Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Must Recovery Religion Always Be Morose? David Hayward

David Hayward's columns appear in CWR magazine throughout 2015. The following is from the current edition. Follow the link at the bottom to continue.

Jesus, in the famous poem “Footprints in the Sand”, says, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints is when I carried you.”
Carl Jung said, “Walk your path or be dragged.” This version seems more accurate for my life.
Actually, that’s not what this is about. This is about the question, “Does recovering from religion always have to be so morose?” Yesterday, a friend commented on my cartoon and blog post that he misses the funnier cartoons I used to post and that I seem to be focusing more and more on the privileges and abuses of power. He’s not the only one. Others have mentioned the same concern. This cartoon is in their honor to hopefully show that I haven’t lost my sense of humor.
It is true. I have focused more on the privileges and abuses of power because I think it is the core consideration about communities, including religious or spiritual ones. It is serious business. And, to be honest, when I do cartoon and write about this, I know I’m helping a lot of people embrace their experiences, trust their guts, find their voices, muster their courage, and liberate their lives.
But it doesn’t and can’t stop there. I also want to help people find their happiness.

Are You a 'Believer'? Greg Albrecht

Many Christians use the word believer as a short definition of their way of life and as a way of separating their practices and teachings from non-believers. Without further qualification, the term believer can be just one more in a long list of clich├ęs and "in-house" terminology. After all, a believer might describe someone who believes in UFOs and aliens from outer space. A believer might describe someone who actually believes in the ghosts and goblins of Halloween. So the term believer begs for further definition, doesn't it? Belief in what or who? The answer may seem to be obvious, but sadly, in many cases it isn't.

Ponder with me two ways in which people who think they are Christian believers may actually believe in something that opposes, diminishes or undermines the gospel of Jesus Christ. We'll talk about these pitfalls as "replacement beliefs" because they insidiously replace God. 

From time to time I hear people, who call themselves Christians, ask for God to forgive their nation and help them return to God, so that God will once again bless them. What exactly is the focus of belief in such a case? When churches start praying about their nation "returning" to God, I get a little nervous. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Jesus is My Toxic Taxi Driver: The Need for a More Christlike God - Jason Tripp

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5
“God is Christlike and in him there is no unchristlikeness at all” – Archbishop Michael Ramsey

Recently, as a result of some home renovations and a lengthy barbeque season, my wife and I noticed our garage becoming more and more cluttered with materials of a toxic variety.
In our town, there is a wonderful service called ‘Toxic Taxi’ which, upon request, will come and take away such toxic materials that the regular garbage pick-up will not dispose of.
Yesterday I happened to return home just as the ‘Toxic Taxi’ was loading up my empty paint cans and an old propane tank, I was taken aback in a moment of revelation—Jesus is My Toxic Taxi Driver.
For the better part of a two decades, since my days as a university student, a two year stint in South Korea teaching ESL, my time as a seminary student and into my first pastorate, where I can continue to serve to this day, I have been on a journey of faith both towards and with Jesus and many others whom have been fellow sojourners on the journey of life and faith.
As I look back and reflect upon my sojourn, I can sum it up as a journey towards a more Christlike God involving significant shifting in the areas of theology and practice.  Moving in the direction of Christlike mercy has inevitably involved the ongoing detoxification process of purging unchristlike images and distorted interpretations of Scripture and life which inevitably compete with and fall short of the picture of God fully and perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ. (Heb. 1:1-3, Col. 1:19, 2:9)
This shifting has been analogous to a massive deconstruction and reconstruction project involving demolishing and removing toxic images of God and theological stances incompatible with the God of love revealed in life, death and resurrection of Jesus, followed by reconstructing everything in my theology and life viewed through the lens of the cross of Christ.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Audio Message: 'What's God?' - Brad Jersak

Audio Message: "WHAT'S GOD?"

by Brad Jersak
St. Croix Vineyard

Brad Jersak spoke on What’s God?, looking at our inclinations, usually unhealthy, and our intuitions, usually healthy. This is a God who sees us, knows us and loves us.

To listen, CLICK HERE

Thursday, October 15, 2015

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not - Greg Albrecht

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:7-18
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
When you were in your early teens, beginning to discover the opposite sex, you may remember playing “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not.” The game was all about “love” as we understood it.

Back in the “olden days,” when we had a crush on someone, and we weren’t really sure whether they liked us or not, most of us were too shy to find out directly—by asking. Times have changed, haven’t they? Back then we would find a flower and begin to pull its petals, playing the He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not game. The last petal left on the flower answered the question, didn’t it?

If you’re a “little older” like me I’m sure you played that game more than once. I remember playing the game literally, and then, when I grew too old for using a flower to determine whether a girl liked me or not, I would resort to other, equally silly and superstitious ways of making that determination.

