a step in some direction, maybe

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As you may or may not know I wrote a book this past year. On the Holy Spirit in the Church, with special reference to the Emerging Church movement.

Basically, it’s a theology book on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church framed as a conversation between a pastor and a journalist. Scripture is specifically used all throughout, with other references not being as particularly noted. They are underlying the whole work, but I’m not sure many people are interested in a lot of notes like “See also Welker, 184ff”. The influences are implicit rather than explicit, except for Scripture.

I wrote the book and have in the meantime asked a few people to look over it, to help me sharpen what I did. Now that Fall is here I’m thinking it is a good time to take another step, so this week I’m going to start shopping the manuscript around.

I’ve already started a new project, on sin, but this first one still holds a special place for me. I’m hoping it gets picked up somewhere. I could see this as a continuing field of study for me, both in practice and writing, so wouldn’t mind the encouragement in that direction.

All to say, if you are so inclined, prayers in regards to all of this are much appreciated.

Fifty years

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Take a break. Spend a moment reviewing the last fifty years of Evangelicalism written by one of the premier historians of the subject.

Reminds me how thoroughly Evangelical I am, not just in beliefs but more so in family and personal history.

another little bit

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There is a lot of hope in sin. Yes, we know all the condemnations and the denunciations. We know the lists of rules and how to break each one of them. We know sin is wrong and we know people will likely frown if we pursue it.

Yet, even with all of that there is a hope hiding underneath the muck and mire. It is not necessarily a hope borne out of conscious thought. Instead it is a hope which comes from our deepest yearnings and our deepest fears and all the deepest parts of our selves. We hope for a valued community of friends who we can depend on. We hope for security, so that when the day of trouble comes we will be alright. We hope for fulfillment, knowing deep in our souls we are doing something that matters. We hope for acknowledgement, desperate for someone to tell us what we need to hear; tell us that we exist for a reason and a purpose.

Eve was not told to eat the fruit because it was open rebellion. She took the fruit because it offered something she wanted. It offered knowledge and the promise of fullness. It offered a quick way to a deep longing. Eating that forbidden fruit was an expression of hope, an altogether unacceptable expression to be sure, but one borne out of quite acceptable longings.

So it continues. We all eat the fruit, yearning for knowledge. Open rebellion is quite rare really. Very few believe in God so strongly and so spitefully they will do things merely to reject him. Like Adam and Eve, people sin because they want, and they want without having an understanding of their wants, so end up wanting and doing wrongly.

We realize this and we realize there are ways to move forward and ways to move backwards, generally feeling bad about the latter even if we don’t embrace the former. We stumble and fall and enter into the darkness because even if it does not get us anywhere it is something. It is an expression and an attempt to at least, for a moment, mollify those deepest yearnings.

So, people make lists. To guard against moving in unacceptable ways they write those ways down and become hall monitors of themselves and society.

By creating the lists of what not to do and what not to do we have made a law, but this law is a persistence in shallow awareness. It is bulky. It is unyielding. It is unreflective of what God has been about all this time.

The problem is we do not read ourselves all that well. We look on the surface and make judgments. This is what courts have always done, and that is the model we follow. Indeed, we make God into the ultimate judge, perceiving the Last Day as an almost endless court session, each of us in line, each of us practicing our defense until we get to the front and are rendered speechless by the recitation of our despicable crimes. Humbled by our failings we plead for our just punishment. Only for those who have accepted his favor, Jesus lifts us to our feet and brings us into paradise. The others have their bail revoked and are taken into custody. Justly so. But for the grace of God there we all go.

It would be flirting with heresy to say this picture is entirely wrong. There’s a reason we have this image in our heads and it does illustrate a particular quality of our eternal reality.

However, if this is it, if this is all we think of when we think of God’s call in our lives, we are also flirting with heresy. God is the great judge. But he’s also someone more. He’s a lot more, and by limiting him to a single, harsh role we have neglected his broadness and majesty. We have created a picture of God from a single jigsaw piece. Yes, it’s a part, but the whole is so much more. Avoiding moving backwards is nothing. The only thing that really matters is moving forward. That’s why attention to the law can become such a persistent evil in itself, something the Pharisees found out when they were curiously bombarded by Jesus.

God is calling us, calling you, calling me, not towards judgment but towards fulfillment. He did not create so that he could exercise his power and will. He certainly did not create so that others could find fulfillment as hall monitors. He created out of an expression of love, a love so potent it is willing to endure slights and insults in order to pursue what is his goal in this world. God does judge, but God is the God of restoration.

It is in this restoration we see hope.

