Friday, February 27, 2004

Today

I attended a meeting this morning that was most interesting. It was a seminar designed to give clergy and psycologists the chance to interface with each other. The questions revolved around our virtues things like compassion and caring. At our table we discussed the issue of boundries. Unfortinatly the issue of abuse is always there. One person made the observation that even the accusation of abuse is a death nail for us.

But what hit me is what are my boundries? Where do I set my priorities. One pastor told how when he was young his wife met him at the door and asked who was more important then me today? She asked this after he had been half an hour or more late every day. What are our priorities? Is my family mt top priority? It must be. In the SA often family gets overlooked. I'm expected to do three or four jobs yet where does my family stand. My family must be my number one priority. The same pastor said that he wants to live a life where his kids will not hate his church, his bible, or his God. Good words. Where our priorities are there will be our actions.

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Thursday, February 26, 2004

Thoughts

I don't really like being a boss even though I can do it. Its wearing on me.

Life is getting better though. I still have no desire to read but slowly my mind is starting to work. I am slowly begining to think. Thinking about life and chuch and stuff is really what defines me. Dwight on his blog has been doing some thinking about "unity without uniformity." This is what I am seeking. It's pretty much my dream to be communities where we are unified without all looking or acting or thinking the same. It takes time to build these friendships. I don't do this easy. It takes me a very long time to build friendships. My wife has shown this to me. Also she has pointed out that I don't try new things. I think there is a connection here. New people and new things can not be trusted so why try them? I think that is part of my thought process.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

A few scattered thoughts

I'm sitting here watching Navy NCIS, T is out with a friend the store and Starbucks. I'm feeling kind off depressed. I don't really feel like doing anything or reading or praying or anything. I don't know why I'm feeling like this. It probably has something to do with life at the corps. We have a staff of 10 excluding the officers. I seem to be the one doing everything administratively. Writing proposals, listening to the bitching, getting really tired of the employees trying to one up each other. It sucks, really sucks.

I'm feeling kind of separated from everyone and everything right now. Kind of flat lined. I just don't really care. I read and my mind doesn't respond. I read blogs and I am not stirred. I just want to curl up with my wife and stay there. Life truly sucks right now.

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Sunday, February 22, 2004

This weekend

So this weekend my wife and I went to San Diego on a retreat. We visited the SA's Kroc Center. It is YMCA on steroids. Many more of them will be built it the future thanks to Joan Kroc. The administrators told us the one thing she wanted to see in these centers is opportunity. They should give people opportunity.

But over the course of the weekend I learned somethings about myself. First, I do not trying new things. I have to analyze new things before I do them. It also takes a lot of convincing for me to try new things. I learn primarily trough discussion and argument. Most people I think, do not learn like that. I think it relates to the intellectual side. My answer is always no until I think over things. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes other times weeks. The greater the risk the longer I think. I have to get better though at expressing his and not giving an immediate answer of no. I must start to say "let me think about it." Marriage is a great thing it teaches me about myself more then I get to know my wife. Knowing myself helps me know her. To know myself enables me to know my wife.

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Monday, February 16, 2004

parachurch and the future of denominations

I just got back from having ice tea With Kevin. Kevin is another intellectual. His mind is active it good to have tea with other active minds. I suppose coffee would work as well but coffee ranks with onions as worst foods on my planet. Ice tea is a good substitute. Starbucks has great ice tea. But to the point.

We talked about a number things regarding theology, God, the Trinity, Image of God, history of salvation, conservatives, gay marriage, and the like. Towards the end of our conversation I raised the idea that denominations will cease to exist in the next 50 years. Kevin does not think it will be that long. So this raises some questions. As TSA are we a church or a parachurch? I operate under the paradigm that TSA operates best when it functions as a parachurch. But regardless, how does the death of denominations effect TSA. How radically will our structure have change in order to continue in USA? Can we change our structure?

In the future people will not belong to only one faith community. They will belong to many. These may be local churches, friendships, internet based communities like: Emergent, Theooze, Next-Wave, ect. Or some other type of community. No longer will people be limited to one church. They go here on Sunday morning there on Sunday night and they get together with friends on Thursday. Fellow journeyers, we must be active in multiple communities. My current is 4 if I count all my online stuff as 1. If this is true then parachurches have a unique role in bringing together Multiple communities to effect change in their culture. Tutoring, sports, drug rehab, senior centers, feeding programs, homeless programs, computer training, daycares, domestic abuse shelters, and the like. This is where I see parachurches like TSA (the largest parachurch in the world) being active. For the most part our churches will close, those that don't will become independent communities, these officers who administrate these programs will function as chaplains, but will themselves be involved in various faith communities. TSA will not die but change we must. Otherwise we will think and act like something we are not.

