Healthy Tension

Below are some articles, videos, writings, etc…we’ve put up previously with the intent of pushing the boundaries of our understanding of God, us and our relationship with Him.

7-25-11

Where is your Heartbeat?

What is your heartbeat?  By that I mean what does your heart beat in sync with and what are you passionate about?  My heart beats for many things not all focused on Jesus. I am often intensely focused on my job. I work too many hours each day and come home each evening with my students on my mind.  Being a dedicated worker is not a bad characteristic, but if it is at the expense of my heart beating wildly for Jesus there is a problem.  Having Jesus as your heartbeat means complete belief in the fact that submitting to His way is sufficient (even more than sufficient).  This belief demands trust which in turn requires giving up control and command of the present and the future.  Giving up control and command is countercultural.  Relinquishing control to Jesus will require us to go to or stay in senseless situations and places.  God called Moses to return to Egypt where Moses was an outsider in two communities and where he had previously committed murder. Relinquishing control will push us to love those who seem so difficult to love and it will ask us to forgive people who have unjustly hurt us.  God asked Hosea to knowingly marry an adulterous woman and then later, after the hurt and heartbreak of infidelity, to forgive her.  It will call us to sacrifice our time, our money, our comfort in order to put the needs of others first. Why? Simply because that is what God does for us over and over, moment by moment, year after year.

Is this way of living even possible? It seems overwhelming and burdensome.  It is impossible without one thing: God’s gift of His Holy Spirit living in us and guiding us over and over, moment by moment, year after year.  With the Holy Spirit living in us we can live in difficult situations, love those who don’t love us, and forgive like Christ forgave us.  God not only called people from the Bible to do these things, but he calls us today.  He calls you to let your belief and trust in Him define and guide your life’s pursuits making it possible for you to allow His heartbeat to be your heartbeat today.

-M.S.S.

 07-1-11

Actions + Steps

One of the most mis-quoted verses in the bible is 1Timothy 6:10 – “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…”. It’s the “For the love of” part that tends to be left out. You’ll notice nowhere does it say or even imply that money is “evil”. It may be frustrating or, for some of us, hard to come by, but money has no inherent evil qualities to it at all. Instead, Paul seems to be telling us that our motive and desire is where the evil lies. It’s the “love” for something other than God or people that leads to all the problems. That being the case, we have a responsibility to recognize money for what it truly is – simply another gift we have been given to use for glorifying Jesus and advancing His kingdom here on earth. Nothing more – nothing less.

So how can we use this gift we have been given? That’s a small question with some big answers, but here’s a good place to start…look at the right of our home page under “Action + Steps”. It’s been a while since we’ve pointed this out, but there are some really good opportunities to use some of God’s money He’s given us. You can give to worthy causes, show appreciation for the Lord’s creation or even do some responsible shopping. And the things we have listed are just the tip of the iceberg.

 The opposite of “love of money” shouldn’t be to hate it. Instead, our opposite should be the love of giving God’s money back to Him.

 – R.S.R.

6-15-11

 God the Multitasker

The past couple of weeks the Holy Spirit has been illuminating to me how God is a multitasker. I don’t always pay attention to the numerous things He is accomplishing in the midst of a trial, a project, a relationship, a service, but lately, I have been more and more aware of not only the big picture, but rather the multiple pictures taking place in the midst of a single circumstance. As I was engaging the Holy Spirit today on this topic, He brought Jonah to mind. You know the story, God is trying to convict a nation and get them to repent, but maybe not as obvious is that He is also transforming Jonah in the process. One thing I love about the God we serve is He is mindful of not only the nation, but the individual as well and He can use both to transform each other at the same time. With all that being said, I have been reading through the bullet points from Chapter 3 in Forgotten God, pages 74 and 75 and do believe the Holy Spirit spoke to me while meditating on some of them. “From the Spirit we receive power to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.” The Holy Spirit pointed out that we have a very tangible opportunity to engage in His power and be God’s witness Friday, June 24th at 7:00pm at the Midtown location. We all can agree that God desires to end the injustices in the world and He is using the Purchased ministry to make that known. They are showing another movie that Friday night and I believe it to be an opportunity to see God multitask in and among His kingdom. This was true the last Purchased movie night. We are all in agreement that we were there because of the conviction to help end that particular injustice, which glorifies God, but that evening was also an opportunity for us to support/edify/encourage several of our immediate community members who are on the Purchased team. So here God is making known who He is and what He is about as well as encouraging His children to continue the good work. Purchased has provided yet another opportunity to be mindful of helping our Father mutitask even more. We can continue edifying our immediate church family, as well as be transformed ourselves in having our hearts broken for the same things that break the Lord’s heart and we can take some time to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us a person we could invite to the movie night. In my conversation with the Holy Spirit today, I became excited about how He could use the movie night to reach many individuals. One of us might invite a friend, coworker, or family member who has yet to know the God we worship and the Holy Spirit might use that night to show them that our God cares about the abused and neglected, which in turns attracts them to this caring God. Or just think of inviting a teenager that has little awareness of this injustice and in the midst of the evening they are called by the Holy Spirit to become a social worker or lawyer and be used to help fight the fight in the future. The possibilities are endless how the Holy Spirit could use this one evening to change an individual. So my encouragement to you is as you engage the Holy Spirit this week, ask Him to reveal to you a person you could invite to the Purchased movie night and pray that He would prepare their hearts. If you can’t attend the one in June, no need to fret, for there is on at the end of July as well!! But not only that, there are all kinds of opportunities, creative ways to partner with the Holy Spirit in being His witnesses and I am excited for Him to reveal more to us in the coming days.

 

A.M.S

 

5-3-2011

Rhythm

 

 

4-25-2011

N.T. Wright – 1,000 Decisions

 04-08-2011

The Holy Spirit’s Power and Our Effort – Part 1 – Francis Chan

02-23-2011

No Such Thing as the Bible?

An article by Timothy Beal, Special to CNN

When things get messy, when the ground drops out from under us, we conjure myths of pristine and happy origins.

Unemployed, we might find ourselves longing for that former job as though it had been ideal, a time of complete self-fulfillment, forgetting how we dragged ourselves there some mornings, hoping for something better to come up.

In the middle of an ugly divorce, we might find ourselves longing for the early years of the relationship as though that had been our time in Eden, forgetting the stresses of money, unreliable used cars, in-laws and learning to live together.

These Edenic myths are illusions whose power lies not in their real presence but in their expression of what we really, really wish were true. But they also have the power to remove us from full, mindful living in the present, which is messy, unstable and insecure.

And that’s the stuff that opens us up to others, making us vulnerable to the real-life risks of relationship.

So too with the life of faith. We may long for an original, solid rock, a foundation that will not falter in the storm. For many, that rock is the Bible. But that, too, is an illusion.

