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What’s the Point? 


Then I pray to you, O Lord.
I say, “You are my place of refuge.  You are all I really want in life. (Psalm 142:5)

What is the goal for the follower of Jesus? Are we looking for happiness, wealth, a home in heaven, eternal riches, a good reputation, a mansion, a good life now, what?

 David tells us we follow Jesus because we long to be with God. It’s fundamentally a relationship that we are seeking with the creator of the universe. All we want is to know that we love and are loved by God. From this relationship springs true life, true love, true joy. Oneness with the creator makes life as it should be. We long for God, to be tucked in safely beside him forever. God is not the means to a selfish end he is the end himself.

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Big League Sin

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If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. (I John 5:16)

We do not know what the “sin that leads to death” actually is. However, we do see it as so severe in John’s mind, that he wonders a loud if it’s even worth praying over. This individual evidently is so hell-bent on his own destruction that John sees that perhaps prayer energies would be better spent on someone else. How does one make that judgment? Without more explanation how is this passage helpful? Is this a descriptor of the modern-day terrorist? The modern-day pedophile? I hope not, because this sinning person is referred to as “a brother”. Is this then about someone who would claim to be Christian but yet is so decidedly evil? In this epistle John is particularly hard on 2 types of people

  1. Those who claim to be Christian yet have hearts full of hate
  2. Those who claim to be a Christian yet deny Christ’s real identity. (In those days the tendency was to accept Jesus’ divinity but not his humanity, now a days, the mistake is the other way around)

Are these people so far gone into their own destructive hate and delusions about the person of Jesus that they are beyond the point of return? Is this what John is talking about? I wonder if it’s even possible to know for sure.

What is the lesson for us? Is it that some sins are more severe than others? Yes, certainly that is one point, but I don’t think that’s the main point. The Christian must take all sin very seriously.

We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning (Vs 18)

The Christian person will run from and resist all sin at all costs. The Christian life will manifest itself in loving actions and attitudes toward other humans.

If we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? (4:20)

If it does not something is “deathly” wrong.

Pray, but also be ready to Punch?

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But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves. (New 4:9)
“Let’s just pray about it.” was not quite enough for Nehemiah. They were going to pray about the danger, but also arm themselves and be ready to protect themselves should the enemy show up. Their prayers to God were backed up with immediate human action. They believed that God would protect them, but they also believed that they themselves would be the means through which God would do the protecting!
“God we need your protection, but I have my sword here straped to my side, so that you can answer my prayer through it’s blade.”
What enemies do Christian people have in the western world today, and what possibly could be the application for a text like this? Regarding enemies I would have to say it would mostly be hostile world views and wicked philosophies of life, as far a actual people as enemies, well, there are many tempter’s out there both computer generated and real and smooth talking charlatans abound.
So whats the application? It’s certainly good to pray about those dangers but it’s also just as important to take drastic action against them. What exactly that looks like I’m not even sure. My faith tradition is against violence of any kind. So punching out a smooth talking charlatan is probably not the right course of action, (though, I must confess sometimes the thought is appealing) but it would seem according to this story that in some cases we will need to push back aggressively against real enemies. Prayer is part of the pushback but so to is action.
Does this contradict Jesus’ admonition to love our enemies and pray for them? Maybe. But in some cases I wonder if the best way you can show love for someone is to resist them, to fight against them and their beliefs. Was it not the best thing for white people when Martin Luther King resisted them? The entrapments of racism and superiority had blinded white people for centuries. It was a soul eating cancer. Kings active resistance against it not only liberated black people but it also freed many whites from their blindness.
Christian people will always need to be praying but sometimes they will also need to stand up, raise their metaphorical sword and say “No more!”

Desiring the Kingdom

 

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He is repetitive, however, since his book is all about the benefits of repetition and the development of desire shaping habits, I don’t suppose he should apologize for using the word “pedagogy” a whopping 57 times and “telos” 38 times in his book!

