Explanation for Blogging Style

•May 17, 2010 • 1 Comment

I just felt like posting something really quickly explaining why I blog like I do. I don’t really feel like posting about everything that is happening day to day in my life. In my opinion, I don’t have the most exciting life. When it’s Fall or Spring, I have school, although I am finishing my degree this Fall which is crazy to think about. Otherwise, I participate in the life of a local congregation, work at a Starbucks, and, if I’m lucky, play a game or two of Ultimate Frisbee each week.

So where my blogs come from are not necessarily day-to-day thoughts but ideas that are shaped and examined in my head as I ponder and mull over them.

I am very much and introverted person normally. I do have my moments where I just have to hang out with people to recharge myself. But usually, I prefer spending time alone instead of with large groups of people all the time. Part of my personality as an introvert is not expressing every thought that pops into my head but thinking about it for a while before saying anything. This is who I am and I would say that this is how I function when I blog. I don’t feel like simply jotting something down just for the sake of writing something but I want to express something significant and meaningful with each post so I take my time between posts to formulate something that will hopefully get you to start thinking more about who you are as a Christian and what it means to follow Jesus within the community of the Church.

So check back every once and a while. I’ll most likely have something new posted.

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I am (becoming) a Jewish-Christian

•May 12, 2010 • 4 Comments

I have decided to update my blog more often, which means more than once a year.

And, as I have said, I have become a somewhat strange mixture of theological thought.  I have already talked about how I have begun engaging in practices from other traditions within Christianity and that I think we all should be doing so in order that we may begin to mend the rifts between the different traditions within Christianity.  Now I want to talk about something that is probably not on many people’s radar but something which has been shaping me for sometime: I am becoming, or trying to become, a Jewish Christian and I believe that all followers of Christ should seek to do the same.

A couple quick side notes.  If anyone who is actually Jewish is reading this, please do not be offended by.  In fact I humbly am using this discussion to express the need that I recognize that Christianity and myself has for your perspective in order for us to understand who we are.  I also want to beg of your forgiveness for the many misplaced things that people claiming to be Christians have done to Judaism over the centuries.

Also, no this is not a blog about the restoration of Israel so that the end times may occur.  That is a different topic all together which I don’t really feel like getting into now.

What I mean when I say that I am becoming a Jewish Christian is that I am seeking to foster the Jewish perspective within my own thought in order that my understanding and living out of the Christian life may have a greater depth.  The main source of this shaping within me is the book Our Father Abraham by Marvin R. Wilson.  This book is excellent and I would encourage everyone to read it.

This is a perspective we have lost as Christians.  As the early church was emerging, it faced significant persecution from the Jewish communities of that time period and as more Gentiles began converting to follow Christ, the church slowly began drifting away from our Jewish roots.  Then it was in AD 70 when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans that Christianity separated itself almost fully from Judaism so as not to be persecuted even more by the Romans  for being seen as connected to the rebellion that had occurred in Israel.

There are several significant points, which have especially emerged out of this book, that have been transforming me into, as I’m going to call myself, a Jewish Christian.

The first area where I am being transformed is in the Jewish understandings of community.  For a fantastic understanding of Jewish community life, watch the 1970s version of The Fiddler on the Roof (Wilson refers to this movie often if that tells you something).  If you watch closely you’ll see the beauty of the Jewish community life that is portrayed.  Everyone has a place within this community, even the beggar, who others aid with what they can spare.  When it comes time for the Shabbat meal, there are several uninvited guests who appear at Tevye’s home and,even though there is hardly enough for his family, Tevye’s wife, Golde, says to them, “There is always room for one more.”  All members of the community are welcomed into each other’s homes for the celebration of the day of rest that God commanded the people of Israel to observe, which is frequently one of the Ten Commandments we like to forget.  Now, I ask you, how would it look if we became more Jewish in our understanding of community life? What would it look like if everyone had a place in our community, no matter how we felt about them, and if everyone gave to and cared for one another so that no one was in need?  What if were willing to open our homes to all members of the community at any time?  Imagine this tightly knit community that participated and lived in each others lives that we could anticipate each others needs before they asked for help.  What if we actually lived out Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21, when he prayed that all believers would be one just as he and the Father (and the Spirit) are one (a passionate trinitarian relationship).  I cannot be arrogant enough to say that I am living this out but I am being strongly influenced by this Jewish perspective and hope to be a part of and help encourage others to participate as well.

