Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans, Fully Immersed

It is almost impossible to avoid the pictures and the news reports of the city of New Orleans submerged in water. The phrase, "a watery grave," came to mind as I, very heavy in heart, pondered the people in New Orleans. I didn't even think about baptism when I though these words.

But then it hit me - the city has been baptized. I don't take any great comfort in this, nor am I trying to make any hyper-spiritual application or apocalyptic connections between this catastrophe and God's will.

I think that my point is this: after full immersion, there is no going back. New Orleans will never go back to what it was. It can only become something new. It is not that it doesn't want to go back, but rather that it cannot. It is impossible to go back.

Furthermore, after full immersion, everyone is equal. Shacks and million dollar homes are equally as destroyed.

Old New Orleans (as strange as that sounds) is dead. Now we await the hoped for and anticipated resurrection of a new New Orleans.

Pray for the hurricane victims. Give from you heart (cash) here, or here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Word of God Speak #6: Lectio Devina In Marriage

Lectio Devina is a kind of prayerful meditation of scripture. It means "holy reading." It is more than merely reading scripture; it is letting scripture read you. Here is one description of how it is done:

1. Lectio
The repeated reading of the text until certain words and phrases call for attention. Sometimes footnotes in a good study bible (for example, the Jerusalem Bible) as well as cross references help here. This stage has often been compared to taking in food, as the first “eating” of the word of scripture.
2. Meditatio
The further “chewing” or ruminating on key words and phrases. One stays as long as one is so attracted to a word or phrase. At this stage the heart of the text for the reader should begin to emerge.
3. Oratio
These key words and phrases of the text eventually lead the person to prayer inspired by the text and a growing awareness of God’s presence in Christ by the Spirit. This is the deep tasting of the text.
4. Contemplatio
Eventually the particular words of the text lead the reader beyond words to silent awareness of God’s presence—simply an abiding or communing with God. This is the savoring of the sweetness of the Lord.

Recently, my wife and I tried a version of this together, reading aloud to each other. It was a very good experience. Here is what I liked about it:

1. We read scripture together.
2. We pondered scrtipture together.
3. We learned something new from scripture together.
4. We shared that new learning with each other.
5. A bond was shared on the spiriutal realm.

This was good for us and we will do it again.

I really get stoked about learning a new truth or get exposed to truth in a new way. In fact, this entire series, "Word of God Speak," was inspired by time spent with my wife doing Lectio Devina.

If you are married and you and your spouse are at least in the same ballpark spiritually, I reocmmend it.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Word of God - Down & Dirty

The talk went well in Batesville. They did me so right. Dominos is always a winner with me.

For a review of my lesson click here.

I went further opn the three bad soils in the parable of the sower. The three bad soils are three different ways of being self-obsessed. I confess to taking some liberties, but I think that point makes a lot of sense and would be sanctioned by Jesus.

"Pathy" soil is the kind of soil that is walked on. Depressed, hopeless, helpless feeling people - people firmly commited to the idea that nothing is good and nothing ever will be. These people are typically overly self-focussed. They are too attached to their feelings of hopelessness that they find any hope in anything.

"Rocky" soil is hardened and robbed of all joy. Angry, bitter, jaded, bent on revenge, these people are obsessed with putting a feeling onto someone else in order to relieve them of the feeling they do not choose to release. In short, they are committed to feeling unforgiveness until someone else feels worse that they do.

"Thorny" soil is self-impressed and self-congratulating. It looks in the mirror and really just wants to keep looking, being so enamored with what it sees. Thorny people thrive on their talents and abilities. They are self-obsessed narcissists who have a real hard pondering the fact that anyone else has a feeling or that those feelings other people have are worth anything. THey tend to behave as if other people are as impressed by them as they are themselves.

Good soil is not impressed with itself. It just goes ahead and lives healthy. Kind, generous, forgivining, these people are not oppressed by depression, even when deprressing things happen. They are not bent on revenge, even when they get burned. They are not seduced by the rose, so they never get cut by the thorns.

Viktor Frankl said that "without self-transcendance there is no self-actualization." Let me rephrase that - "You'll never find yourself until you get over yourself."

Finding yourself is a neat little side effect of finding God.

Katrina hits land - Pray

Keep praying a 200,000 people remined in New Orleans to ride out Katrina. The city can withstand only so much.

Larry James blogs about the impact the storm has on the poor.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Pray For People Threatened By Hurricane Katrina

Please pray for people threatened by Hurricane Katrina, especially people in New Orleans.

USA Today has the story for you here.

