Archive for the ‘Readings’ category

Overcomplicated or oversimplified?

October 30, 2010

I think it is way too easy for us to focus on gaining knowledge about Christ or of Christian ethics and lose sight of the truth. Truth; being the very person of Jesus; and how often do we lose sight of Jesus? It’s crazy to think that we either overcomplicate or oversimplify the gospel to the point of it losing it’s power and potency. It’s also pretty scary to think that by doing this to the Truth, or more directly to Jesus we end up pushing people away from the Word of Truth; rather than bringing people into the true faith in the truth and in love.

The ways that we overcomplicate the gospel is by piling too many steps, formulas, or ways in action that we must follow in order to have that right relationship with our Father Christ. This is what was happening in and around Jesus’ time on earth with the Pharisees. There were countless laws and rules that the Jews had to follow to be seen as holy, all the while missing the point or important things entirely. Jesus came and debunked all of the Pharisees teachings, and creating a bad name for himself in the eyes of the religeous folks, but he did this knowing that this would bring others into right relationship with him and the Father.

Jesus came and redeemed the broken, loved the contrite in spirit, emboldened his followers, hugged the loveless and the outcasts, touched the untouchables; He reversed everything they thought about what it truly means to be holy and truly religeous. This is how faith looks in it’s purest form, that if we love Christ first all the glory and riches and honor are added unto us. No rules or regulations, but an honest, transparent, fire-catching love for our Savior.

On the other hand, we tent to oversimplify the gospel by getting so far away from the rules. Then taking very few of the things that make true faith and putting too much importance on them, while leaving certain things to wilt away. For instance, we take the issue of going to church and zeroing in on this. Making it a mandatory thing and perhaps leading to taking away the desire and the wanting to go out of the picture. Which leads to the building having much more importance over the action of church and worship and fellowship. As if these things can only occur if we go to the “church” we meet in. Or the issue if reading or studying the Bible for 25 minutes a day for example, and using this gaining of knowledge or the putting in of my time, while the Bible becomes a faith bandaid. We use this as a ‘look at my faith, I read the Bible everyday.’ 

Or the subject of community; some christian circles of which I have been in and also been on the outside of, so I’ve seen this firsthand. But, the act of living in community is taken to the extreme and made out to be a matter of if you don’t live in the same city as the church you go to we are somehow living in sin or apart from Christ. But, I think is is more broad than that, it doesn’t come in such a pretty box with a neat little bow. Christ lived in community whenever and wherever he went. He is essentially and literally community himself, so; where Christ is so will be community. The actions Jesus took by loving on the people he came into contact with, is how we can live in ‘right’ community with each other. If we are loving Christ in all we do, wether in word or deed; than community will come with us, not containing itself in a zip code or a 1 mile square block. This is how we can be effective and non-complacent Christ followers. For us to be a willing people and to live available lives to Him, then there is no force in this world that can quench that flame.

As it says in the Bible; “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perserverance; and to perserverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brother kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have these, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from past sins.” –2 Peter 1:5-9  

–Lord of heaven, may I turn away from this thing called ride and this narrow mindedness. I pray that you may allow me to see you and your purposes clearly with ferventness. Keep me excited and burning for your truth so that I may be effective and productive for you, rather than push or turn people away. May I live for noone and nothing but your glory. To this I commit my life. Amen.

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Rid the Yard of Sticks.

October 28, 2010

The following article was written by David Crowder and it has fully touched my heart and I can’t help but share it with you all. It reminds me how narrow minded and self centered we are as a generation, a nation, and a human race. We are so consumed by what conveniences us and want to live in our personal little bubbles. We avoid eye contact everywhere we go and everyone is busy messing with their BlackBerry’s and Iphones to be bothered for anyone. I pray that the Lord can renew us and to break down our comfortable little suburban lives to be bothered by the people who need help. It breaks my heart that there is so much heartbreak, lonliness, lusting, sickness, poorness, and loveless people out there that we simply pass by without so much as a smile. Shame on us!!! Allow me Lord to touch people’s lives and invest in the needs of others, to be a tool for your glory, to bring people into the love that I have grown to know. Prepare to be blessed by this amazing story by an amazing man.

Rid the Yard of Sticks

By David Crowder

++ CATALYST MONTHLY EXCLUSIVE ARTICLE

It is a Saturday afternoon in Waco, Texas and I am at home sitting on the couch with my wife. The television is on and it is displaying a golf tournament and we are observing this through half-opened heavy eyelids. It’s rather lovely.