The next area that I have been strongly influenced is by the general attitude of thankfulness and blessing within Judaism.  To put it simply, Jewish prayer life expresses utter thankfulness for all of creation.  Consider the creation story in Genesis in which, throughout the entire first chapter, God calls every single thing he has created as good.  Even with the disobedience of Adam and Eve, the Jewish understanding of all of creation is sacred since God created it.  In light of this perspective, a Jewish person is unlikely is offer a blessing before a meal as we would (which reflects our view that creation is somehow unholy and God must make it holy before we eat it) but a Jewish person will offer a blessing for all things in life.  Consider The Fiddler on the Roof.  There are several scenes where people are asking the rabbi for the proper blessing for the Tsar or a sowing machine.  The full Jewish blessing, which is mainly for ceremonies, begins with “Barukh atta Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha‑olam…” which means “Blessed are you, O LORD, our God, Ruler of the universe…” but in everyday life, Jews simply begin a blessing with “Blessed are you, O LORD”.  And for everything in life, a Jewish person will offer this blessing up to God for it, and I don’t mean to say this to be gross, but there is even a blessing for urination. Don’t believe me? Wilson writes out the blessing on page 157.

So I have begun to pray this prayer as often as I think of it.  It has begun to change my perspective on so many things and influence the way I look at the world.  Normally, we as Christians only offer blessings at meals or call something a blessing that God has worked in our lives.  What if we were to adopt this perspective of viewing all of life as created good by God and offering praise and blessing for all of it?  Now I don’t mean that we should bless God for something bad that happens in life or something evil.  Not even the Jewish people would do that but instead, offer a blessing to God who is over all and is working to restore all.  For all good things in life, though, I have been learning to bless God for all of it and it has opened my eyes to seeing the scope of all that God has created and the ways in which God is working.  I believe that we must all try to gain this Jewish perspective on life, instead of only thanking God at a meal or only crediting Him with momentary blessings.  What if we were to view all aspects of life as blessing?

Finally, one of the most significant ways in which I have been influenced by Jewish thought is their general thought process.  It is called “block logic” and it is incredibly different than any way we try to think in Western culture.  Block logic is a way of looking at two things that seem to conflict and, instead of trying to reconcile them or figure out how they work together, one simply lives in the reality of both.  This is seen throughout the entire Bible.  There are passages that talks about God’s mercy and others that talk about God’s wrath or justice.  Still other passages seem to claim free will for humans but others talk about God’s predestining all things.  In the Jewish mind it is possible to view both of these “conflicting” ideas and claim both as true and that a person should live in a way that affirms that.  In Western thought I would say we simply HATE thinking like this.  Most often, we feel we must try to nail something down.  This is why we have so many differing theological perspectives and denominations in western Christianity.  There is some block logic that we do affirm in Christianity still, the most glaring example is the Incarnation, where Jesus is fully divine and fully human.  This form of block logic we have maintained, despite numerous attempts by Western Greek thought to explain the Incarnation in a way that somehow lessened Christ’s divinity or humanity, and heresy was the result.

This thought process is something that I have been seeking to have my own way of thinking transformed into.  Now, I ask, what would it look like for Christianity if we sought transform our own typical way of thinking into this Jewish way of thinking?  What I can imagine is the unity amongst the body of Christ like Jesus prayed for in John 17.  Imagine, people who were from different theological perspectives all agreeing to recognize that other perspectives can help us all live life together as the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church instead of bickering over who can fully understand God better.  It would mean Calvinists and Arminians learning together, Baptists and Methodists, Roman Catholic and Protestants, Eastern Orthodox and Western Christianity, and so many other “opposing groups”.  I know this is very idealistic but if we all allowed the Jewish perspective to transform our way of thinking, then, maybe, we would actually be the body of Christ, united.

