Archive for May, 2010
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“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…” (I Cor. 5.14 NIV)

Christ’s Spirit indwells us,
And His love compels us,
To go and love with the love we are shown.
As salt and as light,
To inflame and ignite,
The passions of those estranged and alone.

And when we obey,
These frail jars of clay
Are overflowing with the Water of Life.
We carry His mercy
To those who are thirsty,
To those overwhelmed by sorrow and strife.

We go, for Christ goes
To seek and find those
Locked in the grip of sin and despair.
Our motive is grace,
We share His embrace,
We show Jesus cares in the ways that we care.

We go with intent
To spend and be spent.
We go for our lives are no longer our own.
We love with the love
That Jesus shows us.
We go for we know His love will atone.

Our mission is clear,
Go far and go near,
To reconcile those under the curse.
To bring Living Water
To parched sons and daughters
To bring back to Christ the despised and dispersed.

The love of Christ compels us.

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First of all, go watch this message.  I’ll wait.  What I’ve got to say pales in comparison.

Very powerful stuff, IMHO.

One ancillary statement that Matt Chandler made, though, stuck out to me because of prior conversations here.  Several pastors/teachers have been repeatedly thrown under the bus by ODMs and their ilk because they chose to speak at conferences or churches where the other speakers didn’t agree with them theologically — sometimes with significant differences.

The “unequally yoked” phrase from 2 Corinthians 6:14 gets hideously misappropriated and gross exaggerations like “partnering in ministry” get bandied about.  Not surprisingly (and I say this with regret, because I are one), a lot of such silliness comes from those that would consider themselves to be of the Reformed community.  I point that out because Chandler is a Reformed guy and this was at T4G, which was lousy with Reformed guys.  So when he talked about the issue, this was not two hyper-Pelagians discussing it over a beer.

The embedded video below (in case you haven’t listened to the whole message yet — you heathen) kicks in at the start of the statement that’s relevant to this post.  As background, he’s talking about the vision that he had for his church when he first started pastoring.  The statement runs for about 1 minute, 25 seconds (you can quit listening when he says “I’ll be working”).

In a minute and a half, Chandler crystallizes what I’ve believed for some time. I don’t think I ever want to hear that “partnering in ministry” crap again.

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Mohammad Drawing MohammadFor those not paying attention, yesterday was “Everyone Draw Mohammad Day”, where a number of bloggers and websites (most notably a Facebook page, taken down late in the day by FB) purposely collected and posted drawings of the prophet of Islam, Mohammad.

I already touched on this issue a bit a couple of weeks ago (though it seemed to have gotten lost on the discussion of Arizona’s affirmation of the enforcement of federal immigration law), but here’s the basic skinny:

  1. A few years ago, a Danish newspaper published some political cartoons which depicted the prophet Mohammad.  Somewhat predictably, because they believe it is a sin to even draw the image of big Mo, radical Islamists rioted, instituted death threats, and created a great deal of chaos around the globe.  In the course of these events, it is reported that about 100 people were killed.  One of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, has since had two attempts made on his life by radical Islamists.
  2. In the aftermath of the Danish cartoon controversy, again predictably, the response from the establishment media was to blame the Danish newspaper – rather than the radical Islamists – for the violence (noting that the cartoons were far from blasphemous).  Also, predictably, this was a rather obvious double-standard, since these same condemners had no problem with similar treatment of Jesus – primarily since there is almost zero likelihood of a Christian issuing a death sentence against a secular cartoonist.
  3. Dutch Film Director, Theo Van Gogh, was gunned down by a radical Islamist on the streets of Amsterdam for his 10-minute film, Submission, a documentary which criticized the abuse of women in Islam.
  4. In 2009, Yale University published a book about the Danish incident, The Cartoons that Shook the World.  In an act that can only be accurately described as ‘cowardice’, Yale chose not to publish the actual cartoons the book was about!  In fact, Yale University Press decided to expunge all images of Mohammad from the book – even the historical works of art that depict him.   Lest this be spun as a nod to tolerance or respect, the Press editor who made the decision to expunge the images stated about his decision ““when it came between [standing on principle] and blood on my hands, there was no question.” [It should be noted that all of the images were later published by a Duke professor, much to the consternation of the University leadership, in "Muhammad: The Banned Images".]
  5. Earlier this year, the cartoon South Park depicted the prophet Mohammad in a bear suit (so that his image was not actually ever drawn, underscoring their point), which led to the suggestion of a death threat against the cartoonists and South Park’s owning entity, Viacom (who, incidentally, had an explosives-laden car parked in front of its Times Square headquarters a few weeks later).  Comedy Central, South Park’s network, did the brave thing with the follow-up episode and censored it, caving in to the implied threat.
  6. As a response, Molly Norris, a cartoonist/blogger, suggested “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day” on May 20, 2010, as a way to have a large number of people draw images of the prophet – not as a statement against Islam, but to create a group too large to be intimidated by radical Islamists.  However, when her suggestion went viral, she disavowed the suggestion – in fear for her personal safety (a response which, ironically, was what her idea was to combat!).
  7. In the meantime, another Mohammad cartoonist, Lars Vilks of Sweden, was forced to go into hiding after attempts were made on his life by radical Islamists.
  8. Yesterday – May 20 – there were a number of sites which hosted EDMD images, even without Norris on board.  The primary Facebook page, in the face of International boycotts (!?!) was deleted by Facebook late in the day (though this one and this one are still there).  The best ones, though, in my opinion were published by Reason magazine (none of which, incidentally, actually had pictures of Mohammad drawn on them :) ) and by one of my favorite cartoonists, iMaksim, who drew three cartoons, none of which were statements about the Muslim faith.

Reason magazine writer, Nick Gillespie, in summing up the ‘need’ for Everybody Draw Mohammad Day, noted that we, in America, define freedom of expression as a right granted by God and that:

no one should be beaten or killed or imprisoned simply for speaking their mind or praying to one god as opposed to the other or none at all or getting on with the small business of living their life in peaceful fashion. If we cannot or will not defend that principle with a full throat, then we deserve to choke on whatever jihadists of all stripes can force down our throats.

So, there are two questions that spring to my mind: 1) What should the Christian response be to radical Islam, specifically in this matter of “drawing Mohammad”; and, similarly 2) Should Christians be supportive of “Everybody Draws Mohammad Day”?

Drawing Mohammad

This is not MohammadAs a Christian, we have a number of principles to balance in our dealings with people of other religious faiths, who worship other gods.  In the face of extreme proselytism, Elijah’s response was to mock the false Ba’al and his prophets (which is sometimes the correct response), particularly if it can deliver a death-blow to the gods in question.  Conversely, Paul’s response to Artemis, in a society that demanded respect of the her, was defended by a city official as having not blasphemed her, even though he (Paul) taught that man-made gods were no gods at all.

The challenge we face is – how do we deny the false gods of the world – Islam, Joseph Smith, the state, etc. – without so turning off their followers toward Christ that they refuse to listen?

So one question, in this instance is – actually how offensive is it to Islam to “draw Mohammad”?

Moderate Muslims will note that there is a rich history within Islam which includes the artistic depiction of the prophet, and that the prohibition on making images of him is similar to the Judeo-Christian prohibition of graven images – the creation of physical idols to be worshiped.  As such, it is only the fundamentalist branch which takes the literalist view, sometimes issuing fatwas against artists for insulting Islam via drawing Mohammad.

With this in mind, in addition to the recent history of intimidation on the part of radical Islamists, it becomes apparent that what is at hand is more than simple respect towards other with different beliefs.

Everybody Draw

In the case of Everybody Draw Mohammad Day, I think Christians – particularly those in the West – have a thin line to tread.

We can take an in-your-face approach which is completely disrespectful and offensive to all Muslims (for example, by encouraging that Mohammad be drawn as a pig) – one that seeks to brand all Muslims as fanatical extremists.

Or, we could take an equal-but-opposite, limp-wristed and myopic approach which says “what is Christ-like about promoting or doing things that seek to do nothing but offend”?  In doing so, we basically bow to extremist elements of a proselytizing, anti-Christian force, which seeks to squash not just anti-Muslim speech, but ultimately subjugation of all to Islam.