Ronald Reagan once said that if he were shipwrecked on a desert island and could have only one book to read for the rest of his life, it would be the Bible.

I wish someone would’ve asked, which one? Which version? Protestant? Jewish? Catholic? Orthodox? Syriac? Each has a different table of contents.

The Jewish one obviously doesn’t include the New Testament, but it also has a different order, beginning with the Torah, considered the core of scriptures, then the Nevi’im, or “prophets,” then the Ketuvim, or “writings.”

The Catholic Bible includes all of the Protestant Bible plus seven additional books, known as the Apocrypha, as well as significantly different versions of and additions to the books of Esther and Daniel.

Different Orthodox Bibles (Greek, Ethiopian, Slavonic, etc.) include those plus other apocryphal books as well as a collection of poems known as the Book of Odes. So does the traditional Syriac Bible, but it does not include Revelation and four other New Testament books found in other canons.

And which translation would he bring? There are dozens available, and they vary widely in both style and theology. Many of the most popular ones today are highly interpretive “meaning-driven” versions in which translators don’t translate word-for-word but instead write what they believe conveys the equivalent meaning of larger blocks of text.

So “my cup runneth over” might become “you blow me away.” Or a passage buried in Leviticus that prohibits a man from lying with another man as though with a woman (other no-no’s in this list include adultery, sex with a woman on her period, and marrying a divorcee or a brother’s widow) becomes a universal ban on homosexuality. Put two translations side-by-side, and you may find yourself hard pressed to know if they’re even translating the same passage.

And which edition would he bring? A good old-fashioned floppy black leather one? Or a niche-market edition like “The Golfer’s Bible,” loaded with full-color pictures and “inspirational messages teed up to reach the golfer’s heart.”

Then again, depending on the terrain and climate of his island, “The Waterproof Bible: Sportsman’s Edition” might be a more practical choice. How about one of the many Manga Bibles on the market? Or a Biblezine, a Bible in magazine form filled with jump-off-the-page callouts and graphic features on balancing work and play, shopping, healthy eating, and finding love? Or one of the thousands of study Bibles loaded with notes and commentaries telling you what it means according this or that (usually conservative) viewpoint?

These various Bibles are not only different in physical form, but their value-adding content is also values-adding, steering readers toward theological, moral, and political views.

You get the point.

There is no “the Bible,” no book that is the one and only Bible. There are lots and lots of Bibles. They come in many different physical and digital forms with a great variety of content – different canons, translations, notes, commentaries, pictures, and so on.

Don’t believe me? Next time you’re in a big box bookstore, check out its huge Bible section, or just type “Bible” in the search box of an online store, and prepare to be overwhelmed. The Bible business sells more than 6,000 different products for over $800 million a year – all sold as “the Bible.” It’s a flood of biblical proportions.

“Hold up!” some will say. “Stop the madness! We’ve got to save the Bible! We’ve got to get back its original, pure, unadulterated Word, before there’s no turning back the tide.” An understandable response to this alarming scene of biblical liquidation.

In my new book, “The Rise and Fall of the Bible,” I say, OK, let’s try that. What we discover is even more surprising than all the diversity of Bibles on the market today. Here’s the thing: Not only is there no such thing as the Bible now; there never has been.

There is no pure original, no Adam from which all Bibles have descended. During the time of Jesus, there were many different versions of Scriptures in circulation, and no central publishing house or religious authority to standardize the process.

Same with the early Christian movement. Indeed, it wasn’t until the 4th century that there was even an official canon of Christian Scriptures. Even then, moreover, there were lots of unofficial varieties. The “story of the Book” is a fascinating one, with many surprising turns, but the upshot is that the further we go back in history, the more biblical variety we discover. “That old time religion” is an illusion.

For many of us, it’s more than a little disconcerting to realize that there’s no pristine original Bible to recover, that it’s messy and plural all the way back to the beginning. But is it not also a very familiar feeling?

Trying to save the Bible by recovering the Adam of all Bibles is as futile as trying to save the marriage by recovering the Eden of married life. There’s no such thing, so there’s no going back. Our desire for a pure, unadulterated, original Bible, “in the beginning,” is an illusion that shields and distracts us from the real, unstable, often terrifyingly ambiguous relationship with another that is the life of faith.

Life is crazy uncertain, so it’s understandable that many of us want religion and especially the Bible to offer deliverance from it. But it doesn’t. It’s not a rock but a river, not a book of answers but a library of questions. When we take it seriously, and soberly, it calls us deeper into the wilderness – away from the sunny shoreline of the island and toward the uncharted interior.

That wilderness, like the ones in which the Israelites wandered and Jesus was tested, can be a place of danger and disorientation, but also of renewal and reawakening.

02-08-2011

A Revolutionary Way

I am talking about a revolutionary way of living. Religion isn’t something to be added to our other duties, and thus make our lives more complex. The life with God is the center of life, and all else is remodeled and integrated by it. It gives singleness of eye. The most important thing is not to be perpetually passing out cups of cold water to a thirsty world. We can get so fearlessly busy trying to carry out the second commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” that we are undeveloped in our devoted life to God as well as neighbor.

Thomas Kelly

01-28-2011

The following is an article by Tyler Blanski from cnn.com entitled “My Take: How Christians Should Rethink Sex“:

When it comes to sex, many Christians confuse the fences for the playground.

We’ve created what I call the chastity cult. Married and single Christians alike put sex on a pedestal. We’re more serious and obsessed with the rules than we ought to be.

Young people wear promise rings – pledging to delay sex till marriage – march hand in hand under the banner of courtship. Some won’t even kiss until they’ve walked down the aisle. Married couples pray before making love or sometimes even feel guilty about the joy and sensuality of it all.

Like the heretics of yore, we are so wary of sensual pleasure, we put up so many rules, rigmarole, and warning signs that we’ve made sex unrecognizable. We forget that sex is playful.

Ever since I was 12, the conversation of choice for Christian guys has been to confess addiction to pornography, habitual masturbation, and unbearable guilt. All the while, pastors warned us against holding hands, kissing or – even worse – cuddling.

By the time I had my first girlfriend at age 20, I was so guilty, so prudish, and so certain of what I thought was Christian sexuality that I lived in fantasyland. When I finally learned how to love and kiss and date a real, live woman, I realized that most Christian books about sex are as unreal and abstract as pornography.

It took a real girlfriend for me to discover the principles that lay the groundwork of what Christ intends for our sex lives: the best sex life possible, in marriage.

Through dating a real woman, and not just reading Christian books on chastity, I learned that chastity isn’t firstly about rules and guilt, but about intimacy and joy – at the right time and in the right way. It’s an expression of being created in the image of a relational God.

Ever wonder why the middle of the Bible is filled with sexual love poetry? Ever speculate why God created the clitoris? Or why human beings have almost always and everywhere celebrated marriage?