I feel the need to point out that I live in one of the more economically depressed sections of town, as in, seriously, two of our neighbors call themselves the Rockstars because, they sell “rock,” (as in crack cocaine) – they do a brisk business. So, again, this time with context, my wife and I are sitting on our couch on a Saturday afternoon watching the “sport” of golf with lots and lots of Fidelity and Buick commercials.

Abruptly, I am jarred from this, my privileged slumber, as, “David! David!” is yelled at loud volume from somewhere behind me. I now feel the need to point out that we do not have any curtains on our windows. We’ve been in our house 6 years and curtains have held only occasional importance, like now, with, “David! David!” being shouted from the street at the window located directly behind my head, which is again causing me to think, “Seriously, we’ve been here 6 years? We need some curtains.” I turn and peek over the couch. It’s John. I say this to my wife, “Oh, man. It’s John.”

John is an elderly black man who has no home. He is one of Waco’s homeless. He is my neighbor. He comes around and wants to pick up the sticks in my yard. He says, “David, I’ll just get these sticks out of your yard if you can spare a few dollars.” We do this often, rid the yard of sticks. It’s really helpful – you can imagine – the ability to move about your yard without the obstruction of sticks. So, here is John, standing in the street outside of my window, watching us watch golf, when he decides he needs to tell me something. Peering over the couch, my eyes meet with John’s and I am left with no choice outside of meeting John at my back door.

“Hey John.”

“Now, David. I don’t mean to disturb you. I see you and your wife in there just relaxing, watching the TV, the golf I see, my apologies.”

“That’s quite all right. What’s going on John?”

“Well, like I said, I don’t mean to disturb you, I just wanted to say congratulations.”

I pause. I’m not sure what my line is supposed to be. I had all of my lines ready. I had formulated them on my walk from the couch to the door. I have no idea what he’s talking about. I think to myself, John is genius. This is a new angle. I’m trying to anticipate his next move and I’m forming fantastic pieces of discussion that will totally make John get a real job and stop living on the street and asking me if he can pick up my sticks. I respond, “Uh, thanks.”

“Yep. You’re gonna do it. We’ve all talked and we know you’re gonna bring ‘em home. Just like last time. Yep, congratulations. We’re all pulling for you.”

“Uh, OK. Now what might this be regarding?”

“Those Dove awards. You’re gonna win ‘em! We all prayed and we know you’re gonna do it, you’re gonna bring ‘em home you hear me?”

I pause. I have no idea where to put this. John has basically told me that the homeless population near my house is 1) aware that there are such things as “Dove Awards” and 2) that my band and I have been nominated for some, and, 3) seriously? (!) The homeless had some type of meeting, or assembly, or whatever, and are praying we win? What on earth! That is the most ridiculous thing ever, and – what, seriously? Thoughts like this are in my head: David, you make assumptions that are wrong. You need to repent. You are evil.

Social or civil justice issues are incredibly difficult objects to get my head around. It is a given that most of us desire to live in a just society; the awkwardness lies in agreeing upon just how exactly we arrive there. It’s easy to become pessimistic and passive even when attempting to effect change, i.e. after hearing Red Campaign marketing costs, or reports that mosquito nets I sent contributed to a water shortage crisis due to the nets actually working and people surviving malaria. Thus, obviously, it resulted in a rising population and a rise in water consumption, thus resulting in a water shortage, which now those same people are dying from.

To carry the story of God in a way that makes a real, tangible difference to those we live among can be really frustrating at times. I think the only way to not become paralyzed by the task, is, to get close enough to these issues for them to turn into names and faces that walk up to your fence on a Saturday; who lean in and yell your name and give you something that leaves you smiling and tearful and repentant and a little more in love with the people God has made.

 

David Crowder recently won four 2008 Dove Awards, including Worship Album of the Year for REMEDY , and Rock/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year for “Everything Glorious.” David co-founded University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, where he lives with his wife Toni.

Should sharks that attack humans be destroyed?

August 23, 2010

-This article was orininally posted on http://bushwarriors.wordpress.com/ and adapted by them3ss3ng3r!!!

Leona Lindner knew she would one day receive a devastating phone call telling of her son Nicholas Edwards’ death.  It was just a matter of time.  Nick’s pure passion for surfing had brought him a close counter with a shark once before, but he didn’t let it stop him from doing what he loved to do.  The 31 year old father of two died of injuries sustained when he was attacked by a shark off the South Point surf break in Western Australia’s Cowaramup Bay yesterday morning.  Now, West Australian surfing identity, Mario Vassallo, is calling for the man-eating shark to be hunted down and destroyed.

