29 June 2008

Overheard...in prayer.

Here are 40 souls, no more than clay....only through You will they become vessels of blessing.

Language of the people. My people.

"Have you ever wondered-the language of your birth is not the language of your soul? The language of your knowledge is not the language of your people?"

"I have not," replied the farmer, "for my language groans within the land, the loch, the glen. My language gladdens with the sunrise hearts made heavy by night's dew. My language is the peoples' longing." 

"Teach me," I said. "Teach me the language of your people."

24 June 2008

Some thoughts on a Shane Claiborne book

Some Irresistible Thoughts

“I come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). These words of Jesus hound me with bafflement, though at a point not too long ago, their meaning was a little more settled in my mind. The casual glance over this text would have led to a deeper contemplation—usually yielding the general salve of “this is true because living for Christ satisfies you.” Did it never bother me that “living for Christ” was such a nondescript charge of the church for her people? Oh, this phrase shook me up enough to prompt more thought—but most of this resulting contemplation stopped at the following considerations about the dynamics of a full life: “living for Christ is being an example for Christ where you are at right now” and “according to Scripture, my intimacy with Christ should be fulfilling, but ‘fulfilling’ sounds exciting, and I’m not sure excitement is welcome in the church beyond the occasional ‘Amen, pastor!’” Employing Shane Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, I have found words to prod my convictions’ formation and the reworking of such statements as the examples given above.

The first statement reaches not far enough. Why stop at living for Christ at the place in which you presently find yourself? Claiborne says “We live in a world that has lost its imagination” (132) and no wonder, for even the Christians cause not a stir—the stereotypical Christian owns a few Bibles, goes “dressed-up” to a church on Sunday, and may cringe when a co-worker cusses during the week. Where is the Christian who gives bread to the poor, much less “when he gives bread to the beggars…gets on his knees and asks forgiveness from them”?(164). The breaking of the Christian stereotype with acts of tangible grace may be the most imaginative, Truth-filled experience this dead world has seen. For when, foreign to the constrains of fallen humanity, an incomputable action such as love takes place, it could be possible that “a…land of people who had forgotten how to feel” (89) could be taught.

Introducing feeling to the world-gone-numb requires people who know how to feel, in this case, Christians who know how to feel—a people passionate, a people ignited with a full life, a people not afraid of going beyond the accepted “Amen, pastor!” One of the phrases Claiborne uses in his book is “reckless, unguarded worship,” (44) and it presented a new dimension to Christ-following. Christians don’t necessarily need to sing solely from a hymnal, but worship can be imaginative, unguarded, yes even reckless? As reckless (by the world’s standards) as giving away one’s possessions? As reckless as asking forgiveness from beggars? Truly such questions should at least provoke thought among society’s religious, and at most should revolutionize the thought- and action-life of those who “…believe in a God of scandalous grace” (207).

Because of the difficult issues discussed in The Irresistible Revolution, it is a book that should be read at different points in one’s life, to see a progression in one’s thinking. Yet when reading, one should strive, not to align one’s thoughts to those of Claiborne, but of Scripture—which indeed will take much research and meditation on one’s own. However, I am confident that the results of newly formed or stronger convictions will be worth the effort expended.

A type of post-script:

Along this line of thought lies the phrase in The Irresistible Revolution that most unsettled me and upset my worldview. Quoting a pastor’s words as an example of incorrect teaching, Claiborne says, “‘Now this doesn’t mean you have to go sell your rollerblades and golf clubs’” (102-103). I too have had reassurances such as this—and been relieved that I am not commanded to dispose of my comforts. So now I can cease my worry, for no harm comes to those possessions of mine, Jesus only meant that He requires the right heart attitude of us and of the rich young ruler of the Gospel. (Luke 18:22 “When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.") There indeed lies value in the correct heart disposition, and the heart that sighs in relief when told that not every material possession is demanded may not have the right focus. But what is the fulfillment of this command to man of the Gospels? Is this command to be the same for each Christian? The Pharisees gave much money to the temple, yes, even to the poor, yet insisted on an explanation when Jesus sat with the unclean. “When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?" But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means: 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:11-13). And if this compassion is best done through the sale of rollerblades and golf clubs, may they be willingly offered. (However, the question remains—should all that we possess be offered up before we see that these items are needed? Should there be a general move toward distributing all that we own to the poor, for we know the poor are plenty? These questions must be wrestled with at a future time).