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Habits of the mind and the Image of God

Sire presents the argument "what we know is what we do" Action and knowledge are inseparable. We can not believe that something is truth if we live like it is not. Thus he gives a description of this process of discovering truth, holiness.

So first of all, to be holy is to be set apart for God's service. And second, to be holy is to be characterized by the character of God-that is by the image of God in which he made us. To the extent that we are in God's image, we are holy. When the word became flesh himself, he showed us what that image of God is like in its fullest expression. To have a passion for holiness then is to have a passion to be like Christ.

Since we find ourselves even at our best to be only broken images of God, we are in a fix we cannot fix. If we are to be fixed, it will be God who fixes us. And he does. But he does this not just by redeeming us through us through the death and resurrection of Jesus but through restoring us into his image." (90)


What role did Christ's death and resurrection play in restoring the Image of God in Followers? In those who don't knowing follow? Those who claim to follow but do not? Those who are in outright rebellion against God.

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Saturday, February 14, 2004

Praiseworks and the Court of Gentiles

Tolani is not feeling well today, Valentines day of all days. Oh well, so tonight I went to praiseworks. Praiseworks started about 8 years ago at a Salvation Army church in Orange County. It started meeting on Saturday night. A small group of people dedicated to worshiping God and becoming a community. They struggled to grow and many changes took place over the years. I started going a couple years ago in search of real people in a place of phoniness. I found a small community of people desperately trying to seek God. A year ago we moved into our building and really started to take shape as a more organized community. My attendance has been sporadic the last couple months because of Christmas and stuff. But everytime I go back I see more people. Many come a Salvation Army Drug and Alcohol recovery center nearby. Many though are young families. It is becoming a place where everyone is accepted for who they are. It hit me tonight I stand in a court of gentiles. It doesn't matter who you are or you past, whether you are wealthy or you just got out of prison. Everyone is accepted. Invited to join on the journey. And many are joining. I felt tonight, though I can not describe why, as if the Holy of Holies had come from behind the curtain and set itself down in the Court of Gentiles. The presence of God met the seekers of God. I wish I had words to describe what I felt. I took of my sandals for I was standing on Holy ground.

Its not easy to build a court of Gentiles. It takes time. We must not give up, God is moving, God is in our midst. Build the communities take the time, love each other even the faults. God help us all build these Courts of Gentiles.

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Friday, February 13, 2004

Court of Gentiles

Dwight and James thought of a court of gentiles has got me thinking. (see dwights response in comments on thoughts and stuff. Thursday February 12) In the ancient temple the Court of Gentiles existed so that people of every race and tongue had a place to worship. However, they could not fully worship. They could not even see the sacrifices. I imagine that often visiting God seekers were lost in this great temple. I imagine what the Ethiopian must have felt.

As I approached Jerusalem I was awe struck by the singing and the reverence. The worship their God yet never pronounced the Name. They simply addressed God as Lord. After we had reached the top of the mountain I found a place to stay. The next morning I went up to the Temple. It was the most beautiful thing I've seen. Lined with Gold and Jewels. It was crowded by the time I got there. I entered the outer courtyard. People were everywhere. They were selling animals used for sacrifice. They were making change into temple script. I saw small groups of people gathered around talking. I did not feel like I could join them. I went towards the doors leading to the temple proper and I the guards told me I couldn't go in. Jews only they said. I was outraged. I had come to worship and was turned away. I walked around trying to listen in some conversations. I finally found one where they did not give dirty looks every time I turned around. They were talking about the law and what we could and could not eat. After a while the conversation turned to Micah and his warnings to take care of the poor. Around nightfall the group was disbanning. They told me they met there every day. I went back. I had lots of questions they could not answer them all. I asked about this text in Isaiah they were just as confused as I. After a week I told them I had to go back home to Ethiopia. I truly was thankful for them opening up and inviting into their group. They admitted when they didn't have the answers. More then once one of them invited me to dine with them this kept the conversation going late into the night. I left feeling excited that people opened up. But I left with more questions. I met this guy named Philip on the way home. He answered so many questions and introduced the man Jesus to me. I just wish he had been there at the Temple. But I got home having found two great communities. Both answering my questions both needed.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Discussion on Church

