Church

From Idealization to Reality: The Church as a Body

Mhmmm

Embodied.

The church is the body of Christ, not as a metaphor, but in reality. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I used to have high hopes for the church. Idealistic even. But a curious thing happened to me on the way to idealizing the church. I spent some time in it. And I became jaded. I suspect in this I am not alone.

The picture that is forming of my two-and-a-half decades of time spent with the people of God spread throughout Northern California, Southern California, the Deep South and the Great Northwest looks more like twisted burning wreckage than anything else. The wreckage has been largely relational in nature. The logical center of my soul has been pleading with me for years now to give up the ghost.

Who has the emotional reserves to stay invested in a community with so much capacity for harm? Who in their right mind would give themselves…

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Dear Post-Evangelicals

Here is a post from Red Letter Christians. I don’t know if I can claim to come from “Evangelical” circles the way people talk about the term here in the states, but I very much resonate with the pull to leave, if not the mainstream church, then many of its expressions, practices “laws” behind. I’m looking towards more of a lifestyle and community than a social club, where the ‘work’ – or at least its focus – takes place in streets and homes, hearts and families, more than in a central dedicated building.

Anyway,  here’s the post. It takes the form of an open letter.

Shane has some good points

I’m (still) making, or wading, my way through Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, and it’s very paradigm challenging, even when you read it over many months. Searching for one of the resources he mentions in the book, I came across this interview: Shane Claiborne – Fundamentalism http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSlLGq7LbWw I think he makes some rather pertinent pounts, no?

Links of the week April 27-May 3

 

And it’s time for another Weekly Link Roundup:
My Immortal – Lindsey Stirling
I linked to this artist earlier in the week, but I thought I’d share some move love. For those of you who love intricate string work, rock violins, The Phantom of the Opera, Nightwish, Evanescence, The Red Paintings…this is a girl we might want to keep an eye on. I wouldn’t mind getting ahold of her album at some point. My son likes her youtube videos. 

 

Before We Rush to Judge Donald Sterling by Doug Main
It kind of goes without saying for some people to give others the benefit of the doubt and examine themselves before condemning too harshly, and for others to criticise very harshly while not necessarily living out very well the alternative to what they’re being critical of. That said, the ethnic makeup of the man’s basketball team makes his comments look pretty silly.

 

The Least-Sung Song by Tim Challes
Some interesting thoughts. The verse in Colossians talking about singing does refer to singing to one another rather than just to God. That thought might affect some of my preferences in worship songs. I tend to prefer songs whose lyrics focus on my speaking directly to God, in contrast to those phrased in a manner talking about God with the ‘audience’ being other people, those more ‘declarational’ songs.

 

Untidy beds may keep us healthy – Failing to make your bed in the morning may actually help keep you healthy, scientists believe.
And teenagers (and adults) everywhere said “see, I told you, no point!” Then again:
Benefits of making your bed

 

Critique of “The Shack” – A Christian Theologian’s Perspective by Patrick Zukeran
I never read this novel past the first few pages, although it came highly recommended. This article does a good job of summarising the positive aspects of the text and the troubling criticisms laid against it, which seem to be confusing or problematic at best and outright heresy at worst. What troubles me most is how freely recommended the novel was without warning of the issues it presents, especially to those without a strong Biblical foundation.

Some sermon inspiration

Very aware that I haven’t been writing much lately – a dead heat between lack of mood/muse and lack of opportunity really…  I was listening to a sermon as I was doing dishes and bottles this evening, and I thought I’d share a couple of sermons that have shaped or impacted some of my thinking and outlook towards this life and how we live within it.  (more…)

Shocking – the Bible condemns alcohol abuse?

The other week we discussed some pretty clear positive assessments about alcohol in the Old Testament. We concluded with a quote from Preston Sprinkle: “Alcohol is often portrayed not as a neutral substance that’s “allowed” but a blessing that’s often “promoted.” …Like marital sex, alcohol is not just allowed – as if it was a naughty thing that’s okay from time to time – but is actually promoted as a symbol of God’s blood-bought material and spiritual blessings.”

Now, the first thing Noah does when he gets off the ark in Genesis 9 is to build an alter, give thanks, sacrifice some animals, and receive a covenant from God not to pour water on all of us until we breathe it in again (that covenant is with the animals too, curious). He also says “every beast of the earth and … every bird of the air” will fear us, and that “every thing that lives shall be food for you” – you didn’t know it actually said that, right? I didn’t.

Anyway, the second thing it records Noah doing is planting a vineyard (something of an analogy to the Mayflower’s travellers when they made land – they built a brewery – I prefer Noah’s proclivity). Then he gets drunk. But it doesn’t say he shouldn’t have been harvesting grapes that turn into wine, or making wine, or drinking it – there’s no commentary there, no judgement on Noah, just on Ham for perving or making fun of Noah. So respecting and caring for Noah and covering the sin (not covering up, although that’s what he should have done for his father, but rather than gossiping about it), is more important than the sinfulness of Noah getting drunk, at least that’s the point that’s made in the passage.