Vassallo criticizes “bloody greenie huggers” who want to protect sharks and calls research studies involved in tagging sharks to a “joke”.   He claims the tagging system designed to “keep an eye” on the sharks has failed in the case of Nick Edwards.  Apparently Vassallo would feel safer braving the ocean water again after the shark has been killed.

Vassallo’s demand has sparked much debate surrounding the idea of killing a shark for… well…. doing what sharks do.  Many surfers do not support Vassallo’s idea and explain that sharks are just part of the risk you take when you decide to engage in any ocean-going activities, including surfing.  Even the families of previous shark attack victims do not agree with Vassallo, along with the men who tried to rescue Edwards following the attack.  Rob Alder, who desperately attempted to resuscitate Edwards, explains, “To put it into context though, thousands of sharks are killed each year for their fins, we have one or two attacks worldwide when they mistake us for seals.”

True enough, sharks can mistake surfers for fat, tasty seals from there below-surface-view.  However, the chance of being attacked by a shark is less than the chance of being struck by lightning.  Department of Fisheries supervising biologist, Dr. Brett Molony, explains, “In the 218 years of records there’s been 99 attacks and 15 fatalities.”  Despite these facts, some still insist the attacking shark be tracked down and killed.

Shark expert, Hugh Edwards, says it would be quite difficult to track down the shark responsible for the surfer’s death, but that the species could easily be identified by the teeth marks.  With as many as 100 million sharks being killed each year, largely due to shark finning, killing another shark for something of this nature is questionable.  Even if the shark was identified and destroyed, there are plenty of other sharks in the sea that could make the same unfortunate mistake.

Now we come to you, Bush Warriors.  We want to know what YOU think.  Should sharks that attack humans be destroyed? Vote in the poll above this story and give us your opinion.  The poll will remain open until next Friday, August 27.  We will publish the results here and they will also be sent to the Department of Fisheries in Western Australia.

Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Nicholas Edwards in these hard times.  May you find peace knowing that he died doing what he loved to do (Nick once told his mother, “Mum I love surfing and if I am going to die then I will die doing something I love.”).

Read the full story.

–Don’t shoot them3ss3ng3r!!

Quit Dumbing Down the Gospel

July 23, 2010

–The following writings are taken from http://www.relevantmagazine.com, from an article written by Donald Miller. Pretty great truth’s about the gospel and how we should maybe rethink how we share this life changing story. Please read and enjoy–

My friend Greg and I have been talking quite a bit about what it means to follow Jesus. Greg would not consider himself as somebody who takes Jesus seriously, but he admits to having questions. I didn’t have a formula for him to understand how a Christian conversion works, but I told him that many years ago, when I was a child, I had heard about Jesus and found the idea of Him compelling, then much later, while reading the Gospels, came to believe I wanted to follow Him. This changed things in my life, I said, because it involved giving up everything and choosing to go into a relationship with Him.

Greg told me he had seen a pamphlet with four or five ideas on it, ideas such as man was a sinner, sin separated man from God, and Christ died to absolve the separation. He asked me if this was what I believed, and I told him, essentially, that it was. “Those would be the facts of the story,” I said, “but that isn’t the story.”

“Those are the ideas, but it isn’t the narrative,” Greg stated rhetorically. “Yes,” I told him.

Earlier that same year I had a conversation with my friend Omar, who is a student at a local college. For his humanities class, Omar was assigned to read the majority of the Bible. He asked to meet with me for coffee, and when we sat down he put a Bible on the table as well as a pamphlet containing the same five or six ideas Greg had mentioned. He opened the pamphlet, read the ideas, and asked if these concepts were important to the central message of Christianity. I told Omar they were critical; that, basically, this was the gospel of Jesus, the backbone of Christian faith. Omar then opened his Bible and asked, “If these ideas are so important, why aren’t they in this book?”

“But the Scripture references are right here,” I said curiously, showing Omar that the verses were printed next to each idea.

“I see that,” he said. “But in the Bible they aren’t concise like they are in this pamphlet. They are spread out all over the book.”

“But this pamphlet is a summation of the ideas,” I clarified.

“Right,” Omar continued, “but it seems like, if these ideas are that critical, God would have taken the time to make bullet points out of them. Instead, He put some of them here and some of them there. And half the time, when Jesus is talking, He is speaking entirely in parables. It is hard to believe that whatever it is He is talking about can be summed up this simply.”

