Christ Following

Left behind …

Sorry, not a commentary on the ever popular Tim LaHaye series, not even connected.

I spoke with a friend of mine from college days. We roomed together at OBU. He still plays a little basketball as do I. Playing after 40 is both fun and difficult. There were days when what I intended to do in my mind could easily be accomplished physically. I did not say with success. Now my left knee hurts because I believed I could do at 40 what I could at 20 or even 30. There are times I feel left behind. A younger player steals a ball and I cannot catch him or a pass whizzes by and I intended to get it but did not get there – just a little late.

Over ten years ago I finished Doctoral work at Southwestern Seminary. I found out in some of my first seminars I was behind. I was younger and maybe more energetic so it was not physical. I passed all the entrance requirements like the others so it was not intellectual – I don’t think. I simply did not have the same information. Books had been written I knew nothing about that would be a great help to pastor/minister/study etc. I had not read them, did not know they were out there.

I called the Seminary and sought a way to get current reading lists. While Solomon wrote there was nothing new under the sun, our times change and finding ways to apply truth or understand life as we now know it comes with different peculiarities and nuances. There just was not enough interest. For years I tried to find ways to keep current. I attended seminars at the seminary and that helped.

A couple of years ago I participated in a learning journey that sated my desire to hear what God is doing in the world and in the church. A phrase kept ringing in my ears – lifelong learning. I finally found a way to describe what I longed for – continued learning and challenge. I find this the life of the disciple. Jesus calls us to a life long journey of learning, what it means to follow him and be his. There are days when my energy wanes and I feel a bit behind. During those times I have found spiritual practices helping keep me focused.

I have been working with a friend to find ways to helps seminaries move to the edge; a way to keep them connnected with what God is doing in and around the world and how we should respond. We met with Fuller Theological Seminary and will be contracting with them to provide ongoing learning opportunities. We will instill in young leaders, pastors, church planters that a piece of paper on a wall does not mean you have learned all you need to follow Jesus – keep learning. Hopefully we will help others not feel “left behind.”

Some of you have known about this “project.” Thank you for your prayers. Keep praying God will lead. We want pastors to be fresh and invigorated learning what God is doing around the world in hearts as well as minds – careful not to separate the two!

What language do you speak …

Language presents some interesting conundrums. “Conundrum” – a paradoxical, insoluable, or difficult problem; a dilemma.” We play games with language. “What did you mean by that?” expresses -an interogative question to clarify a statment. Arguments often stem from the collision of one’s world of language with that of another. Ron Martoia responded in an interview,

I’m in the middle of an intentional “re-lexiconning” of Christianity. The well-worn categories and definitions of Christianity have been so diluted that they’ve lost their power. If you ask a hundred pastors, “What is the kingdom?” a hundred definitions emerge. If you ask people on the street, “What is the gospel?” you get even more varied definitions. We need to rework the language of Christianity to remain viable in our culture.

We do not mind “re-lexiconning” but we do not want to consider what this means when we hope to communicate Scripture to people who do not speak with the “King’s English.” Someone has likened this disdain from putting the Scripture in modern idioms to asking someone who speaks Spanish to learn English before they can come to faith in Christ.

The New Testament comes to us in “koine” Greek – the language of the common person. You might call it “everyman’s language.” The intent was to make it readable and available for every person. Yet, today we want every person to learn a form of English and expression in English not used anywhere else today. Definitely not “everyman’s language.” If we are going to maintain this posture then everyone needs a Greek New Testament – and needs to learn Greek.

However, we are glad someone has translated the “koine” Greek so we, everyman/everyperson, might understand the Word of God. When someone undertakes to help people hear/understand the Word of God, they stand in a great tradition dating back to the very writing of the Words we value and cherish. So, when people like Eugene Peterson undertake to preserve Scripture by putting it in “everyman’s” language, I applaud.

Some of our young adults around here have been introduced to this project called, The Message.

They have found a “re-invigorating” reading experience. They grew up on another translation. They still read those. Yet, this experience for them helps make the connection in ways not experienced before. It really helps them consider ways of making their faith relevant to those they hope to reach with the gospel of Jesus, the Christ.

A new perspective does not diminsh the value – it enhances.

More on Mudhouse Sabbath …

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago after finishing, Mudhouse Sabbath.

January 19 –

Just finished reading “Mudhouse Sabbath” by Lauren Winner. She takes a number of Jewish practices and considers ways they might enhance the practice of Christianity.

Several selections gain my attention. The chapter on prayer. The practice of liturgical prayer, though often “dull and boring” seems to keep one’s focus on God. Winner admits attempts at spontaneous prayer did not find her praying more but rather less.

I wonder if results from a sense of freedom from “form” which creates the environment for “less prayer.” My own prayer life at times could be described as “sporadic.” I wonder if the opposite – a regular liturgy/litany of prayer would make the habit of praying more indelible.

I also wonder if there is truth to a prayer liturgy offering a way outward. Winner suggests this spontaneous praying often left her feeling narcisstic – only praying for herself. Written prayers give us the possibility of thinking more widely about what to pray for/about.

We practice spontaneous prayer at church. Many times the same prayers are prayed by the same people – very little variety. We pray for forgiveness of sinss, the sick, the lost and for guidance. I suspect any attempt to marry the two would be difficult since we fear anything “liturgical” yet, we by our own habits, establish our own “liturgy.”

Written prayers are no less spiritual than spontaneous prayers. In fact, written prayers make us more thoughtful, engagin the mind with the heart.

I like the challenge of this little book – you might too.

The Search to Belong …

Joe Meyers may have written one of those books that could arguably change our understanding of relationship, especially with regards to the Church. You’ll find a link in my book list to the left.

Joe took some thoughts on architecture written a number of years ago and offers some incredible insights into the ways people connect in space. He suggests there are four spaces in which people belong – Public, Social, Personal and Intimate.

We often convey to someone they could enjoy an “intimate” relationship with God. Meyer’s definition for intimate – “naked and unashamed.” Relationally that means you have a willingness to honest about who you are before God. Not many of us really want an intimate relationship with God. We want a personal God but not an intimate God. We want to keep God at just the right distance so I don’t have to change too much. For that matter not many of us want an inimate relationship with anyone. We are too fearful of what they might think or say about us.

How would this play into our expressions of hospitality? We have expectations of people that may be unrealistic. Think about it. Tell me what you think.

Mudhouse Sabbath …

I recently finished reading Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. The book takes a look at eleven Jewish practices. Laurene explores these habits through the lens of one who practiced them as an Orthodox Jew and now seeks to integrate their significance into her journey with Jesus. The book holds a dual significance for the reader. First, one gains an appreciation for spiritual practices found in the Old Testament. Often we who follow Jesus summarily dismiss some of the things found in the Torah – Law – as having been superceded by grace. Yet, some of these practices understood through the lens Winner exposes us to cause us to consider the value of Old Testament practices as having import for today.

Second, the book serves as a great inspiration to study the Christian faith from its “whole” perspective. Rather than view ourselves as New Testament Christians – it would be better we view ourselves as the people of the God of the Bible – Yahweh! Instead of relegating the Old Testament to scant significance, we uncover beautiful gems exposing the wonderful work of God’s grace in redemption history.

I encourage you to get it and read it. You may find yourself longing to practice the significance of Sabbath in fresh new ways in hopes of intentionally encountering the presence of God without distractions of a normal day. Let me know what you think!