Many of us, without critically analyzing it, attempt to understand our relationship with God by playing a similar game. In this most important relationship, we’re often not sure how God really feels about us, so we play a guessing game.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Love for Enemies in the OT - Matt Lynch

It has become increasingly commonplace in popular theological works to draw a sharp contrast between Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount and, well … the whole Old Testament. The most prominent verses cited as evidence are Jesus’ ‘you have heard it said … but I tell you’ statements, especially His statements about enemies. The assumption is that Jesus contrasts the ethics of the Old Testament with His ethics. Jesus says:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matt 5:43)
The proposed idea is that Jesus turns the vengeance-consumed Old Testament on its head.
As an Old Testament scholar, the proposed contrast is like nails on a chalkboard. In addition to the obvious point that the OT nowhere states that one ought to hate their enemy, and the fact that Jesus describes His teachings as law-fulfilling (Matt 5:17), there are serious problems with this view. I’ll focus on one in this first post, and offer it in the form of a positive thesis. Jesus gets His teaching on loving enemies from the Old Testament. Jesus’ teachings were in deep continuity with the Old Testament. As with other Jewish teachers of His day, Jesus validated it through reuse and reappropriation. And he did so along the grain of its core ethical teachings.
So what about those enemies in the Old Testament? Weren’t they all to be stoned or run through with swords? We read in Proverbs 25:21:
If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
That sounds like something out of the New Testament, no? Paul quotes this proverb in Romans 12:20, most likely as a specific instantiation of Jesus’ command in the Sermon on the Mount.
And in a world where donkeys and oxen were means of personal livelihood, it is no small thing that the law commands God’s people to love their enemy by rescuing and returning their animals:
When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back. When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free. (Exod 23:4-5)
Love for one’s enemy even extended to his animal.
It may come as a surprise that some specific teachings on showing love toward enemies appear only in the Old Testament. The Wisdom books warn hearers not to rejoice when enemies face disaster (e.g., Prov 24:17; Job 31:29; cf. Oba 1:12). Proverbs—and we have to remember that these were ‘popular sayings’—even states that those who rejoice over another’s misfortune ‘will not go unpunished’ (17:15).
CLICK HERE to continue

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Hope of Our Resurrection - Kenneth Tanner

Icon of Holy Martyrs of Libya
When a Christian or group of Christians dies because they trust that Christ is the faithful revelation of God and of a new humanity, their death is not like Obi-Wan Kenobi's last words to Darth Vader: "strike me down and I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine."
Resurrection is not about returning to fight worldly means of power with the powers known by this world.
No...as the body of Christ our death is like the death of Jesus, a great humility accepted voluntarily for the life of the world—with all kinds of conflicting human emotions. "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends"...even friends that in the moment look a lot like enemies.
Our hope (and our vindication) is not in a resurrection that makes us more powerful than our temporal enemies but a resurrection to eternal life...a great victory for *all* persons over the enemies of all whom God has made in his image, all whom God cherishes...every last human person.
Those enemies are sin, famine, disease, pestilence, sword, decay, calamities, death, and the accuser. If we are in Christ, our enemies are no longer our human brothers and sisters.
If you strike us down, what we become by grace is partakers of the essential essence of God: everlasting lovingkindness; we become indestructible love.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Slippery Slopes and Fixed Ropes - Brian Zahnd

The “slippery slope” trope is a favorite among fundamentalists. Basically the argument goes like this: The moment you move away from fundamentalist Biblicism you’re on the slippery slope of liberalism and will wind up sliding down into a crevasse with the likes of Friedrich Schleiermacher and John Shelby Spong. According to those who believe that serious theology is a slippery slope, you’re either with fundamentalists and young earth creationists like Ken Ham or you’re sliding down the mountain with new atheists like Christopher Hitchens. Of course, this is a ludicrous false dichotomy. But it carries a ton of intimidation. Just about the worst thing you can call an evangelical pastor is a liberal. The only thing worse is to go Def-Con 4 and drop the H-bomb: Heretic!

So instead of climbing the holy mountain of theology (study of God) seeking to encounter the Divine as revealed in Christ, many evangelicals feel forced to stay in the flatlands of fundamentalist Biblicism with its flat reading of Scripture. The “flatlanders” idea is that if we will simply read the Bible “as it is” we will be safe from all error. The problem is that the flatlanders tend to end up endorsing unsustainable theories like a literal six day (144 hour) creation and an earth that is only 6,000 years old. They also feel forced to defend morally repugnant ideas from a primitive era, like a God who commands genocide, including the slaughter of children. A flat reading of the Bible fails to notice the back and forth nature of Scripture as the Old Testament maintains a strident debate on important matters. For example: Does God require blood sacrifice? The Torah says, yes, but the Psalms and Prophets challenge this. Should Gentiles be allowed to worship in the second Temple? Isaiah says, yes, but Nehemiah says no.

A flat reading of the Bible does not give us the full revelation of God. The full revelation of God is found only in Jesus. Jesus alone is the perfect icon of God’s image and the exact imprint of God’s nature (Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:3). What the Bible does infallibly is point us to Jesus! Jesus is the only perfect theology. But the exploration of God as revealed in Christ — which is what we mean by Christian theology — is an ongoing venture, not unlike climbing a great mountain. So instead of sitting in the flatlands pretending that a flat reading of our sacred text will reveal the full glory of God, we need to grab our ice axes, strap on our crampons and climb the mountain of God!