hard questions

in our american evangelical church today how much do we really believe in community? you recall the recent denouncing of the “heresy of individualism” by the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal church’s presiding bishop.

a lot of the commentary by the evangelicals being denounced as heretics seemed to agree with at least some of the criticism. the american church is too individualistic. The american church has incorporated too much of our culture’s surrounding individualism into the church.

it is a problem that I have talked about before, see here and here for example.

it is pretty clear that from Acts 2:42 onward, the church relied on one another.

The writer of Hebrews made our need for each other in Christ explicit. Hebrews 3:13 says that we must exhort one another daily so that none of us is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. here it is in context:

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from ethe living God.  13 Butfexhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by gthe deceitfulness of sin.  14 For we have come to share in Christ, hif indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.  15 As it is said,

b“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

do you see the vital importance that we should play in each other’s lives to prevent “falling away from the living God.”
Do we act like we take that responsibility seriously?
If we did take that responsibility seriously, what would it even look like?

Galatians 6:1 is similar.

6 Brothers,1 oif anyone is caught in any transgression, pyou who are spiritual should restore him in qa spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  2 rBear one another’s burdens, and sso fulfill tthe law of Christ.  3 For uif anyone thinks he is something, vwhen he is nothing, he deceives himself.  4 But let each one wtest his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.  5 For xeach will have to bear his own load.

we have a duty to recognize when one of our own has been “caught in a transgression” and work to restore the trapped person. All the while recognizing that we are susceptible to being caught in a transgression too. Doing this restoration is how we bear each other’s burdens and ultimately it is the mechanism that enables us to stand under our own load before our sovereign God.

What is implied here in Galatians 6 is that we are living in a close enough community that we will see that one of us has been caught in a sin so that we can intervene.

Such intervention is not pleasant. No one likes to be told by someone else that they are messing up. No one receives correction well. Our first impulse is to tell the intervenor to mind their own business and get out of my face. But Hebrews 3:12-15 and Galatians 6 are explicit in telling us that such intervention by our community in Christ is essential to our sanctification and even to our very salvation.

Not only do we have the negative obligation to correct sinfulness in one another, we also have a positive obligation to goad/spur/provoke one another on to good works in Christ.

It is our job to make sure that we are all doing everything that we need to be doing for the Kingdom of Heaven and that none of us are coasting. Hebrews 10:19-25.

19 pTherefore, brothers,3 since we have confidence to enter qthe holy places by the blood of Jesus,  20 by rthe new and living way that he opened for us through sthe curtain, that is, through his flesh,  21 and since we have ta great priest over the house of God,  22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts usprinkled clean vfrom an evil conscience and our bodies wwashed with pure water.  23 xLet us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for yhe who promised is faithful.  24 And zlet us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  25 anot neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see cthe Day drawing near.

as we individually come into the throne room of God, the most holy place, the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum, we draw nearer to the others who are crowding into the same space and we are obligated to “consider” (think about) ways to provoke one another to love better and do good works. And importantly we do this consideration and provoking as we continue to meet together on a regular basis.

Again, we can’t be on our own for very long. Community is vital to our healthy functioning spiritual lives and we have missed out on so much of what our faith has to offer us by ignoring this basic element of spiritual health.

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phridai photos

down Lady Bird Lake
downriver

sunset
saturday sunset

there is just something about film and B&W that makes me like this picture of the dizzy bat race
dizzy bat race

Paul Ryan in action

I watched an eight minute version of this video last night. here is an almost six minute version that Mary Katherine Ham posted. I agree with Mary Katherine that Paul Ryan and Katrina van den Heuvel need to take their health care debate on the road. Notice how Katrina disappears from the screen after she gets thoroughly shellacked twice.

this is good television. One more little side note. Do you see how this debate portrayed here is with the “journalists” against the Congressman?

love takes time

Jesse Phillips is bringing up a good quote from Jon Tyson.

“We simply cannot love one another as Jesus commanded if our lives only overlap in 15-minute segments before and after programmed Christian events. And we cannot reach out to those far from God if the normal flow of our lives is disconnected from theirs and channeled into church programs.”

This quote is taken from the Q ShortRenewing Cities Through Missional Tribes, by Jon Tyson

and the question, when do we love one another?  it would have to be sometime other than 15 minutes before and after a programmed event, wouldn’t it?

are you or am I emergent?

Challies quotesKevin DeYoung’s test of whether we are emergent or not. Kevin says that “if all or most” of these apply to you then you are emergent. So let’s use 75% as a threshhold.  Look at my answers below and you tell me.  Am I emergent?  I think not, but they have some good points.

