Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Presidents by Jonathan Coulton

All of you doing first yeah politics or social studies at the moment - watch this video - you may find out some information that could be used in a pop quiz. Or you might be wanting to know a little more about these fascinating figures. Have fun!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Dangers of Syncretism

The Dangers of Syncretism

A Recurrent theme in Christianity has been the competition between peoples allegiance to the worldview of the day and the Lordship of Christ. When Christianity compromises with the worldview of the time it can be catastrophic and deadly. The real message of Christianity gets subverted. We can see this throughout history, Christendom led to the Crusades, where violence and conquest was used in an effort to convert the heathen, the Nazis were supported by the catholic church and were allowed to continue there racist and genocidal policies because the Lutheran Church remained attached to the pews, the South African policy of apartheid was supported by a predominantly white Christian Africans population. The South African Dutch reformed church propagated a Racist theology where God was racist against Blacks and coloureds. This is what happens when we forget to remember Jesus and proclaim his lordship.

The destructiveness of this syncretism is summed up by Lee Camp.

In fact, the Rwandan genocide highlights a recurrent failure of much historic Christianity. The proclamation of the ‘gospel; has often failed to emphasize a fundamental element of the teaching of Jesus, and indeed, of orthodox Christian doctrine: “Jesus is Lord” is a radical claim, one that is ultimately rooted in the question of allegiance, of ultimate authority, of the ultimate norm and standard for human life. Instead, Christianity has often often sought to ally itself comfortably to other authorities, be they political, economic, cultural, or ethnic. Could it be that “Jesus is Lord” has become one of the most widespread Christian lies? Have Christians claimed the lordship of Jesus, but systematically set aside the call to obedience to this Lord? At least in Rwanda, with “Christian Hutus” slaughtering “Christian Tutsis (and vice versa), “Christian” apparently served as a brand name – a “spirituality” or a religion” – but not a commitment to a common Lord.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Week - a Week of Anticipation, Participation and Salvation

What a week. I have thoroughly enjoy the journey through this week of my life. It has had heaps of drama, crazy deadlines, foot washing and a lot of good food and conversation.

The week has been really busy, I have had a deadline at work that has been giving me and others stress. We made the deadline, with time to spare so that was great. On Tuesday night me and a number of my friends from Mosaic and associates hold our weekly Lost Night. The lost episode was great, much better than the Juliet episode a week before. I won’t give any information out about it because it hasn’t screened yet in New Zealand. We had the best steak ever. It was medium rare and was pretty mean. Thanks to the skill of the cook, Justin Blass.

On Wednesday night I went along to MCG, our time of spiritual formation. We had communion and did foot washing. I found this really moving and enjoyed the whole time.

The weekend has been pretty full on yet great as well. Easter is so deep and meaningful. It is central to Christianity because it sums up the Christian message, Jesus came to earth to be crucified on a cross. Our God became human, became poor, like the poorest of criminals and died on a cross, only to be risen on the third day. The resurrection to me is central, I believe it is only through the resurrection that we in fact have hope. As we find out from Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
1 Cor 15:12-17

Without the resurrection Jesus’ action on the cross is in vain.

Last night was brilliant. I was stressing out a lot about especially as I had to cook. I’m only an apprentice when it comes to cooking but I think I did a pretty good job with the meal I prepared. Note that Justin and Lacey make a mean lasagne! For the evening we went through from empty tomb through the Jesus’ meeting with the disciples. This was deeply meaningful. I enjoy the whole symbolism and spirituality of the evening. The toast to full life was probably the most awesome period as I had a glass of spicy, full bodied red wine in hand. This really summed up the kind of life that I have, and want to have as I follow God.

I also had a Brilliant conversation with a girl at dinner. We told our story of what God has brought us through and what God has being teaching us. I found it a real privilege to hear her story and I believe it was a very meaningful experience for both of us. I’m looking forward to having her part of the journey that Mosaic is going through and seeing how God develops her. Its exciting because I can see all the energy she has, the passions she has for Justice, the passion she has for learning and the passion she has to know more. I really pray that she would develop a real deep passion and love for Christ and that Mosaic provides the community she wants. I’m looking forward to seeing how her gifts change the community and how she grows because of Mosaic.

