Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Commands of Jesus 3

In speaking of the commands of Jesus, the temptation for many (me included) is to try to remember to obey as many of the commands as possible so that we can live an obedient life. The problem with that is that we begin to measure our salvation and our effectiveness and our status in the Kingdom by how well we do at keeping the commands. We begin to live a performance based life trying to earn the favour of God. We think "If I can only stop doing these things and start doing those things I will be in a better place with God. By doing that we only replace one set of rules for another.

The whole point about obedience is not obeying a set of rules but listening to and obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Even Jesus lived this way. He said He did nothing but what He saw His Father doing. The commands function as a mirror reflection who we are and what we are like. They are signposts pointing us in the right direction. They are not the path or the destination. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the path and the destination. The real goal is to be found as sons and daughters who delight in the Father and Who delights in them.

A guy named Robert Ricciardelliw wrote this little piece on "Our Identity As Sons" that I came across a few months ago and found again a couple of days ago. It is a nice compliment to the commands of Jesus.

"Our Identity As Sons"
Much of the body of Christ is caught up in an identity crisis. A worldview of God, absent of the full revelation of who we are. Without the full revelation of who we are, we live our lives as spiritual orphans, rather then manifesting the presence of God in our lives. Do we see God as a loving and just Father, or do we see Him as only a master of an earthly orphanage, ready to crack the whip when we mess up? A loving and just Father will discipline us, because of His love and tremendous plans for us. A true son knows that they are dependent on the Lord, and goes throughout the day acknowledging need and direction from their Heavenly Father. Those that have an orphaned mentality, rely on their own ways and only seem to turn to Him when condemnation overwhelms them.

Living By the Love of Law

Living by loving the law as a foundation of theology, produces orphans. By following the rules, they strive for praise, approval, and the acceptance of man, which breeds insecurity and lack of peace. An orphan will have a selfish desire for personal achievement as they seek to impress God and others. Many times they will have no motivation at all to live a life of service in His Kingdom. 

Orphans feel that they must be holy in order to earn God's love and acceptance, which mostly produces feelings of shame and guilt. Their self-image is in their own value, and perceived comparisons with others. This is the foundation that the enemy uses to birth false comforts. They will often find comfort in addictions, counterfeit affections, compulsions, escapism, business, and the tremendously popular "hyper-religious activities". 

Living By the Law of Love

A son will live a word-principled life, while loving God and loving those around them. They find great joy and peace in the approval of their Heavenly Father. They are secure in God's love and justified by grace. Sons will live a life of service, that is motivated by a deep love and gratitude for being unconditionally loved and accepted by their Heavenly Father. They desire to be holy and do not want anything to hinder their intimate relationship with God.

A son feels loved and affirmed, because they know they are of tremendous value to their Father. Not because of what they do, but because of who they are in Him. Their desire for obedience in a word-principled lifestyle, is out of pleasure and delight in their Savior, rather then a sense of duty or trying to earn God's favor.

A son finds comfort in knowing the Father--being known and loved by Him and resting in His presence and love. They will seek out intimate moments and a time of divine downloads from the Father, so that all activity is God-ordained and all steps are ordered by Him. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jesus Goes to Church

I know I should just post a link to an article that I like but this one I liked so much I decided to copy the whole thing here. This comes via a link from the post I did on "My Imaginary Friend" and the "atheist" posts about "Jim and Casper Go to Church" and the Drew Marshall church visits. This is a spoof of the Jim and Casper book and I thought it was hilarious. It is found on the Jesus Manifesto blog. Enjoy!

Book Review: Tim & Jesus Go to Church
Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : March 25, 2008

The book would make for a great sitcom: a pastor roadtrip across the United States, critiquing several churches along the way. Henderson believes that evangelism requires listening to “the good, the bad and the ugly about Christianity in order to be a better minister.” So he invited Jesus, the Son of God and supposed “founder” of Christianity, to observe how modern American Christians are doing with the movement he started. Their travels took them to an urban outreach church, an Emergent church, a new monastic community, a liberal mainline church, and to an evangelical megachurch.

