Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Restoration as deification

What does it mean to be redeemed? As I have been tying thoughts together lately it seems that the church is full of people who are in the process of restoration. The word redemption is a good one, but for this blog's purpose I like the word restoration. It fits what Christ has done and is doing on the cross. Please, let me ease your furled brow.

Redemption carries the definition of delivering or purchasing. However, I think there is another picture of the cross happening, and it is not a matter of deliverance. What if the atonement was better defined as restoration - restoring humanity back to its original identity in and with God. I can't help but think of the history of God since the Fall having a mission of restoring humanity back to the way it originally was. I can't help but to look at Christ and think that this is the part of God that He thought; "This is the part of my image that I will put into humanity." I can't help but think that we are not trying to "be like Christ" as much as we are "being restored to the image of Christ." (All the Eastern Orthodox in the room just said "AMEN!")

As I ponder about the atonement, I think western Christians are terrifyingly afraid of the premise of deification, but I think there is something amazing in it when we can connect it to restoration. I am willing to fight about this if anyone wants to shout a little.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A thought for the new year

So how does one begin blogging after a huge downtime filled with nauseating guilt bereft of an original thought? By taking advantage of the year passing and offering an encapsulating thought of course. However, what thought shall I offer? Ponder...

I want to mention the thought upon which I have struggled through spiritually all year long and will probably continue to take with me into this new year. This is truly the encompassing question that leaves me seeking understanding in my faith as a Christian hoping that I will come to new conclusions and insights.

"What is love?"

If we are called above all else to love our God and love our neighbor, I am finding that this has difficult and compromising actions. However, I want to offer something of a culmination of thoughts that have come as a result to pondering through this question.

1. I have to listen. God deserves my ear. People deserve my ear.
2. I have to speak. God deserves my voice. People deserve my voice.
3. I have to want to love. This sounds basic, but I often find myself asking me in an inter-monologue fashion, "Did I really take the opportunity to love there?"
4. I need to be willing to listen to the people of today gifted as prophets - the people who are trying to speak truth into the Church. I for one recognize that it is human nature to complain, (I love doing it myself) but I also no that many times truth, if it is truth, often comes out of love.
5. In light of number four, I have to surround myself with people who love well and are capable of helping me love well also.
6. I have to ALWAYS wrestle with the thought, "What does it mean to give my life away for the sake of Christ?"

This is a working list, but I hope it gives you an inspirational moment, if nothing more a happy thought.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Book Review: The Ministry of the Missional Church

A while back I had mentioned a book I read called "The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led By the Spirit" by Craig Van Gelder. This has by far been one of the more influential books for me this year and also just one of the better books on the missional church that I have read.

With so many books on the missional church out, I really have to see something in a book that would bring me to my "blogging knees" to discuss it with you. This book assumes that the reader has a bit of knowledge on the missional church as it goes directly into connecting missiology with ecclesiology with little-to-no explanation. It is asking how the missional church functions without grasping onto and bleeding to death some sort of program to make them "missional." For Van Gelder, the answer is simply the presence and participation in and of the Holy Spirit. He says that "...a missional ecclesiology understands congregations as being creations of the Spirit." (107) However, he goes on to discuss that each church has its own identity within the Spirit which it must be in constant discernment about. And though Van Gelder offers structures and suggestions on what missional church looks like within the context of following the Holy Spirit, he says that too needs to be capable of being thrown out in light of following the Spirit's lead.

This is a great book for people who are wondering if the missional church is just another program or structure that will turn into some trend after a decade or so. Van Gelder shows that with the Holy Spirit, the missional church simply lives out what it is set to do. I actually find myself understanding the Church and the Holy Spirit better through Van Gelder's explanations and have a difficult time seeing the Church move in any other direction with much success of bringing forth the Kingdom of God without some acknowledgment of Van Gelder's message.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Book Review: Will Our Children Have Faith

The Christian Church, Protestant and Catholic alike are failing in their attempts to conduct proper Christian education. This statement is what John H. Westerhoff III would say in his book Will Our Children Have Faith? In observing the Church’s movement towards a brand of Christian education that begins and ends with a small Sunday morning class outside of worship, Westerhoff notes that this form of Christian education is weak and outdated. The author tries to move people into an understanding of Christian education as something that does not educate on the basis of facts and definitions. He wants the Church to leave its current paradigm in which he calls the schooling-instructional model. Westerhoff sees God calling people into a community that acts as a transforming agent to bring forth the community of Jesus Christ. He wants to see the Church as the body that helps people to live out their lives above and beyond the institutions and societal barriers that they face in the world. This is done through communal participation and discipleship that form faith.

Personally I find the book accurate in its depiction of the current trends of Christian education. It speaks to a vital component of the Church that must be constantly evaluated while seeking contextual relevance. Where I think he lacks in his book as often many theoretical books do, is in offering practical examples to springboard from for those moved by his argument. It is however a very good read and I would definitely recommend it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Christian Shame

The past weekend I arrived with my wife at one of our favorite retail stores of which we have started somewhat of a casual relationship with the owner. She is in her mid-40's and very funny and sometimes even a bit inappropriate. (That day she cursed at us for making her get to work then casually laughed it off.) But I must confess that I enjoy how comfortable and real she is around us. She knew that my wife and I are both grad students in Pasadena, however; she did not know that we were working on Master's of Divinity degrees to go into some capacity of ministry. She of course asked us this past weekend to explain what we were studying and then after we responded she looked slightly confused and began a barrage of questions about our chosen path of life. THIS WAS SO AWKWARD. I and my wife afterwards discussed how difficult it was to convey to her that we are not only Christians but those pursuing professional ministry.

So where does this fear come from? It comes from the worry of losing that which we already had; a good open relationship. We enjoyed her comfort and knew that her demeanor was at risk with our being exposed as moral Christian folk.

I have had a bit of time to reflect on this and I was recently met with a reflection from a reading by Greg Ogden. He uses Eph. 4:11-12 to explain the role of a pastor. "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up...." (NIV) He then quotes Elton Trueblood in saying: "...the pastorate is for those who possess the peculiar gift of being able to help other men and women to practice any ministry to which they are called."

In both of these passages there is a great sense of call. In other words, I am not in charge, God is. My fear is in spite of trusting the work of God. In reflection, having her ask about what I study is the easiest way to state that I am a person who knows God. If it changes her behavior around us, have I lost much? No, because I do not change around her. This is a part of being in our world but not of our world.

In the end, we made a purchase and "talked shop" a bit more and were reassured that we will be given a hard time for making her work in any subsequent Sundays we decide to stop in. She knows we will be back, and I know she will probably welcome us with an equal and akward warming demeanor as usual. However, just as I trust God with my call, I will trust Him with our next conversation.