 

That all said, there are many prohibitions and warnings about alcohol.
If you look through your concordance, you’ll find a lot of verses that say no to alcohol (eg Judges 13:14) – many direct prohibitions are related to drunkeness (eg 1 Sam 1:14), specific instructions from God (eg Judges 13:14), or related to vows, like the Nazerite vow.

Now, alcohol is a blessing from the Lord, yet, we read about Noah, and we read about several prohibitions. Turns out, we probably shouldn’t get drunk, right? Or should we?

I’m going to quote and link you to a good article about the chief prohibitions of alcohol in the Old Testament, from John Anthony Dunne at thetwocities.com – there’s a very good summary on alcohol and the Old Testament there, if you’re interested.

“There are also a few instances where abstinence from alcohol is described. Yet, contextually it is quite clear that these prohibitions are not normative, but are for a particular task. This applies to priests while participating in the cultic worship of Israel (Lev 10.8-9; Ezek 44.21). Likewise, the Nazarites while taking the vow of separation were to abstain from wine (Num 6.1-4; Am 2.12), yet they could enjoy wine upon completing the vow (Num 6.20). While Samson’s mother was pregnant she was charged not to drink wine (Jdg 13.4, 7, 14). Treading the wine-press and bringing wine into Jerusalem was prohibited on the Sabbath (Neh 13.15-18). Interestingly, the Rechabites were tested with drinking wine, but they abstained because their father commanded them not to, along with other things, like owning a house (Jer 35.1-19). Daniel chose to abstain from wine and meat while in exile in order to make a theological point to the Babylonians (Dan 1.5, 8, 15-16). Lastly, while Daniel was mourning he fasted from wine and other delicacies for three weeks (Dan 10.3).”

 So, when you’re leading worship or preaching, maybe lay off the booze? Nadab and Abihu went into the tabernacle drunk, and God roasted them for it. If you vow, or make a solemn decision to refrain for a time, refrain! Daniel, Sampson, and the Nazerites are good examples. If God calls you not to, great!

 

Now, aside from prohibitions, we have many warnings about alcohol. Most of them either imply or directly state habitual drunkenness. I could list a bunch of scriptures, but here’s a couple:

Isaiah 5:11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink,
Who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!

Prov 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.

Prov 21:17 He who loves pleasure will become a poor man;
He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.

Prov 23:20 Listen, my son, and be wise,
And direct your heart in the way.
Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe one with rags.

Don’t be a drunk. Don’t hang out with drunks. Don’t love pleasures (including alcohol) because that is not a road to prosperity.

We also see many examples beyond advice.

Noah got drunk, and the results were…embarrassing. Not just that, but the subsequent squabble between the brothers resulted in a family division that lead to the Philistines (coming from Ham) and Israel (coming from the other brothers). There were some issues between the two down the track, that might have been avoided had Noah not got so plastered, or Ham not been a jerk about it (Gen 9).

Lot’s daughters got him drunk so they could sleep with him (boy, fathers, is that a reason not to get drunk, or what?) – and the resultant offspring – Moab and Ammon – were also to give Israel a bit of trouble (Gen 19). However, Jesus came from Ruth, a Moabite, so God clearly uses our evil for good ends, just as He was glorified in David killing Goliath and showing His might in enabling Israel triumphs over the Philistines.

Amnon, son of David, was murdered by Absalom, who had the opportunity while his brother was drunk (2 Sam 13).

 

So, and I can’t say this strongly enough, because it’s the balance of the Old Testament’s statements, warnings, and examples concerning alcohol:

Don’t abuse alcohol, don’t get drunk, don’t be habitually drunk.

 

Can’t point this out enough. In the context of many warnings about alcohol, yet many praises of it as God’s blessing, and even command from him to spend tithes on it and feast (Deut 14), I see most of the prohibitions from drinking as circumstantial (such as adherence to a specific vow, presiding over a court, conducting ritual in the holy of holies), or warnings centered on what happens when you abuse alcohol, rather than complete 1920s prohibition. To suggest that you have to ignore a lot of what the Bible says about alcohol, or suggest that wine/beer/’strong drink’ referred to in the Old Testament didn’t actually really contain much alcohol, even though it obviously got people drunk enough to do stupid things, like sleep with their daughters and not even remember in the morning.

 

I’m probably going to keep this series to Mondays, because I tend to have more time on the weekend to catch up if I don’t get to it during the week. These posts take much more effort and research (because I want to be honest and thorough) than what I might normally write. If I’m honest, I’m a little disappointed because I wanted to dig more into what the Old Testament had to say, but looking at what I wanted to cover in this post, it was going to be several thousand words if I dug into lots of texts in depth, so I had to summarise. If you want to discuss something, hit me up!

One of my bigger peeves with discussing alcohol though, is when we (because I have  a tendency towards this too) take one or two scriptures that ‘prove’ our point, and ignore the rest of the 66 books. This is case in point with alcohol – I have scriptures that say DRINK, drink liberally and enjoy, and then I’ve got some that say NO, stay away! If we’re to be honest with our Bible, and take God at His Word, we need to take them all together, not the one or two verses that ‘agree’ with eachother and us.