Omar’s point is well taken. And while the ideas presented in these pamphlets are certainly true, it struck me how simply we had begun to explain the ideas, not only how simply, but how nonrelationally, how propositionally. I don’t mean any of this to fault the pamphlets at all. Tracts such as the ones Omar and Greg encountered have been powerful tools in helping people understand the beauty of the message of Christ. Millions, perhaps, have come to know Jesus through these efficient presentations of the gospel. But I did begin to wonder if there were better ways of explaining it than these pamphlets. After all, the pamphlets have been around for only the last fifty years or so (along with our formulaic presentation of the gospel), and the church has shrunk, not grown, in Western countries in which these tools have been used. But the greater trouble with these reduced ideas is that modern evangelical culture is so accustomed to this summation that it is difficult for us to see the gospel as anything other than a list of true statements with which a person must agree.

It makes me wonder if, because of this reduced version of the claims of Christ, we believe the gospel is easy to understand, a simple mental exercise, not the least bit mysterious. And if you think about it, a person has a more difficult time explaining romantic love, for instance, or beauty, or the Trinity, than the gospel of Jesus. John would open his gospel by presenting the idea that God is the Word and Jesus is the Word and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Not exactly bullet points for easy consumption. Perhaps our reduction of these ideas has caused us to miss something.

Biblically, you are hard-pressed to find theological ideas divorced from their relational context. There are, essentially, three dominant metaphors describing our relationship with God: sheep to a shepherd, child to a father, and bride to a bridegroom. The idea of Christ’s disciples being His mother and father and brothers and sisters is also presented. In fact, few places in Scripture speak to the Christian conversion experience through any method other than relational metaphor.

To a culture that believes they “go to heaven” based on whether or not they are morally pure, or whether they understand some theological ideas, or they are very spiritual, Jesus is completely unnecessary. At best, He is an afterthought, a technicality by which we become morally pure, or a subject of which we know, or a founding father of our woo-woo spirituality.

In a culture that worships science, relational propositions will always be left out of arguments attempting to surface truth. We believe, quite simply, that unless we can chart something, it doesn’t exist. And you can’t chart relationships. Furthermore, in our attempts to make relational propositions look like chartable realities, all beauty and mystery is lost. And so when times get hard, when reality knocks us on our butts, mathematical propositions are unable to comfort our failing hearts. How many people have walked away from faith because their systematic theology proved unable to answer the deep longings and questions of the soul? What we need here, truly, is faith in a Being, not a list of ideas.

And one should not think our current method of interpreting Scripture has an ancient legacy. The modern view of Scripture originated in an age of industrial revolution when corporations were becoming more important than family (the husband, for the first time, left the home and joined Corporate America, building cars instead of families), and productivity was more important than relationships. How can God help me get what I want? was the idea, not Who is God, and how can I know Him?

Imagine a pamphlet explaining the gospel of Jesus that said something like this:

You are the bride to the Bridegroom, and the Bridegroom is Jesus Christ. You must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood to know Him, and your union with Him will make you one, and your oneness with Him will allow you to be identified with Him, His purity allowing God to interact with you, and because of this you will be with Him in eternity, sitting at His side and enjoying His companionship, which will be more fulfilling than an earthly husband or an earthly bride. All you must do to engage God is be willing to leave everything behind, be willing to walk away from your identity, and embrace joyfully the trials and tribulations, the torture and perhaps martyrdom that will come upon you for being a child of God in a broken world working out its own redemption in empty pursuits.

Though it sounds absurd, this is a much more accurate summation of the gospel of Jesus than the bullet points we like to consider when we think about Christ’s message to humanity.

This article is adapted from the newly revised Searching for God Knows What (Thomas Nelson, 2010). Used by permission. All rights reserved

Wanna read amazingness?

August 12, 2009

Showdown: When a stranger named Marsuvees Black appears and announces he’s come to bring hope and grace to Paradise, the town isn’t sure how to respond. He offers dazzling love, hope, faith, and fun . . . the kind of fun everyone desires but is too timid to pursue. He knows the unspoken secrets of each person’s heart–and has the power to grant them.

Dark clouds and sandstorms shut Paradise off from the rest of the world, the unthinkable happens. Readers will be shocked as they discover the true secrets of this sleepy town. The ultimate collision between good and evil begins . . . with Showdown

Ted Dekker: (born October 24, 1962) is a New York Times best-selling author best known for novels which could be broadly described as suspense thrillers with major twists and unforgettable characters.

http://www.teddekker.com/home/