it was that God wanted to communicate? And who got to decide which books and writings were communicating God's words? There are tons of books out there that were written along beside the ones we have in our Bibles; and if you're Catholic there's even more.

Second, can we trust the Church Councils on their decisions in relationship to the canon? And what do we do if we mistrust their decisions? For instance, the question of authorship of the book of Hebrews caused it to be delayed as canon until the 4th century. Even Martin Luther questioned whether it should have been in the canon, but later agreed it should have. (The point is, he questioned the canon, and he was a Reformer.)

Thirdly, many of you may have already figured this out, help the rest of us.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Talking about the OT...

...always brings its share of comments.

So, today was another house church day, where I got to be priest and parishioner at the same time. Lady R also got to be priest for awhile as we finished up Judges.

Granted, this book is very enigmatic. It tells of a time when the people of Israel were so far away from their Hebrew traditions. They had forgotten their God completely. Granted also, it is the Old Testament, but being a child of the Enlightenment as well as a child of the Light through the Spirit, I believe I can understand something of what it says. Granted still, women did not have the same rights as they do in the Western world. Despite all this, surely the Old Testament, and specifically here the book of Judges, has something to say to the community of faith.

Now, that I have all the preface words written, I can get to the heart of what I want to say (important or not). haha

Sometimes there are failures, even when God has put his hand of favor on the project. But eventually a victory will occur. (see Judges 20 -For the entire context you may need to go back to ch 18).

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The fate of those apostates

Sometimes it seems in our day that good ole timey biblical exposition has become a thing of the past. So, for those who enjoy good biblical exposition within the community of faith, I propose a question (or two to you).

What is the meaning of Hebrews 5:11-6:8?

Sub questions:
Can or can't you lose your salvation?
If so, how can you get it back?
If not, what about apostasy? What is this verse saying about the "hypothetical" apostate condition?

If man has a free-will to chose God, will God override his free-will if that person decides to apostatize?
Is there any hope for those who have left the faith?

What would you say it takes to really become an apostate?
Is apostasy the same as the unpardonable sin (blaspheming the Holy Spirit-unbelief)?

Do you know of any apostates?

Can't wait to hear your answers (and I am being serious).

Monday, June 11, 2007

Universalists come forward

I know (or at least I think I do) the spiritual background of a few (surely not all) of the readers to this site. There are Assemblies, Baptists, Anglicans, a couple of agnostics/atheists, a few Reformers, those searching, among others as well as one maybe two Universalist-Unitarians.

Recently, I discovered another person who has become a Universalist (and I am assuming an Unitarian also). I have invited Christian hard-rock/metal lead vocalist Dale Thompson of Bride to talk about (and clarify if he wishes) his universalism. Of course, I hope you all join in also. I will ask that we all play fair whether we agree or disagree.

Dale is my guest here, and I know he will be respected by everyone.

Dale has asked the question, "Did Jesus die to appease an angry God?" His answer is no. So, I'll ask you, "Did Jesus die to appease an angry God?" So we are not caught up in semantics, can I rephrase it, "Did Jesus death appease the wrath of God?" if that is not, in essence, what Dale was asking, he can correct me.

Secondly, Dale has offered some "different" (but certainly not outside of a normal understanding of universalism) interpretations on hell. Basically, "hell" is for "Complete restoration and reconciliation."

Thirdly, are there any Scriptures to suggest the doctrine of universalism is correct. Here are the major ones:

I have examined this doctrine before, in my former seminary life. I read a little John Murray, but was not convinced at all. It sounds very nice, that every person who has ever been conceived will make it into heaven. Therefore, it doesn't really matter which little god you follow, they will all lead you to "God" in the end.

As it has been stated before me by those much wiser than I, in my heart of hearts I want universalism to be true, but there just isn't any Scriptural basis for it. Now, I am not saying that to pick a theological fight with anyone. If I wanted to pick a fight, I wouldn't pick on the loving universalists (Unitarians). Most of the ones I know would make perfect neighbors. If I wanted a fight, I'd pick on my Reformed brothers. They love the fight and are always up for it and will fight and fight and fight. And who can blame them, they are the elected ones. So, even though the Reformers and the Universalists are polar opposites (in more than one way), they share a huge commonality, that forces me to not believe either one of them's system (yeah I know it ain't good English). They both believe that God will and desires to over ride the free-will he has given his Creation. And based on that, I can't be a Calvinist nor an Universalist (and especially not a Unitarian-but that's for another time).

