Friday, April 27, 2007

embraced by God

More from Pete Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God, chapter one:
The emerging Church is thus able to leave aside the need for clarity and open up the way for us to accept the fact that what is important is that we are embraced by the beloved rather than finding agreement concerning how we ought to understand the beloved (as if a baby can only really love her mother if she understands her.)

I love the comparison of our love for God with the love of a baby for her mother. My relationship with my son Brady (11 months) has enriched my relationship with God. I better grasp His love for me because of the incredible love I have for Brady. I am filled with the purest joy I've ever known each time I look at him.

When he reaches his arms out for me, I pull him to my chest and hold him tight--that's the most wonderful feeling I've ever known. At the same time I see his love for me, his desire to hold onto me and play with me. I want to have that same love and desire for God; to simply long to be in His presence, in His arms.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

transformation and revelation

Pete Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God, chapter one continued:
What is important about revelation is not that we seek to interpret it in the same way but rather that we all love it and are transformed by it.

I really like this. I need to hear this (I think a lot of us do--on both sides of the emergent fence). We get so caught up in explaining and arguing and conversing; we are spending a lot of time talking about God, and not much time with God.

I don't want God to look at me and say, "He's really wise, he knows his theology." I want God to look at me and be pleased that I am seeking Him, and becoming more like Him, and doing what I can to care for people. I want to be transformed. I'm not saying theology isn't important, just that it isn't the most important thing. God is great, and powerful. He doesn't need me to figure everything out in order to use me. As He transforms me, I believe He can help me know and understand Him better, and my theology will grow out of that.

One thing that is transforming me these days is engaging in "fixed-hour prayer," or in some circles, "praying the daily offices."

Simply put, praying at regular times throughout the day, mostly from Scripture. I've been using Phyllis Tickle's The Divine Hours. Check out her website, or see the prayers online here.

I grew up thinking that prayer was supposed to be spontaneous; that written prayers were not real, or heart-felt. So spontaneous prayer has always been a part of my life. But discovering the beauty and power of praying Scripture, and prayers written by other Christians over the centuries has been wonderful.

Here is one of today's prayers from The Divine Hours:
O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that I, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ my Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

please read this book!

More from chapter one of How (Not) to Speak of God by Pete Rollins:
...revelation, far from being the opposite of concealment, has concealment built into its very heart. (p. 16)

Rollins speaks of going into a museum and contemplating a painting:
The painting could be said to offer us a type of revelation, for it stands before us and communicates a message. However, the message of a piece of art is not simple, singular or able to be mastered...When we ask ourselves about the meaning of the artwork, we are immediately involved in an act of interpretation which is influenced by what we bring to the painting. In a similar way, the revelation of God should be compared to a parable that speaks out of an excess of meaning...The parable is given to us, but at the same time its full wealth of meaning will never be fully mined. It is not reducible to some clear, singular, scientific formula but rather gives rise to a multitude of commentaries. (p. 16, 17; italics mine)
...there is more, but I'll stop here and come back later...

I've been thinking on the line in italics above. We are all influenced by what we bring to faith and Scripture. I can't believe that people deny this, but many do. How else do you explain the incredible diversity in the universal Christian Church? So many within it think they have it figured out...reformed, charismatic, fundamental, evangelical, catholic, are only a few of literally hundreds of categories Christians use to define themselves, and most are absolutely certain that their understanding of Scripture and their ways of doing church are THE right ways, or at least the best.

I was in my twenties before I realized there were people who truly loved God and followed Jesus who were not Southern Baptist! I grew up being taught that we (southern Baptists--a group from which I now feel very different) were the only ones who really "got it," and everyone else was close but not quite there.