Razorkiss apparently blogging from inside the storm, while Curly Tales of War Pigs links to some Hurricane cams here, here, and here and also a blogger from the inside.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Speaking About Word of God Speak

Sunday evening I will have the real treat to speak to a bunch of teens about Jesus. Fell free to pray for me as I do this. Public speaking is not my normal gig, but I do just fine at it. Blogging has been good for me in my preparation for this talk. You, my wonderful blogging readership numbering in the tens of tens, are going to get a preview.

If anyone from the North Heights Church if Christ in Batesville, AR is reading this before 5:30 PM, the you're cheating. Log off or follow this link and wait for me to tell these stories at that time.

I am going to lead off with asking if they have ever been busted. You know, ever tried being something you are not and then get found out? I'll throw in a few self-depricating public farting stories and I should have an attentive audience.

Luke 8:4-15 tells about the parable of the sower. 4 soils. Farmer puts seed on all four soils. It grows only on the good soil.

Point #1: The seed, the Word of God, exposes you for who you are. If you are bad soil, when the Word of God comes into contact with you, then you will be exposed as bad soil.

Point #2: What kind of soil are you?
A. Pathy soil? Are you walked on a lot? Depressed, full of anxiety, beat the crap (I might actually say the word crap, still thinking about it) out of yourself all the time, no confidence? Then the word of God will expose you for that. If you are committed to nothing ever working out your way, you are committed to complete helplessness, then God's word will show you for who you are.

B. Rocky soil? Are you angry, bitter, jaded, hardened? Have you lost you ability to be influenced by anyone or anything? Been hurt so much that you don't trust anyone? Then the Word of God will expose you for being that way.

C. Thorny soil? Are you loaded, I mean real rich? Super popular or super great athlete? Are you hot? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. If you rely on these things, are afraid you might lose them - you need them, then the Word of God will expose you as a fake, a fraud, a poser.

D. Good soil? If you are humble, generous, kind, hopeful, peaceful, loving etc. Then the Word of God wil expose you as this kind of person.

Point #3: How to become good soil.
A. Pray to become good soil. "Show me what it is in my life that makes such lousy soil."
B. Listen for an answer.Although this is praying as well, I think they will associate praying with talking and not listening.
C. Accept the answer. This is the big one. Lots of people who say that they do not hear God really just don't like what He is saying and thus are merely unwilling, not being ignored.
D. Surrender to the answer of God and the God of the answer. This is the hardest part. It might require pain in order to accomplish good soilness.

I've got 30 minutes to pull this off.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Actionary Vision

John Alan Turner is sick and tired of church leaders praying for vision. So he has called for them to stop praying that way. He'd like to see them praying for spines. Although that comment kind of makes him sound like a blogger tough guy, his point is well taken.

I like what he is saying. There are tons of church leaders looking for and wanting change - positive and transformational change - but they (as my father is known to say) can't find their butt with both hands. It is not that they don't want it, but settling for praying for vision is reason enough not to disrupt the homeostasis of the congregation - something that is ultimately very costly.

So, rather than take risks with creative ministry experiments, they try to be creative within the narrow confines of a dying or stuck system.

Here is what I want to see: I want to see a congregation do a Capital Campaign for homeless people. Larry James thinks it can be done. Check this out. I want to hear about multimillion dollar campaigns for helthcare for people without health insurance. I want to see millions raised by churches for the people who need in their community and across the world.

I want to see actionary vision, not sedentary vision.

Word of God Speak#5: I am God's Word

WOGS: Intro

"I am God's Word." What sounds so wrong about this statement?

For me it is the cult-like feel I get when I hear it. Or maybe the terroristic theology that could emerge from such a power statement. It is what I think people hear Pat Robertson saying, "I am God's Word," when he calls for the assassination of a nation's president. And how well has that really gone over?

It is easy to look to the abuses of this kind of talk and be tempted to run from this statemnt like some infected hot zone. And I know for sure Christians should run from abuses as fast as possible. Christians in America should hold Pat Robertson accountable for this kind of terroristic threatening.

At the same tine, it is clear that God did not quit talking once the Bible was in print. He does not live in the book, He lives in the people.

You are Christ's body--that's who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your "part" mean anything. - I Corintians 12:27

If the incarnation of Christ was God's most proufound communication to humanity that He loves them, then the church must be His second best communication.

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. - John 14:12

Well now wait a minute! Did Jesus just say that the one who has faith in him and what he has done will do even greater things than he? Stop the press!!! Was the church God's better communiucation than Christ?

I don't really get it, but what I do know is that God has intentionally created the church, the collection of people who love Him, to be part of His communication plan to those who do not know of His love.

