Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pièce de Résistance

Every story has two major parts: a driving force and an apposing force. This takes place in many ways, from the protagonist and the events that bring his/her story to bare. Or on the opposite side of that, the antagonist (be it an apposing character, some disaster, event, etc), brings a resistance to make the protagonists story that much more enthralling. I've come to a conclusion that our lives are often like stories... and for any story to change from monotony to exciting there has to be that resistance.

In my life story, I have hit a major hitch of resistance. I do not know if I would call my story great, but I hope that by the end of it all people can say that I lived a great story. I've always felt that God wanted me to have something to do with full time ministry, but as of today I have been officially fired from every single ministry job I've ever had. The resistance (or is it?)

Is it possible that I have misinterpreted what I have felt to be God's guidance for me for multiple years? Surely, God would have corrected that path if it were true. Ah, but what about how I interpret the meaning of the guidance? That is much more likely. Because the truth is, there are so many ways to be involved in ministry, and only a handful require being hired by the church.

There is something, however, that I feel is rather clear. He wants me to write. I started a story quite a while back (well, truth be told, I've started a lot of stories), and I really think He wants me to finish it. After all, He was the one that told me to start writing it in the first place, so I guess it makes sense.

Maybe rather than a resistant force, this is what is called the inciting incident. The event that forces the character through a door or down a path through which he cannot return. Perhaps, this event will lead to something much greater than I could ever anticipate. Who knows? And so, I wash my hands of this whole mess. I can't let the resistance limit me, but I can allow the experience to grow me.

I think for now, I will be on a hiatus from church work. It obviously isn't the way to go at the moment.

Grace and Peace

P.S. Birthday went well. Really uneventful, but I guess in a lot of cases that is a good thing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Christ and Cultrue, part 4: Christ of Scripture

These will probably be my concluding thoughts on the matter, unless I deem it necessary to make an addendum to what has been said.

The son of God, born unto a virgin name Mary; such humble beginnings for a man who would become the Savior of our very souls. God incarnate, Christ came to save the world so that anyone who believed in Him would be given eternal life (John 3:16). Most people know about this Christ, but was that the only thing He came to do? If it is, then why spend three additional years teaching truths and healing? What was Christ's mission? There are so many questions concerning Christ, I doubt I could adequately answer a few, much less the many surrounding my mind.

I believe that Christ came to redeem culture. The very fact that he sacrificed His own life to give us an opportunity to spend an eternity as co-heirs with him in heaven is a very strong evidence of that. I find it very difficult to believe that Christ completely rejected the culture He was in, especially when He would spend time teaching on that very culture and how those who follow God should act within said culture. He wanted to reshape the culture, not create something entirely new. Jesus himself stated:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished”
(Matthew 5:17-18 ESV).

What does the law have to do with culture you may ask? Everything. It is just as much an intergral part of culture as the stories we tell, or the music we create. I firmly believe that when God gave the law to Moses, He was creating a culture; one that was built around worshipping Him, and honoring Him the only way the Israelites would have known how at the time. Here in Matthew 5, we see that Jesus is taking that very same law that has been with the Jews for thousands of years and revealing more about it. He is reminding them, and perhaps even revealing a new aspect about God and what He meant when He gave them their law. Jesus begins a new era of how we understand who God is.

I don't want to leave the impression that Christ accepted and condoned everything about the culture He was in. On the contrary, there are many places where Jesus points out that what is being done is wrong. There is plenty of evidence of this in Matthew 5, where He speaks against murder, against adultery, against divorce, and many other things (ESV). In fact, divorce was all too common during the time Jesus taught. The Jews believed they could divorce their wife for just about any reason, as long as it was a cause for the man to find his wife unpleasing; for instance, if she burnt a meal. It would be easiest to say that Jesus turned the way people understood God upside-down and it presented many with the opportunity to truly understand God. Eventually, Christ would present before many that it is not so much the letter of the law that is important, but how we choose to honor the heavenly Father that matters. Ultimately, I believe that Christ wanted to bring us back to God, to the point where we could walk daily with Him, a return to Eden.

Many have called Christ the “second Adam”, and I can understand why. In scripture, there is a recording of both Adam and Jesus being tempted; the first failed, the second overcame. In this overcoming, Jesus was able to present to humanity and to God that perfection is achievable, and it was only because Christ overcame that He would be able to be the conduit in which humanity would be saved from its sin. Thus, allowing the opportunity to renew the relationship that was severed so many years prior. Perhaps, that is where the true culture of any believer takes place, within the relationship with the Creator; and if what God really wants is to bring us back to Him, why not do so through a beautiful story of sacrifice, love, and redemption? I really do believe that Christ did not want to demolish our culture, but rather give it a jump start, a “rebirth” of sorts to bring us back into that relationship found in Eden.

What does that mean for us in the here and now then? What can we learn from Christ and His disciples? I leave that up to you to decide.