Christian sexuality at its best is actually an expression of what churchgoers call the trinitarian life – a holistic, all-encompassing, committed love, the kind of love we reach for in marriage.

A single person’s sex life does not have to mean the sex act itself. It can be a harvesting of all that sexual energy and directing it towards something bigger than sex itself.

The sex life of a Christian single person is not having sex – yet. It’s prayer. It’s dating and learning how to love and listen better through relationship. It’s the foreplay, so to speak, to the sex life God intends for us in marriage.

Marriage invites you into the life of another, to know and to be known. Marriage can be an invitation to become more fully human. For Christians, becoming fully human means becoming Christ-like. This is what the process of “spiritual transformation” is all about. And your sex-life, your marriage, even your singleness, can be a part of this journey.

God made us as sexual creatures. It’s a good thing. You can be prudent without being a prude. You can be holy without being holier-than-thou. And in this case, we would be trying to outdo Christ Himself. Christ never ignored or denied his humanity. We shouldn’t either.

The Chastity Cult’s obsession with boundaries clouds the meaning and mirth of Christian sexuality. The sooner Christians leave it – whether we’re dating or married, the sooner we will discover the kind of sex life God intends for us. It’s earthy. It’s erotic and playful. It’s deeply intimate. It’s 100% orthodox.

I’d wager it’s the best sex out there.

01-14-2011

What is a Missional Church?

12-30-2010

N.T. Wright on being image bearers

12-28-2010

Tim Keller on the Gospel

11-23-2010

Was Jesus a Communist or Capitalist?

By CNN’s Gabe La Monica

At the inner Washington offices of the American Enterprise Institute, I pitted the question to Shane Claiborne and Peter Greer, both Christian advocates for the poor. They had just participated in an in-depth discourse moderated by Eric Teetsel at AEI about the existential nature of charity.

Claiborne is a lanky, tall fellow with long dreadlocks, earrings and a goatee.

The founding member of the Simple Way community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, responded: “Jesus wasn’t anything that ended in “ist” – he was an existential lover – but I think that he was challenging all these systems, and he was pulling the best of the people in those systems out.”

Deferring to Claiborne, Greer, the crisply suited, clean-shaven, close-cropped blonde president of HOPE International, said that “Jesus was a restorer; he didn’t fit in any of the camps, but he did come to make things right.”

The discussion at the AEI event revolved around the  Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan and the problem of providing immediate relief for compounding and overwhelming needs but still being able to make the transition to sustainable development.

The concept of microfinance and microcredit, for which the founder of the Bangladeshi Grameen Bank was awarded the Nobel Peace prize, has been applied under HOPE International to 14 countries serving more than 250,000 clients.  I asked Greer whether he thought microfinance could become a broken system, and about the phenomenon of loan sharks emerging in India’s microfinancing world:

“What’s happening right now in the microfinance base shows why it’s necessary to have something else than just access to capital or some new way of providing loans to the poor; that in and of itself is insufficient to see real transformation that happens in communities.

So the situation in India – we also operate in India – but have a different operating model; we make sure that the profits that we’re generating are reinvested back into those areas.  We emphasize training, we emphasize savings, and we don’t have the belief that if you just give individuals 50 dollar loans that that’s gonna result in huge transformation.

That’s an important piece.  It takes money to make money.  But it’s only a piece of a bigger picture of what it takes to transform a community.

Peter Greer takes the podium

Though neither is prone to depict Christ as a capitalist or a communist, Claiborne and Greer do have differing conceptions of economics.  I asked Claiborne if he thought of the world economy as a fixed pie:

I wouldn’t say that I think that it’s fixed, but poverty wasn’t created by God.  God didn’t mess up and make too many people or not enough stuff.

Shane Claiborne takes the podium

Poverty was created by us because we really haven’t lived into His vision of loving our neighbor as ourselves and of really understanding that someone else’s suffering needs to be mine and it demands something of us.  When you have a massive disparity between the rich and the poor, that is unsustainable.

The world is never going to be safe as long as masses of people are living in poverty so that a handful of people live however they want.  It’s all of our responsibility to figure out how the great gifts that this world has are shared amongst the people.

Greer views the world economy as an expanding entity:

It’s possible to generate wealth.  It’s possible to be creative.  My experience in places of poverty says that there’s no place that does not have the ability, the entrepreneurial spirit to make a different world.

To create a different village requires just a little bit of capital and the belief that individuals living in those places have abilities, have capacity and just need to be partnered with and not just pitied.

Shane Claiborne and Peter Greer debate

Existentialism is often traced back to the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who argued that the universe is fundamentally paradoxical, and it’s within this framework that Claiborne and Greer’s philosophies align.

Claiborne encapsulated it best when he said, “A lot of times charity is a good place to start, but it’s a terrible place to end.”

11-17-2010

God’s Mercy

God’s mercy is not merely therapy for a few individuals beset by guilt….God does not dole out mercy like cookies only for good, repentant children. God’s mercy is not conditioned by our response. God is mercy. So, wide is wider than we guess…. Our calling is to live in mercy…. Recalling God’s unmerited mercy … we absolve one another, enacting the good news. ‘In Jesus Christ,’ we say, ‘we are forgiven.’ So we look into each other’s eyes without illusions; we are sinners all. Yet we embrace each other in the mercy, the wide, wide mercy of God.

David Buttrick

11-15-2010

Not About You

11-12-2010

Being Useless and Silent

We need quiet time in the presence of God. Although we want to make all our time time for God, we will never succeed if we do not reserve a minute, an hour, a morning, a day, a week, a month, or whatever period of time, for God and God alone.

This asks for much discipline and risk taking because we always seem to have something more urgent to do and “just sitting there” and “doing nothing” often disturbs us more than it helps. But there is no way around this. Being useless and silent in the presence of our God belongs to the core of all prayer.

In the beginning we often hear our own unruly inner noises more loudly than God’s voice. This is at times very hard to tolerate. But slowly, very slowly, we discover that the silent time makes us quiet and deepens our awareness of ourselves and God.

Then, very soon, we start missing these moments when we are deprived of them, and before we are fully aware of it an inner momentum has developed that draws us more and more into silence and closer to that still point where God speaks to us.

Henri J. M. Nouwen

10-12-2010

On Earth

10-04-2010

Tim Keller on Being a Missional Church

09-27-2010

Safe

Common Ground recently began a sermon series called “Sexuality in the Kingdom of God”. Obviously, this is a topic that can lead to any number of discussions – many of which can be difficult, intense or intimidating. We know God made each one of us in his image and in doing so we’ve all been created to be relational and sexual beings. Unfortunately, the word “sexual” (and sex in general) has taken on so much baggage that even saying it makes many Christians uncomfortable. As a result many followers of Christ neglect or hide from an essential part of our humanity we were created to express. The purpose of this sermon series is to “turn on the light” to the sexuality that was given to us as a gift from God.