This is super important that we know this. If God stopped talking when the Bible was written, then we have only the responsibility of trying to be moral. But if God is talking though us, or desires to, then we have an obligation to live like Jesus. Jesus was the first of the church, so to speak. He is the example that we should follow of how to be a communicator of God, because God spoke through Jesus and desires to speak through us in the same way.

Do you get it? God's word in the mouths of humans!!! This is insane. How mature do you have to be to do that any justice whatsoever? How responsible must one be to have this unbelievable privilege?

To say, "I am God's Word," should bring about great fear and trembling, not a some surge of power, control, and authority. It should not be weilded like a weapon, but rather it should be shared like a great treasure.

The Casting Crowns song, If We Are The Body, has something to say about this.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Harding University Board of Trustees

Below is a list of the Harding University's Board of Trustees. You can conteact these people by mail or e-mail if you would like to comment on anything concerning Ann Coutler, Harding's policy on speakers, or anything else.

This group of men and women (yes there are women on the board) need to hear your voice. Thanks to James Wiser for the list. He says: "To find their email addresses, just look them up in your most recent Alumni directory."

Probably a good idea.

Next post will be more Word of God Speak. Teaser - "I am the Word of God" Yes, the storm clouds are gathering.

DONALD L. SHORES, Cave Springs, Ark., Chairman
WILLIAM R. CHISM, Springfield, Mo., Vice Chairman
JIM BILL MCINTEER, Nashville, Tenn., Secretary
GERALD G. MORGAN JR., Amarillo, Texas, Treasurer
JOHN D. BALDWIN, Holyoke, Colo.
PAT J. BELL, Little Rock, Ark.
ROBERT L. BRACKETT, Vero Beach, Fla.
JAMES R. BURCHAM JR., Kennett, Mo.
DAVID B. BURKS, Ex-Officio, Searcy, Ark.
PAUL R. CARTER, Bentonville, Ark.
STEVE CLARY, Little Rock, Ark.
JIMMY CONE, Little Rock, Ark.
ROBERT G. DILES, North Little Rock, Ark.
HENRY FARRAR, Lebanon, Tenn.
W. MELVIN GARDNER, Fort Worth, Texas
RICHARD H. GIBSON, Longview, Texas
ROOSEVELT HARRIS, Jacksonville, Fla.
JIM BOB HUMPHREY, Russellville, Ark.
HAROLD R. REDD, Memphis, Tenn.
HARRY B. RISINGER JR., Millington, Tenn.
ROY H. SAWYER JR., Sardis, Miss.
JOHN O. SIMMONS, Columbia, Tenn.
REBECCA L. TUBB, Sparta, Tenn.L.
MARK WALLIS, Littleton, Colo.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Osama Bin Robertson

I read about Pat Robertson saying that America should assassinate a foreign leader, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.

Since you probably didn't link, here is an excerpt:

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."
"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator,"

It is not that President Chavez is a really nice guy, or that he wears a beret well, or even that he has good friends. I think it fair to say that this guy is not so good.

But for crying out loud, Pat Robertson, please SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am a Christian and people think that you are speaking for me. Stop it. Just, quit.

Worse yet, people think that you are speaking for Jesus. Come one! I don't recall Jesus calling for the assisnation of King Herod or Caesar.

What is fruther problematic is that there is a dollar value attached to this statement. It is liek he's saying, "Hey, let's do war on the cheap and take out the big dog," as if there were some moral high ground there.

Harding & Ann Coulter (more)

The mushroom cloud is expanding about Harindg paying big buck for Ann Coulter to come and speak, but denies people from our own denomination to speak. Click here to see a list of blogs venting about it. The venting is good, I am sure, but at the same itme, if there are not nice, but firm, letters written and views expressed that way, then everything will stay the same.

I really doubt Dr. Burks and the Board of Trustees (can't find a link for the list of trustees) are scouring Technorati to find out who is blogging about them. Maybe they are, but still, they need direct communication.

Furthermore, Greg Brooks made a good point in a commnet on my previous post about this topic. It is posted below, but part of the gist of it is that a woman from another denomination can speak about church planting while people from within cannot speak about anything, ever.

Greg also uses the interesting phrase, "it fires my shorts," in reference to his emotional state concerning this matter. I am more than a little concerned about the fire in my friend's shorts, but at the same time I am somewhat hesitant to just ask him about this fire. I think I will leave to blogdom to sort out.

Gracia Burnham is going to speak on Sept. 20. Mrs. Burnham and her husband were missionaries in the Philippines; they were taken hostage and her husband was killed. ( were missionaries with New Tribes Missions ( Click on 'about' and then on 'doctrines'. Salvation received by faith apart from works, and 'believer's immersion'.

