Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Pursuit of God: The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing

In Chapter 2 of The Pursuit of God, Tozer paints the most vivid portrayal I have ever seen of the "putting to death of the old self".
"We must, in our hearts, live through Abraham's harsh and bitter experiences if we would know the blessedness which follows them. The ancient curse will not go out painlessly; the tough old miser within us will not lie down and die in obedience to our command. He must be torn out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence, as Christ expelled the money changers from the temple. And we shall need to steel ourselves against his piteous begging, and to recognize it as springing out of self-pity, one of the most reprehensible sins of the human heart." (Pg. 29)
If "the tough old miser within us" would simply "lie down and die in obedience to our command." than I believe a concept such as "paying it forward" would work. You don't need the Bible to tell you this is not the case, history repeatedly shouts the message loud and clear.

This "extraction of the tooth" is exactly the type of action, which must occur for anything truly good to come out of any man, that I am referring to in my previous post ("There must be a complete detachment from everything that one is. This old self must be put to death, and in it's place, a transformed self must arise.")

---
Chapter 1: Following Hard After God
Chapter 2: The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing
Chapter 3: Removing the Veil
Chapter 4: Apprehending God
Chapter 5: The Universal Presence
Chapter 8: Restoring the Creator-Creation Relation

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pay It Forward

I watched Pay It Forward with a group of friends Saturday night. It is a tear jerker in it's portrayal of all the suffering and brokenness our world has to offer. It is light hearted and humorous enough to keep you smiling, more often than not. And you can't not resist those warm fuzzy feelings inside as a hope to change the world for the better unfolds before your eyes. Despite all of this, I felt like the movie on a whole fell flat.

If you haven't seen the movie it is essentially about a young boy given a social studies assignments to come up with an idea that will improve mankind, and put it into action. He decides that if he can do three good deeds for someone and they in turn can "pay it forward" and so forth, together everyone can make the world a better place.

The Utopian/idealistic nature of this is repeatedly acknowledged, but never resolved. There is one sole attempt to address this when the boy is confronted with the question of what is necessary for success. He responds "it comes down to a faith in everyone having good in them". I think this assumption explains the emptiness that the movie leaves.

While watching the movie you want to think so much that it is possible. You feel it should be possible. But if people were good, than why didn't this movie (and the book before it) create a revolution? After seeing the potential of such love, why did the concept not flood to every corner of the world? I walked away feeling guilty that such a naive hope gave me such warm and fuzzy feelings.

This naive "goodness" is not possible. Our actions will always be tainted. At the core of who we are is not good, we are bent, we are selfish. There must be something more than a mental decision. There must be a complete detachment from everything that one is. This old self must be put to death, and in it's place, a transformed self must arise.

As the teacher challenged his students, I believe it truly is possible to change the world for the better. As the reporter sought to discover, I believe there is a movement of selfless love and forgiveness started by one man. And as the masses mourned at the end, I believe this man was innocently sacrificed for another's life at the hands of evil. Just like the 3 lives touched in the movie through a relationship with this boy, I believe in a relationship in which a man touched the lives of 12 individuals, who in turn have spider webbed His message throughout history; and this message is indeed reaching to every corner of the earth. His legacy has touched my life, and changed the way I treat others. This story of this boy is a thinly veiled and slightly skewed story of reality, the story of man named Jesus and God's rescue plan to change the world for the better.

Where "Pay It Forward" falls short, Scripture perfectly explains the reality of the brokenness of our world. We once were good, and we yearn for this goodness (this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the book which inspired the movie was even written), but we have all fallen short. One of my favorite summations of this reality is in Jeremiah 30. The Lord is speaking through Jeremiah to Israel of their unfaithfulness to God, but these words speak just as powerfully to me and my unfaithfulness today.

"...Your wound is incurable,
your injury beyond healing.

There is no one to plead your cause,
no remedy for your sore,
no healing for you.