This is the thing I love about Mosaic, being able to share our stories in a non-obliging way. We really want to hear what people are going through, how God is leading them. Sharing one another’s stories and learning from these conversations about who God is and celebrating that.

The last period of my life has been a real challenge. I really feel like I have been going through another period of detox. This time a period of detoxing from myself. I don’t think this has totally ended. But I think I may actually starting to get it, get what community life means. I’m starting to also change my view of church and mission. Its becoming more natural than it has been in the past. I tell you though, it is intense. I don’t think in any other period of my life have I given so much in time and energy to a vision, to something. The ideas consume me, I actually know I am going to move forward further, I want to critically evaluate what I do with my money, time and energy in light of the mission of God. It means I live naturally, I need a healthy balance, but this rhythm is different than the culture I live in. I’m learning it means I give myself my time and energy to people. I live a life of service for everyone that comes across my path. This is completely countercultural, rather than living for myself, fulfilling my comforts and needs I want to give up myself for this.

This is hard, my flesh continues to resist these changes, I’ve complained bitterly about this, both to myself and people I know. But its weird, we need resistant. I call it resistant training. Like a marathon runner, we need to put in the effort, push ourselves to the limit to grow. We push against the resistant to grow, to learn to be more Christ-like. It is not easy, its real hard, but its worth the sweat, the blood and the tears.

I feel so privileged to be on this journey, I need to learn so much. I need to learn what its means truly to serve. I need to learn what it really means to be humble. I need to learn what it means really to be honest about my faults. I need to learn so much. What an adventure.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A New Kind of Question.

Mak has a series of questions that we should be asking as christians, they are:

"how are you touching lives outside your faith community?”
“how are you doing as a community in showing people the tangible love of Jesus?”“
how often have you seen Jesus this week in the poor, marginalized, confused, hurting, sick, dying…?”
“is your community being hospitable, generous and kind to those in the community who do not attend your church?”
“how have you invested in your neighborhood recently?”

Are there any other questions we should be asking? How are you doing with your answers to these questions?

HT: Kingdom Grace

Jesus in the Strip-club

“Generally, I don’t think Christians would like Jesus if he showed up today as he did 2000 years ago. In fact, I think we’d call him a heretic and plot to kill him, too.”
Brian McClaren, Generous Orthodoxy

“To the hustlers, killers, murderers and drug dealers, even the strippers…” – Kanye West, Jesus Walks

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
- 1 Corinthian 9:20-23

This blog entry is dedicated to my two new friends – Justin and Lacey, they are missionaries here to New Zealand who I have the privilege to spend a load of time with. We had a discussion about three weeks ago, this discussion has spurred this blog entry, which should have been written two weeks ago if I had not gotten as side tracked as I did with other more important things.

I have been thinking a lot about this lately, how do we live as lights in the world. How do we live as lights in a reality that is dirty and messy? How do we be salt and light and reach out.

More importantly as missionaries to our culture, how far is too far? How far do we go to scream that we love people who are hurting and in pain?

I know in the past I tried to live in a way where it was better to segregate yourself from the world, stay in a nice safe church building, and you will keep safe. But is this what we were truly called to?

If we look to the ultimate example Jesus, we find some interesting results. Jesus, is wholly holy, yet he came and live amongst us, sinful people, so he could ultimately show the love of God to us. He didn’t spend his time with the all-together sorted people, the holier than thou. No he spent his time with the broken, the lost.

Lets see some examples:
It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people." And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they scolded her. But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."
Mark 14:1-9

This is a crazy story, when you actually read between the lines of the story. Jesus is a Jewish Rabbi, sitting in the house of a well to do Pharisees. In runs in this half naked girl with an alabaster jar, she starts pouring perfume on his feet, sobbing, she washes his feet. The men in the room would be wondering what the heck is going on. This girl is washing their rabbis feet – this is itself is uncomfortable – but they also know who the girl is, not one of the good girls, but a prostitute. They can’t understand why Jesus allows her to do this – why no call for repentance, why no disgust, just a sincere look of compassion on his face.