I would love to hear Mrs. Burnham speak. I think she's an excellent choice. But it fires my shorts that she will speak about her experiences planting churches that were not Churches of Christ. Why can she come and not so many others from within our own fellowship? On the other hand, I have no problem with Ann Coulter coming to Harding. I think it's very valuable for students (the ones lucky enough to get tickets to these speeches) to be exposed to a variety of viewpoints. That's why I look foward to Al Franken's visit in 200hellfrozeover.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Word of God Speak #4: Hearing God's Word

WOGS: Intro

There are people who make a living reading the Bible, but they never hear God's Word. I am thinking of some theology professors at various schools. I am thinking of some preachers who have landed a good sum of money for their work. I am thinking of some people who show up to church and find it a good place to network.

And then there are people who have never even heard of the Bible and they live their lives as if God's Word is all they know. I am thinking of the "Gentiles" Paul speaks about who do by their very nature the Word of God. I am thinking about people who notice their creator in nature and are "without excuse."

As important as the Bible is to understanding God, it is not the end and it is not the sum.

A person poisoned with arrogance is going to have a real hard time hearing God's Word while a person saturated in humility is going ot have a hard time hearing it. As Joe Beam puts it, there are some people who are spiritual sociopaths. They are incpabale of hearing God's word.

Now, it may seem a strange irony that what a proud person needs is the very thing he or she cannot do - hear God's Word.

The bottom line is this: God's Word is unavoidable. It is everywhere. Humility, openness, patience, and hope are important in hearing it.

I wonder how much of God's Word is getting through to me. I really believe that get some of it does get through to me, but at the same time, I think that I have a real hard time with pride. How much gets blocked? How much do I miss, like I'm color blind to His vast array of communication?

Anyone else want to comment on what is important or nevessary in hearing God's Word?

Go to Word of God Speak #5

Friday, August 19, 2005

One of these things is not like the other

Ann Coulter, Harding University, Right-wing politics & Jesus.

Harding University, my home for 5+ years (shut-up, I couldn't decide on a major), has apparently just annoucned that Ann Coulter will speak for their American Studies Institute. Well, this decision is creating a bit of a stir among some Harding alums here, here, and here...aaaaaaaaan here (I like this one because it is a letter written to Harding from a past president of the American Studies Institute - Oh alright, here's another link to another past ASI president).

I knew Ms. Coulter was a political conservative who likes to shock, but I was not familiar with some of the best of her quotes - sure to make Bartlett's some day.

OK, something is way out of whack when a female political pundit can spew anything she want to all over the media AND that earns her a right to speak on Harding's main stage, BUT no female can read a scripture from that same stage. Furthermore, this preacher and that preacher from within the same fellowship are banned due to the content of their beliefs.

Lit up and ready scorch the Earth

In May my kids discovered the CD-Roms are breakable. They learned this by shattering a CD-Rom in the computer's CD drive. That CD broke into a million pieces.

So I took it in to the local Geek Shop and asked them what I could do with it. They insisted that I needed a new drive. I was skeptical, but I trusted their Geek powers and knowledge as superior to mine. I didn't feel altogehter good about it, but what am I going to do?

Well, after three days I got my computer back. For some reason, I did not use the drive for a few weeks. When I did, it would not play music, rip songs, or load software. In short, it did not work.

I took it back to the same computer place. The guy who did a super quick, on the spot, check said I had a virus. That seemed fishy since I have a kick-butt Norton anti-virus package and spyware protection. He gave me 2 websites to visit and tip on how to clear temp internet files. I did what he said. It didn't work. I still felt like I had not gotten a fair deal on the drive they put in.

So I took it back and said, "I tried what was suggested and it didn't work. It has not worked since you fixed it."

This morning I got a voicemail from the place indicating that the drive needed to be replaced and it would cost labor and the cost of the drive.

So, I think that they are pulling a fast one on me to start with, and now they have to replace a drive that they already replaced, which never worked once since they replaced it. It will cost over $100 I am sure.

I am really mad right now and I think it is a good thing that the place is not open at 6:03 AM because I feel like walking in with a blow torch and providing them with a new meaning to the term "burning CD's."

OK, I don't own a blow torch and don't even know how to get one, but I am pretty ticked off.

Am I crazy to be so upset? Does this kind of thing happen to everyone? What I really want to do is not pay and walk out with my computer.

Furthermore, I am a Christian who is really mad. And this kind of anger does not qualify under the 1st century "Cleansing the Temple Act," that Jesus invoked. This anger that I have about a thing is not a holy fury, it is a selfish fury. These people are not ripping me off in the name of God, it looks to me like they are just ripping me off (and they actually might not be).

Reflective Pause.