For some reason I keep hearing..."And she's climbing the stairway....to...heaven...." Smile, God still loves both of us.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Feeding the Birds

The other day we found some bird balls that you attatch in your trees to feed the birds. The birds here are somewhat different than back home. There are blue ones, yellow ones, black ones, big ones and small ones. So, it has been fun looking out the window and seeing the birdies stopping by for a snack along the way.

It got me thinking. Feeding the birds is like evangelism and perhaps in the bigger picture like spirituality. Somehow the birds of the earth are taken care of, even though they don't build houses, nor work in the fields. Ultimately, God feeds them, but God himself does not feed them directly. It's not like there is a big table somewhere in the sky that the birds come to in which God has personally cooked up their favorite meal. But he has put into play on this planet plants and insects and rats (I love the sparrowhawks that swoop down to get the field mice here). The birds know where they can find food. They are feed.

I always feel I am doing a little part of my terrestrial duty and possibly cosmic duty when I give the birds seed or bread crumbs. I feel God is allowing me to be an instrument in getting the birds in my area something to eat. Regardless if I set out little bird balls or not, the birds will be feed. But if I decide to participate in the bird feeding program of God, He uses me to help them. I also get the pleasure of watching them as they consume the goodies.

Same thing with my life. God's will for planet Earth will be accomplished with or without me. And if Tom Wolfe is right (and I think he is) that God is having a converastion with every single person, then I can be an instrument for that conversation with those around me. Let me be clear. God will have his conversation with everyone, with or without me, but why not be like a bird feeder!

Mat 6:26 Look at the birds of the sky: they do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you more valuable than they are?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bible Lesson Today

Today we read about Jephthah. (see Judges 10-11)

It is said, "he was a valiant warrior, but the son of a harlot." And his being a son of a harlot seemed to overshadow his military abilities. That passage struck me because in the preceding chapter, it seems that God's plan was to use someone to deliver Israel once again from their idolatry (and the way it is told in chapter 11, it appears that God planned on using Jephthah). I love the wording of God's grace there, "and He could bear the misery of Israel no longer."

But this stigma of being a harlot's son drove Jephthah to run with the wrong crowd (worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah). However, someone recognized his military strength and asked him to be the leader and save them from the enemies.

I love how Jephthah made fun of his ennemies' gods. He really was brave.

From a piestic reading of the text, God sees us one way and has a course, but the opinions of others can put us on a path other than what God intended. Are we encouraging people's move towards God or are we encouraging people's move away from God? May we recognize the valiant among us. May we be valiant no matter how people perceive us!

Now with the rest of the story of Jephthah, someone else is going to have to help me. Why did he make such a vow? It did not seem like it was required. And what about how the vow was worded, "whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me" Bizarre. Very Bizarre.

Feel like I am caught up in a story

I have been looking at orality vs literacy issues. Right now, I am exploring the elements of a story.

NT Wright, although writing about how the NT relates to "the people of God," offers some insights into worldviews and stories. What he said about the elements of the story is what has caught my attention. And I feel I am in the middle of a story.

In a story there is a sender sending an object to a receiver. This is the mission. The object is entrusted to an agent who can not complete the mission because the opposition is stronger than the agent's "help." At this point it would be good to illustrate the point as Wright does with Little Red Riding Hood. The mother (sender) sends food (object) to the grandmother (receiver) by Little Red Riding Hood (agent). She can not deliver the food because of opposition (the wolf) who is stronger than her charm (help). At this point the mission is truly in danger of failure. But the story moves into the next phase. The agent becomes the receiver and there may not be a sender. So, Little Red Riding Hood now becomes the receiver. A new agent is needed to bring relief to the situation. The wood cutter (new agent) comes in order to overcome opposition with his ax (new helps). This mission is completed, in other words the Red Riding Hood (new receiver) gets rescued (new object) by the wood cutter (new agent) thru his ax (new helps). The initial sequence is repeated and the mission is completed. Red Riding Hood escapes the wolf (opponent) and deliveries the food (object) to grandmother (original receiver). Now, I don't know if that is exactly how the real goes or not, but it does illustrate the point. My apologizes to Wright, who obviously can explain this better than I have.