In the book, Tim and Jesus discuss everything from preaching to music to location. Every step of the way, Jesus asks, “Why do these churches have such different ideas on what it means to follow me?” As a reader, I was drawn into the dialog and experiences. In a way, the book offers very few easy answers. But it does show that while each of the churches has an honest approach to following the way of Jesus (except maybe one Church), each community can learn much more from the way of the master. Because the book revolves around the five communities that Tim and Jesus visit, I thought it to be appropriate to share the highlights of their experiences of each. In particular, Jesus has a lot to say:

City Light International Street Mission
Tim and Jesus fist visit City Light International Street Mission, a small urban Pentecostal community in Nashville. The book is generous in their description. You could tell that both Jesus and Tim were weirded-out by the raw emotionalism and “pentecostal bells and whistles” of the worship service. But they were soft in their criticisms.
At one point in this section of the book, Tim states: “You could tell that the Mission doesn’t have the funding to reach out to these folks…but they do it anyways…that is commendable.” (22)
Jesus affirmed their heart for the poor: “When they serve these friends of mine, it is like they are serving me.” (22)
But their experience wasn’t entirely positive. At one point during the very loud and frenzied worship service, the pastor started prophesying that a “new move of the Spirit” would visit the church and spark a new revival for the healing of the nations. At the end of the prophecy, Jesus stood up and said: “I have already told you. The Kingdom of God is among you. Stop looking for signs and wonders, and follow the gentle leading of my Spirit.” Afterwards, Jesus got rebuked…and one elder attempted to “deliver” Jesus from a “spirit of rebellion.” (45-47)

The Livingroom
Next, Tim and Jesus visited The Livingroom, an Emergent-style church in Chicago. Tim thoroughly enjoyed himself, but Jesus fell asleep during the music portion of the gathering. He said: “It was so atmospheric. What is it with urban hipsters and their mellow music? At least the music at City Light was joyous…and City Light even had a song of lament.” (68)
During their visit, the pastor gave a sermon about social justice…and how the Gospel was more about what you do than what you say…and that what you say isn’t really that important if you show love. Afterwards, Tim and Jesus got into a deep conversation about whether or not they agreed. Tim tended to agree with the statement, but Jesus disagreed: “I was sitting there listening to this pastor tell his flock how I wasn’t very interested in preaching and proclaiming the Gospel. That upset me. Can’t he read? Doesn’t he notice how much RED there is in the Gospels?”

Humility House
Humility House is one of a growing number of “new monastic” communities. Located in a poor part of Denver, Humility House practices hospitality, care for the poor, and engages in the occasional protest. There community is made up of about 12 members–8 of them living in the house.
Tim felt that the community was warm and inviting, but didn’t “get” what it was they were hoping to accomplish: “I affirm their community and that they help a few people out from time to time, but this isn’t the sort of model that most Christians can follow. And it could put off a lot of seekers.”
Jesus disagreed: “These are my kind of hippies. These sorts of radicals really connect with an important part of my message. But they never seem to stick around for very long. How many of my brothers and sister hippies are still going strong from the movement they named after me in the 70s and 80s?” Later on, Jesus writes: “I wish they wouldn’t always be so dang serious. There is a time for simplicity. But there is also a time for drink and song.”

Trinity United Methodist Church
Tim and Jesus connected with the mainline church the least. This was the shortest section of the book. They visited Trinity United Methodist Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Tim felt bored the whole time. Jesus tried to mingle with folks in the foyer after the service, but no one seemed to be interested in him…just the idea of him.

Lakewater Community Church
Finally, Jesus and Tim visited Lakewater Community Church in Dallas, Texas. Lakewater has 30,000 members and proclaims a soft-message of prosperity and hope. Tim had lots to stay about the techniques this church used to draw in lots of seekers. But Jesus didn’t like his visit much. He writes that “the leaders of this church reminded me of the folks who crucified me.”
After the service, Jesus was able to make an appointment with the pastor. But the meeting was cut short. The pastor didn’t believe that Jesus was the REAL Jesus. After all, this Jesus was much too shabbily dressed to be the REAL Jesus. On his way out, Jesus shook out his sandals on the step as he and Tim made their way back to California.

