Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Highly Recommended

My friend Jon Meyer used to lead music for me when I led a Sunday night worship service in Garland. He is a very talented musician. He has spent most of the last several years behind the scenes producing and recording other musicians. He has been working on his own project and has posted a sneak peek on his website. I am going to provide a link and hope that you go there and download this song. It is really good. I hesitate to compare it to anyone but it does remind me a little of Sufjan Stevens without all of his elaborate orchestration.
Here's the link - You Move Me from Jon Meyer

Monday, June 29, 2009

Some More Thoughts about Tribes

Improving a Tribe
A leader can help increase the effectiveness of the tribe and its members by:
Transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change;
Providing the tools to allow members to tighten their communications; and
Leveraging the tribe to allow it to grow and gain new members.

An effective tribe (like the NRA) is so because it is extraordinarily well connected, communicating up, down, and sideways, and because they have a passionate mission, not just a common idea.

Anatomy of a Movement
Three elements that define a movement (Bill Bradley):
  • A narrative that tells a story about who we are and the future we’re trying to build
  • A connection between and among the leader and the tribe
  • Something to do – the fewer limits, the better

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thoughts on Tribes

I recently read Seth Godin's book, Tribes. I am usually skeptical about applying business or management insight into church or ministry situations, but this book gave me all kinds of good insight. I want to post a few over the next few days. Here is the first couple of nuggets I want to pass along.

Tribes are about faith – about belief in an idea and in a community.

Many people are starting to realize that they work a lot and that working on stuff they believe in (and making things happen) is much more satisfying than just getting a paycheck and waiting to get fired (or die).

Consumers have decided, instead, to spend time and money on fashion, on stories, on things that matter, and on things they believe in.

(We need to avoid getting) stuck in industries that not only avoid change but actively fight it.

The new leaders are the ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of tribes, who create movements.

What does it take to create a movement?

There is a difference between telling people what to do and inciting a movement. The movement happens when people talk to one another, when ideas spread within the community, and most of all, when peer support leads people to do what they always knew was the right thing.

Great leaders create movements by empowering the tribe to communicate.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This Might Be Cool

Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church and the Missouri Baptist Convention are sponsoring an event at the end of August called the 121 Forum. We will be looking at first century ecclesiology and missiology and hopefully letting it inform our methods and mission today.
Check out the website for a little more info here: 121 Forum
I will be presenting some information on Paul and leadership, looking especially at the topic with an eye on the charismatic gift of leadership.
If you have questions, contact me. There will be some good scholars/communicators at this conference. Hopefully it will show that there are those in SBC/MBC life who can critically interact with the Scriptures and apply it to our lives today.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Simply Christian - Thoughts on Israel

