Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Working It Out With Fear and Trembling

I like Rick McKinley’s call to dive into the Beautiful Mess of the world we live in just as Jesus did. That is part of working out our salvation as we are encouraged to do in Philippians 2:12. But I also like the part of resting in God’s grace and trusting that ultimately, it is God who is accomplishes the work of the kingdom through us as it says in the very next verse of Philippians 2. I know so many people who struggle with this as though the two approaches are contradictory. Well, if that is the case, then was the writer of Philippians trying to confuse us? Was he ignorant and missed the contradiction in his own words? Or was he saying exactly what he intended to say knowing very well the implications of juxtaposing what seem to be two divergent thoughts? Maybe he knew that the truth of how to live is found in the intersection of verses 12 and 13.

May I learn to walk in this life and see/
To be/ a person free to grasp eternity
And not flee/ holy responsibility/ without
Making it seem like it all depends on me.

May I learn to rest in this life and know/
The One who runs the show/ is good to go/
And not strive so/ trust the Spirit flow/
Not hide my eyes or refuse to stretch and grow.

Truth is where these thoughts collide/
I can no longer hide/ from either side/
But embrace the ride/ taking me where
Contradictions reveal/ and no longer conceal.

Strong, strong appeal.

But more than appealing/ it brings me to kneeling/
Before the God who brings healing/ to
The minds of those who/ have hearts that care to/
Even who dare to/ ones fully aware who/

Embrace mystery and depth and completeness/
Remove the ceiling.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Emerging or Emergent?

My friend Dane Daniels directed me to this description on the website of The Grove Church in Fayetteville. What do you think of this description?

Some people ask us whether the Grove identifies itself as "Emergent". The answer is No. Here's why.

Emergent is a certain group of folks who want to lead the church to engage our increasingly post-Christian culture with the Gospel, but they want to do this, in part, through changing the message of the Gospel--that is, through down-playing (or in some cases denying altogether) central doctrines such as the substitutionary atonement, the exclusivity of Christ, and hell.

Emergent should be viewed as the liberal wing of the so-called "emerging church".

That designation--the "emerging church"--refers to a broad range of churches, most of them evangelical, which are seeking to be "on mission" to America by actively engaging the culture rather than retreating from it.

We certainly identify with the calling to join God in his mission to post-Christian America. However, we find the label "emerging church" unhelpful, since so many people confuse that label with the distinctly more liberal group calling themselves Emergent.

So, we don't call ourselves an emerging church. We don't see why it's necessary to do so. Instead, we're content to call ourselves an evangelical Protestant church . . .

The Emergent folks (along with many others) stress many important things, like living simply and serving the poor, doing justice, practicing authentic community, being honest about our doubts, learning from Christian traditions different from our own, pursuing character transformation in this life and not just rescue from hell in the next life, doing evangelism with respect and sincerity, and so on. These are indeed valid concerns--biblical concerns.

However, one can embrace all these without becoming Emergent. These concerns are not the exclusive province of Emergent--or of the Emerging church, for that matter.

Most importantly, we need not and we must not abandon the Gospel in order to adopt these concerns. All these concerns actually flow from the glorious Gospel of Christ crucified for sinners and raised from the dead. Hopefully, our church, along with many others, will show that this is the case, as we live lives deeply transformed by the Gospel.

Kent Hodskins

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What Way of Life Do I Beleive In?

The messages and sermons that most resonate with my spirit these days are those about sacrificial living and embracing a lifestyle that seeks to spend less, acquire less, and give more of all we have - time, energy and money - to reach the poor, the oppresses, the marginalized and under-resourced.

Trouble is, as U2 says, "I don't believe in riches but you should see where I live." I would like to think that I am conflicted, but I think that may be a cop-out.

I listened to a message by John Ortberg not long ago that quoted Michael Novak who says that humans hold to 3 kinds of beliefs: Public, Private and Core. Public beliefs are those things we want others to believe about us whether true or not. We see a lot of this in politics. Private beliefs are those things we want to believe, or think we believe. But when they are tested, they are abandoned and we discover we did not really believe them at all. Core beliefs are those we operate as though are true without even giving them much or any thought at all. Of course, Jesus came to change our core beliefs.

What I wonder is how many of the people who are like me and say that we believe in committing ourselves to reaching the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and under-resourced, actually live a lifestyle that demonstrates that commitment? Or, when I say that I am conflicted between caring for the poor, and living a lifestyle of affluence, am I really conflicted, or is the truth that I just really do not believe that the way of Jesus is better? If I have to say, "I don't believe in riches but you should see where I live," maybe I really do believe in riches, and not much else.

Just a note; I am not taking the U2 song as Gospel and saying that riches are bad. It is the misuse of riches that is bad. So how do those of us who have riches come our way, use them? Do they pass through our hands or do we hold on to them and use them for personal gain, pleasure and comfort?

I'd like to think that Jesus is changing my core and that my movement toward a more sacrificial and open-handed way of life is part of that.

If you want to see some folks who do get this talking about how God is moving in them to reach victims of severe poverty and genocide, check out Peace.