OK – so it happened with the Da Vinci Code…the movie did not match up with the hype and controversy. That’s old news. New news…people get panicky about The Golden Compass and its "anti-Christian" message…well, having read the book and NOW having seen the movie, all I can say is "been there, done that". The movie wasn’t that good especially if you have read the book. There are way too many important details glossed over…the daemons seem like cute sidekicks instead of an extension of one’s soul. Lyra is a genius in the movie who figures out everything happening with the gobblers by piecing together obscure conversations. In the book, she experiences much more and actually discovers what is happening with the missing children. She’s an average child in the book who is having an extraordinary adventure. The scenes of battle are intense but "blood" free (obviously a desire by the film makers to appeal to the "family" audience). Lastly, about the controversy of being anti-faith…the movie makes that issue moot. Nothing there…just a bunch of thought controllers trying to do somethings to bully there way through life in their world. There have been many many many other movie villains that have been more threatening to the values and faith of our youth. So, if you want to see the movie…GO! Don’t bring small children…it is a PG-13 movie…in this instance, that is a good guide. But this movie doesn’t threaten our faith. God is bigger than the boogie man! And, btw, did I mention that I would love to have a talking polar bear as my friend! That would be cool!
I do feel the a bit of the confusion and pain that accompanies the shootings in Colorado. I have friends in YWAM. These innocent and passionate young lives were unexpectedly and tragically ripped from this world. The people @ New Life also don’t deserve to have any person wielding automatic weapons to declare open season in their midst. This event is very disturbing as is all events of violence of person against person. This whole event causes me to join the prayers that are written in the book of Revelation where martyrs are shouting "how long, Lord?". I want to see justice and righteousness reign. All an event like this propels me to do is call out to the Lord with more fervor.
My only question at this point has to do with a semi-related subject that popped out at me when I was reading articles on the tragedy. More and more mega-church leaders are hiring armed security guards. The new pastor @ New Life said it was necessary. I don’t know but that really bugs me. I’ve been to big churches where each pastor had a "posse" around to keep people at bay. The "stars" of the local church need their space, I guess. I’m annoyed by this for some reason I can’t fully explain. I’ve led churches…in my denomination, some small and most large (not "mega" by any means). A security team never crossed my mind…I don’t know…it just kinda bugs me!
The information below is part of a broader post by Mark Priddy @ Allelon.org concerning the reality of consumerism in much of what people call "local church". Now, I must admit that you need to read the entire article to get the context. You should look at it HERE. Mark offers us some good food for thought. I am about to embark on a journey through a new book on Consumerism entitled, "Consuming Jesus" (it is listed on my Rob’s Reads section to the left). I’m sure this discussion is going to continue on…I don’t want to be a church basher in this post…rather I recognize that I need to join every follower of Jesus in looking at the insidiousness of consumerism in religious circles. Believe me, I’m looking at this issue in my life as well…as Mark concludes, a new "imagination" is needed!
1. As a result of years of cultural conditioning, recent generations
in North America have come to see themselves almost exclusively as
consumers whose sole purpose in life is to satisfy their individual
needs. Not only does this message by itself leave much to be desired,
it is also symptomatic of a widespread problem within the church today,
which is to confuse the gospel with an infomercial, and the community
of God’s people with vendors of spiritual goods and services.
2. Such reductionism stands in obvious tension with an incarnational
approach to mission. As long as we continue to view the church as a
place, then we will continue to compete for members. (”God’s Love is
Visible. Come Inside and See!”) We will get sucked into the marketing
vortex of trying to convince the world to come to church and doing
everything we can to “satisfy their needs” in order to keep them coming
3. Religious economies are no different then commercial economies,
meaning that they consist of a market made up of a set of current and
potential customers and a set of firms seeking to serve that market. As
long as the church forms it’s ethos around “a product to be consumed”
and positions itself as a “vendor of goods and services”, it will be
held hostage to the powers that drive the market. The true nature of
marketing today is outwitting, outflanking, outfighting the
competition. In short marketing is a war, where the enemy is your
competition and the ground to be won is the ‘CUSTOMER”. Is this the
business the church is in?