Don't worry if you got lost in the details (it took me awhile to get this down also), but maybe you can see the point. There is God (the sender) who has a message (object) for the world (the receiver). He has commissioned his church (the agent) to deliver the message (the object), but the opposition is strong. However, because of the Cross (the new agent with new helps etc) the gates of hell will not prevail. The mission can be completed.

Whatever our opposition is today, Help is on the way. We are in constant need of receiving this help. It will come, then we will be able to accomplish the original purpose.

Dan 10:11-13 He said to me, "O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you." And when he had spoken this word to me,I stood up trembling.Then he said to me, " Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Freedom in All We Do

We've been looking at and discussing the church trying to figure out if there is change in the air and what we should do about it. I hope you have enjoyed the mini-series. I have learned a lot and continue to gain more insights. I will be temporarily suspending my thoughts on it for awhile. The reasons are many but the main reason is that there is a lot more on which I need to read and reflect.

Here are some issues I want to pursue:

  • Monastic Christianity in the 21st century.
  • The first 300 years of Church History in order to establish Church worship and praxis in that time.
  • The relationship between Christianity and Paganism and the battles they have had with each other.
  • More familarity with the Emergent Church mentality both for and against
  • The Secular/Sacred Divide
  • The role of and gifting of Preaching and Pastoring in the Emergent Models
  • Etc etc etc
What I want to leave this talk with is that no matter what form of church we prefer, may we all within the body of Christ allow freedom to those who differ from us. May they know we are his disciples by the love we have for each other.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Dualism, Holism, and Secularism

Just finished up listening to Mike Frost talks. Overall, not bad. I was a little disappointed because most of what he said was nothing new. I guess the writer of Ecclesiastes did know what he was talking about after all(hehe).

The only thing that really got me perturbed was in his first talk. He mentioned that Christianity has become dualistic (i.e. it has separated secular life from sacred life). He passionately asserts that this separation comes from Greek influence on Christianity and that this is not what was ever intended. From what I understand his co-author goes into more detail about the holistic approach to life that Christianity inherited from Judaism. While I agree wholeheartedly that the Jewish worldview had a more holistic (the sacred and secular are united rather than separated) understanding of the world, I wonder how the whole tribe-of-Levi thing is dealt with as well as the choirs of David.

Is there a divide between the profane (the common) and the sacred?

Parenthesis:I made this statement in seminary that the reason many people leave there confused (besides the fact that some had little foundation going in and really didn't know what they believed) was that the sacred was handled so much that it became profane. -End of parenthetical rabbit trails.

For argument sake, let's assume MF is right. Jesus meant for there to be no divide between the sacred and secular. What do you do when secularism becomes the dominant religion of a society?

IF we kept the "dualism" of Christianity, would that help or hurt our cause? I am almost willing to say hurt in a bad way. I am hesitate though. The thing that holds me back is can or would people search for the sacred if it were separated in a secular context? Experience answers "no."

So, I continue to mull...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Is the Journey Worthwhile Part2?

Heb 11:9-11By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange
country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the
same promise:
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder
and maker is God.

The analogy of the Christian life and a journey is nothing new. It was said of Abraham that he "sojourned" (KJV) in the land of promise by faith. Many writers have picked up on this theme and composed songs, books, and sermons showing the strong parallel to the believer's search for a "city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Off the top of my head, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and the line, "I wouldn't take anything or my journey now," come to mind.

Reading about the Christian life as analogous to a journey and living the Christian life as a journey are two different things. When one experiences a real journey and contemplates its spiritual implications, the analogy becomes more real, and one sees why the analogy is so good and often used.