Sigh. There are children dying all over the world because their government is literally withholding food from them. There are people dying of diseases that are 100% treatable and preventable. There are people who drink polluted water daily because it is the only water they have. There are people who, if they had a goat, they would be considered wealthy.

What is my freaking problem?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Word of God Speak #3: What is God's Word?

WOGS: intro
WOGS: #1

WOGS: #2

I guess I am taking the wimps way out by defining God's word with the follwing definition, so general as it is, but I think it is accurate - I mean is at least an approximation. God's word is:

Any communication from God in any form from any time.

There, that wasn't so bad, was it? That was pretty safe and pretty much covers it all, doesn't it?

Well, let's pick this thing apart some and see what we have here.

Any communication from God in any form from any time

Basically, God will say whatever. Anything God wants to communicate to people (or other parts of creation) is not to be determined by people. It makes no sense whatsoever to limit God on what God can or cannot communicate. Only God has the power to be self-limiting. For example, God will not communicate to people who love Him that they should hate Him.

Also, God has never said that His word was ever limited to the Bible. So, saying that God's word is limited to the Bible is not not God's word. So, if God never said that His words are limited tot he Bible, then we can assume that it is possible, likely, probably - hey it's a sure thing - that God is not limited tot he Bible.

Furthermore, people of my tribe are certain that Satan communicates outside the Bible. Satan can tempt, lie, decieve, tinker with emotions, perceptions, and relationships. He can create situations meant to leave us broken and wounded. Satan can do anything short of force us to sin while God apparently wrote a book for us to use to defend ourselves.

Oh Puh-leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze! I grew up in a church that far more believed int he power and the presence of Satan than they did the power and presence of God. Certainly God can at least do what Satan does. If He can't then I'm toast. I refuse to believe God has left a book for me to read and my own sense of free will as my only defense against a wicked angelic being with a 10 jillion IQ, who never sleeps and hates my guts.

Any communication from God in any form from any time

God's track record for creativity in communicating is stellar. Even if you only include the recordings of the Bible, you have got to admit, God's got it going on. God is not limited to communicating his word by merely the written word.

Written word - 10 commandments

People - Prophets. THis can be the words God "gave" the prophets to say, or it can be what they did in their lives. Hosea was a prohpet in both ways. His life was a message of God, not just the words he said.

Natural / supernatural - Creation, floods (if it really happened), miracles, fire, tsunami, etc.

Verbal - God spoke directly to people like Moses.

Incarnation - Jesus

Personal Revelation - I am going to define this as something revealed to a person internally. I know this is not a good definition, but this is my blog and I will define it this way if I want to. This is different than verbal. It is in the heart, the mind or something like that.

Beauty - Beauty can be natural or supernatural, but it can also be human generated.

I'd love for you all to add to the list.

Any communication from God in any form from any time

God's word is progressive. By this I don't mean progressive as in "not conservative," but rather I mean it is going somewhere. It is a plot like a story. From the creation story, to the Fall story, to the flood story to the story of Abraham to the Exodus. From the promised land to captivity, from Jesus to the Holy Spirit, from Paul to Augustine, from Augusatine to Luther, from Luther to Warren, from Warren to Mclaren, from McLaren to who knows what? From God to you. That is the story in which we are placed.

His communications throughout history are not merely cumulative, they are progressive.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

New Stepfamily Blog

More Word of God Speak served up Thursday. Series began here.

This is what I am afraid of with the pledge in church.

Ron Deal is a close friend of mine and fellow therapist. He is also the founder of a ministry called, Successful Stepfamilies. The ministry is an excellent tool for stepfamilies and people who help them. He wrote a book called, The Smart Stepfamily, which has been called the best book on the topic.

One day, Ron noticed that I am a blogging freak and asked if I would be able to work with him on getting a blog going that would serve people in stepfamilies and also be a resource for ministers and counselors who work with stepfamilies or have them in their church.

Someone wants me to blog? How could I refuse? So, the Successful Stepfamilies Blog has been launched and is in full swing.

Here is what I would like you to consider:

1. If you are in a stepfamily, check out the Successful Stepfamilies Blog.

2. If you know of someone in a stepfamily, forward this link to them.

3. If you are a minister, then you deal with stepfamilies whether you know it or not. This blog might be informative for you.

4. If you are a minister, I'd love for the Successful Stepfamilies Blog to be linked on your family ministry page or where ever you provide helpful links for your website visitors.