4. As we rethink church in North American it will require, as many
people have noted, more than a mere tinkering of strategy, or
re-tooling of marketing tactics. It will require more than the next or
the new. It will require more than a rearranging of the furniture. It
will require more than “a new set of horses that can run harder and
with more speed.” As the church continues to adjust, there is a need
for reinventing or rediscovering its essential nature as a community of
What if the church embraced a different imagination – not about a
privatized religion built upon “meeting needs”, or attracting people
into a building, but rather living as God’s people in the public space
of their own community and neighborhood? What if the church took
seriously the call to incarnate the mission of Jesus in the places it
worked, lived and played – in the ordinary, where our humanity is found
and worked out.
About a month ago, I agreed to join a group of bloggers who were going to regularly review new book offerings (sponsored by http://www.theooze.com). Not only was I honored to do this but also, since I love reading, I thought it would be a great idea to catch some early copies of books that were going to make the rounds eventually. Thanks to the Ooze for this opportunity and to Mike Morrell for the invitation. The first book I dove into was a book considered by some to be a Christian Classic. It was written by Madame Guyon (if you know the story of this woman, you know that the name is a shorten version). If you don’t know anything about her, I would check out Wikipedia or Google her name and check out her life’s story. Quickly, she is a woman who grew up and lived during the time of the rise of Post-Reformation Scholasticism…during the mid-17th and 18th centuries where the Church was systematizing its faith and doctrine in a manner that only rivaled that of the early Nicene days. Madame Guyon’s life is a stark contrast (best referred to as a juxtaposition) between that of scholasticism and a “mystical” experience of God.
First of all, I must say that the marketing world has definitely had an impact on this book. I HATE the time…first of all, it isn’t faithful to the book itself. Secondly, there is no “short and easy method of prayer”. I agonize in that area of my Kingdom life. Prayer is about relationship…I’ve never had an “easy” relationship especially if it is intimate. I do not see any scriptural or practical references to people who would vouch for a “simple and easy” prayer life. So, don’t let the title deter you! This is a book that is filled not with “how to’s” in prayer but is founded on a “hearty desire to be truly devoted to God” (p. 9). Immediately, Madame Guyon encourages the reader to…
“…peruse this little treatise with a humble, sincere, and candid spirit, and not with an inclination to cavil and criticize, and you will not fail to reap some degree of profit from it. It was written with a hearty desire that you might wholly devoted yourself to God: receive it, then, with a like desire for your own perfection (i.e. transformation in her language); for nothing more is intended by it than to invite the simple and child-like to approach their Father, who delights in the humble confidence of His children, and is grieved at the smallest instance of their diffidence or disgust” (p. 11).
I believe one thing – you cannot read something like that and say that she is being overly simplistic or formulaic (an oft seen experience in much of contemporary expressions of faith) about the issue of relationship and prayer. In addition, this entire treatise is written with such humility that it is hard not to want to actually appreciate more this woman’s encouragement. There is nothing that invites me more into a person’s journey than a heart of humility. That is the spirit that is consistently experienced in this book.
So, what is it about? It concerns transformation, humility, and various expressions of prayer that give credence to a devoted life to God. It is focused on various “degrees” of prayer ranging from meditative, to rest and prayers of intercession. This is not a simple prayer book…it is one that challenges the intimacy of the reader’s relationship with God and begs us to answer the question, “how seriously and sincerely do you desire to be ‘one’ with God?”. In addition, each section in this printing has a place to journal through the book…that could be a great help to many who like to make notes and/or share with other people what this book has meant to you. I was caught up in this book…it is not an “A.C.T.S.” methodology and it is not a “name it and claim it” approach. It is a summary of one woman’s experience of journeying into the heart of God. Prayer is a tough part of many Christ-followers experience in faith…this book could give you some much needed perspective on defining for you what it means to be devoted to God. Check it out by clicking here.
Jim Palmer of Divine Nobodies and Wide Open Spaces "fame" (although he would bristle at that label, I’m sure), wrote a great blog post the other day. I’m going to post it here because I’d like your feedback. If you want to give your two cents worth that would be great. All I know is that there are some of my friends who would really have a problem with this stuff…some would applaud…others would croak in disgust. Obviously, the "God, Inc" critique is a real concern as Christ-followers engage culture…most people outside the "faith" don’t have a very positive view of Christianity (institutional as well as those ministries that work hard to expose themselves to culture). Anyway, let me know what you think!