All your allies have forgotten you;
they care nothing for you.
I have struck you as an enemy would
and punished you as would the cruel,
because your guilt is so great
and your sins so many.

Why do you cry out over your wound,
your pain that has no cure?
Because of your great guilt and many sins
I have done these things to you." (Jeremiah 30:12-15)

But it doesn't end there! As is repeatedly demonstrated throughout history, and throughout Scripture, God's perfect justice is held in tension with his endless grace.

"But all who devour you will be devoured;
all your enemies will go into exile.
Those who plunder you will be plundered;
all who make spoil of you I will despoil.

But I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds,'
declares the LORD,
'because you are called an outcast,
Zion for whom no one cares." (Jeremiah 30:16-17)

And there in lies the hope! There is something more; a promise that a better world is possible! Hope of that warm fuzzy feeling being a reality through a restoration of what we all yearn for.

Oh how I so desire to have a Bible Study on this movie!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Pursuit of God: Following Hard After God

I have decided to try this idea which was inspired by one of my new favorite blogs, Jesus Creed. Scot quotes and comments on books that he is currently reading (most recently, Paul Metzgers Consuming Jesus). I recently read through Tozer's Pursuit of God and jotted down excerpts that really jumped out at me. Over the next week or two I will be posting them.

From Chapter 1, "Following Hard After God":
"The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be "received" without without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is "saved", but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and is encouraged to be content with little." (pg 12-13)
This really resonates with my thoughts on how we often put so much emphasis on the moment of "acceptance of Christ", the "just pray this simple prayer". We have raised a generation of Christians who place the sum weight of their testimony on a mere moment. We are content to allow one to leave their life untouched by the transformational relationship with Jesus that takes time and effort and loads of self sacrifice. We try so hard to make it easy, and in turn loose the beauty, the potency, the experience, the joy, the peace, the LIFE!
"Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth (pg 17)
Does anyone think Tozer would mind if I said "THAT'S AN UNDERSTATEMENT!!!"? This simple statement was a lesson I learned the hard way. I lived the first 18 years of my life in complacency. A complacency that brought nothing more than brokenness, regret, shame, hopelessness, bitterness, and frustration with life.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Candidate Concession

In the 2008 Presidential Election I will vote for either Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee (just watch the video, trust me, you don't want to miss this):



I can't disagree with anything on Huckabee's platform, I just think we need more, and Ron Paul is still the only answer.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Shack

The Shack blew my mind. It's a really emotionally powerful piece of fiction, but he tackles some really tough theological stuff in it, especially in regard to comprehending the Trinity (in a pretty controversial way) and why God allows suffering. It is ripping to shreds all my stereotypically views of God (God being some old white guy with a beard in the clouds and the trinity being some mathematical formulaic like triangle) and really deepening my perspective on love and relationship.

An interesting thing happened to the cover of the book over the course of reading it. When I looked at the cover - having just finished - it evoked such different emotions then the initial impression. It's a beautiful piece of art which comes alive when accompanied by an even more beautiful piece of fiction.

As a warning to some potential readers, I cannot even imagine reading this book as a father! It was hard enough (emotionally) reading it from my perspective of totally not being able to relate to the father role of the central character.

Two of my favorite excerpts:
"Jesus chuckled, "Good intentions, bad idea. [In reference to what would Jesus do comment] Let me know how it works for you if that's the way you chose to go." He paused and grew sober. "Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to 'Be like Jesus', it means for your independence to be killed. I came to give you life, real life, my life. We will come and live our life inside of you, so that you begin to see with our eyes, and hear with our ears and touch with our hands, and think like we do. But, we will never force that union on you. If you want to do your thing, have at it. Time is on our side."
What a revolutionary way of thinking, in such a concise and impactful statement, about how we live our life!
"[A conversation between God and the central character] You see, Mackenzie, I don't just want a piece of you and a piece of your life. Even if you were able, which you are not, to give me the biggest piece, that is not what I want. I want all of you and all of every part of you and your day"

Jesus now spoke again. "Mack, I don't want to be the first among a list of values, I want to be the center of everything. When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you. Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile, where everything in your life - you friends, family, occupation, thoughts, activities - is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being."
Talk about a great visualization to a holistic approach to one's pursuit in their relationship with God!