What is Smith after with all this talk about habits and liturgies? He is in full revolt against Descartes axiom “I think therefore I am.” For Smith we are not fundamentally rational/thinking creatures, nor are we fundamentally believing creatures. Smith is utterly convinced that we are desiring creatures. To be human is to love (51) We are affective embodied creatures who make our way in the world by feeling our way around it (47) — So when it comes to the goal (telos) of education methods (pedagogy) Especially the formation of Christian education, we should be less concerned about ideas, rules, and doctrines and more concerned about capturing the imagination through pictures, stories, and embodied rituals. The reason for this, according to Smith is that our habits are the hinge that turns our heart”(56) as embodied lovers our loves are aimed and primed by the rituals and practices that turn those desires (126) 

We need to give up our fixation on ideas, (65) he says, after all, before Christians had systematic theologies and worldviews they were singing hymns and psalms, saying prayers and celebrating the eucharist. (139) In so many churches belief and doctrine inform us and our worship follows as an expression of that belief.  Smith says that’s backwards. Worship comes first, because desire forms knowledge.

The undeniable passion of this book is to call Christians back to liturgy. We need intentional embodied practices at corporate worship gatherings because they are invaluable in shaping our loves and desire’s back toward God. Absorbing information about God won’t do it.  Smith’s argument was compelling especially when he compared how secular institutions such as the mall, the frat house, and the stadium all employ embodied rituals and habits with incredible success as the means to capture the hearts of people.

The curious paradox — Smith writes a book, books target the mind. His book is a bunch of ideas communicating that ultimately it’s not ideas that form our loves but rather practices. He himself is still fixated on ideas, by virtue of the fact that he writes a book. He wants us to believe that humans operate from the body up. (25) but yet his book, is attempting to grab our heart from the mind down, as books do. I point out this paradox to suggest that maybe there is more to the development of deep love than embodied practices. Maybe that’s just a part of it, granted even a big part, but this book on its face, is leading me to believe that if I just practice more liturgy, if I just actively engage in more embodied habits and rituals then a deeper love for God will be formed in my life. Is that true? I am not convinced.

What does the Bible say about this?  — Smith doesn’t really interact much with the Bible. I think it has a lot to say. In the Old Testament we discover Jewish worship and see quickly that it is loaded with liturgy. The ancient worshippers were totally embodied — all the senses engaged in repetitive worship designed to deepen love for God. So far, Smith could simply point to that and say “see there you have it”. The only troubling business is when you get to the prophets and then ultimately to Jesus. They all launch full scale attacks on the religion of their respective days and liturgy is at the centre of their condemnation.  The assault crashes in: They honour me with their lips, they are meticulous in the practice of their rituals, but yet there is a huge problem. From Isaiah to Jesus it’s the same problem. “Their hearts are far from me.” Bucket loads of liturgy, more than anyone in the 21st century Western world could even fathom, and yet the hearts of these worshippers are not even close to being captured by God’s love. What does one make of this? What is shocking to me, is Smith doesn’t even bring it up, not a single word word about it.

What does Church History say about this? — As you trace church history you see the same pattern emerging. Over time, faith often finds itself reduced to going through ritualistic motions, with hearts not at all captured by God’s love. After reading Luther’s biography (1500’s), and then Whitefield’s (1700’s) it’s plain to see that these men called their listeners away from dead ritual and into something that was not just felt, but also known and believed. It seems to me that somehow knowledge, belief, and desire working in concert is what awakened people to a deeper love for God.

I agree with Smith that love is what drives the human, it shapes our belief and our knowledge – or at least how we interpret knowledge. I also agree that at some level habitual practice is extremely formative in shaping desire, I’m just not sure if that’s all there is to it. I think there is more.

I think mission might have something to do with it — the habitual practice of outward action. (?) It might be why Paul says “What is important is faith expressing itself in love” (Gal 5:6) This coming after he straightly charges the Galatians believers not to fall back into their Jewish rituals and practices. — The Love of Christ must flow outward or it dies. Maybe for this same reason, Micah says to his listeners its not about bowing, and burning, and offering things to God in ritualistic fashion. Rather, it’s about doing what is right in the everyday, practicing mercy on people, and being humble. (Micah 6:8) — perhaps in the walking out of God’s mission love grows.