5. Heck, I'd take a link from anyone.

6. If your church is "Stepfamily friendly," meaning you welcome stepfamilies and have a specific ministry for stepfamilies (support groups, bible classes, etc), please let me know so I can promote those.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Word of God Speak #2: Some of the words of God

WOGS: Intro

When I sat across the table from a trusted friend speaking of the Bible, he referred to it as the word of God. I said that the Bible was some of the words of God. The look on his face was a reaction like I had just blasphemed. Not only does he have a high view of the Bible, he knows me to have a high view as well. The fact that I would diminish the Bible by calling it "some of the words of God" rather than "The Word of God" was most troubling to him. What I sais was most unexpected.

Yet, in further conversation aboput this, it only makes sense that the Bible is not the complete and final word of God. Romans 1:20 says this:

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

When I read a verse like this in the Bible saying that God's self-revelation stands outside the Bible, I have to conclude that it is not Biblical to claim all of the God's communication is contained within the Bible.

I once picked up a bulletin at a church that had an article in it written the local preacher. The article spoek of a person who, when he saw a whale surface from the ocean, it was a "religious experience." The article went on the not only denounce this man's experience as being religious, but to mock the man's idea that something in nature could be a religious experience. Comapre that with Romans 1:20 above.

God speaks constantly through nature, so much so that Paul apparently believes that no one has an excuse for not acknowledging God, whether or not they have even heard of the Bible.

I took a graduate course once upon a time called, "Spiritual Nurture." It was a terrific offering at Abilene Christian University, by P. Kent Smith. One class period Dr. Smith asked the class to call out all of the ways God is recorded as communicating in the Bible. He was going to write them on the white board.

It did not take long for us to realize that God used dozens and dozens of ways to communicate to people. My favorite was how God communicated to the Philistines through hemorrhoids (boils). What I began to realize is that, yes, the Bible is the word of God, but it is actually a recording of some of the words of God.

This is an important distinction. If the Bible is the complete word of God, then God has retired and no longer communicates with people. In fact, if the Bible is complete, then God can no longer act as well because all behavior is communication. If the Bible is the complete word of God, then we are Deists - God did all he is going to do and he left us to do for ourselves, never to intervene. If the Bible is complete and final, then prayer is meaningless, God is not engaged in our current world, and we are abandoned as people.

Go to Word of God Speak #3

And now, thanks to Believing Thomas pointing this out, STORE WARS.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Momentary Pause & Question

Monday will give us more "Word of God Speak." For now, the axe-grinder is making me laugh.

My kids are attending a VBS this week at a small Baptist church in town. They begin every evening with the kids parading into the sanctuary, lead by two specially chosen children to carry the flag of the United States and the Christian flag (didn't know there was one). Then all of the children are called to stand at attention, put their hand over their hearts, and then they recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the USA flag, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian flag, and finally the Pledge of Allegiance to the Bible. These 2nd and 3rd pledges were also new to me.

So, what do you think of this nightly routine at VBS?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Word of God Speak #1: Eternally Sharp, Sown & Sunken In

WOGS: Introduction

A couple weeks ago I ran into a friend from once upon a time, a long, long time ago. She is a very good woman with a very good heart. Her children are grown and are having children of their own. She now spends her church time teaching the younger women with new babies about God. That is something I know is sorely needed these days.

As we talked, she shared how she teaches them. She said that she teaches these young mothers to use "exact Bible words," becuase that is the right way. I didn't take issue with her because I think that the success ofher program has much more to do with the love of Christ flowing through the relationship she is building with these young women than it does with using exact Bible words.

I wondered, what did mature women tell the younger women before we had the Bible? What did illiterate women tell the younger women back when only the elite could read? Did the word of God only appear when the Bible was produced in written form? How do we know that everything in the Bible is all there is?

Anyway, here are four areas I would like to share in pondering God's word:

1. God's word existed before the Bible.

John 1:1[ The Word Became Flesh ] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

In John 1:1, the Bible clearly refers to the word of God as Jesus and God, not the Bible. It also says that the word of God not only pre-existed the Bible, it pre-existed creation. There was word before there were any of us around to hear it.

Which brings up another interesting point: if the Word of God existed before people, then it existed before any human language. So, what language was the Word originally written/spoken/communicated in?

Furthermore, how is the "exact word" more important than the relative meaning? Exact words from one culture to another or even one person to another change in meaning. Sometimes ever so slightly and sometimes so much so that no meaning was even conveyed. If the word is anything it is meaning, not symbols (letters of language constructed as words).

So, if the word is a meaning more than a collection of letters and symbols, then it transcends language and can be universal.

2. God's Word is Sharp

Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Imagine if you had the power to look at someone and just tell them all of their sinful and loving attitudes, thoughts, emotions. What if you could just know the truth about everyone you met? I have to believe that the Bible does not have this power, but the word of God does. If the Bible had this power, all people would have to do is read it and they would be exposed. But that is not what happens. Ink on paper can communicate some of the word of God, but it is not the word of God. The Bible is a messenger of God's word, but it isn't God's word per se. Lots of atheists read the Bible and are not even touched one bit. You might say that it is the condition of their heart that made them this way. Perhaps. However, when someone comes into contact with the word of God, with the meaning, with the power of exposing them, they do not remain the same.