As always we want to leave plenty of space for the Holy Spirit to intervene and lead our faith community. So while a specific topic may not be on the agenda for any given Thursday gathering, please know that you are encouraged to freely speak or ask questions on any subject – even the ones that make us all a little too nervous. If any of you feel lead to ask a question, share a concern, confess to the group or just share something that’s on your heart, please do so – no matter what the official plan is for that evening. Remember, we will always have a “Plan B” for our Thursday nights – a topic or activity Angie and I have prepared. However, if the Holy Spirit is prompting you with a “Plan A”, it’s our hope that you will be obedient and trusting that what He has in store is better.

Along with that, please keep in mind that our times together must always be welcoming and safe…Thursday nights or any other time. Our job, as the church, is not to condemn or bring shame on others. Our job is to edify, hold accountable, love and spur each other on! That means listening and having compassion first – not being overly pious or spouting out cliche-filled advice. Our world is full of places that reject, patronize and devalue us. If we’re modeling our lives after Jesus, our community cannot and will not be one of them.

Our Thursday nights are an opportunity to grow closer to God and to each other. If you choose to join us, it’s your responsibility to participate – however that needs to happen in the moment. That means sharing when you’re being lead to share, listening when you’re being lead to listen and always seeing all people as God’s image-bearers.

– R.S.R.

09-15-2010

With a Few Things

After Jeff’s sermon on Sunday he asked God, on our behalf, to help us not take our gathering together for granted. He concluded (quoting Hebrews 10) by asking that we “Not forsake this time of spurring one another on to love and good deeds”. The way he put it struck me – not forsake this time.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my time. Not so much the amount I have, but the quality of the time I have. What do I do with it? Do I see it as a gift from God? Do I treat it with the respect it deserves? Am I grateful for it? I’m regularly frustrated with the lack of time I seem to have, but I’m wondering now if it’s more an issue of quality vs. quantity. All too often the quality of my time has been poor. And honestly, if I haven’t been faithful with the time God’s given me, how can I tell Him that I want more (Matthew 25)?

I wonder about the times we’re gathered together. Not just on Sundays as a corporate body, but our weekly gatherings at house church. And our times together in smaller groups throughout the week as well. Are we making the most of our time together? Are we “spurring one another on to love and good deeds”? Or are we more interested in how we’ll be entertained? Will I get to sit by the person I want to sit by? Is the discussion something that interests me? When will I get to say what I want to say? Will we eat later on? If so, will it be where I want to go? How can my desires be met? And on and on and on…

Here’s a potentially sobering reminder…it’s not about you. And it’s certainly not about me. It’s about the person sitting across from us. It’s about the person to our left and the person to our right. And most of all it’s about our Savior. We get together to encourage one another. We meet with others because life is hard and it’s not meant to be lived alone. We gather to remind each other that we are saved and have a responsibility to live like it – to be followers of Christ. Without edifying one another, without accountability, without making the absolute most of our time together we’re nothing more than a social club. Something to do when we’re bored or a way of relieving a little religious guilt.

We have a great opportunity handed to us daily. One many people in the world would kill for (and have throughout history more often than we’d like to know about). It’s our responsibility to cherish the time God gives us to be together. The quantity of our time together will be here and gone before we know what hit us. It’s our job to work at the quality of it and not take it for granted while we have the opportunity.

– R.S.R.

09-08-2010

Editor’s note: Craig Gross is the founder of XXXchurch.com and the author of 7 books. His latest two books Eyes of Integrity and Pure Eyes release this week. His previous book Jesus Loves You This I Know explains more about his relationship with Ron Jeremy and other outcasts. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with his wife and two kids.

Jesus Loves Porn Stars

By Craig Gross, Special to CNN

I met Ron Jeremy at a porn show. A few years later we were sleeping on top of each other in a bunk bed on a tour bus. My family was with me, at times there were swingers on the bus and on occasion had some other pastors as well. We were on “The Porn Debate” tour of 7 cities in 7 nights.

Ron is arguably the biggest porn star in the world with 2,000 XXX rated videos. He claims to have had sex with over 5,000 women.

I started XXXchurch.com 8 years ago, created a software called X3watch that is keeping almost 1 million people accountable online and I am most often known as the Porn Pastor. I have only had sex with one woman who happens to be my wife.

Ron says we are just alike. He has been with 5,000 women and I have been with my wife of 12 years almost 5,000 times.

Just alike… Well not really.

Ron is for porn and I am against porn. We are opponents on stage. In fact we have debated each other over 60 times in the last 4 years. We have debated at Yale, Ohio State, University of Southern California, Texas Tech, and in a few weeks we start the school year off with another debate at the University of Tennessee.

We are opponents on stage but off stage we are great friends. That’s really what this is about. Jesus dined with tax collectors and befriended prostitutes. I don’t want to be known as the guy who debates Ron, I’d rather be known as the guy who loves Ron.

Love wins. My old pastor in Grand Rapids said that a lot. I have come to realize not only does love win, but love works and love waits.

Last year, Ron was in Vegas for Easter weekend. Before he hit the topless pool at Mandalay Bay, he said he was free so I picked him up in my minivan with my two toddlers in the back, and wife as well, and we all headed to church.

Ron loves worship music. If you don’t believe watch this YouTube video.

He loved the song “Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So.”

Ron and I travel quite a bit on for the porn debates.  When we see each other at porn shows across the country we go out and when he is in Las Vegas or I am in Los Angeles , we connect up for a meal or just to hang out.

Ron and I talk about sex, the Bible, marriage, family, kids, heaven, hell, turtles, and so much more. He is never short on words. He has told me he is afraid to die. What if he is wrong and Jesus is really who he said he was?

For the last four years we have hit up college campuses and a few nightclubs with the porn debate. We have never been to a Christian university or a church.

Why not?

I am always the underdog and I kind of like it that way. Although, I think it would be great to bring Ron into my world just a bit, no one invites us.

The great thing about the debate is it is fair. I speak for 20 minutes, then Ron for 20 minutes then we do an hour of questions and answers.

Why is the church so afraid to hear the other side? I think it would be a great outreach to bring the debate to a church but every time I pitch it to a church or Christian college they say, “We could never let him on stage at church.”

I don’t get it. But then again, these are often the same people who say I should not even be friends with him, let alone on a tour bus with him. I know Zacchaeus was a short dude in the Bible but how can we overlook that story and see the example Jesus set for us to go after people?

Two friends of mine, Miles McPherson and Ryan Meeks have agreed to do the unthinkable. On October 9, Ron and I will do the unthinkable and head over to The Rock, a church in San Diego. A few months later on March 5 we will bring the debate to Eastlake Church in Seattle, Washington.

My friend Ryan is a bit out there. That’s why we are friends. He traveled with Ron and me last year for a couple of debates. He said he would host the debate but only if Ron came back on Sunday and shared with the congregation about faith, God and his life.