Here is an email discussion I am having with my Mom. I am moving it here to get some others responces.
Read from the bottom up. My replys are in Italics

I believe that since God is a community God created us for community. It is part of our nature. Part of the Image of God. See my blog www.pomosalvationist.blogspot.com for a discussion of the Image of God. It has always been intended that we live in community. Evangelicals have defined salvation in very individualist terms and created a theology whereby it is possible to be in communion with God without being in community with other people. There is no part of scripture however addressed to one individual. Scripture is addressed to the communities of Faith. If we fail to journey with others we will fail to journey with God. I believe this "created for community" (see the book by Stanley J Grenz) model applies to both individuals and individual communities. Communities can not isolate themselves from other communities. Cults develop when this happens. This does not mean that denominations will exist. I actually believe denominations will loose their power. It means people will be part of multiple communities. Leaders will be in communities with other leaders, through the Internet and through live gatherings. In short we can not know or follow God on our own.

The modern evangelical model of knowing God was "quiet time." Meditation is probably a better method. This is only one method to know God. There are as many methods as there people. But community and listening to others plays a tremendous role in knowing God.

As to the role of overseer/bishop/whatever word you want to use I have some thoughts. First, who? Gender is not a qualifier. There were a number of cultural reasons why Paul forbid women to lead in Ephesus. Mostly surrounding idol worship. We know that women have taught and lead. Gender is a cultural thing. In some cultures women should not lead. In 21st century America (western world) Gender is an issue. To exclude women from equal standing with men in all leadership is paramount with discrimination. To a postmodern discrimination is a sin.

But to their role. The specific role is defined by the community. Will that person be in charge of finances, pastoral care, visitation, vision, worship, preaching, worship, ect. Also, I do not believe churches should have one person filling this role of whatever name. People are different, communities are different, leadership will be different. The only unifying thing I see is a plurality of leaders.

I am going to post this discussion in my blog. Leave any comments there and I'll reply and some other "ecclesiastical dreams" (from another blogger) will post their comments as well.

I suppose it depends on what the definition of a "local church" is. I would define it as a group of people on the journey of knowing and following God together. The one word definition is community.


sstegman@nwlink.com wrote:Hi Bill,

thanks for the response. I agree that being part of the "institutional" church does not guarantee that one is part of the Church (body of Christ). No, this isn't really about Christy. I am trying to sort out what the role of the institution church (local churches) is related to the Church (body of Christ). Do you think a person can be part of the Church and not really be part of a local church? Does being part of
the Church (being saved, seeking to know and follow God), mean a person
will be part of a local church? Scripture? And what is the purpose of the "bishop" or "overseer" in the local church?

Love you,
Mom

This gets to the heart of a definition of the church. In recent time my definition of the Church has broadened. It includes thoughts that the institutional church and the Church are not the same. Being part of the institutional church does not mean that you are part of the true church. I can not judge whether someone is part of the true church. I can say that I think there are some indicators. Someone who is part of the Church seeks to know and follow God. Also, they are in some sort of fellowship with other people on this journey. The problem comes when we acknowledge God but choose to not know God or follow God. A friend of mine has some interesting thoughts on this on his blog Dwight Scull. In short we choose whether to follow God or not. It is this choice that determines whether we are part of the Church (ie being saved) or not. My concern with Christy is that she knows God (or the version of God she inherited) yet does not want to follow what shebelieves God wants her to do. That said I think her perception of who God is is probably flawed, as is all of ours. She views following God in a very moral sense. We follow God by following his laws. This is part but following God is much more, its deeper, its a love story.
Does this help?
Any more questions?
Why do you ask?
Is it about Christy or someone else or just philosophy?



Suzanne Stegman wrote:
Hi Bill,
Can we have a discussion (email) about the local church?
I just have some questions.

You said once, that you were concerned about Christy, that she wasn't in a church and you indicated or said you thought someone couldn't be saved unless they were in a church...at least that is what I think
you were saying. Is this what you believe? If so, why? (what scriptural basis is there for that)

What is the local church anyway, and what is it supposed to be?

Thanks,
Mom

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Tuesday, February 10, 2004

New Book

Well,
I'm reading a new book. Habits of the Mind is written by James Sire. So far its an interesting book. It afirms the call of being a Christian intelectual. He spends some time looking at John Henry Newman as a classic intelectual. He quotes a bit much especially Newman, I don't read 19th century writting very well. I thought Sire's definition of an intelectual was very insightful.