Closing Thoughts
The book was pretty well written, though I could tell from Jesus’ sections that he hadn’t written a book before. His insights were the most insightful, but I found I could relate with Tim’s perspective more easily. Clearly, the two men had their favorite communities, and a couple that they didn’t like. But there are so many communities out there that you can’t really get a sense of what sort of church either would say is the “ideal church.” But I suppose that is the point. We’re not supposed to be discontent with out communities as we strive for the ideal. Instead, we are called to be as faithful to Jesus as we can in the sorts of communities that we find ourselves in.
This was a work of satire. No such book exists. And while Jesus doesn’t take road-trips to visit churches, I would like to assume that he is present, in some way, at all sorts of Churches. Are we listening to what he has to say?

The Commands of Jesus 2

Here it is - my list.

The fifty commands of Jesus
1. Don’t call Jesus Lord when you don’t obey Him. Lk 6:46, Mt 7:21 Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?
2. Build on the rock of obedience to Jesus otherwise you will fall. Mt 7:24-27, Lk 6:47-49. "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
3. Worship God alone. Mt 4:10b, Lk 4:8.
 8Jesus answered, It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.
4. Follow Jesus. Mt 4:19, 11:28-30, Mk 1:17, Jn 1:43,12:26, 10:27, 21:22b Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men.
5. Be salt and light to this world. Mt 5:13-16 Mk 9:50, Lk 11:33, 14:34. Jn 3:21.

6. Don’t call your brother a fool. Mt 5:22, 12:36.

7. Practice instant reconciliation. Mt 5:24-25. 
 Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.
8. Do not look with lust at another this is adultery in the heart. Mt 5:27-28.

9. Obey my commandments - John 14:15,21,23 II John 6. Teach disciples to obey these commands - Matthew 28:20
10. Don’t swear an oath. Mt 5:33-37.

11. Do more than expected, go the 2nd mile. Mt 5:38-41.

12. Give to those that ask. Mt 5:42, Lk 6:30, 38.

13. Love, bless and pray for your enemies. Mt 5:43-48, Lk 6:27-29.

14. Quietly do good for God’s praise alone. Mt 6:1-4. When you pray, fast or give do it secretly. Mt 6:5-6.

15. Don’t use vain repetitions when praying. Mt 6:7-8, Mk 12:40.

16. Seek my kingdom - Lk 12:31
17. Pray to God the Father. Mt 6:9, Jn 16:23-24.

18. Don’t be anxious or afraid. Mt 6:25-32, Lk 12:22-30, Jn14:1, 16:33.

19. Store your riches in heaven not on earth. Mt 6:19-21, 33, Lk 12:21, 31-34, Jn 12:25.

20. Judge not that you may not be judged. Mt 7:1-5, Lk 6:37, 41-42, Jn 7:24.

21. Keep asking, seeking and knocking. Mt 6:9-11, 7:7-11, Lk 11:9-13.

22. Treat others as you like to be treated. Mt 7:12, Lk 6:31.

23. Don’t waste time on argumentative people. Mt 7:6.
 Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.
24. Forgive others. Mt 6:12, 14-15, 18:21, Mk 11:25-26, Lk 11:9-13.

25. You must be born again- John 3:3, Luke 18:17, Mark 10:15 receive the kingdom of God like a little child
26. Don’t fear people-fear God. Mt 10:28, 16:23, Lk 12:4-5.

27. Confess Christ before men. Mt 10:32-33, Mk 5:19, 8:38, Lk 9:26, 12:8-9.

28. Take up your cross. Mt 10:38-39, 16:24-26, Mk 8:34-37, Lk 9:23-26, 14:26-33.

29. Beware of hypocrisy and greed. Mt 15:6-9, 23:28, Lk 6:41-42, 12:1b, 20:46-47.

30. Privately rebuke a brother and if he repents forgive him. Mt 18:15, Lk 17:3-4

31. Pay your taxes and give to God what is his. Mt 22:21, Mk 12:17, Lk 20:25, 21:4.

32. Love God and others - Walk in love - II John 6. Mt 22:37-40, Mk 12:30-31, Lk 10:27, Jn 15:12, 13:34-35.

33. Keep alert, be ready and watch for the coming of the Lord. Mt 24:44,46, 50-51, Mk 14:62, Lk 12:35-40, 21:27-28.

34. Honour God with all that you have been given. Mt 25:14-31, Lk 18:18.

35. Minister to others as you would to Jesus Himself. Mt 25:34-46.
36. Go into all the world and make disciples and preach good news Preach the Gospel and teach obedience. Mt 28:19, 20, Mk 16:15, Lk 9:60b, Jn 21:15b, 16b, 17b.