I am somewhat, and hoping more to become, a Jewish-Christian.  I know this ideas are probably strange to most, although there are some hints of each of them in Christianity, but these Jewish practices, among the many more I could have referenced, are some that I have seen at work in myself.  I believe that we as Christians should allow the Jewish perspective to transform who we are instead of shunning the olive tree the we have been grafted into (Romans 11:17-18).  I encourage all of you to become a Jewish-Christian as I am hoping to become further.

Wilson, Marvin R. Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. Grand Rapids, MI and Dayton, OH: William B. Eerdmans and Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, 1989.

I’m a Protestant who crosses himself

•April 25, 2010 • 3 Comments

I have to admit off the bat that I’m kind of an odd mixture of different theological thoughts and practices.  I’m most definitely one who is seeking to live in the Way and yet, although I am by no means Jewish, I try to approach as much I can theologically from a Jewish perspective with block logic (see Our Father Abraham by Marvin Wilson for details).  I have been raised in more of Western Christian perspective and still I find myself sharing a great deal of affinity with the Eastern Orthodox perspective on some topics.  And although I have been raised Protestant, I admit that I am somewhat of a Roman Catholic Protestant.

I am not Roman Catholic, nor have I ever really been connected to Roman Catholicism except for going to an Ash Wednesday mass and to a monastery located near where I attended college.  Yet I have found myself in recent days crossing myself.

I remember a speaker who came to my school shared where the practice of crossing oneself originated from.  This may not be accurate but it is true as far as I know.  Feel free to correct me if you know more concerning this topic.  Anyways, he stated that in biblical times if someone offended you in some way, like cutting you off while you were riding your camel or something like that, it was common to express your anger by crossing yourself in their direction.  This basically was saying to that person, “Crucify you!”  It was like telling someone today “You’re number one” with your hand.  It was at this point that the speaker almost flipped the entire group of us off but instead raised his index finger.  However, followers of Christ in response to Christ’s willing sacrificial death took this curse and transformed it into a blessing, just like Christ transformed his death on a cross, which was considered a curse in the Mosaic Law, into a blessing for anyone willing to submit themselves to living his life.

So the act of crossing oneself for a Christian was transformed from a way of expressing one’s anger towards another to a way of saying, “Let me be crucified”, which in fact is considered a blessing for a Christian.  It is an expression which says “Let me participate in Christ’s life and death.  Let me be crucified so that Christ will live in me.”  This is a theme that runs through the heart of the Apostle Paul’s writings.  In Galatians 2:20 he talks about dying with Christ so that Christ will live in him.  In Romans 6 he talks about Christians being united to Christ’s death through baptism and through this participation, Christians also participate in Christ’s resurrection, which is a freedom from enslavement to sin.  Paul’s understanding of life as a follower of Christ is one of participation in Christ life, death, and resurrection.  It means living with the total obedience to God that Christ did.

In light of this, I freely admit that I am a Protestant who crosses himself.  This is one of the Roman Catholic practices that Protestants shied away from during the Protestant Reformation, among many others.  In our reluctance of being seen as remotely Roman Catholic, we sacrificed many practices that should have been maintained.  Instead we have chosen to wear the cross as a form of jewelry, on a cheesy shirt, or a bracelet which are inanimate, stationary objects that we vaguely remember every once and a while.  Crossing oneself is a visual, physical reminder that we force ourselves to participate in.  In the process we remind ourselves of our participation in and imitation of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

I am willing to embrace this practice,  and hope to gain a further understanding of other practices, rituals, and celebrations of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, in order that I might be one of many followers of Christ who realize that our understanding of God and Christianity is very much fractured until we are willing to sacrifice many of our own differences and humbly allow the perspectives of others to inform our own.

Those of us that do not cross ourselves must regain an understanding and appreciation for this practice.  We should be willing to not just wear the cross as jewelery as some misguided act of witnessing to others.  We should be people who are marking ourselves with the cross expressing not only with our words but with a physical action to say, “We are no longer our own but Christ lives within us”.