Is the Journey worthwhile? A resounding YES. As stated before, this seems obvious, but upon closer examination, the answer is not so clear, howbeit still yes. I know that sounds a bit confusing, but maybe I can explain.

We started out early in the morning. It was Sunday! I usually get to sleep in on Sundays (even if I am going to a church service). But we had to force ourselves to get out of bed and get to the starting point. There was a lot of excitement in the air as everyone was getting ready to tackle the course (circuit) by either foot, horse, or mountain bike. We saw some people that we had met and said good morning and wished them a good day. Having been here for only 2 1/2 months we were not so familiar with the area. So, in order to help us along, someone gave us a map that marked out the area we were suppose to follow. Our friends from the town told us where to start and how to find our way if we were to get lost. We must keep an eye on the red arrows. But was anyone else going with us? We were sent out by ourselves with a map, some words of advice, and a will to complete the journey ahead of us.

As we started the rain began to fall. We got our bearings and found our first red arrow. Thankfully, someone had told us where the map started, otherwise we would have been lost from the beginning. We read the map backwards. But at our first red arrow, we knew we were on the right track. After the peace of knowing we were traveling in the direction had subsided, we were a bit sad. For we had thought for sure there would be others who would be taking the journey with us. That was our purpose in taking the journey; to meet others in our community. Well, we were still close to home, we could bail or keep going. We decided to keep going, but with a different purpose. We could pray, and pray we did. As we passed houses and farms we prayed for them. We prayed we might even be instruments in helping them find their own peace. We felt like real explorers when our path left the concrete roads and turned into muddy forest trails up and down hills winding through farms. Since we were the first walkers on the trail, we figured the other walkers would sure be behind us. As John the Baptist paved the way for the coming Christ, so we also prayed the path for those who were to follow. "Lord, may those who pass the point, recognize You and seek you. Reveal yourself to them right here and let them feel You. Let them know You exist. Shine Light and Life into their lives, for the sake of Jesus..."

What wonderful things we got to see!! Cows, hillsides, houses, valleys, green countryside.

Suddenly, we noticed our little forest trail had ended. Surely, this can't be right. We have been following our red arrows. It was kind of weird when the path changed from the familiar paved path to the unfamiliar dirt one, but our map and the arrows had indicated this was surely the way. But what if we had misread both. Were we to really take this road of pure mud measuring about an inch deep of standing water?? Why would anyone make the trail go this direction? There was a smaller trail going the other direction. It did not have any mud on it, but it was also not on our map. But we did not want to take the mud trail especially since the rain was coming down even harder. There was only one thing to do. Go back to our last red arrow and make sure we had taken the direction it had indicated. If that led us on the muddy road, we had to take it.

I went back up a small hill and found our red arrow. It did indeed indicate that we were to take the muddy road. There was no choice. Now, I was wearing new hiking shoes designed for hiking and "waterproof." But they had not been tested. I could slip. I could get my feet wet. R was wearing boots that had failed her before. This darn muddy road would be treacherous, but we had no choice. we had to go forward as best we could, helping each other and telling each other where the best place to put our next step. We made it safely to the end of the road leaving behind us huge footprints where we had stepped safely to the end of the road.

To our surprise we were right in the middle of some one's cow farm. The cows were eating and it smelled so badly. We questioned AGAIN, if we had done the right thing. Why would the person who designed the course put the walkers on some one's smelly farm? But we had checked the course, doubled backed and made sure we were supposed to take that muddy road. This is where it lead us. Our map did not have a farm on it, so it was currently of no use. There were absolutely no red arrows anywhere. The only red arrows were pointing behind us back to where we had just traveled. "Is this journey really worth it?"-We asked ourselves silently. That bed was sure warm and dry while we are cold and wet and slightly lost.

Thankfully, one of the farmers saw us and pointed us to the road (paved). AHH. Now we could see we were not alone on the trail. Some of the horse riders were coming down the hill. Our trail and the horse trail merged together. What joy to see others making the same journey even if by different means. We felt safe again and our joy returned. While being "lost" I had forgotten to pray. But when I saw the others, I started praying for them again. As each horse rider passed, I prayed a blessing for them and that they may find the light of Christ. Soon, we found out that our trail was not only the walking trail and horse trail, but the bike trail. We gladly got out of their way, and as they passed we commiserated with how awful the mud was and how wet we were from the rain and why were we even doing this.

