Everything Must Change: Chapter 5 (Framing stories)

We’re considering Brian McLaren’s 2007 book Everything Must Change: When the World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide.

[American Christianity] has focused on “me” and “my soul” and “my spiritual life” and “my eternal destiny,” but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, systemic poverty, systemic ecological crisis, systemic dysfunctions of many kinds. (p. 33).

McLaren then asks why so many Christians in so many nations have, over the years, been guilty of atrocities? You know the list. There have been plenty of enormous sins perpetuated by Christians — from slavery to genocide to wars of conquest. How do Christians come to do such things? Continue reading

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What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved? Chapter 16

We’re working our way through Leroy Garrett’s book: What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved? The paperback is $7.95, but it’s also available in Kindle edition for $0.99. For $0.99, it’s really an offer you can’t refuse!

Now, by “saved” Garrett doesn’t mean that he questions the salvation of the individual members of the Churches of Christ. Rather, he is concerned to save the Churches of Christ as a “viable witness to the Christian faith. What must it do to escape extinction in the decades ahead …?”

Chapter 16 is entitled “Recover the dynamic of Spirit-filled gatherings in homes.” Continue reading

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For a Fall Funeral

It’s fall, the time when leaves fall down to the ground.
And it’s one of the most glorious falls I’ve ever had.
A sudden burst of freezing air transformed the leaves
from the ordinary green of life to extraordinary yellow, purple, and red.

The leaves are falling in countless, miraculous hues,
Shouting their refusal to die unremembered.
The green of summer fades revealing the glory hidden within.
And yet they’ll soon all fade to black and gray,
the colors of rot and of decay.

They’ll feed another fall’s future leaves,
repeating the endless autumnal reincarnation —
from green to glory to gray and back to green,
dying again and yet again.

You, my friend, though, are not the same.
When you died, your colors also changed.
The drab colors of flesh and hair faded
so your true colors — your true glory —
would be revealed.

Now you shine like a star in the universe,
in colors too bright for mortal eyes,
in shades only angels see.

God gives immortality to the mortal,
life to one who but seems to die,
and strips out the ordinary
leaving the extraordinary behind.

You fell down.
But not to death and gray and black.
Not to rot and decay.

No, your colors — gifts from the Maker — shine forever,
remembered forever,
as you fall down before the Maker of Every Shade
to worship and serve, never to die or even to fade.

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Community Disciplines: Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline, Part 3 (chapters 13 and 14a)

We turn now to Romans 13.

You know, one of the sad truths of church life is that we rarely make it this far in Romans. We start in chapter 1, and two quarters later, we’re still worrying over original sin and predestination and election. We move onto the minor prophets or the latest book from Max Lucado rather than continue slogging through the challenges of Romans. After all, we sometimes think, the serious theology is only in chapters 1 – 8!

Well, those chapters are serious theology indeed, but Paul taught all that so that we could better understand the applications. And chapters 12 -15 are the application chapters. They explain why the theology matters. This is some of my favorite stuff! Continue reading

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Resident Aliens: Chapter 3, Part 1 (An Adventurous Colony)

We’re working our way through Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Williamson, published in 1989.

The church exists today as resident aliens, an adventurous colony in a society of unbelief. As a society of unbelief, Western culture is devoid of a sense of journey, of adventure, because it lacks belief in much more than the cultivation of an ever-shrinking horizon of self-preservation and self-expression.  (p. 49).

The authors introduce the theme that Christians are “resident aliens,” that is, we aren’t citizens of the USA or even this world but of heaven, living in this world in order to pursue an adventure laid before us by God himself. And this, they say, is both better and more exciting than the Western notion of how to live.

The American Experiment accomplished many great things, but the results are now not so great. Continue reading

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Everything Must Change: Chapter 4

We’re considering Brian McLaren’s 2007 book Everything Must Change: When the World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide.

The young man [a health care worker] continued, “You pastors are …” He hesitated as he raised one outstretched hand toward heaven. “You are causing such destruction in Khayelitsha [a desperately poor area in South Africa]. It reaches to the skies. I know you mean well, but you don’t realize that you cause devastation in the lives of the people among whom I work.” Continue reading

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What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved? Chapter 15

We’re working our way through Leroy Garrett’s book: What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved? The paperback is $7.95, but it’s also available in Kindle edition for $0.99. For $0.99, it’s really an offer you can’t refuse!

Now, by “saved” Garrett doesn’t mean that he questions the salvation of the individual members of the Churches of Christ. Rather, he is concerned to save the Churches of Christ as a “viable witness to the Christian faith. What must it do to escape extinction in the decades ahead …?”

Chapter 15 is entitled “Discover the good in the good news.” Continue reading

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Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline, Part 2

In the last post, we began to see how the Holy Spirit is God’s solution for our hard hearts. That’s the teaching of Romans 8, and Paul stands on the shoulders of the prophets when he teaches this.

We skip ahead to Romans 12 to see how Paul applies that principle in more practical terms.

(Rom 12:1 ESV)  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

This is the theme sentence of the rest of Romans, until he gets to the greetings in chapter 16. Romans 12-15 are about how to become living sacrifices. And they aren’t about ascetic practices or even individual disciplines in the currently fashionable sense. Continue reading

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Resident Aliens: Reflections on the Last Post

We’re working our way through Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Williamson, published in 1989.

In the last post of this series, we consider John Howard Yoder’s description of a “confessing” church —

Rejecting both the individualism of the conversionists and the secularism of the activists and their common equation of what works with what is faithful, the confessing church finds its main political task to lie, not in the personal transformation of individual hearts or the modification of society, but rather in the congregation’s determination to worship Christ in all things.

We might be tempted to say that faithfulness rather than effectiveness is the goal of a confessing church. Yet we believe this is a false alternative. … For the confessing church to be determined to worship God alone “though the heavens fall” implies that, if these heavens fall, this church has a principle based on the belief that God is not stumped by such dire situations. For the church to set the principle of being the church above other principles is not to thumb our noses at results. It is trusting God to give us the rules, which are based on what God is doing in the world to bring about God’s good results. (p. 46).

We later considered Hauerwas’ example of sending missionaries to Libya rather than soldiers — an example that strikes very close to home in these days. Continue reading

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Everything Must Change: Chapters 1 – 3

We’re working through Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change: When the World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide,with a special emphasis on some of the concerns expressed through the Occupy Wall Street movement.

McLaren writes,

I’ll suggest that our plethora of critical global crises can be traced to four deep dysfunctions, the fourth of which is the lynchpin or leverage point through which we can reverse the first three:

1. Environmental breakdown caused by our unsustainable global economy, an economy that fails to respect environmental limits even as it succeeds in producing great wealth for about one-third of the world’s population. We’ll call this the prosperity crisis.

2. The growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor, which prompts the poor majority to envy, resent, and even hate the rich minority–which in turn elicits fear and anger in the rich. We’ll call this the equity crisis.

3. The danger of cataclysmic war arising from the intensifying resentment and fear among various groups at opposite ends of the economic spectrum. We’ll call this the security crisis.

4. The failure of the world’s religions, especially its two largest religions, to provide a framing story capable of healing or reducing the three previous crises. We’ll call this the spirituality crisis.  (p. 5).

You can see the overlap between McLaren’s concerns and the concerns that drive the Occupy Wall Street movement. Continue reading

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