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, "Follow me." And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." And they said to him, "The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink."
Luke 5:27-33

Jesus sets the example, he spends those we consider in the not worthy, reaches out to the lost and shows love and compassion to those around him. He wasn’t scared of being “polluted” by them. He just brought healing, he ate with them. The interesting thing is that Levi followed – he brought all those who were considered unworthy to dinner with Jesus. Levi knew that he had discovered someone special and wanted to allow others share in this wonderful thing he discovered. He wasn’t scared to invite those who wouldn’t be considered worthy – he had nothing to lose in fact (he was a tax collector himself – considered the lowest of the low himself!)

So what does this mean for you? What does this mean for me?

I am only slowly figuring this out. What it has meant is that I’m more involved that ever in the lives of people that come across my path. I don’t want to see people as projects; I see them as friends, to love and care for and reach out to. I will listen intently to their hopes and fears, eating with them, spend time playing sport with them, going to the movies with them. I want to be in there for the long haul, journeying with them through life and hopefully in the process I will ultimately help lead them to find wholeness and new life.

It also means going out of my comfort zone. It means pushing further and going into places I once found dangerous to tread so that I can show Jesus’ love.

Me and my friends were talking about what this would mean. We were talking about the gay community on Victoria campus and the feeling that they wanted to get involved in their and just be friends, and help out and serve the community. Of course one of the hardest questions is “How far is too far” and there will be conscience calls to make, but what a way to shine out and show Gods love. Showing that people who are in gay and lesbian lifestyles are loved by God and are worthy of his compassion. Showing that Jesus loves each and everyone of us, no matter what we have done.

It is very similar to what a group of Christians in America have started to do. Their ministry is xxxChurch – the Worlds biggest Christian Porn Site. They reach out to those involved in the porn industry in America and more widely. It has also tackled the issue of pornography within the Church. People such as Mike Foster have spent time ministering with people in the porn industry, just sharing time with them. They even got one of the porn directors to direct a video about how destructive porn can be. These guys have gone in and started being salt and light in a place where few Christians would dare to travel.

So what does this mean? Where is God calling you? Are there foreign dangerous lands that we are avoiding or missing here where we are?

I don’t think God has called me to minister in the strip club, but if he does, I want to be willing to go and be light there. I want to be where God wants me to be. Bringing redemption wherever he leads me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Posts of Note # 4

I've put a number of new links up on my blog over the last couple of weeks to blogs of members of Mosaic.

Get Busy Living is the blog of Benn Crawford

The walking stick and Learning to Love are the blogs of my New American friends Justin Blass and Lacey Speck. They are missionaries here with student life. It is great to have them as part of Mosaic. I am sure having a whole lot of fun spending time talking with them and sharing life with them in our little (yet growing) community.

Kingdom grace has an interesting post on intimacy with God and what that means. How do we see our relationship with God. Is the electric fence experience important? What does it mean to walk with God? What she has to say is very encouraging though.

My friend Lisa has another thoughtful post - this time on multiculturalism and the church. Many people know that I love worship and how it is personal and cultural. That we can express our personal story to Christ and it doesn't need to be restricted. Its awesome. I look forward to seeing people worship God in a whole series of ways in heaven, in song, in dance, in caring for one another, by eating together, by sharing stories with one another, by being co-creators with God. I love all these different expressions that show our gratitude to God but also the way in which when we do these we come closer to understanding what humanity was truly intended to being about.

Steve Taylor of Emergent Kiwi has done a blog on the theology contained in the Hillsong song "for all you have done", he has been very kind to Hillsong who for all the theological issues contained in their songs (particularly the ones leaning towards "Jesus is my boyfriend songs and bad prosperity gospel) have actually written a song which is pretty sound theologically. Well done Hillsong, and well done Steve Taylor for being gracious and humble.

You can see further reaction to a Steves blog on Bill Kinnnon's blog who gives his critical response.

Preach it Mother, Sister, Brother...

I have just finished reading Rick McKinley's book This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God . It was an awesome book to reach especially in conjuction with studying the Sermon on the Mount at Mosaic.