Pharoah came into contact with the word of God and could not stay the same without significant effort. He felt the sharpness of the word of God. He felt the living and active word of God. He felt the double edged sword of the Word of God. And get this, Pharoah didn't read the Bible to get this word. There was no Bible in Pharoah's time. He experiecned the word of God in real life.

3. The Word of God is Sown

Luke 8:11"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.

To continue on with the idea that the word of God is living, Jesus says that the word of God is seed swon into the herts of people. Well, what was her referring to? The New Testament? Nope, hadnt been written yet. The Old Terstament? Well, even if we say yes, then we have Jesus calling the Word of God something less than the Bible.

I believe the word of God that Jesus is referring to here is deep truth. Not truth on a factual level, which is the place where too many evangelicals like to keep it, but rather it is truth int he universal sense. Not propositional truth, but character truth. "Love your neighbor..." is truth. Saying it isn't truth. Knowing it isn't truth. Getting other people to believe it isn't truth. Believing it isn't truth. Living it is living truth.

The word of God is something like a seed that can be nurtured to growth and become something signficant inside someone. It's more like growing corn and less like fast food. But when we demote truth, demote the word of God to propositions and cognitive ejacualtions, then we are merely consuming fast food.

The word of God is dynamic. In a single person it is fragile an must be cared for, but in the universe it is unstoppable and relentless.

4. The word of God is Sunken In

1 John 2:14I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

I went to an apple orchard once. I have never seen trees so laden with fruit. Hundreds and hundreds of apples on a single tree. These trees were old and had been taken care of. Their roots were deep and sunken in. What made this orachard produce such a robust harvest year after year was not merely that the truth about apple trees existed, but that someone paid attention to these trees and nurtured them. They created surroundings that made it likely for the trees to produce - and then they did. More and more apples every year.

Knowledge alone does not make a great orchard. Living that knowledge does.

To say that the word of God is the Bible is like saying reading a biography of my wife is a marriage to her. Sorry, but I'll ditch the biography every time just for a chance to be with her. Bibles do not live, but the word of God does live. Certainly the Bible has recorded some of the word of God - some of the most important words of God, but to say that it is the sum of the word of God is an insult to God.

Go to Word of God Speak #2

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Word of God Speak: An Introduction

When people from my tribe use the phrase, "The Word of God," they are almost always referring to the Bible. In fact, I cannot recall an instance when this phrase was ever used in any other way. The Bible is the Word of God and the Word of God is the Bible. They are synonyms. It is as simple as that, now let's move on.

Well, I have come to believe that this is not only a limited and flawed perspective on what God's Word is, but it is also potentially dangerous. No, let me take it one step farther. It is extremely dangerous and theologically reckless.

That simple connection that God's Word is full and complete in the Bible and that settles it works fine for the modern mind. What is so troublesome is that the modern mind misses so much for the sake of utility. It works if you ignore everything else.

The postmodern mind, with all of its questions and ponderings and doubts, does not just take on simple formulas, file them away, and move along. The postmodern mind wants to know how else God speaks. What else is the word of God? What are the mysteries of our day?

This series of posts is going to be an effort to jump into this question of what the Word of God is.

Exerpt from "Word of God Speak" by Mercyme
Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak

Go to Word of God Speak #1

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Jesus and Cultural Relevance

Have you ever heard people say thing like, "it's important to use specific Biblical words" or something like that? They speak as if the fact that a word appeared in the Bible that it has some kind of supercharged power - like it has been swept over with miracle dust.

I used to believe such things, but now I don't anymore. And the funny thing is, I don't think Jesus does or ever did either.

OK, let's take a very "Biblical" word like Gospel. No one is going to argue that it is a Biblical word. However, I think most people believe Jesus made up the word to describe his work on Earth, the Kingdom of Heaven or something like that. Well, if you think he made it up you would be wrong. Phillip Yancey reports in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, that the term gospel was first used by Caesar Augustus to describe his reign in the Roman empire. Jesus took the word and turned its meaning. Paul continued to use the word in his letters.

Let's try another one: Baptism. Most people are going to believe Jesus invented baptism, but they would be wrong. The slightly more informed people would say John the Baptist (who wasn't really Baptist) invented baptism. And yet, those people would be wrong as well. Baptism was in fact a Jewish custom of cleansing and a very meaningful ritual. Baptism pre-existed the fleshly life of Jesus. Again, Jesus took a pre-existing concept and integrated it into his mission.