The Journey Into Belief

  

…And his disciples believed in him

(John 2:11)

The celebration was far from over but the wine barrels were empty. Jesus managed to fix the problem in ways that bend the laws of nature!  Confidence began to grow in the hearts of Jesus’ friends.  Maybe, just maybe, Jesus was the Messiah. If he can take care of a wine problem, maybe he can take care of all of our problems. At this point in the story, they didn’t even know what that would look like, they had no idea of exactly who Jesus was, only that a seed of hope had begun to root itself in this mysterious yet approachable person named Jesus.  Belief is the slow process in which over time ones hopes are transferred. Helping someone cross over into belief requires patience, gentleness, kindness and above all relationship. These disciples didn’t understand fully who Jesus was until he rose from the dead 3.5 years later. In the course of that time, however,  Jesus proved himself to be a true friend and he patiently journeyed with these friends into belief. Christians of today would do well to follow his example.

Is God anti-gay? (Book Review) Sam Allberry

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Sam Alberry is a Christian with a unique perspective. He admits that he is same sex attracted, but yet he stands resolutely opposed to fulfilling those attractions. He answers the question of his book title with a negative. Sam is certain that God is not anti-anyone, but if so, then why must he deny himself?

Gay is not who I am — He believes It is unhealthy for sexual preference to be the fundamental identifier of a human. This is why Sam prefers the term “same sex attracted” over the term gay. Just like it would be off to lock someone into the identity of carnivore simply because they like to eat a steak on occasion so to would it be inappropriate to lock someone into a sexual identity. A human is far more than what his natural appetites might be. To build an identity off of this one part of humanity is unfair to the human.

Sex outside of marriage is a bad idea — He believes that sex was intended to be so much more than casual. In a way, sex is like a post-it note. The first time you use it, it sticks well, but when it is reapplied too many times, it loses its capacity to stick to anything. We are simply not designed for multiple sexual relationships. Sex becomes less relational, more functional and less satisfying as a result. Sex is designed to irreversibly knit two people together. When it’s used for anything other than this, despite what the sitcoms preach, there is emptiness, brokenness and devastation.

Marriage needs both genders — He is also convinced that marriage is rooted in gender. It’s the great reunion. God made Eve from Adam, and then in a brilliant stroke, He puts them back together permanently through the sexual union that comes with marriage. Marriage according to God, says Sam, can only be the reunion of these two genders.

Let’s just be friends — According to Sam, a common problem among SSA people, including himself, is what he calls “friendship heroin.” Sam’s tendency, is to develop an unhealthy emotional dependancy on another person. If he is not careful he can get “high” on the affirmation of this friend which can easily result in intense but unhealthy longings. According to Sam, simply knowing this and being able to work through the dangers of “friendship heroin” together, and not “freaking out” is very helpful for people with SSA that really just want regular friendships, not the unhealthy addictive versions.

The Bible is clear — Sam has been told innumerable times that the Old Testament has lots of rules that the modern Christian doesn’t adhere to, so why can’t homosexuality just be one of those now irrelevant rules? Sam’s answer: Jewish civic law and Jewish temple law have been fulfilled in Christ. Those rules don’t apply anymore. However, moral law finds itself restated in the New Testament — specifically covering this particular area. If one wishes to give in to SSA and live in a lifestyle that allows for the fulfillment of those longings, he will have to do it, in opposition to what the Scripture says, something Sam is not willing to do. To quote him directly: “Life is far, far better when Jesus is at the centre, and far, far worse when anyone or anything else is.”  because of this belief he is willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Jesus. Which is actually the calling of all Christians.

I applaud Sam’s tremendous courage to speak out. I am certain that homophobes on one side of him will criticize him unmercifully for his admission to SSA, surely he can’t be a Christian, without denying his same sex attraction they will say. On the other side, the gay activists will take equally unmerciful shots at him, incredulous as to how he could possibly deny his own sexual appetites for the sake of what they are certain is out dated and inaccurate dogma.

Click below to watch a short video of Sam explaining his unique position.