37. Repent of your sins. Mk 1:15, Lk 13:3,5, Lk 15:7,10, 18-24.

38. Believe in Jesus Mk 16:16, Lk 9:35, Jn 12:36, 6:29, 20:29, 14:6.
Mk 10:15, Lk 18:17, Mt 9:29.

39. Don’t cause little ones to sin Mark 9:42-47
40. Rejoice when you are persecuted. Lk 6:22-23.

41. Don’t stop others from preaching or doing miracles Mark 9:38-40
42. Sell all that you own – Luke 12:33 – give to the poor Luke 11:41, 18:22
43. Act with compassion and not prejudice towards others. Lk 10:30-37.

44. Invite the poor to eat with you. Lk 14:13-14.

45. Humble yourself & take the lowest position Lk 14:8-11, 18:13-14, Mt 23:12, 19:30.

46. Be baptised Mt 29:19, Mk 16:16

47. Live in Me and live in My love. Jn 8:31-32, Jn 15:4, 9

48. Don’t covet your bother’s blessing Lk 12:13-15, 15:29-30

49. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Mt 5:48, Jn 15:14
50. When you have done all these things, say, we have only done that which was our duty to do - Luke 17:10

The Commands of Jesus 1

I was looking at what it meant to be "missional" and found this list of missional qualities or identifiers. I don't remember where I found it - otherwise I would give you a link for it. but here is the list. (EDIT: It's from the introduction to Dan Kimball's book "They Like Jesus But Not The Church").

1. Being missional means that the church sees itself as being missionaries, rather than having a missions department, and that we see ourselves as missionaries right where we live.
2. Being missional means that we see ourselves as representatives of Jesus “sent” into our communities, and that the church aligns everything it does with the missio dei (mission of God).
3. Being missional means we see the church not as a place we go only on Sunday, but as something we are throughout the week.
4. Being missional means that we understand we don’t merely “bring Jesus” to people but that we realize Jesus is active in culture and we join him in what he is doing.
5. Being missional means we are very much in the world and engaged in culture but are not conforming to the world.
6. Being missional means we serve our communities, and that we build relationships with the people in them, rather than seeing them as evangelistic targets.
7. Being missional means being all the more dependent on Jesus and the Spirit through prayer, the Scriptures, and each other in community.

I went to the Bible to find some Scriptural basis for some of these things and turned to the Great Commission found in Matthew 28.
16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

What jumped out at me was that the commission didn't just tell us to go and didn't just tell us to make disciples baptizing them. It also tells us to teach them to obey the commands of Jesus. Obey the commands? What are the commands of Jesus? I suppose I could list a few. Love God, love your neighbour, believe, be born again and go into all the world and help the poor. That just about dried me up. So I went googling for more. I searched for "commands of Jesus" and a whole list of sites popped up. Some link to websites for communities who have committed themselves to living a life where they obey all the commands of Jesus. (In my mind they took a few liberties in interpretation.)

But what I did find was a whole list of commands that Jesus gave in the New Testament. This is Jesus - full of grace and mercy and love - giving commands. So I looked at them and put together my own list of 50. But that's in the next post.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Artist's Commentary

My son Jared finds some interesting art online. I thought I'd share a couple of images with you. They are by a guy named Banskey. Very interesting social commentary. The first one is called
"God Getting Busted."

The next one is called "Feed the World."

The last one is just called "Media."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hospitality 3

Hospitality has been a significant theme for me - even though I don't think I practice it very well at times. I've blogged about it before (here). I really do feel that it is one of the missing dimensions to true church and the lack of it in our society harms us. Brian Brisko at Missional Church Network blogs a number of posts on hospitality. I've quoted a few lines here.