You might be an emergent Christian:

if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church)–I love all three, but only U2’s “40” in church.  It is the Bible after all
use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos–never seen it
drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings–hmmm I love lattes and the occasional Guinness (or 512 Pecan Porter), but not every day on either one as this implies
and always use a Mac–yep. love my Macs
if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N. T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Franke, Walter Winks and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.)–read a bit of Newbigin and liked it. read Velvet Elvis and really liked it. don’t care for the rest
your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem;–Love D.A. Carson and Martyn Lloyd-Jones
if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu;–Yes on Mother Teresa. the others, not so much
if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity;–love W, don’t like institutions or big business much, but I love capitalism. I really am growing to HATE “Left Behind Christianity.”
if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage;–abortion is tops. rest of them except poverty aren’t really on the radar. poverty only to the extent that capitalism could lift them out. love the whole micro loan business concept of the IMF.
if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie;–not really. but I do like some indie and a lot of alternative
if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty;–violence does solve some problems and if certainty is a myth, we are all doomed. DOOOOOMMMMEEEEEDDDD, I say.
if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life;–mmmmm, I love modernism
if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant;–I love the Bible as the inspired, inerrant word of God and from God.
if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found;–oh yes, He is very findable
if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count);–never, but it sounds interesting
if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine,and hierarchy–I live for the linear, rational and propositional. it is the way the world makes sense. Why are machine and hierarchy on this list?
and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance;–I like jazz, mosaic, missional, matrix and dance. not so much ancient-future and vintage.
if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, naive, and rigid;–legalistic yes, but not naive or rigid
if you support women in all levels of ministry,–nope. complementarian all the way
prioritize urban over suburban,–nope. love them both
and like your theology narrative instead of systematic;–love narrative to illustrate the systematic.
if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide;–hmmmm. will have to ponder. I think most of us have too much of a divide
if you want to be the church and not just go to church;–oh yes, do I ever!
if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden;–yes relational. the rest sounds like gobbleygook
if you believe doctrine gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus;–true doctrine as the foundation is how we can have a right relationship with Jesus
if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway;–I believe God is in charge of this question, and we should share the Gospel with everyone. Obviously, Hell will be significantly overpopulated.
if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker;–Romans 8 tells me its both. The price had to be paid for our guilt, and creation groans for redemption
if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way;–wrong wrong wrong
if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us;–never bothered about this. Postmillenialism has virtually no scriptural basis, but the kingdom of heaven is both present and future.
if you disdain monological, didactic preaching;–love preaching. hearing it and doing it. Think it could be less of a monologue most of the time.
if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism—Story is a powerful tool in the expositor’s arsenal. in this age and culture in which we live, story is a very important connection tool. It shouldn’t be poo pooed or dismissed so cavalierly.

law/gospel

iMonk goes on a rant about law preaching versus gospel preaching that is both entertaining and informative. take a look.

In other words, it’s an unmitigated disaster unless the Gospel is heard louder, longer and much clearer than anything else.
I’d really like to apologize to anyone- and there are a lot of these people- who ever showed up at church and heard the “good news” that if they would take their talent and use it for the Lord, they’d be blessed. Or if they surrender their all to Jesus, they’ll be happy no matter what happens. Or if they will stop making excuses and get serious about following Jesus, they can please God.

Really, I apologize. We’ve got better news than that.

We’ve got the news that if everything sucks, asteroids hit the earth, you die, the economy tanks, no one at work likes you, Christians are jailed, your computer breaks and your kid turns out to be a lawyer, you still can’t stop the Good News of what God has done for you.
We’ve got the news that God has declared religion out of business. We’ve got the news that the church has nothing to offer or say except the Gospel, so that should simplify your search for a church. We’ve got the news that at the end of the world, there’s going to be a party for you and me, where we’re going to be embraced, loved and taken to the new heaven and the new earth completely on the free grace of God in Jesus.

Hat tip to Vitamin Z.

WOW!!

everybody has probably seen this already, but WOW! Texting while driving increases the risk of an accident or near accident by 23 TIMES.

After studying the behavior of real truck drivers covering more than 6 million miles of road, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says people who send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash (or what they call a near crash event) than non-distracted drivers.

To conduct the study, researchers mounted cameras inside drivers’ vehicles. They studied where drivers’ eyes were looking as they did various things, such as texting, dialing a cell phone, talking on a phone, and reaching for an object. Not surprisingly, the numbers (PDF) showed that the tasks that took people’s eyes off the road caused the greatest amount of danger. In crashes or near-crashes, texting took a driver’s focus away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds–enough time, the report point out, to travel the length of a football field at 55 mph. By contrast, talking on a cell phone, which allows a driver to keep his eyes on the road, represented an increased risk of only 1.3 times that of a nondistracted driver.

again, WOW. how about we all keep our eyes on the road people. its a jungle out there.