Ron does not claim to be a Christian.  Why share a church stage with someone that does not claim to be a Christian yet? What can we possibly learn from that?

A whole lot I believe. I believe if Christians and others would listen to more people who are not just like us, and give them opportunities in our environments, we both might experience change.

08-13-2010

The Prayer Examen

This is a prayer where we try to find the movement of the Spirit in our daily lives as we reflect on our day. This prayer can be made anywhere: on the beach, in a car, at home, in the library. Many people make the Examen twice daily: once around lunchtime and again before going to bed. There are five simple steps to the Examen, which should take 10-15 minutes to complete, and what follows is just one interpretation of these five steps in discerning the movement of God’s Spirit in your day. Through this method of praying you can grow in a sense of self and the Source of self; you can become more sensitive to your own spirit with its longings, its powers, its Source; you will develop an openness to receive the supports that God offers.

Before you start: Try to be in a place where you are least likely to be disturbed, and where there is the least amount of external noise. Perhaps you might light a candle or change the lighting when you pray to symbolize the start of this activity. Sit comfortably and still yourself; relax, be aware of your breathing, your body and how you are feeling.

1.   Recall that you are in the presence of God. No matter where you are, hilltop or valley, country or city, in a crowd or alone, you are a creature in the midst of creation. As you quiet yourself, become aware that God is present within you, in the creation that surrounds you, in your body, in those around you. The Creator who brought you forth into being is concerned for you. The Spirit of God, sent by Christ, will remind you that you are gifted to help bring creation to its fullness. Ask the Holy Spirit to let you look on all you see with love. “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; … it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right … Love hopes all things.” (1 Cor.)

2.   Spend a moment looking over your day with gratitude for this day’s gifts. Be concrete and let special moments or pleasures spring to mind! Recall the smell of your morning coffee, the taste of something good that you ate, the laugh of a child, the fragrance of a flower, the smile brought forth by a kind word, a lesson that you learned. Take stock of what you received and what you gave. Give thanks to God for favors received. Also look at your permanent gifts that allow your participation in this day. Recall your particular strengths in times of difficulty, your ability to hope in times of weakness, your sense of humor and your life of faith, your intelligence and health, your family and friends. God the Father gives you these to draw you into the fullness of life. As you move through the details of your day, give thanks to God for His presence in the big and the small things of your life.

3.   Ask God to send you His Holy Spirit to help you look at your actions and attitudes and motives with honesty and patience. “When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13) The Holy Spirit inspires you to see with growing freedom the development of your life story. The Spirit gives a freedom to look upon yourself without condemnation and without complacency and thus be open to growth. Ask that you will learn and grow as you reflect, thus deepening your knowledge of self and your relationship with God.

4.   Now review your day. This is the longest of the steps. Recall the events of your day; explore the context of your actions. Search for the internal movements of your heart and your interaction with what was before you. Ask what you were involved in and who you were with, and review your hopes and hesitations. Many situations will show that your heart was divided—wavering between helping and disregarding, scoffing and encouraging, listening and ignoring, rebuking and forgiving, speaking and silence, neglecting and thanking. Remember, this is not a time to dwell on your shortcomings; rather, it is a gentle look with the Lord at how you have responded to God’s gifts. It is an opportunity for growth of self and deepening your relationship with God. Notice where you acted freely—picking a particular course of action from the possibilities you saw. See where you were swept along without freedom. What reactions helped or hindered you? See where Christ entered your decisions and where you might have paused to receive His influence. “Test yourselves,” St. Paul urges, “to see whether you are living in faith; examine yourselves. Perhaps you yourselves do not realize that Christ Jesus is in you.” (2 Cor.) His influence comes through His people, the Body of Christ. His influence comes through Scripture, the Word of God. Now, as you pray, Christ’s spirit will help you know His presence and concern. As you daily and prayerfully explore the mystery of yourself in the midst of your actions you will grow more familiar with your own spirit and become more aware of the promptings of God’s Spirit within you. Allow God to speak, challenge, encourage and teach you. Thus you will come to know that Christ is with you. Christ will continually invite you to love your neighbor as yourself and strengthen you to do this.

5.   The final step is our heart-to-heart talk with Jesus. Here you speak with Jesus about your day. You share your thoughts on your actions, attitudes, feelings and interactions. Perhaps during this time you may feel led to seek forgiveness, ask for direction, share a concern, express gratitude, etc. Having reviewed this day of your life, look upon yourself with compassion and see your need for God and try to realize God’s manifestations of concern for you. Express sorrow for sin, the obscuring darkness that surrounds us all, and especially ask forgiveness for the times you resisted God’s light today. Give thanks for grace, the enlightening presence of God, and especially praise God for the times you responded in ways that allowed you to better see God’s life. Resolve with Jesus to move forward in action where appropriate. You might like to finish your time with the Lords Prayer.

08-11-2010

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, Hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…

From the desire of being extolled…

From the desire of being honored…

From the desire of being praised…

From the desire of being preferred to others…

From the desire of being consulted…

From the desire of being approved…

From the fear of being humiliated…

From the fear of being despised…

From the fear of suffering rebukes…

From the fear of being calumniated (reputation maliciously injured)…

From the fear of being forgotten…

From the fear of being ridiculed…

From the fear of being wronged…

From the fear of being suspected…

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I…That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease…That others may be chosen and I set aside…That others may be praised and I unnoticed…That others may be preferred to me in everything…

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

– Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930)

08-09-2010

One Question…

08-03-2010

Sand or Gold

Talk to any cat owner and you’ll hear a seemingly universal truth – cats love the packaging as much as the present. No matter the cost or technological advancement of a new toy the cat will likely disregard it; preferring instead to be entertained with the box, bag or wrapping the toy came in. It seems our feline friends have learned to use litter boxes and eat and drink out of bowls, but their respect for financial values has yet to evolve.

The true gifts in life are before us and available to us every day. Our world is bursting at the seems with beauty, hope and countless miracles. Yet over and over again we dismiss them – choosing instead to cling to worthless trash. Author and theologian G.K. Chesterton, in his work entitled “The Convert”, says we search for treasure but use sieves that keep the sand and “let the gold go free”. We give value and priority to that which was never meant to bind or define us. At the same time we de-value and minimize that which is truly life-giving. What we toil over and focus on demonstrates what holds value for us. And when we value what was never meant to be valued, it can have crushing consequences. We treasure church buildings over church bodies. We value bible studies over faith communities. By focusing on lies we devalue God’s truth. The list goes on…valuing how we appear to others over how God sees us, traditions and religion over freedom in Christ, shyness over hospitality to others, fear over confidence, revenge over forgiveness, independence over accountability, the past over living in the present, guilt over God’s acceptance and our sins over redemption.