I am a Protestant who crosses himself.  I hope you will join me in reuniting the body of Christ through our practices and remind yourself daily of your willingness to say, “Let me be crucified!”  All this I pray in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rising from Dreams

•May 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This has been quite a year for me.  First, the move out to Kansas City.  Next, getting a job at Starbucks and finishing my first year at graduate school.  It’s been a lot to experience in less then a year’s time.  Now I have another huge possibility rising out of everything else that I am doing.  I am going to be starting and co-leading a house church with a friend named Robert who is a former pastor but now working with another ministry in the area.

It’s pretty amazing how this possibility has arisen so unexpectedly.  I’ve been contemplating the idea that a house may the direction that I might be being led towards.  This has been a long process leading up to how I have felt the concept of the house church as being something valid that I might want to start/be a part of.  I’m pretty sure I have pinpointed how this desire started to be shaped, which was through reading A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, especially the portion of the book that encourages us to look at what we do and consider if that is still something appropriate to do.  I’m pretty sure that that book was the catalyst of all this process, and then throw in a lot of John Wesley’s theology & ecclesiology, then some books on the missional church/leadership, and touch of my slightly rebellious spirit.  Now you have one full blown thought that a house church might be one of the better expressions of the Church.

Well Robert and I first met the very first Sunday I attended the church I am going to now and it was very first Sunday back at that church after having been at another church for several years as a pastor.  The head pastor at our church for some reason decided to introduce me to him out of the blue while we were all sharing a meal together.  I didn’t really think much about this but Robert could stop wondering why we had been introduced.  So he decided eventually that he would take me out to lunch just so that we could get to know each other better and to see if there was a reason we had met.  Of course, I didn’t think much about this either except for maybe this guy was just wanting to get to know me better as a seminary student at the church.  The first meal we had in November was a pleasant meal and we had a good conversation but nothing exceptional happened.

It wasn’t until January until something amazing happened.  I had been reading some books for my Cross-Cultural missions class when I began feeling that some of only ways to accomplish what the authors were calling the reader towards was through a  house church.  So I began somewhat mentioning this to some family members and began thinking about how I might start a house church after I graduated from seminary.  But lo and behold, when I was having lunch with Robert at the end of January, for some reason that I can’t even remember, these same thoughts came pouring out of me.  He just sat there smiling and simply asked me, “So, do you think you could that now?”

I was taken aback for a moment and I was just kind of stunned at what I had just heard.  We kind of talked about it a little more and then we went about our business and I simply agreed to pray about it.  So I did and no matter what I happened.  I could not escape the idea that this was somehting I was supposed to do.  The thought of leading a house church just kind of filled me with a bruning sense of passion.

Then, after praying for a couple of weeks I knew what I would tell Robert the next time I saw him.  So one Wednesday evening I saw him in the church parking lot and ran over to tell him that I was willing to go for it.

Ever since then we have been meeting every Thursday evening getting to know each other, partaking in Eucharist together, and discussing our views on ecclesiology, including what we believe needs to be a part of the house church.  It has been an interesting journey, exploring a different understanding of the Church then the view I have had of church my whole life.  So instead of having a very pastor lead church where the congregation hardly participates with the service, it will be very egalitarian and very participatory with Robert and I will essentially as co-shepherds.  We will all be actively participating together to discover who Jesus is and what it means to follow him.  It will hopefully be a place for people who have no desire to be a part of the insitiutional church, people who are desiring close community,and  people who just searching for something.

This is going to begin May 14th and it will be called “A Gathering” because we are not arrogant enough to imply that we are the only valid expression of the Church.  We recognize that we are just one  little segment of the body of Christ.  We kind of guiding statement that just came to me during the first we really started to sit down and talk about this house church: “We gather together, to grow together, to go out together and live the mission of God.”  

So there it is, I will be co-leading a house church out of my apartment soon.  So exciting and scary at the same time.

Living a Doxological Life

•November 16, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I know I haven’t updated this blog in a while but things are just as busy as always and writing a blog becomes somewhat of a lower down priority in the grand hierarchy of things.  But it is the midst of this busyness that I am learning to become a person who is allowing himself to be shaped and molded by God’s ever beautiful grace in my life.