It is fundamental to the Christian worldview in its truest form that what happened in Jesus of Nazareth was the very climax of the long story of Israel. Telling the story the way a first-century Jew might have seen it not only avoids the massive historical questions that still rage around the early period, but prepares us for understanding why Jesus of Nazareth said and did what he did and why this had the impact it had. This is why I am a fan of Wright. He tells the story of Jesus within the story of Israel. It is hard to properly understand who Jesus is apart from history of Israel.
The Call of Abraham
After the Tower of Babel episode, we have the call of Abraham in Genesis 12.1-3. Verse three is the vital one. The families of the earth have become divided and confused, and are ruining their own lives and that of the world at large. Abraham and his descendants are somehow to be the means of God putting things to rights, the spearhead of God’s rescue operation.
The point is that God’s covenant with Abraham is seen as a rock solid commitment on the part of the world’s creator that he will be the God of Abraham and his family. Through Abraham and his family, God will bless the whole world. What happens, though, when the people through whom God wants to mount his rescue operation, the people through whom he intends to set the world to rights, themselves need rescuing, themselves need putting to rights. What happens when Israel becomes part of the problem, not just the bearer of the solution?
What does God do, he acts from within the creation itself, with all the ambiguities and paradoxes which that involves, in order to deal with the multiple problems that have resulted from human rebellion, and so to restore creation itself. All this explains why the story of Israel carries at its heart a single theme. It is the story of going away and coming back home again: of slavery and exodus, of exile and restoration. It is the story which Jesus of Nazareth consciously told in his words, in his actions, and supremely in his death and resurrection.
Exile and Homecoming
There is a pattern of this that repeats itself. This is exemplified in God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. That is one of the great moments in Jewish and Christian memory, drawing together God’s faithfulness to the promises to Abraham, God’s compassion for his people when they are suffering, God’s promise of rescue, freedom and hope, and above all the unveiling of God’s name and its significance (Exodus 3.14-17).
The Hope of Israel
There are four themes that swirl around the story of Israel – four themes that give body and shape to the story as it has been outlined by Wright. I will mention three but give more focus to the fourth: The king – see Psalm 89. See also Psalm 72.1-4. The Temple and the Torah are the next two. I want to give a little more attention to his fourth one:
New Creation – See Isaiah 49.6; 2.2-4, reaching back to the global promises God had made to Abraham. See also Isaiah 11.1-9 – the rule of the Messiah, then, will bring peace, justice, and a completely new harmony to the whole creation.
Isaiah 65.17-18, 25 – The theme of a new Eden (the thorns and briers of Gen. 3 replaced with beautiful shrubs) picks up one of the main subtexts of the whole biblical story. Israel’s multiple exiles and restorations are ways of reenacting that primal expulsion and symbolically expressing the hope for homecoming, for humankind to be restored, for God’s people to be rescued, for creation itself to be renewed. Isaiah never forgot that the reason God called Abraham in the first place was in order to put the entire creation back to rights, to fill heaven and earth with his glory.
Servant of YHWH
But new creation will come about only through one final and shocking exile and restoration. The king turns into a servant, YHWH’s Servant; and the Servant must act out the fate of Israel, must be Israel on behalf of the Israel that can no longer be obedient to its vocation.
The God of Israel is the creator and redeemer of Israel and the world. In faithfulness to his ancient promises, he will act within Israel and the world to bring to its climax the great story of exile and restoration, of the divine rescue operation, of the kind who brings justice, of the Temple that joins heaven and earth, of the Torah that binds God’s people together, and of creation healed and restored. It is not only heaven and earth that are to come together. It is God’s future and God’s present.

Why should we imagine that this is true?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Simply Christian - Thoughts on God

Wright begins the second part of Simply Christian by examining the various concepts that help tell the story of redemption and reconciliation. He begins with God.

The Christian story claims to be the true story about God and the world. As such, it offers itself as the explanation of the voice whose echo we hear in the search for justice, the quest for spirituality, the longing for relationship, the yearning for beauty. None of these by itself points directly to God. At best, they wave their arms in a rather general direction.

Wright then goes on to look at the various ways that people have tried to explain how God (and heaven) are interrelated (if at all).

Heaven and Earth: the Puzzle

There are three basic ways (with variations) in which we can imagine God’s space and ours relating to one another. There are three basic options of looking at God and the world.

Option One is to slide the two spaces together. God’s space and ours are basically the same. God fill it all with his presence, God is everywhere and everywhere is God. Or, God is everything and everything is God. This option is known as “pantheism.” The main obligation on human beings is then to get in touch with, and in tune with, the divinity within themselves and within the world around. There is a subtle variation called “panentheism” this is the view that, though everything may not be diving as such, everything that exists is “within” God. The problem with this option is that it can’t cope with evil. In paganism, you could blame evil on the god or goddess who was angry at you because you failed to appease them. But when everything (including yourself) shares in, or lives within, divinity, there’s no higher court of appeal when something bad happens.

Option Two is to hold the two spaces firmly apart. God’s space and ours are a long way away from one another in this option. The god(s) is in his/her heaven not connected to the earth. Human beings should get used to being alone in the world. The gods will not intervene, either to help or to harm. Thus, enjoy life the best one can. If you lived a hard existence, the best you could hope for was to escape this earth either by death or by some kind of super-spirituality which would enable you to enjoy a secret happy life here and now and hope for an even better one after death. This view became very popular during the 18th century through deism. “God” and “heaven” are a long way away and have little or nothing directly to do with us. That’s why, when many people say they believe in God, they will often add in the same breath that they don’t go to church, they don’t pray, and in fact they don’t think much about God from one year’s end to the next. The real problem is that this view has to plug its ears to all those echoing voices we were talking about earlier in the book.

