Archive for September, 2008

Bored Emerging

Posted: September 24, 2008 in blogs, change, emerging church, grace, missional, ranting

Warning: This is not the post I intended for today. I’ve been working on a series of posts that will come perhaps later this week, but I needed to get something off my chest first.

I am now officially BORED of the “What is Emergent/ing?” conversation. I have, and likely will, participate in the conversation. What I like about emergent/ing is the open, honest conversations about what is happening in the culture and the church. I have learned a great deal from it. And quite frankly, the people I have encountered have been some of the best folks I’ve ever met — gracious, generous, confrontational, confessional. No one every said emergent/ing was the answer to all problems or infallible or that it was fully matured or the world’s last best hope. It has always been people asking and searching. That’s all really.

Yet time and again, I stumble across articles, blogs, books, etc…arguing about emergent/ing. I’m tired, okay. What it is is people trying to figure out how to do church in the face of a changing cultural landscape sharing questions and learnings together. Just today, one of my favorite bloggers, Scot McKnight, has posted about a new group he is partnering with. For a while, Scot has been involved with Emergent Village, and is a friend to many others involved in it. Of course, those critical of EV, will herald this as part of the death of all things emergent, and it might be, but I have to ask about all the fervor. Why are we so concerned with names and the minutia of every single person’s and group’s theology? Theology is clearly important, but we are naive if we think the folks on the same pew with us on Sunday morning are always in the same neighborhood with us concerning theology.

The reason I know this? I see how people behave.

We have tricked ourselves into thinking that someone’s doctrinal positions are in line with what they say their doctrinal positions are, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Our theology is evidenced in what we DO and PRACTICE! Something about human nature makes it easy to crucify the gracious among us if they disagree with our theory of the atonement. Does that make any sense at all? Is that logical or Christ-like?

I guess I just don’t understand all the hype about names, terms, groups, organizations and the who’s in, who’s out, who’s right, who’s wrong, culture of American Christianity — the “they’re not this enough” and “they’re not that enough” debates some Christians have. It is no wonder so many people in emerging generations toss aside the church and every fundamentalist, emergent, missional, main-line, emerging, restorationist, Calivinist, evangelical, and whatever else that comes with it.

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In so many ways my wife, Rochelle, is my inspiration. More than the dismissive “wing beneath my wings,” she is the very breath that gives me life. She challenges my thinking (which is the reason I married her). She refines my rough edges,  tells me when I’m off base, and lets me know when what I’m about to say or write shouldn’t be said or written.

So today, I’m posting a prayer she wrote. The prayer itself is about a year old. It appeared on Edward Fudge’s GracEmail last year and was reprinted in at least one church bulletin with which we have no connection. Though the prayer is a year old, the ideas are as fresh and needed. Here you go…

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Heavenly Father, our Redeemer, Friend and Lord,

We come before you to worship you. We live to bring glory to your name, to testify that you alone are worthy and righteous, full of truth, the Giver of life.  You alone are God.  We, your children, stand before you in need of your grace, for we have sinned against you and against your creation.

We confess that we have allowed our thirst for truth to be satisfied by what is false.
We have traded our desire for what is holy and accepted what is common.
For this, we seek your forgiveness.

We confess the sins of our lips, for words spoken harshly to others, for words spoken about others, and for our failure to speak of you to those around us in need of your love.
For this, we seek your forgiveness.

We confess that we have ignored the poor and the orphan.  We have forgotten the prisoner and the widow.
We confess we have sought justice for ourselves and left the foreigner, the minority, to fend for himself.
We confess we have used our resources to meet our own desires and have not dedicated them to your purposes and glory.
For this, we seek your forgiveness.

We confess that at times we have made ourselves the judge, deciding what sins are forgivable and what sins are not…
We confess acting as judge, claiming to know who is included in your kingdom and who is not…
For this, we seek your forgiveness.

O, Father, we are in need of your grace.  In this moment, through this service, renew us.  Transform us.  Make us selfless and courageous, that we may step boldly into and participate in your redemptive work in the world.

We thank you for your steadfast love that grants us new mercies each day.
We thank you for your redeeming love that allows us to know you, to know others and that allows us to love freely, without prejudice or hesitation.

Now, to You, O Creator, King of all ages, immortal, invisible, the only true and living God, be honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen.

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P.S. There’s some language in the prayer she might change now, but you’ll have to talk to her about that.

After Ike

Posted: September 15, 2008 in Everything

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A personal update on what me and the family have been doing in the days after Hurricane Ike ripped through the Texas Gulf Coast.

Word Stops

Posted: September 14, 2008 in Blogroll, blogs

Most blog writers are blog readers. They are typically people who love the world of words and ideas and the way words and ideas become realities in the real world. The average blogger begins his or her day in front of the computer checking their favorite blogs. This is what I do. So today I offer you some of my favorite blog stops and why they’re my favs. I hope you’ll check them out.

1. Mark Love’sAll That To Say.” Seriously Mark is one of the few Church of Christ people (my tribe) who has much interesting to say. And he says it well. You won’t find recycled bad ideas here, and his stuff on missional transformation is some of the best you’ll read anywhere. Plus, there is always a freshness to blogs written by people who are well-educated and committed to life-long learning. You owe it to yourself to read Mark’s stuff.

2. Brian McLaren’s Blog. Well, obviously, it’s Brian McLaren. Whether you agree with Brian about everything or not, you can’t help but be challenged by his thinking. He just recently began a series entitled “Why I’m Voting For Obama and Hope You Will Too.” This goes far beyond the soundbite culture that we’re so used to in our political discourse. There’s real thinking here; much more than who said what about lipstick.

3. Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed. McKnight is a professor and simply the most prolific blogger in the world. What is great about Jesus Creed is Scot’s balance. Also, his political blogs reveal the great spectrum of diversity within Christendom and politics. The commenters are all over the place. Scot post about three blogs per day, so there’s always a lot to read.

4. Tony Jones’ Blog. Tony is the National Coordinator for Emergent Village. Tony will be edgy for many people, but I really like his frankness. Soon Tony will be heading over to blog at beliefnet. It will be interesting to watch the conversation he generates there.

5. Russ and Rebecca Debenport’s “Riding a Tangent”. R&R are great friends of ours, and both work for Compassion International. It’s always fun to follow thier travels.

Go ahead and place these stops in your bookmarks or put them on RSS. Your world and words will be expanded.

Following Directions

Posted: September 12, 2008 in family, prayer

First, I ask of you to pray for me and my fellow residents of Houston, TX as Hurricane Ike bears down on our city. As a boy, my family referred to me as “Reverend Ike” because I used to mimic the song leader in church. (Note: Reverend Ike was a black TV preacher who used to tel his congregation that they needed to give more money so he could buy a new Cadillac or a new house.)

Now the very same namesake threatens the lives and property of many people I care for. Me, my wife, and two daughters left Houston yesterday to head to her mothers in Salado. All signs pointed to  the fact that our house – west of the city in Katy – was going to be fine, save wide-spread power outages. Because one of Rochelle’s college roommates was near Salado, and since her mom’s birthday is this week, we thought it would be a great time to get out of town. Plus, who wants to be in a house with no power with a 4- and 1-year old? At any rate, I ask for your prayers for those members of my church who remain in harm’s way.

Sadly, 90,000 people who were supposed to evacuate did not. My oldest daughter always ask us why it is so important to follow directions. This why: Sometimes the expert know more than you do. I told my wife after the great TEXodus stirred by Hurricane Rita years ago, when people spent 12 hours in cars to go 20 miles, that the next time a storm came, people who stay home. Unfortunately, I think many have chosen to stay. May God bless and cover them!

Crooked Speech

Posted: September 4, 2008 in advocacy, grace, speech acts

Okay, so when I’m not blogging, I blog, and when I am blogging, I don’t write a thing. Funny thing. 

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If you live in the U.S., you’ve probably been paying attention — at least on some level — to our national politics. In two weeks we’ve had a historic nominee and political convention, a close-to historic VP selection, a teen-pregnancy revelation, trooper-gate, questions about vetting, and another political convention. No matter your political leanings, you have to admit that there’s much happening.

The folks on the station I watch for news are just giddy with excitement about all things political. They speak about how “exciting” and “fun” it all is. Boldly they say their station is “The Place for Politics.” And if you know me well, you know that I enjoy my share of politics. But, I must say, about this time every four years, I would describe politics as anything but “fun.” 

While politics does have the ability to bring out the best in us, what I see so frequently is the worst of us. Watching one political interview after another might give someone the feeling that no one on the other side of the interviewee is ever worth voting for. Strategists and current and former elected officials talk ad nausuem about why “not” to vote for the other guy. It’s about muslim-sounding names, someone’s age or lack thereof, someone’s daughter, or what someone did 35 years ago that may or may not have any bearing on the next 35 years. What’s more, at one convention you can see Christian folks carrying signs with pictures of dead Iraqi children, and at the other we see other Christians with pictures of dead fetus’. Both groups are shouting about the unrighteousness of the other, largely in denial about the self-righteousness in themselves. They shout and say the most hideous and ugly things about the others. And when pressed on any issue, all either group can say is how the other is filled with “hate.”

It makes me wonder how many of these well-meaning Christian people have ever noticed how much attention the Bible gives to speech acts? Do we know how precious words are? As N.T. Wright points out, “Words Create Worlds.” God created the universe with words. Jesus came to the world as the Word made flesh. Scripture is deeply concerned about the way we talk. “No evil talk. No vulgar talk. No bearing false witness or meaningless talk. Let your speech always be gracious.” Sound familiar?  

Yet, politicians — both left and right — talk about faith and Christianity and family values, but some give speeches that are little more than smear and fear and lies about their opponents. But what if Christians took speech acts as seriously as God does? What if when some politicians just railed with contemptible speech against their opponent, we considered them “malcontents” and “grumblers” as Jude does? What if we made our leaders live up to “truthful speech” as Paul highlights as important in 2 Corinthians? What if we made wholesome speech a qualification for president, vice-president, and all those sent to speak on their behalf had to answer for it. Do you think there are enough voting Christians in the country that we might effect a change in the way we talk to one another? 

Somehow slowly too many of us have come to accept poor speech. In fact, we expect it! Sometimes we want it. And we really want it when it helps meet our needs for power and expand our ideology. Yet, the truth remains a transformed life is partly witnessed to by transformed and transforming speech.

There is no law we can enforce or war we can wage to transform this nation into the “Christian Nation” so many seem to desire as long as our governance and processes for governance are marred by what Proverbs calls, “crooked speech.” Let us not forget that when God searches Israel for a King to replace Saul, he finds David, who was “prudent in speech;” or as some versions put it, “has good judgment.” There is a connection between the way someone speaks and the judgment he or she exercises.

So, this week, I’ve taken a political fast. No political TV or radio. I’ve grown weary of hearing about who’s really puts country first and who’s identity is overly shaped by and lustful for war. Plus, I’m sensing the darkness that comes when someone is too immersed in negative and contemptible talk. The apostle Paul encourages us to avoid “profane chatter” because it “spreads like gangrene.” I think he’s right. And I don’t need to be sick right now!