executors of God’s will: apprenticeship 1.1- nuance 5.0

Bloged in apprenticeship, nuance by rod Wednesday March 31, 2004

“What would Jesus have done?” Just another morph that the phrase takes in my head as I see the way folks respond to it and the application that is made. At any rate, it seems to ask one to rely on what we have learned about Jesus (often from second or third hand information and faulty interpretation), rather on Him. What do I know about Jesus that would shed light on how He would like me to behave in this situation? This is a huge contrast to allowing Him to be my teacher, to lead me in decision making in my day-to-day and allowing the Spirit to grant understanding to what I study.

Sometimes I feel as if in trying to follow the will of God, what we are actually doing is just executing His will. What would God have wanted us to do? Maybe we should say things like, “I’m sure Dad would have been very proud of you”, or, “This is what Dad would have wanted.” Sometimes we even say it like that – “we need to find what God would want us to do”. But most of the time, its more subtle and that makes it hard to talk about because its mainly of feeling that deals in the difference between going through the motions and actually praying for guidance that one truly believes he can and will receive. Is there such a thing as certainty, confidence in your walk with God? Can we receive feedback day to day and feel God’s pleasure as we follow Him and grow closer to Him? Or are we relegated to study, and the attempt to carry out the wishes He has left with us, rather than obey Him as He continues to walk with us?
I know this whole subtle difference has to do with belief and confidence and hope. It is one of the big differences we see between ourselves and other religions that seem to focus on appeasing God and the only sure salvation is martyrdom. Are we a people who can only surmise what God is about, or are we a people to whom the living God has revealed Himself through scripture, and the Word made flesh, and continues to reveal Himself and be found by those who seek Him through the Spirit Who teaches, comforts, encourages and gives us peace?

why do I love thee? nuance, part 4.1

Bloged in apprenticeship, nuance by rod Monday January 26, 2004

I think I’ve got a clearer grasp on what I’m trying to say here. Though its not easy, comparatively, it is easier to let Jesus love someone through me than to learn to love them myself.
Imagine me attempting to love someone to belief. (Already, I’ve used the kind of language that I’m questioning, argh.) It seems to me that there are three possible ways to see the scenario. All have to do with what appears to my friend to be important to me. Does the recipient of my love see its motivation in my caring for him, or in my dutiful obedience to God, despite whether I actually care for him myself, or my fear of the consequences of not doing as I’m told by a God in whom he does not yet believe? To the believer, these subtleties don’t seem to make a difference, but to the unbeliever, they mean whether or not his ears stay open and whether his heart ever opens.
These are manifest in real life by statements such as, “they just want to make everyone like themselves,” or, “they won’t get to heaven unless they bring people with them.” “God will punish me for not believing in him and God will punish them for not convincing me to believe.” If you take a look at “Christianitysucks.com” it is hard to decide whether to be more shocked at the jabs from non-believers, or the responses from Christians.
I think, in terms of evangelism, here is where Dave’s authenticity and vulnerability come in in a legitimate way. We are the one that is there with them at the moment. If they don’t feel authenticity in us, there is no way that they’ll find Jesus authentic.
Is there a difference between a burden that grows from our love for someone, and a love that grows from a burden? Seems if we love someone, our burden for his need of Jesus will be greater. If our relationship is born solely through our attempt at evangelism, we try to take on a burden that Jesus has for them, but we don’t understand.
Ok, so I don’t have a clearer grasp, but I’m going to keep trying until I do. So I don’t know, I’m just trying to get sift through verbiage and theology and call and figure out how to more purely be what I’m called to be. Sure could use your continued help.

how do I love thee? nuance, part 4

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, nuance by rod Monday January 26, 2004