How are we spending our time, energy and effort? What thoughts consume our minds? What are we living into? The things of this world that have no value are easy to accumulate because they are worthless…a dime a dozen. We can surround our lives with these things but in the end all we’ll have done is create a kingdom of sand. Or we can choose to recognize the things of this world (and beyond it) that hold true value and pour our lives into them. They may come at a higher cost, but anything that is truly valuable always will.

– R.S.R.

08-03-2010

Cordoba House

The following is an article from the Washington Post on the controversy surrounding the Cordoba House (a proposed Islamic Cultural Center near the World Trade Center site)  . Cordoba

07-30-2010

Untamed – by Alan & Debra Hirsch

Early in our ministry, we remember being deeply impacted by Rowland, Croucher, a church consultant in Australia, when he led a workshop for ministers. He began by asking the question, “What is the first thing you can say about Adolf Hitler?”Answers to the question ranged from “horrifically evil” to “fallen,” and just about everything in between. At the end of the feedback, he simply said, “No, the most fundamental thing you can say about Hitler is that he is ‘like God”! Yes, he is fallen, evil, and degraded, but he too is made in the image of God. Even though it is very marred in him, it nonetheless is there.” He went on to say that no matter who we are or what we have done, this is the most fundamental truth about us all-we in some way reflect God.

Rowland was right, and our paradigms had been rocked! We had been scripted to give the first and obvious answer, that Hitler was indeed a sinner. But this was to get first and second truths the wrong way around. Sure, he – like us- is fallen and in need of redemption, but this is a secondary truth that only builds on the primary truth, which is that all humans carry the imago Dei. On this liberating truth rest a more genuinely biblical understanding of human beings. This truth also provides the disciple with a more compassionate (and humane) basis for mission and ministry. Let’s see how this works out in two takes.

Take one: If we operate assuming the primary truth is that every person is first and foremost a sinner, and that in the image of God is all but obliterated, then the way we engage in our own personal discipleship and our missional endeavors will be radically altered. Historically, five-point Calvinism has tended to have a very negative, “worm-theology” view of humanity that has at times communicated a sense of self-hatred in its adherents and in the wider culture shaped by its teaching. In this view, our sense of redemption: even though I will see myself as saved by Jesus, my primary identity as “sinner” will remain predominant and assert itself into my sense of who I am.

This negative view of the human reveals itself fully in the way we see, and subsequently treat, non-Christian people. Because the grace that covers the Christian person is not applied to the unsaved, the image of God within them will be obscured by their sinfulness and we will tend to view them in a dark and cynical light. But we miss the gift that lies under the mess of sin. Our focus will be on the external (behaviors and the like), rather than on the heart.

Take two: If we operate assuming the primary truth is that every person is first and foremost created in the image of God but is also fallen and capable of great evil, then we will see ourselves as something very special that went badly wrong. In this viewpoint, there is something essential in our humanity that is fundamentally God-like, no matter how fallen we may perceive ourselves or others to be. Not only does this change us, but it should also profoundly modify the way we see people and therefore engage in mission. We can see beyond the sin and brokenness to a being that was made to reflect God. And even though something went badly wrong, this can-and must- be restored through Jesus’ saving work on our behalf. We will then have much more respect for the unbeliever and sheer dignity of being human. Think again of the way Jesus treated people, and see which perspective fits better.

This paradigm shift has been incredibly significant in our ministry. While seeing the holy in the other has come more easily to Deb, Alan can recall having to choose to “see” the image of God in people. Al can remember an encounter with Howard, who was one of those people everyone would do everything to avoid. He was very needy, lacked social skills, cornered his victims, rubbed himself up against people when he hugged them, talked too much-you get the idea! One time Al was simply not able to dodge him and was effectively sequestered in a corner with him. He knew he was going to be there for a while. And then about halfway through their time together, the meaning of Howard, so to speak, came through. Al saw him as a marvelous, God-like creature. He can honestly say that it felt like an encounter with God in and through Howard.

Another humorous example: about fifteen years ago, Diana came into our lives. She was a transsexual-without-the –operation. Another profoundly unloved individual, she’d had a traumatic upbringing. Like many “trannies,” Diana was an over-the-top type of person people tended to reject and avoid. However, Deb lovingly pastured her and soon became the point of relational stability in her very topsy-turvy life. As a result, Diana decided to “adopt” us as parents. (Not a legal adoption, rather a relational one.) At first we tried to resist this, but eventually we gave in. In the beginning, in the midst of all the drama, we had to constantly remind ourselves that Diana bore the God-image, and in fact, in his/her rather strange kind of way, did it very well. She is an incredibly kind, generous, and forgiving person who will sacrificially serve others whenever a situation requires it. We can honestly say that we really do love her and have learned so much about God from her. We are proud to be her “adopted” parents.

Seeing the image of God in people generates compassion. Henri Nouwen makes the point that if we have true compassion for people, then we will not focus primarily on their outward behavior. And he is exactly right! We would add that if we start with the presupposition that the person is created in the image of God rather than simply being a sinner, we will be compelled to look to their heart and attempt to call forth the image of God we know is there, no matter how hidden. We are wise to remember the words of C.S. Lewis:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, and civilizations-these are mortal, and there life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit-immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously- no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners-no mere tolerance, or indulgence, which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.

07-28-2010

Jesus Toast

It makes sense when you think about it. If Jesus was going to have his image show up somewhere in our world today in order to draw us back to him, why not toast? In his time here on earth it wasn’t the rich, high-brow or powerful that he chose to spend his time with. Rather it was the common, ordinary, average joe that received most of his attention. And what says “common, ordinary, average joe” more than toast? It’s cheap, accessible to everyone and doesn’t create a lot of fan fair. It’s simply heated up bread – and we all know how much Christ liked to talk about bread.

Call me a cynic, but it seems a bit absurd to imagine that the Lord of all creation would feel burning his bodily image into a piece of toast is the best way to get our attention. Especially when everything in our world we see, smell, taste, touch, hear, feel and think about is stamped with his signature already. I like how Thomas Merton put it…”The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet”. But it makes one wonder – why do people see images of Jesus on bagels and faces of the virgin Mary in water stains on the sides of buildings? It tells me, although there are overwhelming signs all around us, people are determined to find proof of a God they desperately want to exist. If only they could have a sign or witness a miracle, then they could know for sure. And it would be just a bit easier to fall asleep at night knowing that, despite everything that’s wrong in the world, the God they’ve now seen will surely work things out.

I suppose the Son of God can appear in a piece of toast if that’s how he sees fit to do things. Although personally I’d choose a Pop-Tart or a Toaster Strudel…ya know, something with a little more depth to it. But in the meantime, if we want to see the image of God we have two more reliable and near by sources…ourselves and others. After all, we are each made in the image of God. Every one of us. Without exception. Certainly it can be hard to see at times, but it’s true nonetheless. And that raises the more difficult question – once we’ve seen the image of God in all of us, how are we to respond?