“We always treat guests as angels — just in case.” – Brother Jeremiah

“Hospitality begins at the gate, in the doorway, on the bridges between public and private space. Finding and creating threshold places is important for contemporary expressions of hospitality.” – Christine D. Pohl

“If there is room in the heart, there is room in the house.” – Danish Proverb

“If you have a hospitable disposition, you own the entire treasure chest of hospitality, even if you possess only a single coin. But if you are a hater of humanity and a hater of strangers, even if you are vested with every material possession, the house for you is cramped by the presence of guests.” — Chrysostom

“Fear is a thief. It will steal our peace of mind and that’s a lot to lose. But it also hijacks relationships, keeping us sealed up in our plastic world with a fragile sense of security. Being a people who fear the stranger, we have drained the life juices out of hospitality. The hospitality we explore here is not the same kind you will learn about from Martha Stewart. Benedictine hospitality is not about sipping tea and making bland talk with people who live next door or work with you. Hospitality is a lively, courageous, and convivial way of living that challenges our compulsion either to turn away or to turn inward and disconnect ourselves from others.” – Homan and Pratt in Radical Hospitality

Hospitality should be understood as a way of life rather than as a task or strategy. It is easy to slip into viewing hospitality as a strategy for reaching migrants and refugees, or for that matter, for reaching postmodern youth or homeless people. But such an approach misunderstands the basic orientation of hospitality. Hospitality is not a means to an end; it is a way of life infused by the gospel. – Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine D. Pohl

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Intention and Kavanah

Our lives are so full. Our world is so busy. We move so fast and so hard and so long. We have become pulled in so many directions – I believe mostly because of the media – that is the prevalence of media messages bombarding us every day: commercialism (buy this, get those, go there, drive that); environmentalism (recycle, go green, reduce your carbon footprint, the polar ice caps are melting); health (cancer, cell phone towers, bottled water); and lions and tigers and bears, Oh my! We are so fragmented that our core suffers. Our core is that place of true identity inside that defines who we are and where we are going. It provides meaning and purpose. It is the place our life story resides – our metanarative – the story that makes sense of all the little parts of our lives and lines up all the diverse, going-every-which-way segments into a meaningful direction.

This core, facing the bombardment of dailyness, gets chipped away and shrivels smaller and smaller until we have to hide it away just to protect it from the demands of the world. The result is that we become not a person but a collection of scattered and fragmented pieces loosely held together by our physical life (our body – i.e. where we are and what we do) instead of held together by the core of who we are – held together by our story. So church (or more importantly our lives lived out of worship) becomes one more fragment to piece together with the rest of our lives.

That’s how I’ve been feeling – fragmented. What is my “core?” That space from which I live my life? It used to be clearer – it is always much clearer when I’m working on a new plan but it gets more and more fuzzy the longer I live in that space. It needs to be continually reinvented and renewed. This core to me is a combination of soul and spirit. The spirit is that which is in connection with God, that is reborn when we truly encounter and surrender to the risen Christ. It is eternal. But our soul is that which processes all that we live in and through here on earth. It is the soul (mind, emotions and will) that needs renewal and regeneration. It is the soul where we must renew the mind and submit our will to God and express our desires or reign in our emotions.

It is somewhere in there that we get fragmented. Our desires become thin and fleeting. Our thinking becomes shallow and overly affected by sound bytes and political correctness. Our will bends to the whims of the spirit of the age.

That’s where kavanah comes in. In the Jewish tradition, intention, kavanah, is an essential part of meaningful action. The term kavanah comes from the Hebrew root meaning to direct, intend, focus. The rabbis were very clear that living a meaningful life involves combining both the actions we do and the intention we bring to those actions. For example, the rabbis stressed that prayer was not just about the act of reading or saying the words of a prayer. If you did not pray with kavanah, actively thinking about the words you were saying, you have not fulfilled your obligation to pray. It describes the centering that happens when we are able to line up all the little pieces of our into that purpose of God. That is living in the moment, being single minded, identifying with Paul who said:

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13b-14

A quote from Martin Buber comments sums it up, "He who does a good deed with complete kavanah, that is, completes an act in such a way that his whole existence is gathered in it and directed in it towards God, he works on the redemption of the world, on its conquest for God.
quoted from the Shaping of Things to Come.