For some reason I am reminded of a couple questions that were often asked of us students at a small Christian private school growing up. "If your house burned down and you could only save one thing, what would it be?" We were preprogrammed to know and regurgitate an utterly meaningless answer to an equally pointless question, "my Bible".

Or, the other even more pertinent (to the above quote) question which was asked pretty much weekly, "What are your top 5 priorities in life". To which we instinctually responded "God, family, school, my dog, video games, food", as if God had nothing to do with our family, education, and everything else we did with our life. Priorities are great, don't get me wrong. But that line of thinking, separating out God as one of multiple priorities, probably does more damage then nothing at all.

Anyone else read the book yet? What did you think? What did you take away from the book? Do you think his portrayal of the Trinity is outright heresy?

In 48 Hours:

I discipled/encourage/worked alongside over 30 teenagers who are enthusiastically learning and experiencing what it means to live a life of radical compassion totally abandoned to Jesus on an Urban Mission trip through Bridgetown Ministries.

I helped mobilize over 200 Christians in the NW at Nightstrike to be the eyes/ears/hands/mouth/heart of Jesus loving on over 300 of the most hurting and marginalized of Portland.

I helped serve, and ate :), 2 Thanksgiving dinners to a total of over 700.

I had a test in Probability & Statistics and Sociology.

I slept 5 hours.

I loved every second of it (except for the tests)!!!

On Saturday Bridgetown Ministries also gave Thanksgiving Baskets (with everything needed to eat and prepare a complete Thanksgiving meal, from the table clothe to the turkey) to over 100 families (which puts the grand total of Thanksgiving meals served at nearing 1,000) at the low income apartment complexes we have developed relationships with over the last couple years through B-Town Kids. (Unfortunately I can't be at two places at once, so I wasn't able to directly be a part of this one).

None of this would have been possible if it hadn't been for the local church pulling together resources and manpower. What a blessing to witness the local church in action, glorifying our Father in Heaven!

I thank God for this opportunity to learn and experience so much as he continues to shape me as His vessel.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Missional Book List

I stumbled across an excellent book list which I wanted to share (and to make a note for future reference personally). Some I have read, many I already own, and lots to be added to my ever growing reading list.
  1. Orlando E. Costas, The Church and Its Mission: A Shattering Critique From the Third World (Tyndale House, 1974).
  2. Walter E. Pilgrim, Good News to the Poor: Wealth and Poverty in Luke-Acts (Augsburg, 1981).
  3. Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Eerdmans, 1989). (This book is next up on my reading list)
  4. David Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Orbis, 1991).
  5. Darrell Guder, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Eerdmans, 1998).
  6. Darrell Guder, The Continuing Conversion of the Church (Eerdmans, 2000).
  7. James B. Browson, Inagrace T. Dietterich, Barry A. Harvey, Charles C. West, StormFront: The Good News of God (Eerdmans, 2003).
  8. Reggie McNeal, Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church (Jossey-Bass, 2003).
  9. Lois L. Barrett, et al, Treasure in Clay Jars: Patterns in Missional Faithfulness (Eerdmans, 2004).
  10. Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission For the 21st Century Church (Hendrickson Publishers, 2004).
  11. Stuart Murray, Church After Christendom (Paternoster Press, 2004). (I'll have to read this simply because I find the title to be so profound!)
  12. Michael Frost, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture (Hendrickson, 2006).
  13. Obery M. Hendricks, Jr., The Politics of Jesus (Random House, 2006).
  14. Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church (Brazos Press, 2006). (This book has given me a completely fresh look at how "church is done". Highly recommended!)
  15. Patrick Keifert, We Are Here Now: A New Mission Era (Allelon Publishing, 2006).
  16. Alan J. Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World (Jossey-Bass, 2006).
  17. Tim Conder, “Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?” Leadership Journal (Winter 2007).
Anyone read any of these books? Any further Missional reading recommendations?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Quotes to Live By

One of my new top quotes to live by...