The more I read of the emerging conversation, the more I am convinced that many of these people, who often humbly admit that they don't have everything figured out, are actually closer to getting it than those who do think they have it all figured out. What is "it"? Not sure how to define; simply put, I guess I'm talking about connecting with God. Not knowing all about Him, not being able to explain the "true" meaning of all the Bible, but humbly living a life that strives to reflect His character.

long week

VA Tech tragedy

it's been over a week since I posted. Monday was rough--the tragedy at VA Tech. It hit me really hard. I didn't personally know anyone affected; but it really got me down. Maybe being a parent makes these things hit me harder. I was pretty depressed for a few days.


Wednesday night I met with our new men's small group at church; it was a fantastic time, really ministered to me. We're starting The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. Looks like great stuff so far. We move back into the LAB (our smaller space) this Sunday; it was being painted last couple weeks. Should be great! Check out our website for pics and info.

We got great news this week; we received a substantial grant from the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. Very exciting! It will be a huge help in our renovations; also very affirming that others believe in and support what we are doing.


On Wednesday we went to Richmond for a level 2 sonogram. The doctor said the baby looks perfect! Jamie has a hunch it's a girl, and our friend Wayne predicted it's a girl--Wayne claims to be 19 for 19 in predicting the sex of babies (he was right on Brady).

I'm home with Brady today; having some great guy time!

Friday, April 13, 2007

back to Rollins--How (Not) to Speak of God

more great and difficult stuff about the dynamic nature of the Bible and it's descriptions of the nature of God...
We are presented with a warrior God and a peacemaker, a God of territorial allegiance and a God who transcends all territorial divides, an unchanging God and a God who can be redirected, a God of peace and a God of war, a God who is always watching the world and a God who fails to notice the oppression against Israel in Egypt. (p. 13; Rollins credits Philip Harrison for these insights)

How do people respond to this? Many outside the Christian faith would discount God; saying He's inconsistent, or schizophrenic, or that the Bible presents such an irrational picture of God that it can't be accurate.

Others, probably most in the modern evangelical church, work to explain away the seeming inconstancies or contradictions. They want/need to find rational answers to the hard questions. I used to be in that camp. But even before I admitted it, I struggled with this. The God in the Bible seemed way too complex and mysterious to be easily and rationally explained.

Mr. Deity is a series of short films which satirize the modern church, from a perspective that knows about Christianity but isn't really Christian. The videos provoke hard questions about God and faith. Very funny, very irreverent. In vol. 9, Mr. Deity describes how He looks in the Bible: "I look like a total schizoid. The first half I'm all fire and brimstone, guns a'blazin'; I'm shooting first and asking questions later. And then all of a sudden, whoosh, I'm Sybil, right? I'm peace, love, and understanding."

I wrestle with the different sides of God we see in the Old and New Testaments...but rather than try to solve the mystery, I want to get to know Him better. I'm trying to spend more time knowing Him, not just knowing about Him...

We had incredible time together this morning--God, Brady and me. I took Brady for a walk through the neighborhood. He loves the trees, the lake, the dogs we see and hear...he just loves being outside. As we walked I talked to Brady, and I talked to God. I saw His love in the beauty around us, I heard it in the laughter of my son, and I felt it in the incredible joy in my heart.

Monday, April 09, 2007


taking a break from Rollins's book. Great day yesterday--had Easter sunset service in the sanctuary building...would have been nice to be in the LAB--our smaller space, but they're painting in there.

Worship was good--several people said the highlight was Ashley's reading of the Easter story from a kids Bible storybook. Added an element of child-like faith...wide-eyed wonder. She did a wonderful job!

hard leaving home this morning. Most mornings I get up with Brady, spend an hour or two with him so Jamie can rest (she's not sleeping well at night). It is precious time. This morning we had a couple hours together before I had to go to work. I picked him up, hugged and kissed him goodbye and gave him back to Jamie. He started crying and reaching up for me! Nothing breaks your heart like having to leave when your child is reaching out for you!