22 June 2008

222mission: Speaking the language: Interpreting Tongues from Acts

222mission: Speaking the language: Interpreting Tongues from Acts
Last night from our study on Pentecost (Download message here) I told you how important it is for you to let Acts 2 govern your understanding of the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. I primarily got my points from John Stott (The Message of ACTS). I said you’ve got to start with Acts 2:1-13. If you don’t, you set yourself up to read your experiences back into the Bible instead of vise versa. What I mean is that it could be easy to go to a charismatic church (or watch a service on TV) and assume what you see is biblical because they call what they’re doing speaking in tongues. It can become easy to rationalize to yourself, "I don’t see this in my church, so they must be afraid of the Holy Spirit" or you think they're ignoring passages like Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 13-14.

Don’t do this. Instead just begin with Acts 2 where the Bible actually portrays what speaking in tongues looks like and use that as a grid for understanding the other New Testament references. Stott makes a big deal over the fact that the Greek words for “Tongue” and “Interpret” are the same throughout the New Testament. So though there are some functional differences between Pentecost and 1 Corinthians 13-14, we’re really talking about the same gift. A New Testament tongue is always either the organ/body part or a known language and the word for “interpret” is always in concert with known languages (Stott).

I’m not saying that by first reading Acts 2 and then reading Paul in 1 Corinthians 13-14 that these debates magically disappear. But at least Acts gives you some sure footing. You choose - do you want to start with TBN, Benney Hinn, Kenneth Copeland or Joyce Meyers? Do you want to start with personal anecdotes like the late night spooky stories you swapped with dorm buddies around microwave popcorn by a desk lamp? Or with the Lord’s inspired story from Acts? I choose Acts.

This forms a couple of presuppositions. First of all, I understand that the gift of tongues for the early church was a revelatory gift. A gift designed by God to communicate truth to his church during the Apostalic age as the Bible was being written. In this way, it makes sense for me to read 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 to say that this gift was going to fade out when the Apostles did. When 1 Corinthians 13:8 says, “they will cease” (literally “[tongues] will cease themselves”), I conclude they did, and that they did before the “perfect” comes (1 Cor. 13:10). This is how it seems to play out in the storyline of Acts and why this gift is found only in one of Paul’s letters which happens to be the earliest epistle written in the New Testament.

So, not only do I see that it “ceased” with the Apostolic age but I also believe the gift served a distinct purpose for that distinct period. It was a significant a sign. Every time this gift happened, it was a sign of cursing on Israel for rejecting Jesus and of blessing to the church for accepting Jesus. Paul makes this very clear when he cites Isaiah 28:11-12 in his argument in 1 Corinthians 14:19-22. Pentecost marks a dramatic shift in God’s kingdom program – the church was now born! God’s glory was manifested as a pillar of fire for Israel and now was manifested as “tongues of fire” hovering over his new people. The church - a multi-language, multi-nation, multi-culture people - was suddenly seeing, experiencing, and speaking “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11). One last challenge for understanding tongues from 1 Corinthians 13-14 is to remember that Paul’s main point was not to coach the early church to speak in tongues. He was rebuking Corinth for not being a loving church (1 Cor. 13:1-13). Paul was telling them to stop showing off which was turning believers and unbelievers away from truth. Understanding Paul’s intent puts many of his sarcastic and instructive points from chapter 14 in context.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest let me say I’m no expert on the spiritual gifts. I recognize that there is a spectrum for where you can fall in terms of being a cessationist and/or a continuationist. You obviously can believe revelatory gifts are for today and be theologically strong (i.e. Wayne Grudem for one). In fact I recommend Grudem's "4 Views" book where Dr. Robert Saucy takes a “cautious but open” position. I may actually find myself more in his camp when all is said and done. For a quick and clear Bible study on these issues I also recommend the notes from Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 13-14 from The MacArthur Study Bible. For a more detailed recitation from John MacArthur go to his book Charismatic Chaos.

21 June 2008


"In one word, the great pillar of the Christian's hope is substitution." Charles Spurgeon

16 June 2008

Under the Harvest Moon

UNDER the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.

Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.

by Carl Sandburg

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15 June 2008

I can pretend it's Ireland

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"I didn't go to the moon, I went much further--for time is the longest distance between two places" (Tom, in "A Glass Menagerie")

Is time the longest distance between opposites as well? oye. perhaps not. that gets complex or unintelligible.

But opposites in pictures can speak louder than...alot.
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The Poet with His Face in His Hands

You want to cry aloud for your
mistakes. But to tell the truth the world
doesn't need anymore of that sound.
So if you're going to do it and can't
stop yourself, if your pretty mouth can't
hold it in, at least go by yourself across
the forty fields and the forty dark inclines
of rocks and water to the place where
the falls are flinging out their white sheets
like crazy, and there is a cave behind all that
jubilation and water fun and you can
stand there, under it, and roar all you
want and nothing will be disturbed; you can
drip with despair all afternoon and still,
on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched
by the passing foil of the water, the thrush,
puffing out its spotted breast, will sing
of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.
~ Mary Oliver ~