When we got back to another paved road, the bikers and horse riders left us behind. Not too long after, we we were passed by other walkers. We exchanged "hello's," and it was obvious they had made the walk before. They were experts. I figured now there were walkers in front of us, walkers behind us;thus, we were surrounded by those making the journey with us. That was encouraging. For if something were to happen to us, those behind us may stop and lend assistance and if anyone ahead of us needed assistance as we passed we could offer help.

It was now time to make a turn. We looked at the map and found where we were. We just had one leg left back into town. We could see "town" (that's the good news), but we were steadily going downhill (that's the bad news because or town sits on a hill). This last leg would challenge us. We were already feeling tired. But there was no turning back. We were too far to go back, we had to march forward. There were so many little trails off to our sides. But warning markings told us not to proceed down them. But how tempting they were!! They appeared to lead us where we wanted to go but faster. But the map, the red arrows, and the markings all indicated that we should not go this way.
As we went we had to take more breaks, drink more water, and of course we get wetter as we went. While our course was now on the main road, we had to be careful not to get in any blind spots in the curves of the road. Cars were not paying attention to two drowned rats walking uphill.
This was the time we had to encourage each other. We were reading our map more and more, not for fear of getting lost or even finding the trail, but to have in our minds the next named spot. We talked to each other and we talked to ourselves saying we can do this, we have to do this, and we are not far from "X" place.
Then JOY. We saw the town's water tower in the distance. It was our final destination. It was where there would be warmness, dryness, and most importantly hot of the grill crêpes!! We were filled with energy. We dreamed of how life would be when we reached the finish line. Suddenly, we were joined again by bikers and horse riders. Oh yeah, we can make it!!!

I can not begin to describe the feeling of "making it", seeing familiar faces, getting out of the rain, sitting down, and enjoying a huge homemade local crêpe and a glass of Coke.
Two days later our bodies are still feeling the affects of a 8km walk (We did it in 3 1/2 hours. Slow, I know, but we are excited we actually finished). Was the journey worth it? A resounding yes.
But only at the end is it that evident. We know it is worth it, but we won't realize it until we reach that city whose builder and maker is God. It is not always evident that our next step following behind Christ is worth it. That's why by faith we put one foot in front of the other. Our faith will end in sight as we enter Celestial City. It is only then we will be able to really say The Journey is indeed worth while. Until then we encourage each other to walk by faith.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Is the Journey worthwhile?

Our community organized a walk around town today, in which we participated. I must say it helped me better understand the metaphor of "journey" and "life."

It also made me wonder if the journey truly is worthwhile. The obvious answer is yes, but I think this response is not so evident as we examine the metaphor in more detail. Realizing that not all metaphors have to stand on four feet, I would like to examine in the coming days if the journey is worthwhile.

Luk 14:28-30 "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?
"Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Perception is Reality-Edited Version

After this post, I will need to go put out some fires across the blogsphere (well Dayspring Project is the only one I know about). I appreciate all the comments from the others ( Normality with TJ and Pastor Philip at Every Home a Church and my great friend Kc ).

I know I have a lot of conversations open. I kinda like that, in case I get stuck for content, I can continue them. =) I am going to turn the corner a bit today. Eventually, we'll get to the fact that I really am for non-traditional church models (despite what you may have read or thought from previous posts). But before I do, I wanted to see what others are thinking about concerning the mindset of a "church."

Anyway, this is the heart of this post. How do you take either a culture that thinks in a traditional church manner and transform a group of people into thinking of themselves otherly? In my limited experience (back in the States) I was asked to plant an ethnic church. I was able to group some believers and started a Bible Study, but they never did see themselves as a church. They only saw themselves as a group who got together to study the Bible. Even though I tried to let them lead, with partial success, they never saw themselves as a church. Of the churches I have been a part of or pastored, they would have never seen themselves as a church (in the sense of an organic church) if they were to go that route.

