Wednesday, December 29, 2004

There is an elusive peace that nurtures contentment with the rhythms of life - even those parts that we would rather not pass through. There is an ebb and flow of health and sickness, of youth and old age, of work and rest, of tears and joy . . . and countless other experiences.

Finding that peace is in abiding with God in the inner soul. Our presence with God is His presence with us, and our rest in the place in which He puts us. We do not find this peace by looking for it, but by constantly seeking God. Looking for peace is searching for something to acquire and possess, and seeking God is discovering how to be acquired and possessed. Every spiritual blessing comes to us as we lose ourselves - will and life - to God.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A kind Christian lady who attended a memorial service we had here last week told me that we would grow. She is a member of a large community church and assured me that we would grow because they had begun in a house. I didn't really reply to that comment . . . just said that we are blessed and enjoying living in God.

She was trying with good intention to encourage me . . . predicting that our small group meeting in a humble rented location would blossom into a congregation of thousands meeting in a multi-million dollar complex. She assumed that I needed such encouragement. Obviously, I must have greater ambitions and aspirations than sharing in fellowship with a small band of believers and meeting in a building we share with others. We all know this couldn't be what we are dreaming of . . . a community of loving people who know and care about each other, who meet in modest circumstances so they might minister more to others, where relationships are emphasized and the institution is minimal.

I didn't bother to explain what she wouldn't understand . . . but no, we are not pursuing becoming a megachurch.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

This week I encountered the institutional church garbage that I think makes heaven boil. It certainly makes me boil, and I too think that I have the Spirit of God!

A 16 year-old girl was wanting to plan a memorial service for her deceased mother. She went to the nearby Episcopal Church (this isn't about Episcopal Churches, but any church with this mindset) but was told to have the memorial service meant that it had to be done as an episcopal rite. She couldn't make any changes to have it like she wanted. She was turned away!!!

Woe to you churches, hypocrites! You turn away 16 year-old girls trying to bury their mothers for the sake of preserving your traditions! Your denominational orthodoxy has become a stumbling block to those who are suffering! Your institutions are a wall between God and His children. Suffer the children to come to Him and do not forbid them!!!

Too many who call themselves Christians do not know Christ. They would probably be applauded for upholding the purity of the faith.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

For Christians there are no enemies - because an overwhelming love from God and for the sake of God which is directed toward all his creatures means that there are no foes. Unbelievers, those opposing our faith, and even those persecuting followers of Christ are not to be hated. Nothing anyone can do or believe can make him or her my enemy. Only the flesh has enemies; the Spirit knows only love.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Church structures. Committees, leadership, who is in charge of whom. Management styles, leadership systems. Systems analysis. Understanding the nature of human organizations and group dynamics. Models for conflict resolution. All essential stuff for building an efficient and functional church - right?

I realize that having some organizational element is unavoidable, but focusing on this stuff is poison to authentic communities where the bond is love. The mature don't need structures because they will love and serve out of who God has grown them to be, but the immature who view things organizationally instead of relationally often strive after positions of power within the institution because of their fleshly ambitions and conceptions. Their ambitions may be for the "good" of the organization as they understand it . . . but that is precisely the problem. The immature want to sit on the right hand and left hand. When there is a structure, often those who believe that wielding power through position - even out of all sincerity - often end up in those positions while the truly mature simply go about their work of serving and loving.

Though some basic level of organization is necessary, I think we do better to avoid having positions of power for the immature to quarrel over. It is almost humorous to watch those who conceive of things in a "top-down" way searching for the places of authority in a relational community quite devoid of those positions. I watched it happen in Africa where those ambitious for power could not find a place to grab hold of it, and now with the believers with whom I am priviledged to walk. I've also seen other situations where immature people desired and took hold of positions from which they planned to rule - with all good intention, but nonetheless from fleshly ideas of authority rather than self-sacrificing service. Of course, they would disagree with me and protest that what they do is self-sacrificing service . . . and in their immaturity they truly believe it. They also would resist correction and often take offense at it.

The mystery of communities of disciples of Jesus is that they operate relationally in a way that cannot be analyzed and diagrammed. Try as one might, it is hard to come up with any clear organizational chart for Jesus and his disciples, or the apostolic church. Such systems can be imposed on the textual evidence, but cannot be derived from it.

Monday, December 06, 2004

There is a major cultural shift happening in the West. Actually, the West is going back to join the rest of the world. The experiment in modernity reached its zenith but is now fading. While the West may be entering "postmodernity" . . . the rest of the world never adopted the philosohpy of modernity, though they have used some of the technological fruits of it.

There is some good news about this shift. Modernity, with its humanistic mania, is inherently rejects submission to God. The rest of the world, however, has remained much more open to faith. I observed that it was much easier to talk to pagan, idol-worshipping Africans about Jesus and see vibrant faith spring up in their hearts by the Holy Spirit than to talk to modern Americans, many of whom are Sunday-attending confessors of a civil Christianity. Those non-modern Africans are much closer to accepting the Kingdom of God in their animal-sacrificing paganism than many nominally Christian Americans basically because their worldview already tells them that they are nothing in the world and that they are at the mercy of much stronger spiritual powers. That is so different from a modern worldview that proclaims human ingenuity and strength is the penultimate power.

In the modern West, this mindset subverts Christianity. Often while fundamentalists denounce what they call "secular humanism", their theology shows that a modern humanistic view is the bedrock of their perception of faith.

The hope for the shift now occurring is that claims of human potential and sufficiency are now highly suspect. However, as the history of paganism proves, even when man views himself as being at the mercy of great spiritual powers his response can be manipulation rather than dependence. But it is much easier talk to someone about Jesus who knows he is scum as he offers animal sacrifices to appease the gods, rather than trying to convince someone who is confident that he has struck an accord with Jesus, trading his obedience and religiouslity for a seat at the heavenly table, that he is a pauper and must reach out to God in faith and humility. The gospel is an offense to the pride of this latter individual. Those who know they are refuse receive it gladly.