Heaven and Earth: Overlapping, Interlocking

Option Three is what we find within classic Judaism and Christianity. Heaven and earth are not separated by a great gulf. Instead, they overlap and interlock in a number of different ways. The OT insists that God belongs in heaven and we on earth. Yet it shows over and over again that the two spheres do indeed overlap, so that God makes his presence known, seen, and heard within the sphere of earth (the strange presence of God in the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the Israelites…)

The main focus of ancient Israelite belief in the overlap of heaven and earth was the Temple in Jerusalem. The great temple became a single sanctuary for the whole nation, the place where Israel’s God would now make his home forever. This could be seen as a place where heaven and earth overlapped and interlocked. Here we have God being present on earth without having to leave Heaven.

For the ancient Israelite and the early Christian, the creation of the world was the free outpouring of God’s powerful love. The one true God made a world that was other than himself, because that is what love delights to do. And, having made such a world, he has remained in a close, dynamic, and intimate relationship with it, without in any way being contained within it or having it contained within himself.

This God appears to take very seriously the fact that his beloved creation has become corrupt, has rebelled and is suffering the consequences. (I am not sure Wright ever really explains the origin of this corruption and rebellion. I will deal with this more fully elsewhere).

Here Wright will examine what he calls the rescue operation which, in both Jewish and Christian tradition, the true God has mounted. What happens when the God of Option Three decides to deal with evil? He will then discuss Israel and its role in redemption.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Aggravating part 1

I was working out at a college weight room that also has access for some of the community. There are signs all around the room telling you to re-rack your weights. Yet on every station I used, there were weights on them. Why can't we do what we are told? In some cases, leaving weights on a bar can warp the bar. If you leave on a heavy weight and someone wants to use lighter weights (not me of course), then you have to put the weights up and then put your weights on and then, if you are polite, put your weights up for the next person to use. Seriously, it's not that hard. Re-rack your weights.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Advice

My advice when you are going to an event and you know you are going to hate it but others will really enjoy it? Don't ruin it for everybody else. I have been reminding myself of that in the past several months. It's good advice. Instead of complaining or discussing why you don't want to be there or how lame the event is, keep your mouth shut and don't ruin it for everybody else.

Any other words to live by out there? [crickets chirping]

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Great Quote

From Ewen McGregor:
"In your 20s, you spend a lot of time being self-conscious about what other people think of you. Then you hit your mid-30s and start to realize they weren't thinking about you that much."

You really don't have to wait until you are in your mid-30s to realize that. It is true when you are a teenager as well (especially in your teen years because everybody is too worried about what people think of them to concentrate on others).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

More on Simply Christian

In order to keep the posts flowing, I am going to be posting some thoughts on N. T. Wright's book, Simply Christian. This will keep me consistent in posting (and will bore the few readers I have left). I do this for me and not for anyone else (just to keep my reading, writing and editing skills sharp).

Wright on the "Echoes of Beauty" in Creation:
One of the things I appreciate about Wright is his ability to retell the grand narrative of the Bible. Here he discusses the beauty of creation and yet, there is something noticeably wrong with this good creation.
We say that the present world is the real one, and that it’s in bad shape but expecting to be repaired. We tell, in other words, the story we told in the first chapter: the story of a good Creator longing to put the world back into the good order for which it was designed. We tell the story of a God who does the two things which, some of the time at least, we know we all want and need: a God who completes what he has begun, a God who comes to the rescue of those who seem lost and enslaved in the world the way it now is.
The idea of God coming to the rescue on the one hand, and of God completing creation and putting it to rights on the other, is highlighted in the book that bears the name of one of the greatest ancient Israelite prophets: Isaiah. In his eleventh chapter the prophet paints a picture of a world put to rights, of the wolf lying down with the lamb, and of the earth being filled with God’s glory as the water covers the sea…If the earth is full of God’s glory, why is it also so full of pain and anguish and screaming and despair? (Emphasis mine; good question, though).
The prophet has answers for all these questions (but they aren’t simple answers). What we must notice at this stage is that both in the OT and in the NT, the present suffering of the world – about which the biblical writers knew every bit as much as we do – never makes them falter in their claim that the created world really is the good creation of a good creation. They live with the tension…They do it by telling a story of what the one creator God has been doing to rescue his beautiful world and to put it to rights.