But apart from my anecdotes, if a group of people never see themselves as a church can they be a church? On the other hand, if a group of 2 or 3 can perceive themselves as a church, can they be organic? How do we change perception?

Some have said we instill in the DNA of the church the need to be outgoing instead of incoming ("Go and Tell" vs "Come Here" (to hear)). But if that group of people has in its DNA that the believers must go to a central place (house or house of God) on Sunday, will they really be organic in the Neil Cole's sense?

Maybe I am so far off base. I suspect I am.

(see further clarification on comments to Jeff)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Where is the Church?

I thought I would finally start my series on the church.

But first I want to explain a couple of things. (You can skip the next two paragraphs, if you want and go straight to the post)

First about blogging in general. I have only been at this for about a year and a half or so. I have seen bloggers come and go. I've seen people become very successful and some not so much. I started out blogging as sort of a notepad for writing my thesis in graduate school. But it soon turned into a place to write about whatever. I enjoyed it and I was surprised when I actually begin to make blogger friends. I started thinking about how to increase readership and how to write for my audience. So, blogging became a way to make a name for myself. I quickly learned that blogging for that reason was very self serving for me. I put it down for awhile. Then, with my new job, I really had to decide in what direction my blog was needing to go. After moving here, I really never thought how I could use this blog. So, I just sort of floated along hoping to not loose all the readers.

Then, after language school, I had time to ponder in what new direction I wanted to take the blog. I have decided to TRY and focus on ideologies of Christianity. I hope that is broad enough to allow me freedom to blog, yet narrow enough to bring some focus. So, whatever things I am trying to get work through, one might find it here

Which leads me to the real content of this post.

I have been thinking for some time (maybe 2 to 3 years) the ways "church" is being redesigned. I first got interested in this when I read some stuff by Leonard Sweet (Aqua Church and SoulTsunami). I had never heard this before, and it seemed refreshing. I even ran into a couple of people more versed on "this," who helped me see some of the importance. During seminary, you hear ad naseum about postmodernism and emerging church (these terms may need defining, but that may have to wait). Then, I started having some questions about the movement, and at the same time seeing major problems in the "traditional" movement. I put it on a back burner until just before Thanksgiving of last year, when I had to read Jake Colson's awful book. (So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore). That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I decided I had to figure this out. I just want to add that this book is NOT what made me bring a back burner idea to the front. It really was the last straw. I do not recommend this book because it is so poorly written. But if you want to read it, go for it, for I will be using it as a guide as I critique and ask questions concerning this "new way of thinking about church." (BTW I will probably be using a ton of Christan-ese in these posts, so if you are reading this and are not Christian, you might be left out. However, you are still welcome here and still welcome to comment and ask questions.)

Now, I have not figured it out. Not even really understood it that well. But to comfort most of you, I am not going through an ecclesiastical crisis. I still believe as mostly as I always have with some tweaking here and there. However, depending on what side of fence you will be falling, you will agree and disagree with me throughout the entire series. So, let's talk and try to figure out this thing called the church.

I am a teacher by trade, and the only way I know to get a discussion started is to ask a question.

Where is the church?

I've had a lot of thoughts about where to begin this series. But today offered one solution. My wife and I had planned to go to what has been labeled a "traditional" church. That is one where people meet and there is a set formula for worship, usually songs of praise, prayer, and preaching, and possible fellowship. (This is an oversimplification. I realize that.) But that church was meeting in another town, so we decided to go the beach. The sun came out for about 15 to 20 minutes, and we got out and was in amazement of God's creation. When it began raining, we got in the car and read some scripture and prayed.

So, did we really have church? Can church happen at the beach? Was this the temple of God today?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Reflections of 2006

I know this is a little late for reflections on 2006, but better late than never, huh?

On Dec 31, 2005, Lady R and I arrived to our new home in France. Why are we here? We work here! What do we do? A French person would never ask so much information. hahaha

These are a few things I learned in 2006.