OK, let' go for Hell. The idea of Hell showed up some time between Malachi and Matthew (between the testaments - which is a false division, but anyway). Jesus took the contemporary idea of Hell and completely turned it on the Pharisees, who were bent on oppressing people and scaring people with it. Jesus didn't come loaded with Hell ideas so much as he used what was already "common knowledge," and transformed it into his message of love. Read Brian McLaren's book The Last Word to learn more about this.

OK, one more. Let's try Communion. Many people belive that Jesus invented communion. Wrong again. Jesus took the existing Jewish tradition of Passover that dated back to being delivered from Egypt when the angel of death passed over their Jewish people's houses in Egypt who had obeyed God and placed blood on their door posts. Jesus and his disciples were doing a passover meal and he, again, changed the meaning of the meal and said, "Remember me when you do this." This? What is this? It is passover. WOW!!!

So, Gospel, Baptism, Hell, and Communion, some of the most central concepts of the Christian faith were all things Jesus borrowed from his contemporary culture or from tradition.

Now imagine what tradtitions, pop concepts, and cultural realities that exist today that Jesus would change. What would Jesus do with American Independence Day? The Kingdom of Heaven is like the 4th of July. When you see the fireworks, remember me. What about movies? The Kingdom is like a good movie.

What about you? What do you think Jesus would use to communicate his message of love if he were to come today?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

9 Years

She really liked me and I didn't have to be impressive in all of the usual ways. She didn't play games or put me through tests.

I really liked her and was attracted to her. It was her servant heart that had all the gravity. I didn't have to interpret and translate or "get it" with her.

It was love at third sight, which was really important for me. Love at first sight is usually the indication that I am going to get drunk.

Oh, there was passion, there IS passion, but passion is the servant of fidelity. Passion orbits, but is not orbited.

Our feet are getting calloused and starting to like each other's. We've walked the same roads and we've walked them together. At times we've been hurt, we've been lonely, we've been insecure, but we've been all of these together.

We're slow cooking. Her flavor is getting into me and mine into her.

She's beautiful. From the ways that fade all the way to the ways that don't, she is most beautiful.

I want another 9 years, and I want it about 6 or 7 more times.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Kingdom Business

So let's say Darryl starts a business. He's got this slam dunk hamburger that people just love. So, he puts out some cash and opens Darryl's Slam Dunk Burger Joint. It's a new kind of burger joint. It delivers - for free. He wants to be a positive force in the community with his yummy burgers.

So he builds his place, hires some cooks and delivery dudes. He gets a ton of ground beef, buns, french fries and all the burger essentials. Everything gets set in place. Then, he launches the business.

However, what he finds is that the only people eating his burgers are his employees. Oh yes, they like the burgers, for they are very yummy, but they are the only ones eating the yummy burgers.

So, he rallies the troops and says, "Hey troops, I want my burger to be a positive force in the community. I am glad you like them, but let's get the word out, OK?"

The employees agree that it is a good idea, but in order to get the word out, they demand a larger facility with state of the art ovens, better venhilation, and some sweet rides for the delivery dudes. Darryl concedes that such things might help.

After a couples months, the changes are made and Darryl hopes that finally Darryl's Slam Dunk Burger Joint will be a positive force in the community. However, what he finds is a bunch of fat employees feeding Darryl's yummy burgers to each other and their children. Word never got out. No deliveries were made. There was no positive force.

Darryl is disappointed. So he rallies the troops.

"Hey troops, I want word to get out about this place, what do you think you can do about this?"

The troops respond that they need a slick marketing campaign - "40 Days of Burgers."

So they organize into small groups and eat Darryl's yummy burgers in their homes together and watch videos about burgers and their positive force in communities. They all agree with each other that this is a great thing - why else would they be eating so many burgers? But then they lamented the fact that so few people in the world knew about Darryl's yummy burgers. They felt sorry for the people eating only regular burgers, or even no burgers at all.

Then they figured that the reason some people were not eating burgers was because they ate aweful things like hot dogs. Vile! Hot dog eaters must have some kind of contempt for the superior flavor and nutritional value of Darryl's yummy burgers. The troops began to have resentment towards the hot dog eaters and built up arguments among themselves as to the "real" motives and agendas of hot dog eaters. All hot dog eaters were suspect of sinister acts and ideas.

Darryl realized what was going on and quietly abandoned his efforts among the hamburger eaters and opened Darryl's Sooper Dooper Hot Dog Stand on the other side of town.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Christian America

My good friend and colleague, Greg Brooks, pointed out this article excerpt in Harpers. Give it a read and then feel free to comment on Christian America.