Anyway one chapter hit me pretty hard as I was reading it on the Bus as I went to work this week, it was chapter 11. There were a couple of qoutes about allowing our lives be lights - a constant theme in my life at the moment... sounds like God is trying to teach me something, anyway read these. The first is from Mother Theresa.

There should be less talk; a preaching point is not a meeting point. ... ... What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone's house. That says enough.

The next one is from Rick McKinley. This hit me real hard.

The fact is our lives do preach. But what do they preach? Do they preach to the world that God mourns with those who mourn and is risen "with healing in his wings"? Or do they announce that God is apathetic?

I have a real sense that I am an ambassador for God in this world. That we are to spread a message of love and hope in this world. A message that God wants to be reconciled with his Children. Forget the worlds, show it in actions. Actions speak loudly to how we really think, what is really important to us. God showed who he truly was by Jesus' ultimate sacrifice. How are we living to show what the Gospel means. Not acting it, but truly being a voice of faith love and hope to a broken world.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Santuary Vineyard Ekklessia - An Apostolic DNA

This is from Sanctuary Vineyards website. I really thought this summed up some of my thoughts on how church should be.

Typically churches grow by addition. They add new members at a % rate of their volume. The problem with this is that the rate of growth of people outstrips the rate of grow of churches. Simply adding cannot overcome the growth of multiplication. The church must also grow exponentially and this means it must be radically different. It needs to be organic not institutional. It needs to be Jesus centred not doctrine centred. It needs to be adaptable not bound by location or resources. It needs to be fully reproducible by any other Christian not only by the “ordained”.

Each of the lights in that vision is the same but each one lights a different part of the world. So by they adapt to their environment without losing that which defines them as lights.

It’s also important to note that the lights are networked. They connect with each other and collectively the light they shine is more than any could produce alone.

So too it is with Ekklesia. They share a common DNA, a common vision. But they are adapted to their environment, to the people in them and around them. And they are connected, networked. Innovation in one flows out to the rest. Wisdom and learning in another spreads through the system being adapted and applied to suit the local circumstances. And when the need arises they can mobilise and come together to meet common challenges and opportunities.

Sanctuary Vineyard is not about planting a Sunday service. It is not about a building. It is not about organised programs to attract people to a building. Harvey Kietel says in the Steinlarger Pure ad: “What you say no to defines you.” Sanctuary Vineyard says no to institutionalism, no to external control (1), no to inorganic hierarchy, no to doctrinal correctness, no to imposed leadership.

But we are also defined by what we say yes to. Sanctuary Vineyard says yes to organic structure and adapting to the environment, yes to living lives centred under Jesus’ Lordship, yes to the authority of gifting and scripture, yes to sharing the gospel through deed and word, yes to mercy, yes to compassion and yes to grace.

The vision we have is the planting and nurturing of Ekklesia. Each Ekklesia will be formed with a common, covenanted set of core practices. Each leader commits to living and teaching these practices. To be a member (2) of the Ekklesia each person commits to working out these practices in their lives. All are welcome in the Ekklesia, but to truly belong each person must become a part of it by covenanting to live according to the common practices of the Ekklesia. The common practices for the DNA of Sanctuary Vineyard Church. They are the ties that bind, the vision that propels, the hope that sustains, the faith that grows.

The expression of the DNA of the Ekklesia will vary and adapt according to the needs of individual Ekklesia and the individuals in the Ekklesia. The Ekklesia will form the primary expression of Church (3) for all members. Each Ekklesia is the expression of Christ’s body in its culture and geography.

The DNA of the Ekklesia can be expressed the following way:

Expanding in Christ

Knowing Christ

Kingdom living

Loving others as we have been loved

Engaging with scripture

Sent to the world

Intentional lives of worship and prayer.

Accepting all

The Light in the Dark

This week has been a really busy week for me and one that I struggled with at the start. I had alot of energy taken out of me by basically not having a weekend the weekend prior as I was preparing for an interview. By wenesday I was stuffed and had a very bad migrane that basically left me feeling lathargic for the whole day. The good news is that I heard that I was getting my contract at the Ministry extended so that was a great sign. I have started work on one important project that is going to take up alot of my time for the next couple of weeks up to Easter and I received real good feedback from my team mates and my manager that I report to. So all in all I felt happy with how work is going on.