Yesterday, while I was eating lunch, I could hear two guys next to me conversing over their bratwurst and sauerkraut. The conversation mostly consisted of church talk – what they’re doing, who’s coming – with some talk about what others’ churches are doing and who’s going. Thoughts went through my head as I eavesdropped. At first I was thinking about the fact that church is so often the topic. God, discipleship, spirituality, theology, faith, are so often mislaid because church is the task at hand. Why are we always talking about church? I’m not ripping on these guys. I’m sitting there having a similar conversation. Its just that there is where the thoughts started.
Take spirituality out of it for a minute. Can’t two Christians talk about a ballgame, concert, CD, movie, book? Can’t two people become friends and discover that they are both Christians and that they both like church? Now this is going to sound like heresy, but I’m pretty sure what I mean is not heresy. Can’t we be friends who care about each other apart from our commonality in Christ? Or am I not allowed to be friends with someone except for the sake of Christ? For whose sake does God love? Is it for His sake, or just He just love?
I’m just wondering because it seems that this prereq. is what gets in the way of a lot of long-term salvation inducing, unconditional friendships. I’m pretty sure that to be the Jesus-follower that Jesus wants me to be, I’ve got to love unbelievers regardless of whether they become believers. Jesus does. So might the hurdle blocking the way of deeper friendships among Christians be that we don’t feel that our friendship could exist outside of Christ. If one of us weren’t a believer, would we still love each other? Or are you just obeying Jesus by loving me? Can we not be friends and then rejoice that we both know Christ? What if I suddenly decide I’m going to take an amillenial position? If you have a problem with this, it’s no wonder we have a problem being true friends with unbelievers. Please tell me if I’m stepping over the line here, but is the only legitimate reason to love someone that Jesus loves them?
It is impossible for me to love someone that Jesus doesn’t love, they don’t exist. But is it possible to love someone not because Jesus does, but just because I do? If I want to show the love of Jesus, then I have to love like Jesus loves. Not just because someone else loves you, because I love you. Seems that then I’m behaving like Christ because I have learned from Him, been influenced by Him, not just because I’m following orders. Is there a place in the path of discipleship where obedience is no longer an issue? Where we behave like Christ because we’ve learned to behave from Him. When my children are grown, and they behave according to what I have taught them, is that an act of obedience or simply being as they have learned to be?
I could be way off here, but I’m not trying to make Jesus less important. I’m trying to make Him more important. The slate is yours. Help me out.

the integrity of integrity, nuance, part 3

Bloged in apprenticeship, nuance by rod Tuesday January 20, 2004

Honesty and integrity – two words that go hand in hand. They are often spoken just like they are found in that sentence. If you think long and hard about them, there are just nuances that separate them. They are so close in my mind that I assign the phrase as just another redundant Christianese thoughtless word pair. Honesty and integrity. Mercy and grace. Fellowship and community. Awesome and wonderful. Always and forever.
Lately though, I’ve been seeing a modeled difference in the meanings of these two words. I think I would define integrity differently than honesty. To me, integrity implies adherence to high moral or ethical standards. I guess if the words need to apply to the same scenario, then honesty would be the willingness to admit failure to adhere to these standards. But a serious lowering of the bar occurs when integrity is defined as the ability to admit the failure, rather than the standard that was breached.
When the word integrity is used in this way, one needn’t have any at all. All one needs is honesty. Do as you please, but always admit what you’ve done. Now the difference between these two words is much greater.
There is a serious moral danger in coming to the place in which one has a peace because they’ve got nothing to hide, but they’ve got nothing to hide because nothing causes them shame. A simple act of confession erases conscience. Sure God forgives the sins we confess when we repent, but if we confuse sin with a sin, what are we confessing? Will a confession of each act while we willingly live in sin get us any closer to holiness?
I think the problem boils down to a confusion of confession and repentance. Confession is the honesty part; repentance, the return of integrity by ceasing to do that which was confessed, and begin again to adhere to the standards that were broken.
Hold integrity up for what it is. Its something we want. If we are convinced that all we need to do to have it is admit our lack of it, then there is no goal, no standard, nothing to strive for. We develop an honest immorality and pat our selves on the back for it.

argh cont… nuance, part 2.1

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, nuance by rod Tuesday January 13, 2004

Maybe Chris already participated in tossing an answer to my question, before it was asked.

it’s not that labels like discipleship, spiritual growth, service, ministry, evangelism, etc.” are bad labels in themselves (though they do compartmentalize what should be whole), it’s just that Jesus seemed to measure life more in the round and less along a line.

If the Gospel is what makes me who I am, then it will manifest itself in every area of my life. The trick is not work so hard to make my heart obviously about what its supposed to be about, or to make my presentation perfectly fit the proven efficient communication format that has been prescribed in the evangelism literature. The trick is to allow the Gospel to shape everything about me so that it will be consistent when I make music, have conversation, ask and answer questions. It takes the whole of the scripture to begin to understand the Gospel. Shouldn’t it take the whole of our lives to represent it? I am not yet ready to try to create art that is compartmentalized as if I have to work so hard to include and clarify the Gospel in a specific instance. I am ready to work hard at allowing the Gospel to shape me so that I can’t be seen or heard without bearing witness. I want to go there.
Sure I can package a song that will meet the Christian lyric criteria and be tossed aside. Anybody could do that. Just model one that already exists. You don’t have to know or believe. But what about one that speaks from who you are? An effortless expression of Christ inside you. Religious people may not recognize Christ inside you unless you tell them He’s there. They didn’t recognize Him when He was walking around. He didn’t look like what they’d expected. We certainly expect Him to show up in peoples lives and expressions in perfectly prescribed criteria. My experience is that the people who don’t impose the criteria, still recognize Him.