An intelectual is one who loves ideas, is dedicated to clarifying them, developing them, criticizing them, turning them over and over, seeing there implications, stacking them on top of one another, arranging them, sitting silent while new ideas pop up and old ones seem to rearrange themselves, playing with them, punning with thier terminology, laughing at them, watching them cash, picking up the pieces, starting over, judging them, withholding judgment about them, changing them, brining them into contact with thier counterparts in other systems of thought, inviting them to dine and have a ball but also suiting them for service in workaday life.

A Christian Intellectual is all of the above to the glory of God.


Do you fit this definition? Are you an intellectual? Are you a Christian Intellectual?

I think therfore I am

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Image of God and Salvation

So here I am listening to Larry Norman waiting for a couple of kids to show up so I can start teaching them some powerpoint. Anyway, Dwight and Rebecca have some interesting thoughts on their blog epic journeysabout salvation and the Image of God.

Rebecca said something very insightful. "We all are on it already by the very fact that we are human and created in God's image. I think we as evangelicals have done humanity a disservice when we decided that only Christians bore the image of God."

First, Rebecca still calls herself an evangelical. I too must fall into this camp if no other reason then my current faith tradition. But claiming this name brings many problems. These are for another post however. I want to expound on this idea that everyone is created in the Image of God.

Evangelicals have argued and taught myself and others that at the fall the image of God was damaged. The Image then relates directly to salvation (though rarely articulated). At Salvation the Holy Spirit comes and restores that which was damaged. Thus the idea that only "Christians" are in the Image of God. Somehow, the way I understood it, the Image of God had to do with perfection, morality, the ability to reason, position in relation to the rest of creation and the like. It seems that the understanding is incomplete. Almost as if it does not really matter since it is damaged and salvation is the only thing that fixes the problem.

What if we start with the definition. We could talk about the Image of God being Creativity, or Community, or the Need to Love and Be Loved, The desire to procreate, simply being persons. Maybe there aspects of all these (and the evangelical answers too) that define us as being created in the image of God. So, what is damaged? What does salvation fix? If the Image is basically what makes us humans then are the unsaved less then human? God Forbid though they often feel like it in church. No what is damaged is our ability to relate to God and each other. We are still very human, still very much the likeness of God, still very much children of God, whether or not we desire to grow more like God. We are all humans in process from where we are to where we are going. Dwight has some good insights on the topic where are we going.

Besides when scripture reads "let us create them in our image" we only know one thing about God, God is creative. God creates. Where are more creative people "Christians" or those who are simply searching.

Just some thoughts
If I am unclear post your comment and I'll try to clear up the unclearness.

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Ramblings

Its been a while. This weekend was diner theater as the college. My wife was acting and I got roped into helping so it was a long weekend.

Last Wednesday we took the afternoon and went to Disneyland. Passes are great. Anyway, our way from inoventions we saw the bus recruiting for volunteers to walk in the nightly parade. So, T wanted too so I got dressed up in a too-too (spelling? That ballerina thing). Yes there are pictures somewhere. I was supposed to be dancing but you know how that went.

Anyway, lately I have been struggling with the question, does anything I am doing matter? I have yet to come to an answer. I am writing from a new computer lab that we have for the seniors. I suppose my involvement will get this thing rolling. But in general does it matter? If I do not do anything would anyone notice? Would anyone care? So I prayed this prayer last night.

Where am I going

Does anyone care

I don't doubt your existence

Sometimes I just doubt mine.

Sometimes I just get frustrated because I spend all these hours and I don't know whether it means anything at all.

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Friday, February 06, 2004

Us and Them

Dwight noted in my post "virtues" that one problem lies in our language. We us the term "them" describe anyone who is not us. Very true. This alone dehumanizes "them." One thought however is that for us to recognize that our language is a problem means that we believe and act as though "they" are we. Or maybe better more mystical put, "they" are Christ. We recognize them as our neighbor's. But, what about all those who don't? Some I honestly believe do not realize what they are doing. Others are true hateful bitter people. The only we can distinguish is to show people what their actions and words do. As far as the hateful? Pray that God will deal with them.

Onto the language. I hate language. I think the problem is systemic problem. We have closed systems. Many (most or nearly all) of our people systems are closed groups. We use a language to distinguish between those in our group and those who are not. Thus, "us" and "them." What to do? I don't know. Can we or should we eliminate all closed systems? Should we get rid of all memberships? All private gatherings? How does this effects Christians under persecution? Are some closed systems necessary?