Sam from Living Out on Vimeo.

Love Your Body (Psalm 139:14)

David actually loves his body he’s thrilled with it! But he does not become egotistical with this kind of self-love. When I love my body and realize it’s a gift from God the gratitude that I feel for that gift turns into worship. So many people in this world stumble around hating their bodies unhappy with how they look, because they are overweight, have the “wrong” body shape or some undesirable feature. This self loathing creates anxiety, fear, despair and unhappiness, God wants us to believe that our bodies are masterpieces of incredible design handcrafted by the king of the universe. Believe this! Come to love how God has made you and in so doing free yourself from the trap of worthlessness. Only then will you be able to truly love God and love others like you were meant to

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What is Church

What if church looked like this? Would you be interested? Welcome to Meta.

Don’t let disappointment destroy you

Don’t let disappointment destroy you. 3 min video

Is there away to prevent yourself from becoming bitter when others let you down? The only way that I know of I learned from Jesus.

Religiphobia

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Horrible things have happened in the name of religion. I am half way through the book A Concise History of the Middle East, and I could easily cite a hundred examples or more of atrocities committed in the name of Jesus or Allah. Before that book I read Great Soul the biography of Mahatma Gandhi, which some could argue is more a chronology of carnage between Hindus and Muslims than anything else.

I understand why religion is creepy at best to many in our western world. I see clearly how charlatans and power mongers embed themselves in religious communities so as to control people and take advantage of noble traits like generosity and grace. I’ve seen how religious institutions grow, gain power and become corrupt. I’ve observed how leaders of religious organizations let success, fame, & popularity go to their head. These leaders become arrogant, pompous, and unloving. I’ve witnessed the stunning transformation of well-meaning religious people who become so fixated on a particular issue or moral standard that love and grace vanish, replaced with violent anger and rage.
Given these realities, is it suitable for us as a culture to embrace a phobia of religion? Religiphobia is a knee jerk negative reaction against anything that even resembles religion. The assumption of a religiphobe is that all things religious or even apparently religious should be continually marginalized, censored, & prohibited.

The problem with religiphobia is that is comes with an unwarranted presupposition against all religions and it fails to take into consideration the truth that every human is innately religious — especially religiphobes.

The unwarranted presupposition against all religions fails to consider what I call simple religion. Take Jesus for example. His conclusion on the whole matter of religion is to love God by loving your neighbor. That’s how Christians are supposed to practice their religion. So if a Christian or group of Christians want to practice the simple religion of loving their neighbor at a community centre or a local school by putting together a program or event that benefits the neighborhood they should be able to do so. But it’s simply not possible when religiphobia is in the air. If one wishes to practice simple religion by opening up his home to share meals and talk about life’s questions. The religiphobes send city inspectors to try to shut it down. For many who wish to practice this form of simple religion they could only do so if they jettison their faith, or masquerade as irrereligous. Even a hint of religion and doors slam tightly shut. Granted, if religious organizations were trying to manipulate people or hurt them that would be one thing. But this is not what the purveyors of simple religion are about. They are about helping make their neighborhoods better as an act of worship to a God they believe in. Why ever would we as a society frown upon that?

Secondly, every human is religious. To quote Yann Martel “Atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word they speak speaks of faith…We all go as far as the legs of reason will carry us and then we jump!”  Science can never retrace with certainty where we have come from or where we are going, or why we are here. The deep why’s, the ones that matter in our gut, will always remain unanswered by scientific rationalism and so we jump. All of us jump: some with lab coats on and some without, but we all jump. That’s faith, that’s religion. Everyone who is part of the human race, shapes their life around a story that they are believing. To me it’s culturally poor form to push to the margins certain faiths while at the same time upholding others. Somehow we’ve managed to justify this discrimination by pretending that some of the more secular explanations for why, what and how to live are not faith based. They are all faith-based. Religiphobes are the fundamentalists of this faith.

Perhaps we as a society should relax a little, take a deep breath. There are enemies out there that want to undo us, some in the name of organized religion some not. Practitioners of simple religion are not the enemy.