  • Arrived sick as a dog
  • started full fledge language school almost immediately
  • neighbors met us
  • mass adjustments quickly
  • Do not start language school as soon as you get off the plane. It will be too much, unless you are still in tourist mode. We got off the plane in culture shock.
  • God has got to show up, otherwise we are dead.
  • He confirmed our move and that he approved
  • He GAVE us French friends right off. They were our "people of good-will"


  • Cold
  • Friendships developed
  • Every day counts


  • Friends are so important in keeping head above water. We had our first friends visit.
  • Getting out into the community by ourselves. Gives you a great amount of confidence although it is scary as heck.


  • Our 1st out of country experience. When we came back and could see advances in language.


  • My favorite month in France. Nothing gets done and there are a ton of holidays.


  • One semester down
  • Stress level at max. Feeling it. Wonder if I will crack under it.
  • Cultural shock almost unbearable
  • RELEASE. 1st trip ever to UK, where they speak English and where things are not as foreign as France. Much needed holiday. When you are under stress, you have to decompress. Breaks are not sin, they are obligatoire.
  • God carries you a lot more than you realize


  • Ended Vacation. Could tell a lot of stress had been relieved.
  • Need breaks
  • Beginning of the end of culture shock, entering cultural stress
  • Dreaded starting summer school. pleasantly surprised and found it the best part of my formal French learning.
  • HOTest ever!!! Winter may last 49 weeks out of the year, but 3 weeks there will be an inferno.


  • Dealing with allergies and hospitals. French hospitals can be good or bad, just depends on which one you get. God has to be with you thru sickness or you won't make it.
  • Driving School. The actually school itself was not near as bad as I thought. Learning to drive in France worse than had expected. Expectations can cause misery or bring fulfillment.
  • No French School. Heck yeah!!!
  • Major conflict with co-workers. Worse I think ever. Had to preach on Phil 4:2-3. My, how God has ways of getting you his messsage. Resolution and reconciliation are big in the lives of believers.
  • If God does not do it, it won't get done. He gives peace in the storm.


  • School starts again. On a modified program.
  • More driving
  • increased stress
  • more hospital visits
  • development of stomach/intestinal problems due to stress
  • French language school and France not my cup of tea, but God is faithful to us the faithless. If he is in control, we must trust him thru thick and thin.


  • 1st prayer team visit. Freinds from the States. Oh how I miss USA, but can see how I have integrated some also.
  • Encouraged by their visit and others.
  • Can see the light at the end of the tunnel. First trip to Quimper. What a feeling to see the "fields" in and aorund the area.


  • Trip to Loire Valley. Not a vacation, but the invitation alone means we have broken into the family links. Only God could do that.
  • Realize how little and how bad my French really is. A small valley in regards to the language.
  • Team metting and house hunting. God WILL provide. Encouraged everytime I hear a team mate speaking Welsh or Irish.


  • END OF Formal FRENCH SCHOOL. There could be nothing better that. The end of a thing is much betetr than the beginning. Isn't that in the Bible somewhere?
  • TCF. Official test of French knowledge. Pretty stressful. but I had to remember it was not all together testing me but the school. In my opinion the school failed. I however passed. God is good and helps us with speaking French. This is how I know God is here working behind the scenes (because of all the French speakers, He has to be here otherwise how could they all learn to speak this language). =)
  • 2nd vacation to Ireland. oh happy day. Another country where at least English is spoken (sometimes, but not everywhere--we heard plenty of Irish. You just have to know where to look. Encouraged in that the same will be true with our second language)
  • Refreshed
  • Ready for next season of job. God does give good gifts

And for those who want to know how Jan 2007 has started off. It could not have been better. We moved to the Nortwest part of France. We were given a small budget to outfit our house. That money is still being stretched further than we ever could imagine. It is absolutely beautiful here. We have met a couple of people on our street. One British couple. They are strange in their own right. Our lanlords are also British so that makes renting less stressful. We had to attend a meeting in Germany that went exceptionally well. I came back with a lot of stuff to think about. I feel God can make this a success, but He has got to do it. I can't. We have met some French Christians, rare as they are, they seem nice. May we continue to grow spiritually in order to offer people more than another program, may they and we find LIFE ABUNDANTLY!