On that note. I’m tackling one of the more interesting passages on this topic next week: Proverbs 31!

 

Links of the week April 13-19

The Planck length. Teeny tiny, and huge. Explained
Rather timely and wise words for Christians in this culturally turbulent time. We should try and be Biblical, and not fight so much.
This kinda excites me. Not sure how far I trust Facebook with security and such, but low cost, low hassle, money transfers to and from my family overseas through Facebook is something I could potentially be really excited about. Here brother, spend this on my neice for her birthday, because we yet again haven’t managed to mail anything in time, it’s still sitting on the mantlepiece.

Meet Kepler-186f, the most ‘Earth-like’ planet ever found
I
‘m a science nerd. The idea of settling on another planet as 21st (or 22nd) century pioneers is a romantic notion I don’t know if I’ll ever let go of, even if I’m pretty sure it’ll never happen on anywhere more distant than Earth’s moon. So, finding planets that might support humans about as well as our Earth is pretty cool.

John Piper linked me to this film about job, told in poetry in artwork. It looks interesting!
I was yet again late this week. Finding it harder to make unsleepy time to write. *le sigh* lol

OMG: Millennials abandoning the Bible – No, really?

So I read a an article recently about the results from some data collected by the American Bible Society over the last four years.

OMG: Millennials abandoning the Bible

Among the results are a definite decline in the esteem of the Bible by millennials:

“– Although 79 percent of adults believe the Bible is sacred literature, only 64 percent of millennials do.
– 19 percent of millennials believe no literature is sacred, compared to just 13 percent of all adults.
– Exactly half of adults overall believe the Bible “contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life,” but that number is just 35 percent for millennials.
– Half of adults believe the Bible has too little influence in society, but only 30 percent of millennials agree.
– 39 percent of millennials never read the Bible outside of church, compared to 26 percent of all adults.

The survey also found that since 2011, antagonism toward the Bible has risen from 11 percent to 19 percent and those who consider themselves “Bible-friendly” dropped from 45 percent to 37 percent.”

Now that’s concerning, but I think not totally unexpected, or terrible.

(more…)

Why does Jefferson Bethke Hate Religion, But Love Jesus?

This week has been a kind of a semi-forced week off from writing for me. Fatigue and other things taking priority over reading and writing. Such as devotional time, sleep, and the discovery of the My OldBoy emulator for my tablet, and rediscovering the Pokemon franchise. Sometime much easier to sit in darkness and play such a game than get up and read or write, especially from bed or sitting in bed with little one sleeping on lap. It doesn’t require much in the way of sustained focus either, which is a plus. If I could switch on and off ‘writing mode’ or read and write effectively while being constantly interrupted, I would write much more and finish many move books. Not that I’m not forcing myself to curtail that gaming somewhat…it’s a bit addictive.

On the subject of reading books, however, I’m apologising for any disappointed expectations in terms of regular book reviews, including my own hopes. I’m actually near or near-ish to the end of several books, so hopefully in the next month or so I’ll be writing about a few books 🙂 These include: Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence by Preston Sprinkle; A Genius for Deception: How Cunning Helped the British Win Two World Wars by Nicholas Rankin; The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne; Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett; and maybe a couple of others that I’ve not actually dipped into recently.

 

Adding to the list, and my intention is to make it near the top is Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough by Jefferson Bethke. This comes near the top because it was a gift from fellow blogger Skully Speaks (whom you should definitely check out), which I actually received in the mail Tuesday night, but haven’t gotten around to posting about until now. I’ve loved Bethke’s spoken word videos (see below), and was interested in his book, but unable to justify the expense (particularly given my pile of books waiting to be read that I semi-obviously have justified the expense for), and she offered to send me a copy. Big giant THANKYOU! 🙂

I would love to say that I’ll have this read in a week, or even two, but I can’t promise that at all. Same as I’ve currently got a bit of peace and quiet alone to write, but I don’t think I’m going to manage to write all of the half dozen posts I’ve got on the burner at the back of my mind. I am hoping to do one or two in addiction to this one, and rough out or note a few more, but we’ll see how I do. No links of the week this week either, for similar reasons to my recent lack of writing – I haven’t collated (m)any interesting links either, and I’m not sparing the time to find some just for the sake of making that post today.

 

This is the first of Bethke’s videos I remember seeing, and possibly part of the inspiration of his book:

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus || Spoken Word || Jefferson Bethke

Sex, Marriage, & Fairytales || Spoken Word ||  Jefferson Bethke

Counterfeit Gods || Spoken Word || Jefferson Bethke

Links of the week March 30 – April 5

Well here we are with another Weekly Link Roundup. It’s been a crazy week, folks. I’ve been sick, I managed to get the second instalment of my series on alcohol out on time, and my son sorta kinda took what we’re claiming as a tentative first step (because the next one will probably be behind our backs sneaking somewhere he shouldn’t be).

Monty Python to disband…