"I strive to give my todays for others tomorrows."

I only started thinking it over today, but it definitely has the potential to displace the current top spot of "Never settle!"

(GSCC: Stu Weber Nov. 10-11)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Banning Bibles or Endorsing Guiliani?

Pat Robinson is endorsing Rudy Guiliani for the 2008 presidential election (politico.com) and China is banning Bibles from the 2008 Beijing Olympics (cbn.com).

I can't figure which disgusts me more...(I also find it the tiniest bit ironic that I stumbled across the latter through Pat Robinson's very own media giant.)

Which do you think is worse? Banning Bibles or endorsing Guiliani?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sound Teaching Vs. Sound Living

There are two portions of Scripture (courtesy of Steve Keels Nov 3-4 message this last weekend) that really are speaking to things that have been heavy on my heart that I would like to share, partly inspired by Marks Sound Teaching & Sound Living.

As followers of Christ we are clearly called to a higher standard of living. This is made clear repeatedly throughout Scripture.

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:31-32)

And continuing on, Scripture models the correct lifestyle that should replace this.

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2)

That all sounds fine and dandy in theory, but for some reason (at least for me) laying a principle out with basic concepts does not provide the depth in understanding, and the "sting", to really encourage change in my life (head knowledge alone does not make for a changed heart, that's for sure). That's the beauty of parables.

I'm sure you all are familiar with The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35). But here's a quick recap. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone. Jesus responds with this story directly linking God's standard in human terms, "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants" (23). So there's a servant who owes a lot of money to the king (impossibly in debt, in today's terms, hundreds of millions). The servant falls on his face asking for mercy to which the master takes pity and cancels the entire debt. The servant turns around finds a fellow servant who owes him a fairly small amount and demands he repays him. Despite a plea for mercy, he has him thrown in prison.

Now for the kings response (and remember, this is God's response to us as well), "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant', he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed." (32-34) And Jesus made absolutely no room for doubt about who he is talking to here... "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart". (35)

"you wicked servant"...that's a far cry from the "well done my good and faithful servant" we all look forward to come judgment day.

Now, lets glance back to Ephesians once again...

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Sound teaching apart from sound living falls flat.

I want no part of a religion that offers sound teaching if it is does not in turn create a transformed life of sound living. What good is a mouth that talks of truth when the heart is removed and distant? True sound living can only come from the heart, which is why a relationship with Christ is key. It is from our relationship with Christ that we seek the truth as we continue to live it out in our walk with Him.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

NOOO!!!

This is no good...

“The Office” showrunner Greg Daniels is picketing his own Van Nuys set. Cast members – including Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski as well as WGA members Steve Carell, B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling and Paul Leiberstein – are not crossing the picket line.

Losing its cast shuts down NBC’s highest-rated sitcom a lot faster than a lot of other series, which are trying to put into production the last few scripts written before the strike." (www.aintitcool.com)

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Two Ron's

As I have researched Ron Paul I have been amazed at his integrity, clarity, and foresight when it comes to decision making. Republicans call for another great Ronald Reagan, well I've got a candidate for you that was pulling for Reagan before most republicans thought he had a was worth anything. "Ron Paul is one of only four Republican Congressman to have endorsed Ronald Reagan over Gerald Ford in his failed 1976 run at the Whitehouse." (USA Daily)

On a side note, anyone who chalks Ron Paul off as a fringe candidate who only has a small group of fanatical followers (first of all, you need to stop listening to MSNBC and FOX, who have their own prerogatives to push) you should check out Paul's donation graph for today. In the first half of today alone, he has raised over $2,000,000. That's a heck of a lot more money then a small fanatical group of followers can raise in one day (especially when combined with the fact that he has already pulled together a few million dollars over the last couple months).

Ron Who? A New Hope?