If some closed systems are necessary, then how to speak and act in ways that restore human dignity instead of dehumanizing people.

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Thursday, February 05, 2004

Response To Rebecca

Dwight and Rebecca have been talking a lot about opening up and looking at their past abuses and how it effects them. I was going to write to Rebecca encouraging her in her opening up and talking about things when the metaphor of marriage came to mind.

The church for the longest time has taught us to dress up and not be real. We dress up by putting on fancy clothes (a practice I despise), and then we dress up by putting on our fancy selves. We can allow other members of our family to see the real self. We go pretending everything is good. Its time to dress down.

Right now my wife is wearing sweats and a shirt I am in shorts. We are casual in our own house. We should be casual with other members of our family. It would be odd if T was in her nicest dress and I was in shorts. The same is true in church (our family). Everyone must dress down. Be casual with each other. Treat each other as family. We are real people with real problems.

However, I am not seeking a nudist colony. Marriage is a beautiful thing. We can be completely naked and vulnerable with our spouse. We would not go here even with our closest friends. There will still be levels to our intimacy. Certain things must be saved for the marriage bed.

I hope this metaphor makes sense. Maybe someone else can unpack it a little bit more.

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Virtues-what I look for in myself and others

Dwight said that those in Missio Dei were asked to write down their core values. I am going to take a stab at this as well. As a pastor/Chaplin/social service administrator I want to live a few key things these are also the things I look for in other people whether they be friends, mentors, church participants, or employees.

1) Love
Jesus said "Love the Lord your God with all your might, your whole being. At the same time love everyone as yourself." (my paraphrase) I work in world where we see many hurting people (physical, mentally, and emotionally) We are called to Love. I see to much not Love though. It's not hatred it's just not Love. Am I willing to give up what I want to help others or do I only care that this gives me a Job.

But there is another aspect to this as well. Love for me must include my wife and will include my children some day. This Love is deeper. Its emotional. I cannot explain it but this Love starts at Love your neighbor and moves infinitely more levels of deepness.

2) Authenticity
This takes the idea of honesty to another level. This asks am I being honest with who I am. Am I being real with myself and others? Are other people being real with me or are they just playing a game? If we are just playing a game what the hell is the point.

3) The Poor
In Luke 4 Christ explained why he is here. Christ came for the poor. He came for the outcast, the sick, the overlooked. We in the church (SA included) have changed to this to Christ came for me. Bull Shit. Christ came for the world. He came to proclaim release to those the powers and principalities (sometimes the church) have screwed. Christ comes in the world today to change neighborhoods, country's, and yes individuals as well. But we (the institutional church) have taken this liberating mandate and used it to wipe. We give them things but we do not open our doors. We build buildings with separate entrances for "social services" so they don't dirty our nice entrances. We don't give them coffee or a free pastry cause we might make a mess. We steel their dignity by putting them on the other side of the glass, or making them wait in the rain. Enough! We have been "Asleep in the Light" (Keith Green) for way too Long.

4) Community
This is what my heart seeks. People with whom I can share my life. A community where gossip and game playing stop. A community where people Love, are Authentic, and bring release to the poor.

enough for now

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Search for authenticity part 2

I got home from the office early today because the water main broke for the second time in six months. They have to replace a section that was built with PVC pipe. The plumbing says someone was really cutting costs when they built the building 9 years ago. Anyway, when I got home I found a letter from my Grandma. Among other things she was responding to my comment that "for most Christians their beliefs don't make a difference in their lives." She writes saying that her beliefs do make a difference in her life. I would agree.

They say that faith and goodness are contagious. I would agree. It was probably about 12 or 13 years ago when my grandma first came into our family. She met and fell in love with my grandpa and they settled of the Oregon coast. It was after that I saw a change in my grandpa. Their house became a house of Love. They showed me what AA was all about. They opened their house to all of us. Bettie became Grandma. I truly believes she understands more about Loving your neighbor as yourself. I can not describe the Love I have for my Grandma and Grandpa. True love is beyond description. Now my grandpa is very sick with Kidney cancer. Please say a prayer.

Its people like my grandma that give me hope to say that what I believe matters. What blows my mind is that Grandma follows God and I believe knows God yet does not claim to be a Christian in the historical sense.

So I continue my search for authenticity. I search for it in myself and others. I search for people who know why they do what they do.

I Love you Grandma and Grandpa.

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