I suppose this also applies to a community. It would also be more effective if an entire worshipping community can gather itself up to advance the Kingdom and do good deeds with Kavanah – that is completing an act in such a way that all of its identity is gathered together towards the same direction and towards God. It would be most effective if all of its life was concentrated in one direction and fundamentally in the direction of honouring God. Doing that with the diverse types of people you have in a congregation would be a significant challenge - and is the fodder for another post.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Death by Blogging

Here is a great reason why I don't blog as much anymore - it's bad for your health.

This story talks about how difficult it is to be a blogger who actually stays on top of all the stories and topics he (or rarely she) is interested in. A few quotes:

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it.

Blogging has been lucrative for some, but those on the lower rungs of the business can earn as little as $10 a post, and in some cases are paid on a sliding bonus scale that rewards success with a demand for even more work.

There are growing legions of online chroniclers, reporting on and reflecting about sports, politics, business, celebrities and every other conceivable niche.

One of the most competitive categories is blogs about technology developments and news. They are in a vicious 24-hour competition to break company news, reveal new products and expose corporate gaffes.

To the victor go the ego points, and, potentially, the advertising. Bloggers for such sites are often paid for each post, though some are paid based on how many people read their material. They build that audience through scoops or volume or both.

Speed can be of the essence. If a blogger is beaten by a millisecond, someone else’s post on the subject will bring in the audience, the links and the bigger share of the ad revenue.

“There’s no time ever — including when you’re sleeping — when you’re not worried about missing a story,” Mr. Arrington said.

All that competition puts a premium on staying awake. Matt Buchanan, 22, is the right man for the job. He works for clicks for Gizmodo, a popular Gawker Media site that publishes news about gadgets. Mr. Buchanan lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn, where his bedroom doubles as his office.

He says he sleeps about five hours a night and often does not have time to eat proper meals. But he does stay fueled — by regularly consuming a protein supplement mixed into coffee.

“The fact I have a few thousand people a day reading what I write — that’s kind of cool,” he said. And, yes, it is exhausting. Sometimes, he said, “I just want to lie down.” Sometimes he does rest, inadvertently, falling asleep at the computer.

“If I don’t hear from him, I’ll think: Matt’s passed out again,” said Brian Lam, the editor of Gizmodo. “It’s happened four or five times.” Mr. Lam, who as a manager has a substantially larger income, works even harder. He is known to pull all-nighters at his own home office in San Francisco — hours spent trying to keep his site organized and competitive. He said he was well equipped for the torture; he used to be a Thai-style boxer.

“I’ve got a background getting punched in the face,” he said. “That’s why I’m good at this job.”

Mr. Lam said he has worried his blogging staff might be burning out, and he urges them to take breaks, even vacations. But he said they face tremendous pressure — external, internal and financial. He said the evolution of the “pay-per-click” economy has put the emphasis on reader traffic and financial return, not journalism.

A Great Song

I've been helping my daughter record some of her songs. Here's a video of her latest song recorded at Harvest Community Church in Brampton. It's called Oxygen. Listen right to the end. It is powerful. This time I don't think it's just a proud father talking. It really is good.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

On the Evils of Institutions

Here is another quote from The Shack - with my comments at the end.

Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. (As a result) you rarely see or experience relationship apart from (that) power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that God intended for you.

When you choose independence over relationship, you become a danger to each other. Others become objects to be manipulated or managed for your own happiness. Authority, as you usually think of it, is merely the excuse the strong use to make other conform to what they want.