I think, though, that we can find a middle ground in the matter which says that we, as Christians, will not stand for the violent coercion of anyone on behalf of religion – our own, or anyone else’s.  As such, I think that we could support EDMD from the standpoint that if we all draw pictures of Mohammad (in a respectful manner, as in the Reason drawings), the fringe elements of Islam cannot single out and target the few who are (currently) willing to speak out against them.  At the same time, we should not support those who would create images that are truly sacrilegious – of any faith.

It’s a delicate path to tread – to be neither an equal-opportunity-offender or a spineless appeaser.  In one way lies driving others away from Christ, and in the other lies an invitation to oppression of all – Christian and non-Christian, alike.

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At Jerry’s Request :)

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And

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UnityDuring our recent discussion on the Resurrection and the different facets of its meaning (particularly as elicited in this Rob Bell video, called “Resurrection”), there was some insistence that the only important meaning of the resurrection was missed – that being that because of Jesus’ resurrection, all who believe in him will “go to heaven”. As part of the discussion, NT Wright was brought into the discussion. Since this time, we’ve done a bit more listening to Wright, just to get a good handle on his view of the Kingdom of God, the Cross and the Resurrection – particularly for those who seem to hold up Paul’s teaching as the gold standard for dealing with the Resurrection.

The Easter Message

One set of lectures which has been very helpful in this research was this talk he gave at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (Newport Beach, CA) last year, entitled “Paul for Tomorrow’s World”. In it, he affirms that indeed, because of the cross, all who follow Christ also have the hope of resurrection, and to meet him again after his return. However, he also takes a holistic view of the Resurrection – including the prophetic works of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Gospels, and the writings of Jesus’ disciples. In doing so, Wright notes:

Read the rest of this entry »

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i hate it when that happens
(or I hate it when that happens)

Luke 18:10-14 (NKJV):

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican (aka tax collector) is something that many of us cling to. This world is lousy with Pharisees (particularly as described in this parable) and the advent of the blogosphere just gave them a bigger bully pulpit and a louder megaphone. Trying to disabuse readers of some of their silliness — more specifically, trying to help others avoid the pain brought to me by the Pharisees in my own life — is one of the primary reasons that I write.

Well, apparently, God deemed that I needed to be smacked right between the eyes last night. It occurred to me — rather jarringly — that I have been guilty of living as though the publican prayed:

‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Pharisee.’

In short, I have been proud of my lack of pride. I’m not sure which this is more — stupid or shameful.

It’s all about humility.

I have a feeling that I’m not alone. I hope I am, but I kinda doubt it. If the shoe fits, your mileage may vary, etc, etc ….

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As I’ve been working on a piece with Christian P on a Tom Wright from a talk  of his last February, I came across another one of his discussions & lectures – this one at Wheaton college last month – on the historicity of Jesus and the kingdom of God.  There was some good stuff in it that I didn’t want to get lost, so here’s a particular excerpt I thought to be interesting:

The Jesus story is precisely about this world, this creation – not about the private life of one private group of people. The canonical story is the public story of the real Jesus and the real world.

And to live within the gospel story – all its wonderful stuff about what it means to “be people of the story” and so on – I fully embrace that as I sure a lot of you know. But to live within the gospel story is not to enter a private world separated off from the story of the rest of the world; it is to enter the same public space, time and matter world with all of its risks. To imagine that by saying “story” we escape the public world’s risks – or are immune to it – is to fail to see which story it is.

So my first big problem about not really doing history properly is that we shrink the story of God and God’s kingdom in Jesus, and the story of Jesus bringing Israel’s destiny to its climax – those two stories joining up to become one – we shrink that to the abstract categories of “divinity” and “humanity”. It is much “safer” and less risky to do that, but much less like the actual Gospel – both of the canon and of Jesus.

The second point is about the kingdom and the cross. I was at a conference a couple of days ago […] we were talking about this a lot, and I made the point that in my diocese there are many churches which are basically “kingdom churches” that don’t know what the cross is there for; and many that are basically “cross churches” that don’t know what the kingdom’s all about.

There are many Christians (in my church, at least) who see in the Gospels, Jesus healing people, feasting with outcasts and sinners, bringing a new way of life. They say “that’s the man for me. I’m going to follow him. He’s the person. I’m going to really want to be like that. I’m going to go do that stuff as well.” And there are many noble people who have given their lives to kingdom work in some of the toughest parts of my country and your country and so on.