I received an email this past week, a portion of I have below…
“…I would love to sit in a waffle house and have a cup of coffee with you. Thanks to you, Wayne Jacobsen, and others… I am finally making sense of this Christian life I became a part of 12 years ago and I am currently repulsed by. I even considered myself an atheist for a couple months this summer (but of course didn’t let anyone know about that…), but God is becoming real again and I just want to have a real life conversation with someone who can relate to me. The people in my world either aren’t spiritually inclined or they are committed to church life and aren’t quite ready to travel down the “relational” road with me. I just want to sit down and have an honest conversation. My husband is great about exploring these things with me, but in some ways we are so “one” in how we perceive things, that we need an outside voice to have dialogue with. Anyway, I could go on forever, but I’ll save that for our cup of coffee together!!… Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts – they have helped this nobody believe she is sane once again!”
Here are a few things this email brought to mind…
First, here’s a link to Wayne Jacobsen, who I feel is extremely helpful in encouraging others along in spiritual freedom. Second, I can identify with her “atheist” comment. In some ways I am still an “atheist” when it comes to no longer believing in the “God” my religious mind previously constructed. I can also identify with her desire to have open, honest, and real life conversation with people who can relate to where I’ve been and the path I’m now on. Also, I celebrate the freedom she is experiencing, and the journey of God becoming real to her again.
Just a quick observation from the many radio interviews I’ve done and meeting a lot of bookstore managers over the last couple weeks. I am finding it much more productive to converse with people who are presently critical of or disillusioned with what I call “God Inc.”
In summary, “God Inc.” is mostly comprised of:
- The theologicalization of God: boxing God in propositions and creeds.
- The institutionalization of God: managing God through organizational systems, programs, and checklists.
- The commercialization of God: packaging and selling God in every form imaginable.
- The fundamentalism of God: rationalizing God for all kinds of hypocrisy, hate and overall insanity.
- The specialization of God: filtering God through spiritual hierarchies of paid professionals or gurus on top, and the rest of us below them.
(Forgive me for so quickly laying out this “God Inc.” idea. Obviously there are many organized churches, pastors and ministers, and people who rightfully put a financial cost to things they produce, offer, or create related to spiritual growth and development, who are not doing any of these out of ego, self-serving, or get-rich motives, and have no desire to box, manage, sell, rationalize, or filter God.)
Nonetheless, when I do interviews with or meet with bookstore managers who are non-religious people critical of or disillusioned with “God Inc.” I find (if I am loving, accepting, humble, and patient) that many of these people are open to the possibility that there is God or Ultimate Reality or something spiritually real and solid independent of “God Inc.” However, to be honest, I sometimes find that people stuck in “God Inc.” to not be very open to the idea of a God beyond it. In other words, for some of them: God IS the equivalent of their current theological information; the Christian life IS the equivalent of participating within the systems, programs, and check-lists of their church; spiritual growth IS mediated through the professionals and gurus; and they seem to find plenty of room for quickly judging and condemning others, which doesn’t seem to be very consistent with the mentality of Jesus himself. When I have done interviews with show hosts or met with bookstore managers who are not Christian or religious in nature, they pretty much expect me to be that person I just described, and are pretty shocked when they find different.