I know my life is pretty crazy right now, especially when it comes down to the wire of getting an assignment done that I might have procrastinated on a little or while I am at work and things are beyond being out of control.  In the midst of all that is happening though, I have arrived at a place that I’m not exactly sure how I got to.  Today was by far the busiest day at work that I can possibly remember.  I spent the last four hours of work, after a short break, making drinks without stopping, I kid you not.  I was so tired that I made my own drink wrong right as I was leaving.  In the midst of this there were moments where I almost just lost it but somehow, for some reason, I began singing the doxology, as if it sprang from the depths of my soul, a  joyful song that could not be contained:

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Amen!

As soon as I realized I was singing this song, which I have always loved and wished whatever church I was at would sing it as the benediction, I began wondering why I was singing this song that I had not consciously even thought about singing.  My thoughts immediately went to my junior year of college and the preaching class I was taking first semester.  I remembered our professor giving a demonstration of what kind of sermon she wanted our sermons to be like and she preached for us her sermon on the doxology and what it meant beyond just the words.  It is a song of joy, of thankfulness, of unrepressible love for the God who always comes before us to call us towards wholeness.  It is a song that expresses the attitude with which we should always embrace in every moment of our lives.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow!

And as I was singing this song at work and remembering what my professor had preached to us about this song, I realized that I needed to become an embodiment of the message of the doxology.  Even though things are busy and difficult to deal with at times, I have so much to be thankful for, not just the generic stuff that we immediately think about, but especially the actions that I have seen evidenced in my life of the grace of God, the Holy Spirit continuing to shape who I am so I can continually become a person who is filled with perfect love for God and neighbor and a person who has no desires any longer to sin.

Praise Him, all creatures here below!

And this sense of thankfullness led me to a feeling of joy and contentment with all that is happening in me, and that despite all that may be happening in my life right now that I may not enjoy, God is still present in each moment seeking to continue transforming who I am into a person whose actions are totally motivated by love and not only in just my individual situation but that God is also seeking to always transform the lives of everyone and the whole of creation so that Love reigns in all and through all.  It is that same joyful attitude that the Apostle Paul was writing to the Philippians in.  Even while he was in prison he still wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4).  It is not a joy that is celebrating at suffering or claiming that God caused whatever is wrong in your life to promote good, but a genuine joy in the midst of suffering or when nothing is wrong in life.

Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host!

Of course, I am not placing myself as the epitome of someone who has embraced this song completely in my life, but still I know that something happened today when I started singing this hymn of joy and now I will continue, through the grace of God, to embrace the message of this song through all of my being  And it is not that I had never sensed this kind of joy before, but that today it struck me when I most needed it, especially at this point in my life.  And so, will you join me in living the doxological life?   Will you embrace the thankfulness and joy of this song with your entire being?  Will you become a person whose song on your lips is first and foremost this doxology, no matter what is happening?    Will this be the attitude in which you allow God to shape in you so that you can become a person filled entirely with love?  Or will this song simply be just another hymn that we sing at church or a song you could just care less about what it says?

May we all embrace this song and sing it with all the breath in our lungs, with all of the thoughts in our heads, with all the words in our mouths, with every action, and with all of our beings.  May we embody the message of this doxology, this song of joy.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!  Amen!

Eat, Sleep, Repeat

•October 18, 2008 • 1 Comment

I thought I would start up a blog to kind of keep everyone in touch with what’s happening in my life and to kind of voice some things that I have been thinking about recently, when I feel like it.  I can’t promise how often I’ll write here because papers will take significance over this.

Well, I’m living in Kansas City, which most of you probably know about already.  At this point, after living in Kansas City for three almost four months my life primarily seems to consist of school, work, and church.  Right now I have classes on Mondays and Tuesdays.  I work the rest of the week as a barista at a Starbucks in the area.  Then I help out at church on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings.  I do homework in any free moment I have after all of that.  And then I repeat that every week.  It’s a little frustrating that this is all my life consists of right now but it’s what has to happen at this point.  I need the job in order to have important things, like food.  I’m here for school so I can’t neglect that.  And to be a Christian means to be a member of a larger group of people then just by my lonesome self, so I need that too.

If you want to know what else is happening feel free to ask.  There’s probably more I could have put here but nothing else is really coming to mind right now.

Hello world!

•October 18, 2008 • 1 Comment

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