Grace and Peace

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Christ and Culture, part 3: Communication in Scripture

When it comes to communication and scripture, the first place I would like to look is the account of creation. As strange as it may seem, this is perhaps the best place to start because it is the beginning. If I were to read Genesis 1, I would find very quickly that God did not create through an action (such as waving his hands a certain way), but rather He spoke and it was there ex nihilo, or “out of nothing”. God speaks, and things exist. In fact, just within chapter 1 of Genesis alone there are sixteen different places that consist of God speaking, three of which are places where He is speaking of or to humans (Genesis 1 ESV). When God speaks to humans He essentially tells them to go and create culture; what we would consider, perhaps, the perfect ideal culture of walking with God daily. Unfortunately, our words can be used for both good and bad, as is evidenced by the dialoge between Eve and the serpent. It was through words that Eve decided to eat fruit of the tree, and then to give some to her husband who was standing there with her (Genesis 3:1-7). Our words are indeed powerful things if they can lead to what would become the downfall of all of humankind.

Progressing from Genesis, one will find there are many verses about speech within Psalms. Verses that tell believers that their words should be pleasing to God (Psalm 19:14). In fact, Psalm 34:12-13 says this, “What man is there who desires life and love many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit” (ESV). Who would have thought that the way we communicate could impact our way of life? It is obvious that God wants us to be careful with what we say, and when we say it; if He did not care what we communicated then much of scripture would not be necessary.

Proverbs also has a fair share of verses concerning our speech and actions. In Proverbs we learn that God hates perverted speech (Proverbs 8:13), that our words can bring healing or it can stir up problems (Proverbs 15:4), and perhaps the most well known passage is the one that says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). If one were to study the chapters of proverbs it would become apparent very quickly that God will honor certain types of speech, and that others are sinful. One would also discover that speaking whatever comes to mind is not the wisest thing to do. In fact, it would be wiser to not speak at all then to speak without putting thought behind what is being said. That is the very thought that is brought before the reader in Ecclesiastes 5:2-4, which states:

“Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words. When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow” (ESV).

I truly hope that the reader is beginning to see just how potent our words are, be they for good or for ill. We should certainly strive to be true to our word and do what we say, but we should also be careful in what we say so that we may not regret anything. For even Christ told us to let our “yes” mean yes, and our “no” mean no (Matthew 5:37 NIV).

There is one final passage that I would like to look at before moving on to who Christ really was so that we may have a fuller understanding of what the question of Christ and culture really is. The passage is in James 3:

“But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water” (James 3:8-12 ESV).

This passage is at the core of what James teaches about our words. Before this passage he compares the tongue to the bridle in a horses mouth, and a rudder to a large ship, stating that just as something so small and simple can guide the direction of an animal or large ship, so too can the tongue impact the way life goes. James even goes as far as to say that the tongue is much like a small spark of flame that can easily burn an entire forest to the ground if not kept in check (James 3:3-6).

This passage speaks out to me more than any of the other ones that I have presented thus far because it is perhaps the most direct passage, and I have frequently found this passage to be true of me, for though I love God, I do not always show it through my words and actions. This passage serves as a reminder to me, and I hope to all Christians, that we must be extremely careful with what we say because people are watching and listening all the time. That is why when Christians cry out against movies like The Golden Compass or books such as Harry Potter we are watched carefully and judged harshly. Indeed, there are times when I wish to not associate myself with Christianity because, for many people, it brings to many negative assumptions about who I am, and thus hurts my ability to share what is truly important, the love of Christ. Which brings us to the next point: Who was Christ?

Again, more thoughts to come as I continue the paper. Feel free to give your input, I'm just flushing out thoughts.

Grace and Peace.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Christ and Culture, part 2

I gave my initial thoughts on the whole situation between Christ and Culture, and I realize the break between my last post and this one is quite large. I guess to some degree this post is more of a part 1 redone. But I thought it would be good to discuss what culture is and how it is formed to give a grounds to what I say. The next few paragraphs are directly from the paper I'm currently working on.

What exactly is culture, and how does it take form? It is important to have an understanding of what culture is in order to adequately answer the question of Christ and culture. Culture, in the most practical application of the word, is the expression of beliefs, values, and ethics of people groups, or societies. This expression becomes visible in a plethora of ways ranging from art and music, to the writings or stories, and even to the very way the people act with each other within their group or society. With the many varieties of cultures that any one person can experience within their lifetime it is easy to see that there are many approaches to any one problem, and as a result many answers. Culture is such an integral part of the human life that I would argue it is impossible to act outside of the culture one is in without creating some type of side culture; it is as if it is a part of who we are. Indeed, many would say that our culture is what shapes us into the people we will become, and are. Thus, as culture changes, so too do those who are immersed within it.

How is culture formed? I believe it is formed through our words and the actions that follow them. An example of this would be whenever there was a major shift in the eras of human history (Medieval, Renaissance, Reformation, etc.) they are started by words first, be it written or vocalized, and then actions followed through. For instance, the act that really lead to the reformation for many people was Martin Luther's posting of the ninety-five theses. To put it simply, I believe words can create and shape culture. This is why it is so important for Christians to understand what scripture teaches on communication, for it is through our communication (and not just in words) that we can shape and create culture around ourselves. In fact, there is already different forms of what we call Christian culture, and sadly, many of them I find to be a poor representation of what Christ wanted of His church. What is worse, some even hinder the furthering of the Gospel. It is with this understanding that our words are much more potent than many realize that I seek the answer to the question: What does scripture teach about communication?

More to come as the paper progresses. Grace and Peace