– R.S.R.

07-23-2010

Some challenging words from Tony Campolo…

07-15-2010

A Word from Barrett…

A word from Barrett Hartley –

So here we go… I don’t consider myself a blogger (honestly, I don’t
even know if I’m doing this right?), but I thought I would share
something with you all, and since I feel this may end up being
applicable to our community, or at least the notion of community, and
since there were no posts as of yet in the community area, I figured,
“why not?”
So, I’m sitting here doing some calculus(one of my favorite leisure
activities) while the plumbing dudes are in the basement working.  I
am trying to study but I cannot get this imagery etc. out of my mind,
so I figured I’d share it with you all.
Some days ago, and I’m guessing it was the same storm from the
well-received “Joby vs. Thunderstorm” posting, lightning struck our
house, resulting in some blown H2O fuses & a malfunctioning H2O pump,
prompting further investigation.  At this point we discovered we also
needed to replace the actual tank that the pump uses as a conduit for
the water being drawn from the well, along with the pump and fuses.
Now I could take the avenue of the well, and how, like the pump, we
must all draw Living Water from the well that is Christ, but certainly
(again I’m new to this blogging craze) that’s been done.  Actually
what came to mind is not the source of the water, but the health and
functionality of the system drawing the water.  We diligently change
the water filter, we change and maintain the salt in the H2O softener,
and through all of this, of course we must keep up with the
maintenance on the systems themselves.  And yet, inevitably there will
be that lightning strike that, no matter the years and effort spent
maintaining the system, when it strikes can cause the whole system to
malfunction.  When this happens, do we attempt to function on our own,
on the same tired parts that have failed, or do we call for help?
Again, yes we MUST cry out to Jesus for help, but I believe that is
also why we have the Body of Christ, the community that He has placed
us in and made us a part of.  As a community focused on becoming more
like Christ, shouldn’t we then also seek the help of those around us,
to strengthen and encourage us, to hold us accountable, and to help us
as we seek to grow and continue down the Narrow Road together?
And so, realizing the job was beyond our capacity to do on our own, we
called the plumbers.  We couldn’t let our pride get in the way of
asking for help when we truly needed it.  And, just as we expected and
needed them to be, they were more than ready and capable of doing the
job.  We saw that we needed help, we asked for it, and they were there
to help us.  Mmmmmmm…clean dishes, clean clothes, a shower, cold
water to drink… Thanks plumber dudes!
BSH

07-13-10

Joby Vs. Thunderstorm

A storm passed through Indy the other night about 2 in the morning. It started with lightning, followed by the rumbles of thunder and culminated with about 20 minutes of hard rain. I’ve always loved thunderstorms. I love the electricity in the air as tension from the two opposing fronts builds to a climactic overhead battle. I love the flashes of lighting streaking across the sky and the booming thunder that shakes the walls and reminds us that we’re never quite as sheltered as we like to think we are. And nothing can put me into a sound sleep better than the rhythm of a steady rain. I love everything about thunderstorms…at least I use to. That all changed about seven years ago when I took in a dog named Joby. It wasn’t long before I learned that Joby, to put it mildly, isn’t a fan of thunderstorms. As a matter of fact, I’m convinced she believes that storms are the devil himself coming with the fury of hell to steal her very soul.  If you’ve never had the experience of living with a 55 pound dog who loses her mind every time it storms in Indiana (which can be quite often), I don’t recommend it. A storm these days can mean broken furniture, scratched up walls and the loss of a night’s sleep. But the worst part is seeing the sheer panic in Joby’s eyes and struggling to help her understand that it’s merely noise and in a few short hours will be a distant memory. Still though, I sit with her, stroke her head and try to calm her down the best I can as we ride it out together. Joby will likely never catch on that thunderstorms are fairly harmless, but she does know that they’re just a little bit easier to handle when I go through them with her.

We get our English word “community” from the Greek work “Koinonia”. One definition says “to commune by intimate participation”. I think just about everyone (to some degree) likes the idea of being part of a community – be it dog or human. Since God set us in the garden people have tended to gather together and live in groups. It’s  in our very nature. And while being together is vital to our existence, being part of a Christ-centered community requires even more. And it’s the “intimate participation” that tends to trip us up. Being part of a true Christian community demands participating…and on a deep level. It means walking along side each other when things are good and when things aren’t so good. True community is not standing off at a distance  and saying, “I’ll pray for you” or “I’ll see you next week at church”.  It’s getting down in the dirt on your hands and knees with a brother or sister who’s back is breaking from the weight of the world and sharing the load.

We have to know each others’ problems. We need to be aware of people’s burdens in our community. If we don’t know, then we need to ask. And if we ask, then we need to listen… really listen and resist the temptation to throw out a quick fix or two. We need to be long-suffering and patient. And we have to have compassion – which means seeing from their point of view and not just ours. What may not seem like much to us may be terrifying thunderstorms to someone else. And it’s our job to sit with them through it.

– R.S.R.

06-02-2010

Love Your Enemies

06-04-2010

Street Corner Preaching

A few weeks ago our house church had a discussion about those guys with the megaphones that stand on the street corners and tell people they’re going to hell if they don’t (fill in the blank). This past week, on a completely different matter, we talked about a passage from 1 Peter 3. I love it when God ties things together and draws a line between seemingly unrelated topics. Right there in verses 15 and 16 Peter tells us, in my opinion, his views on aggressive, fear-based mission tactics. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Notice 2 things – the phrases “who asks you” and “gentleness and respect“. We are most definitely called to share God’s good news with people. What we call “The Great Commission” makes that abundantly clear. But the words “who asks you” put a spin on it that I think a lot of people miss. It implies a conversation. It suggests that in the course of a discussion – hopefully existing in a real relationship – if someone asks about the good news, then we are to share it with them. But he doesn’t just tell us when we should share the good news, but how we should share it – with “gentleness and respect“. Where is the gentleness in screaming at people? Where is the respect in inciting fear or public shame?

So what are the motives of the people behind the bullhorns who pass out tracts with pictures of people burning up in hell? I can’t say. I hope and pray that at least their motives are good. But maybe just having good motives isn’t enough when it comes to sharing Christ with others. Maybe being Christ is equally important – if not more. The woman caught in adultery is the best example I think we have. There is no aggression from Christ. No shouting. No threatening. No fear-based salvation. No condemnation. And here’s the catch…here’s the part I think so many in the church forget – we’ve all been caught in adultery. Each of us. Every single one of us. So shouldn’t we approach others the way Christ has chosen to approach us despite catching us red-handed? With gentleness, respect and – over all things – love. The kind of love that draws people in – not makes them hurry across the street to a different corner.