Jamie is doing well (other than being tired), kids are fine, and in five months we'll have another! My life is so great!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

more of How (Not) To Speak of God

This book is so great; I'm reading it slowly; trying to digest and process as I go...

more from chapter 1, about "conceptual idolatry":
The term (idolatry) can be understood to refer to any attempt that would render the essence of God accessible, bringing god into either aesthetic visibility (in the form of a physical structure, such as a statue) or conceptual visibility (in the form of a concept, such as a theological system)...the former reduces God to a physical object while the latter reduces God to an intellectual object. (p. 12)
We do not find some simple, linear understanding of YHWH developing through the text, and thus we do not find a single, coherent definition of God, as proclaimed by many contemporary churches...Western theology has all too often reduced the beautifully varied and complex descriptions of God found in the Bible to a singular reading that does violence to its vibrant nature. (p. 12)
This is so freeing. I sometimes feel attacked by those who criticize the emerging conversation (no one is attacking me directly, but they do attack people I read and respect and learn from). These watchdogs question if we really believe the Bible. They tell us we are not true Christians if we don't agree with their simple and clear interpretations of the Bible and share their precise understanding of who God is.

I really believe they have it backwards. God is so much greater than our limited ability to describe and explain Him! When we reduce God to a description that fits neatly into a systematic theology, we are capturing only a small piece of all that God is. We become guilty of idolatry!

I'm not saying we can't know anything of God; but that we can't know everything of God. We don't need to know everything of God to love Him and serve Him and worship my faith becomes more open and questioning and free, I find that I seek God and connect with Him in new and exciting ways. The Bible has come alive for me like never before. By not trying to intellectually understand so much about Him, I know and connect with Him more.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

this book is great

More from Pete Rollins's How (Not) To Speak of God, chapter 1:
...when we make absolute claims concerning what we believe about the world or God, acting as if our opinions were the result of some painstaking, objective and rational reflection, we end up deceiving ourselves, for our understanding is always an interpretation of the information before us (whether the raw material of the world or revelation) and thus is always affected by what we bring to the table.

wow. I don't see the need to add any commentary...but I'd love to hear people's reactions to that quote.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

heretical beliefs?

Those of us in the emerging conversation have been called heretics, and accused of rejecting the Bible and ignoring Christian doctrine. In chapter 1 of How (Not) to Speak of God, Rollins explains what many of us have been saying about this:
Those within the emerging conversation are offering a different way of understanding the answers that we already possess. In other words, those involved in the conversation are not explicitly attempting to construct or unearth a different set of beliefs that would somehow be more appropriate in today's context, but rather, they are looking at the way in which we hold the beliefs that we already have. This is not a revolution that seeks to change what we believe, but rather one that sets about transforming the entire manner in which we hold our beliefs.
In recent years my understanding and perspective of the Bible have changed a lot; but my beliefs in Jesus, and His Word and work have not; they have grown, becoming stronger and more real. Instead of reading the Bible as a textbook, a place to go to find answers, I read it as the story, the true story, of God and His love for His people. (And I feel no need to qualify "true" with the word "absolute.")

My faith is stronger because I dive into the Bible, wrestle with it, ask all kinds of questions (usually without clear, easy answers), and continue to seek God, in all his mystery and majesty. Critics want to deny mystery when it comes to God and the Bible. I read many writers and pastors who claim that there is no mystery; God has given us His Word, and it is clear and understandable. They call us heretics, claiming we question the obvious answers in the Bible.

Now I know most of these guys are way smarter than me. But I just don't see it. I think God wants us to enter into the mystery; I think that's why Jesus often spoke in parables and questions. He didn't give three point sermons that explained the Scriptures he quoted. He asked questions and let the listeners struggle; rather than giving easy answers.

OK, I'll get off my soap box. Today in worship we are going to walk through Scripture about the final week of Jesus' life--The entry into Jerusalem, Jesus' betrayal, last supper, arrest, trial, and crucifixion. No preaching, no commentary, just reading and acting out of Scripture. I think it will be powerful!