christians, artists and art, argh, nuance, part 2

Bloged in apprenticeship, nuance by rod Monday January 12, 2004

I had a realization today. One of my continual rants deals with art watered down so as to be understood too easily, or music not being made art because it is afraid to speak in a poetic way that requires thought, pondering, grappling. My biggest justification of this conviction has been the art in Jesus’ parables. Jesus usually veiled the message to cause listeners to deal with it - to discover the depth of what He was saying. We, on the other hand, come up with myriad cutesy ways to paraphrase it so that it just becomes cliché. Many unbelievers immediately recognize the spiel and reject it out of hand. Many Christians think they know the meaning, so they’ve essentially ceased to recognize the depth, or the profundity. Anyway, you know my rant. I’ve pecked that field clean.
Today, I think I got some insight into that thought pattern. Perhaps it’s not only laziness that causes folks to react negatively to veiled, riddled, artist expressions.
On Wednesday, I participated in a telephone conversation with Harold Best about his book, Unceasing Worship. I hadn’t read the book yet, so I wasn’t following all the references, but his points were clear. In this conversation, he stated that having been trained artistically, he had always felt that he should confuse people with his art, and then clear it up later. He said that he’d changed his mind about that now. It seems that he’d justified his conviction just as I have, by noticing that that’s how Jesus did it. But now he feels that approach tends to elevate art to the level of the gospel. Art is not the Gospel. Since Wednesday, I’ve been thinking this through. And I still can’t quite get my mind around it. No, art is not the gospel – but why can’t art contain the gospel. The meanings of Jesus’ parables were sometimes hard to understand if it was understood that they had a meaning. The story itself could have just been a story. It seems to me that since the story is just a vehicle, there is nothing wrong with fashioning our vehicle as artistically as Jesus did. The story contains the Gospel. Shouldn’t we elevate the Gospel to the level of the Gospel? Isn’t the Gospel that we are sharing the same Gospel that Jesus gave us to share? I don’t understand how my modeling Jesus’ methods to tell His story is an example of me elevating my art to the level of the Gospel.
My rant has a part two. If my “art” is only a package for the dissemination of the message that could be spoken more clearly and with less distraction, is that an example of avoiding elevating art? Or is it merely using the Gospel as an excuse to create art. If I can say it more effectively without music, why would I use music? Again, I know I’m dealing with nuances of motivation here. But there is a difference. There is a difference between studying scripture and being moved to sing about it, and looking to the scripture for something to sing about. Is your song the motivation or is the scripture? An artist is compelled to “speak”. He speaks of what is inside him. If he has the greatest message of all inside him, why should he package it in mediocrity?
Help me out here. I’m not claiming to have the final answer, I’m just trying to figure it out.

status quo? nuance, part 1

Bloged in apprenticeship, nuance by rod Sunday January 11, 2004

Well, I’m not sure how to lead the way here. But I’ll start back at your comment, and toss out some stream of consciousness and see what we can imagine midst the cyber wisps.
What are we talking about when we say, “the Christian Status Quo?”
Are we talking about spiritual complacency? Notre Dame iugis immaturitas? People-centered, self-help, application based, consumerism, insular subculture? Or METHODOLOGY? Well, I seem to have jumped the gun. I’ve already begun to evaluate rather than just ask what areas are we evaluating to determine the status quo.
I’ll try again: Are we evaluating effectiveness in discipleship, spiritual growth, service, ministry, evangelism, etc.? Or are we simply noting the boring way they are currently being done? Again, I realize the subtlety of these differences. But though the line may be thin, it seems inordinately deep. On the one hand, we can see ineffectiveness and conclude that methods aren’t working. Here, methodology needs to be evaluated. On the other hand, we can see methods that don’t appeal to us, and react to them without regard to their purpose or effectiveness. The latter runs the risk of resulting in fresh ineffective methods and procedures because the method becomes the purpose. Doing it differently is why we are doing it. This is empty. The procedure IS the objectivity. I think this is what Charles Swindol meant when he said, “tradition is the living faith of dead Christians and traditionalism is the dead faith of living Christians”.
I fear that because we seem most perplexed by the modern evangelical’s inability to separate methodology from theology, modernism from Christianity, that is one of the areas where we seem to focus our reaction. Therefore, we, in our fresh methodology can get hung up on our methodology just as those to whom we’ve reacted. We focus on how we are doing it differently than they are. We are pleased. Meanwhile, we have the same spiritual weaknesses, the same atrophied limbs of the body as was caused by the old ways.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Obviously (to us) the methods are drying up and are often based on shallow theology. How can we be different in how we understand it, rather than just how we do it? Can it be clear that how we do it, is based on our desire to know, understand and seek more deeply?
What the heck am I trying to say?

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