Could it be that a Tool Concert is a perfect Advent experience? I’m likely to say "yes" tonight. My sons, Aaron and Shad, hooked me up with Tool’s music several years ago. Their incredible musicianship and powerful music impressed me. Well, tonight at the Idaho Center (it doubles as a Horse Venue for Rodeos and such), Tool returned to the Boise area. It was their last leg of the 10,000 Days tour. Tell you the truth…I was impressed. The complexities of their music are apparent…their musicianship, impeccable…I told Aaron and his girlfriend, Jo, that it was like sitting in a private jam session with studio musicians…musical craftsmen to say the least. They didn’t necessarily "play" to the crowd…they played FOR the crowd but not in a "showy" manner…the music was center stage. Maynard, their singer, said only four things during the entire show…which underscored my longtime pet peeve about concerts…we are there to hear music not sermons, musings, or stupid talk. My mantra: "just shut up and play". Anyway, on to Advent…I told Aaron and Jo what they already knew…Tools music, though powerful, is also lyrically very bleak. As artists, all I am drawn to is their worldview and what they see when they look at life. I’ve said it before, all art is NOT value neutral…it is saying something about the way the artist understands the world. Tool’s view of reality is just that…real. It is mostly pain-filled…but it depicts a life that many people know. Take for example one of my favorite Tool tunes, "Vicarious". Fact is, I play a bit of it at the beginning of every Re/New-YLI Podcast (check those out on ITunes or at the Re/New website):
Eye on the TV ’cause tragedy thrills me
Whatever flavor It happens to be
"Killed by the husband"
"Drowned by the ocean"
"Shot by his own son"
"She used the poison in his tea
[and / he] kissed [him / her] goodbye"
That’s my kind of story
It’s no fun til someone dies
Don’t look me at like I am a monster
Frown out your one face but with the other
Stare like a junkie Into the TV
Stare like a zombie While the mother, holds her child
Watches him die, Hands to the sky cryin,
"Why, oh why?"
Cause I need to watch things die
From a distance
Live while the whole world dies
You all need it too – don’t lie.
Not a great picture of life, huh? But how many of us know people addicted to violence. The average child will watch 1000’s of murders and killings in movies and television during their lives. Some get to the point where it drives them to despair. We may not like the lyrics and the picture they paint but you can’t deny the reality of what Tool is communicating. Interesting, I told Aaron and Jo that the concert tonight may have been a good Advent experience…Advent is a traditional time in the liturgical year where Christ-followers in community "wait" upon the Lord. It is a time of anticipation…texts during this time are filled with the words of the Prophets not only assuring the people of Israel and Judah about a coming Deliverer but also telling them about the personal and communal transformation that will occur once He appears. That’s why we sing, "O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel". There is something powerful to anticipate…there is a need we all have to find hope. That is why we follow the star to Bethlehem…maybe God does have words and actions of Deliverance and Hope through the promise of the Messiah. Maybe in a vision of the reality of life, we come face to face with the need to cry out, "how long, O Lord will we suffer?" "How long until you take action?" Jesus is not only God’s Word about creation but also God’s Word of Hope and Promise to a suffering world. In this way, maybe Tool’s bleakness was a good way to prepare myself for the coming of the King, the Lord of Hope. As Psalm 72 says,
Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy
righteousness unto the king’s son.He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy
poor with judgment.
The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills,
He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of
the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout
He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that
water the earth.
In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so
long as the moon endureth.
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto
the ends of the earth. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve
For he shall deliver the needy when he
crieth; the poor also, and him
that hath no helper.He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the
He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious
shall their blood be in his sight. And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba:
prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be
praised. There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the
mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the
city shall flourish like grass of the earth.
His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long
as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him
blessed.Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who
only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole
earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.
Thanks to Bro Maynard for alerting me to the new Narnia trailer for the Prince Caspian movie! I wish they would just film all the rest of the stories so that we could watch them now! Sounding spoiled? Yes, so what? I loved these books…I have read them a number of times, taught on them, studied them, and have been shaped by them. So, come on Disney…let’s go! For your enjoyment…here’s the link to the trailer:
My friends @ Allelon just updated their website. It is better than ever (except that it doesn’t feature more of me…just kidding). Seriously engaged in leading and affirming a new paradigm for following Jesus in our postmodern world, Allelon is providing more resources than ever to spark our collective creativity. Videos, audio, downloads, discussions…its all there! So, check it out! Click on the icon/picture and you are there!
The Drumbeat of Hope
The one thing I love about music (at least that I listen to) is the earth pounding drums and bass. I’m a guitar player…I’ve played for more years than I want to admit. But despite how much I love my instrument, when I listen to music either live or on CD, I want as much bass and drums as I can get. Fact is, I dropped way too much money lately upgrading my car stereo with a nice subwoofer…you know the kind…where can drive down residential streets without setting home alarms off. That’s the sub in action! Seriously, a driving beat reminds me about the drumbeat and consistency of life…day in and day out…the driving force of time…the themes, struggles, pain, awakenings and reality of what we all must face in this world.