God carefully respects your choices, so he works within your systems even while he seeks to free you from them. Creation has been taken down a very different path than He desired. In your world the value of the individual is constantly weight against the survival of the system, whether political, economic, social or religious – any system actually. First one person, and then a few, and finally even many are easily sacrificed for the good and ongoing existence of that system. In one form or another this lies behind every struggle for power, every prejudice, every war, and every abuse of relationship. The will to power and independence has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal
. P 122-124

My comments:
For a number of years I have felt that institutions can be very evil and are actually prone to evil unless there is a very wise and able leader guiding that institution. The way he (or she) is able to guide it is by making it more like a family than a corporation, an organism instead of an organization.

I've experienced organizational evils over an over again. In one organization I worked for (a good organization doing good things) the larger it grew the greater the need for rules and policies and procedures. By definition a large organization needs systems and structures to make it work. However as it grows larger, people tend to turn into positions, rules begin replacing relationship, and supervision is used instead of discipleship. Instead of walking alongside someone as they grew in the organization, they were given a book containing all the policies and procedures. The staff manual became huge - hundreds of pages. Every contingency had to be foreseen; every scenario imagined.

This will only happen to a greater degree as the church culture differentiates itself more and more from society. As a Christian organization tries to hire Christian staff a filtering process happens that must judge the character and behaviour of those being hired. There is a code of conduct and a statement of belief that needed to be reaffirmed every year. The code of conduct was (and maybe all codes of conduct are) designed to protect the organization so it could kick you out if you did something contrary to the code. The organization became king and couldn't allow someone to be part of it who had a questionable lifestyle. "What would it say about us if we allowed people like that to work for us?" So when someone was kicked out it usually meant the end of the relationship. The funny thing is that the people who were kicked out usually got a big fat severance package. The people who left well - after 5 or 10 or 15 years of faithful service - got a party and a gift certificate.

The alternative? I don't know really. Lots of family sized groups maybe. It could be that the world system has so ensnared us that we can't even imagine how it might work differently. The move away from relationship to large organizations, to anonymity in society means that people need to be controlled by something other than relationship. Identity theft, cheque forging, welfare fraud, spam emails, etc., are all symptoms of the lack of relationship and the rapid growth of cities and systems. I think some people would think that a good solution to all these issues would be to tattoo an individual code on your forehead or imbed all your personal information on chip inserted under the skin on your right hand.

But maybe I'm just being paranoid.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

On The Law

I just finished reading a book called "The Shack" by William Young. There is a website and a blog by the author. (If you go to the blog read this story.) Anyway it was an excellent story about one man's relationship with God and really brings out the key elements of the workings of the Trinity. It has a number of real gems of wisdom and insight and I thought I'd post a couple of them here (without giving away the plot or anything).

Yes I did cry while reading it and yes I do recommend it - heartily.

On The Law
Why do you think We (God) came up with the Ten Commandments?
Actually We wanted you to give up trying to be righteous on your own. It was a mirror to reveal just how filthy your face gets when you live independently.
But there are many who think they are made righteous by following the rules.
But can you clean your face with the same mirror that shows you how dirty your are? There is no mercy or grace in rules, not even for one mistake. That’s why Jesus fulfilled all of it for you – so that it no longer has jurisdiction over you. And the Law that once contained impossible demands – Thou Shall Not … - actually becomes a promise God fulfills in you. But keep in mind that if you live your life alone and independently, the promise is empty. Jesus laid the demand of the Law to rest; it no longer has any power to accuse or command. Jesus is both the promise and the fulfillment.

Trying to keep the Law is actually a declaration of independence (from God), a way of keeping control. It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation is a vain attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, God has a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse.

Are responsibility and expectation just another form of rules we are no longer under?

Religion must use Law to empower itself and control the people who they need in order to survive. I (God) give you an ability to respond and your response is to be free to love and serve in every situation, and therefore each moment is different and unique and wonderful. Because I am your ability to respond, I have to be present in you. If I simply gave you a responsibility, I would not have to be with you at all. It would now be a task to perform, an obligation to be met, something to fail.

For example: friendships. There is an expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that ‘expectancy’ to an ‘expectation’ – spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, Law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and me, but about what friends are supposed to do, or the responsibilities of a good friend.

Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment and they provide the essential framework that promotes performance as the basis for identity and value. You know well what it is like not to live up to someone’s expectations. P. 202-206 The Shack