“Follow Jesus…” and then they get this puzzled look and say “what a shame that his public career was cut short so soon. He was on a roll with that stuff. He could have gone on doing that for years…”

[audience laughter]

The fact that we feel that is funny is a measure of where we are, because there are many people for whom that isn’t very funny at all, actually.

But then you see, the opposite of that is that there are many churches for whom it would have been totally sufficient for Jesus to have been born of a virgin and then died on a cross and never done anything in between.

And then you think, “so why did Matthew, Mark, Luke and John bother to write all that stuff up?” And then we’re back to what [earlier speaker] Nick Perrin said “chips, and dips and pieces of stuff that are just nice, optional hors dourves” before the main course of Pauline theology which we hook on to the story of Jesus death and resurrection.

No.

The gospels – the canonical gospels – are quite clear that the kingdom and the cross go together. But much later western church tradition has manifestly found that conjunction very, very difficult and has often played kingdom and cross off one against the other. Because it’s had one version of reality off making the world a better place by doing kingdom work and another version of reality that is about Jesus dying for our sins so we could go off to heaven – and never the twain seem to meet.

Good stuff. Check it out here.

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I was going to save the video, below, for the Open Thread Friday this week, but as I’ve thought about it, and discussed it with a number of folks, I think it deserves a focused post of its own.

http://www.vimeo.com/11501569

Context, Context

Before any further discussion on the video, I think it’s important to have a little bit of context around it:

  1. The video was produced by the media staff at North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA (where Andy Stanley is the senior pastor).
  2. The Sunday morning worship style being lampooned is the style used by NPCC.  They are making fun of themselves (not somebody else), while making a point.
  3. The video was specifically produced for last week’s Drive Conference, which North Point sponsors for church leaders and creative teams.

Kudos

First off, I’d like to applaud NPCC for 1) being able to laugh at themselves; 2) for being aware of the dangers of church-as-entertainment; and 3) for making this video available, since it has a message that should be heard, but also because it could be misused by their armchair critics who can roll out their favorite whipping boys w/ this video and use it as a misguided indictment on style, rather than a message that could have been produced for any “worship style” used by American churches.

Style vs. Substance

I think that quite often, the critics within the church – across the spectrum of styles – like to play off of a style-versus-substance meme, creating a competition where none need exist.  As I noted above, this video could have been produced to skewer ANY Sunday morning worship style – be it hymns-hymnals-and-pews, Contempervent (I love that term), high church, or incense-and-icons.  One can have substance in any “style”, but when it becomes a show or a rote pattern – tradition for the sake of tradition – it has strayed from the path.

I believe that all forms of artistice creativity can be used for the glory of God in worship: painting, music, dance, drama, sculpture, writing.

One danger is making it the focus of worship rather than a method of worship.  This is just as true of well-done interpretive dance as it is of skillful oratory.

Another danger is making it a distraction from worship rather than an enabler of worship, which is why if something cannot reach a certain level of artistic quality, it might be best not to insert it within corporate worship settings.

Sidebar on Giving

Next, one of the tangential points they bring up is around tithing.  I’ve always found it interesting that the basic message you hear in the church is “what you give is between you and God”, but you know that your giving is being tracked – by law – by the church, for the purposes of tax reporting.  So, the question becomes – what is being done with the tracked giving data?

I know some churches who make it common knowledge that the church treasurer shares NONE of the individual giving data with the leaders of the church.  That way, there is no danger of “playing favorites”, based upon someone’s giving history.  On the flip side, though, it also has a lesser degree of community accountability.

At the other end of the spectrum, I know of churches (and a larger number of non-Christian religious groups) who ask for your pay-stubs and/or W-2’s, in order to make sure that each family is giving its 10%.  To me, this degree of accountability seems to go against the “free-will” nature of giving, and the heart of giving, itself.

Most of the churches I’m familiar with, though, have no spoken policy on who – leadership-wise – knows the details of individual giving, and how those details are used.  In some ways, this ambiguity can be good, but can also be cynically viewed (as elicited in the video).

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