Seriously, that’s why I love the discipline of the Offices and working through the devotional/book that Bro Maynard has written. It is another opportunity to tap into a drumbeat…the consistency of sensing God’s presence and hand upon life. I had to come to some sense of peace of this reality some time ago…I had to realize that God’s presence is the consistency of my life – not my own consistency of looking for or trying to be aware of that presence. My life and awareness is too fickle…driven by other beats that appear, at the moment, somewhat more mesmerizing or appealing. Little did I know how truly intoxicating the awareness of God can be…and how life-giving tuning the rhythms of my heart into that which emanates from the Living God.
Today, the drumbeat is that of Hope. Talk about something we all need…because hopelessness dashes dreams, throws people into depression, and squelches the joy from life. Taping into the consistency of hope…that drumbeat of God that reminds us that there is always a vision of a new reality undergirding life as we know it and giving us the ability to take another step into life…that is what we so desperately need. That’s why we say and sing, "O Come Emmanuel"…we need the drumbeat of hope that only comes with a God who draws near!
Jim Palmer’s new book, Wide Open Spaces, has a chapter on the bible. It is excellent…I won’t wreck it for you. Just go out and pick up the book…order it…and then let me know what you think. In the meantime, I found that I have alot in common with Bro. Palmer! In 2006, I wrote this blog post. It summarizes what I was going through at the time but brings up some of the issues that Jim makes in the book. Anyway, for what it is worth…here it is. Take Two:
I’ve taken a vacation…from reading the Bible
I know what’s happening…you just let your eyes scan over that title of this post and immediately you are probably thinking, “another one bites the dust”. I came to the conclusion that I needed a break from reading the bible because I was pride-ing myself on how good I was for being such a great “student” of the Word. A long time ago, a friend of mine told me that he wished he knew just a fraction of the biblical passages and truths that I had forgotten. Remembering how I felt at the time when he said that to me still brings me a “shiver” down my proverbial spine. Understand, over the years, I’ve been a huge advocate and practitioner of bible reading disciplines…The One Year Bible (I read that 7 years in a row, whoopee), Quiet times (don’t even get me started), one chapter of OT/NT/and a psalm a day, the lectionary (both the Protestant and Roman versions I might add), you name it…I’ve probably done it with passion and purpose. In fact, I have a collection of bibles that fill about two entire bookshelves in my home….most of them, boldly and extensively highlighted with pithy and insightful notes in margins (of course). I think I know quite a bit about the bible…I’ve taught scores of bible studies over the years; preached thousands of sermons; written countless articles and papers on it; I’m even a biblical studies professor for God’s sake! You get the point.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I am spoiled rotten with the text. Like a kid with his/her hand in the cookie jar…I can’t get enough…I can’t consume enough, to a point. Sing it with me, “the B-I-B-L-E yes that’s the book for me”. But remember, I’m spoiled. I’m holding on to the text with a truckload of pride and carrying it around like a trophy…but something is missing. It is like having a fancy fishing rod for fishing and never having used it to catch a trout. It is like saying you are an expert in relating and leading teenagers without ever having a child who grew to be a teenager in your own home. It is like saying you have the keys and title to a Porsche and bragging to your friends that you drive an expensive sports car without ever having taken it out of the driveway. It’s like playing “air guitar”…it is just not the real thing, is it?
The real issue is NOT just reading the text…it’s living it, isn’t it? I’ve been thinking lately about a few things – the Disciples of Jesus never carried a bible…millions of followers of Jesus over the centuries never had a bible on their shelf…never knew the differences between the KJV or NASB or NIV or ASB or NASA or UK or whatever…millions of Christ-followers over the centuries never heard of a quiet time…millions of Christ followers died a martyrs death having only heard a select passage or two during their entire lives. So, these things got me thinking…what’s the difference between how they lived out the Kingdom and how I experience God? The real issue is not just reading and knowing the text…if you’re in the boat, you have to get out the oars and row, right? Nice to be in the boat but without rowing, you’re just dead in the water. I know for me, any many other followers of Jesus, we are pretty happy about simply being “in” the Word…maybe we are to “into” it and not living it as we could. Mmmm…
So, I’m taking a vacation from reading the bible…to try to live what I’ve read. The issue isn’t knowing the Word; it is living and becoming the Word to the world. You know what I mean?