– R.S.R.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-825273137571541112#

06-11-2010

Enoch and the Rest of Us

Of all the varying and unique characters  in the bible, one I’ve always been fascinated with is Enoch. It’s likely you don’t know much about Enoch. As a matter of fact, I’m sure you don’t. That’s because Enoch is only mentioned 3 times in the bible for a grand total of 9 verses. He’s considered a minor prophet, but just barely that since his whole prophecy is only 1 run-on sentence comprised of a mere 46 words.  We first see Enoch in Genesis where  we are told that he was born to Jared. At the age of 65 he had a son named Methuselah. Following that, Enoch lived an additional 300 years and had “other sons and daughters“. He lived here on earth for a grand total of 365 years – which by today’s standards would be an outright miracle, but in comparison to others in his time was barely middle-age. Genesis 5 ends its account of Enoch with the phrase, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away“.  He shows up briefly in Jude where he prophecies about the Lord returning to judge those who have sinned against Him – thus giving him the prophet status.  The only other mention of him is in Hebrews where the author explains that Enoch “did not experience death” and was “commended as one who pleased God“.

All this leads me to wonder – just how much do you have to please God in order to avoid the curse and tragedy of aging and dying? What did Enoch do that was so special, so amazing that God – just 7 generations removed from his condemning Adam, Eve and all of mankind to suffer death – decided he could have a free pass? Surely he must have been a great man. A man, like David, who was after God’s own heart – only more successful! A man of wisdom like Solomon, faith like Abraham and devotion like John the Baptist. And yet, curiously, we are told almost nothing of his life. Why in the world would God omit from His word the stories, teaching and lessons of such a man who seems to have lived nearly a perfect life?

I think God’s an optimist. I think He knows a good thing when he sees it (or creates it) and He has complete confidence in our ability to be so filled with Christ’s love and the Holy Spirit that our faith can move mountains. I think He has extremely high expectations for us and believes with all His heart that we can do amazing things. Christ came right out and said so – “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these..” John 14:12. But I also believe that God is realistic. He knows, so much more than we ever will, how truly flawed we are. He knows that sin has been let loose in the world and reeks havoc in our lives daily. God knows we’re going to fail. Again and again, over and over…to the point of exhaustion. Maybe this is why Enoch is just a blip on the screen of the bible. An acknowledgement that he was here accompanied by a few thoughts on the Lord and a vague description of how he left our planet. But for the rest of us? Those of us who have come up short and are deeply intertwined with the consequences of our sins? That’s the beauty of God’s word. We get story after story filled with details of miserable failures, glorious successes, murder, pillaging, redemption, adultery, grace and passion from some of God’s most colorful characters. We get stories about us sinners – just played by different people in a different time. God lets us know through the adventures (and misadventures) of His people that, while His heart breaks when we screw things up, He still loves us with all of His being. And that’s where our identity should lie. Not in our shortcomings, but in God’s unending love for us despite our shortcomings. We’re not failures – we’re imperfect children of God. We’re  not sinners – we’re  sinners who have been redeemed. We’re not our past – we’re the potential God knows we some day will be. We may never measure up to Enoch here on earth, but there’s good news…we don’t have to. We don’t have to even come close. All we have to do is continue to be part of God’s story…flaws and all.

– R.S.R.

06-25-2010

Just War (?)

Some thoughts from Shane Claiborne on violence, war and how we deal with these as followers of Jesus.

06-30-2010

Why Christians are Jerks Online – CNN Article

By Jonathan Acuff, Special to CNN

Bono is a born again Christian.

Or he’s not.

It’s one of those two. I’m just not sure which, but I am certain that the faith of U2 is something we Christians like to argue about. That and beer. You never know if your small group is populated with prohibitionists. You have to say things like, “Is there anything you need me to bring to the dinner party, anything at all?” Then if they say, “Sure, how about a bottle of wine?” you’re good.

U2, beer, our favorite pastor’s kid-gone-wild Katy Perry: these are usually the topics I write about on www.stuffchristianslike.net. (Which is indeed a direct rip off of the site www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com.) But today I thought I might deal with something with a little sharper teeth. Something you don’t see addressed often, but you might have experienced.

Put simply, I want to talk about why sometimes we Christians are jerks online.

Much like “Christian hate mail,” being a “Jerk Christian” defies logic. We serve a loving God. We follow a Christ who very plainly told us what to do. In Matthew 22 someone asks Jesus, “What is the most important commandment?” The answer is simple:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

There’s no confusion about that. No smoke monster. No mystical wisdom that must be found on a mountain peak after growing a ZZ Top-worthy beard. Someone asks Christ what matters and the second thing is “Loving your neighbor as yourself.”

So then why are there so many hateful Christian blogs? Why do Christians write bitter messages on Twitter? Why do we send hate mail?

I think there are two reasons Christians are jerks online.

    1. The business traveler approach.

It’s unfortunately not that uncommon for business travelers to get in trouble when they’re on the road. With a “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” approach they tend to do things they would never do at home. “The rules don’t apply here. I’m a different person. This is ‘road me,’ not ‘home me.'” I believe sometimes Christians approach the Internet the same way. The rules of “real life” don’t count. Sure, I have to love my neighbor, but are people on Facebook my neighbor? The Internet doesn’t “count.” These are just words. Surely I can throw a missile of hate at someone on Twitter. And when we buy into this logic, we develop an unloving, anything goes, whatever happens online stays online mentality. We become two different people, “Offline Christian” and “Online Christian.” And we become jerks.

  1. Room Cleaning Christianity

Why do Christians argue about drinking beer or why the tankini is the least slutty of all bathing garments? I think it’s because we sometimes practice “Room Cleaning Christianity.” Think of it like college. When you’ve got a final paper due Monday, you will be amazed at how energetic your desire is to clean your room. You will scrub tile with a slow toothbrush if it means avoiding the bigger, more difficult work of writing your paper. The same thing happens with Christianity. Loving your neighbor might be simple, but it’s not easy. Maybe my neighbor is a jerk too. Maybe they hate God. Maybe they are actively and violently opposed to everything I believe. And showing them grace feels impossible. So instead of dealing with that, we get online and police people. We find small things to focus on that will distract us. I think God wants us to discuss the little stuff, but we make it an idol when we practice room cleaning Christianity at the exclusion of love. And we tend to become jerks.

Hopefully you’ve never experienced either of these things. Hopefully this article feels like Amish Romance Fiction, currently a hit amongst Christians. But if it doesn’t, if you’ve been an online jerk, if you’ve acted like I have, there’s hope.

Jesus came for the mess-ups like us. Jesus came for the failures. Jesus came for the jerks. (That’s not in the King James version of the Bible, I remixed it like Timbaland.) And the truth is, grace is the antidote to being a jerk online.

So my hope is that you won’t prove my point in the comments section. My hope is you’ll accept my apology for the times I’ve been a jerk to you online.

My hope is that I’ll see Bono in heaven, or at the bare minimum “the Edge.”



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