Mosaic was awesome of wenesday evening, one of the most defining moments that I've had with Mosaic so far. It was really important for me what we did on wenesday night and it will leave a lasting impression on me. We finished off going through the Sermon on the Mount. This section is one of the most demanding parts of the bible, challenging us to become agents in the Kingdom and offering a set of values that are truly countercultural.

I really enjoyed the focus time. We went through the section on salt and light and learned that salt was used in the time as a preservative, I'm still struggling to apply this idea, so if anyone has any Idea please help me out. But salt is also a healer, it is rubbed into wounds to bring purification and healing. Salt like this is painful - but healing to the brokenness we feel. We then sprinkled salt over a map of Wellington to symbolise our commitment to be salt to Wellington City. We then turned off the lights and sat around a candle. We were asked to take in the scene. It was dark and disorientating, and there was no focus for us. Then we lighted the candle, this gave us focus, it gave us direction and gave clarity, we could see obstacles in the room. Phil talked about a time when he entered a rural house in pitch dark, he had to crawl accross the floor and to try and find his room becuase he was too scared to turn on the light. This is how we can be, with no light we can't find where we are going and find it hard to move forward, it is only with light that we find clarity. Can you remember from watching the Lord of the Rings how important Gandalfs staff was to bring clarity and direction - the light was the lead in the journey. We need light to direct us in the right way. Light also shows up where we are broken, where we need fixing. If we let God shine his light in we can allow him to start the healing process in our broken lives so that we can be restored.

The Game of my Life
Ok maybe not really, but I've made the move to make some healthier lifestyle choices. I've started playing indoor Netball on friday. I played centre and survived the whole game so that was awesome. I enjoyed the fact that I kept up with the person I was marking for the whole game and caused mistakes for the player and I nearly made a two pointer from outside the circle. I got good comments back at the end of the game. We may have lost but we stayed pretty competitive throughout the game against a very experienced team.

This week has been great. I have been learning alot, and gained a bit more confidence that I am in the right place, that God is blessing the decisions I am making but also know I have a more challenges to face when it comes to my priorities and my life.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My Kingdom is not of this World

WThis is a post by N.T Wright from Newsweek at the Washington Post. In what is election year both in New Zealand and America, it is good to remember that Jesus offers a counter-cultural view of power. Read and see.

He Would Challenge Power, Not Run for It
This is of course an impossible question, like 'If the sun were to rise in the west, would it be green or blue?' In other words, by agreeing to the terms of the question you make it impossible to give an answer based on anything other than highly distorted speculation.

Jesus didn't run for anything. He acted as if he were a different kind of ruler altogether, with a 'kingdom' that didn't originate from the present world (otherwise, he said, his servants would fight to rescue him) but instead was meant FOR this present world, to transform and heal it. The present way we do politics and government is, alas, part of the problem, and he would have challenged it (its huge cost, its pretense of participation which is shamelessly manipulated by the media, its cult of personality, its ignoring, all too often, of the actual needs of the poor, etc. etc.) just as he challenged the power structures of his day.

The real question is, what sort of a cross would today's system be intent on using to kill him?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The week so far

The last few days have been draining. I don't know why but it has. So lets see whats being happening this week.
- I prepared for a job interview on Sunday
- I went to our Mosaic BBQ on Sunday night, where I discovered why drinking a beer then a red wine is not a good thing to do!
- I had an interview for a job on Monday
- Worked on a mammoth task at work on Monday and Tuesday.
- I spent yesterday night and today preparing my CV and cover letter - I am mildly exhausted from this all.
- Today I went to lunch with an old friend of mine from America. It was great to catch up with her as we have not seen each other for about two years. Its amazing how much changes in life in such a short period. I've started working (or kind of), I've finished my degree, I've moved into a different paradigm of how to live out my faith, I've been over to Siberia twice. When I think about it this period of time has been a pretty big period of growth - I think it is going to continue to be.
Hope all is well with all you avid readers. I am kind of tired - the last few days have been taxing.