Faith on Television

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I was thinking earlier today what the most Christian/religious show on television is these days. This is a tricky question really because I’m not asking which is the most religious themed. There are whole channels of men in sharp suits and women with big hair who dance and prance and preach while waving a heavy leather bound book around.

As there’s no suggestion Jesus ever did such a thing like this I don’t really call this Christian, even if it’s religious and culturally attached to a historic faith. Jesus when he had a crowd passed the basket, and everyone got some fish and some bread from the activity.

No, I’m wondering what show which doesn’t term itself as religious really has the most religious themes. Nowadays I ask this without really having a good grasp on the entertainment landscape. I’m afraid I haven’t seen a single episode of most of what makes it into the top ten.

But a guy can wonder, can’t he? And I do wonder. I wonder partly because in years past I may have said Angel was the most religious and had the most faith filled themes. It wasn’t Christian by any means, but there were times in which quite pointed Christian messages were just underneath the surface of the dialogue. It was a show about redemption after all.

Not too long ago, for far shorter than any manner of decent thinking should allow, Firefly would have made the list. It wasn’t a Christian show directly, but I dare say I don’t remember any other show that had a Christian pastor as a main character who actually wrestled with issues of morality and faith. I also don’t remember ever seeing a sci-fi show that had religion as a continuing way of life. Speaking of which Sci-Fi really needs to pick that show up again. For the sake of the children.

Now, I don’t know. My Name is Earl deals with karma, which is a religous concept of a certain kind, and it definitely has a rather strong morality to it that reminds me a lot less of any other recent sitcom and a lot more of what made the original Twilight Zone so captivating.

Well, I have a suggestion. Maybe it’s Dog the Bounty Hunter. Which is really a curious thing to me, as a quick glance at the show would suggest quite otherwise. A quick glance is what I got at first, popping over during commercial breaks of Dirty Jobs. Then the popping over lasted longer as I became intrigued not only by their work but by their personalities and by, yes, their rather deep faith in God.

Only what other show has a scene whether a whole family gathers in a circle, holds hands, and prays a lovely prayer in Jesus’ name? And it’s not just that. Their faith permeates the whole show, even if the permeating is expressed quite a bit differently than anything that happens in my life. I don’t live in Hawaii after all.

I was reminded of this in a quick trip around the channels this evening and happening to catch the wife of Dog the Bounty Hunter talking. She said, “We’re a little bit unusual family. Where else do you see a mother and a father and their children going out together to catch really bad guys… for the Lord?”

Indeed. Does this count for the “did you visit me in prison” clause? Seeing them interact with the folks they catch makes me think it quite does. Though, truth be told, their living faith is likely rather a scandal to the Baptists and foolishness to the Presbyterians.

In other mountain news

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I posted below a story about a fire that, had the wind changed, may have bothered the neighborhood quite a bit. Could have been a major news story.

But, the winds never did pick up too much here. The fire is apparently under control since I can’t find any updates. And the news is turning its attention to matters of more urgent concern:

Meat Theft Leads To Altercation, Arrest

I blame the Bush Administration. Clearly the mountain communities are stuck in a quagmire if our retail meat supply is under constant threat.


That’s that.

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Summer is over my friends.

Autumn is here.

Be of good cheer.

Stormy Weather Boys

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The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) record a very curious incident with Jesus and the disciples involving wind and sea and wild weather.

Here is the version found in Luke 8:22-25:

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.”

So they got into a boat and set out.

As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.

“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

It’s curious for all sorts of reasons really, running the gamut of religious inquiry. For me it became interesting when I started thinking about all the other miracles of Jesus. He healed. Cast out demons. Brought folks out of tombs. Multiplied loaves. Water and wine and whatnot.

Once the Holy Spirit came, those in the church were able to also do some of these things. People were healed. Demons were cast out. All the flashy stuff. We don’t hear anything about loaves or wine, but we also don’t hear about contexts where this sort of stuff was necessary. Presumably, at some point the followers of Christ thought maybe packing lunches and preparing for parties was worthwhile.

But, with the weather thing it’s different. Jesus wanted to go to the other side. The storm came. Jesus slept. No worries. Everyone else really worried, prompting Jesus to get mad at them for disturbing his nap. The raging wind and rain and waves he slept through. Their complaining he couldn’t. So he stilled the storm. They were afraid and amazed. Jesus likely went back to sleep.

Paul had a similar sort of stormy weather in a few of his trips. Luke, in one of the marvels of sailing literature tells one story part of which we find in Acts 27:16ff:

As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.

Then, Paul stands up and rebukes the storm, which dutifully stops. In doing this he brings fear and amazement to all involved. Well, no. That’s not how it happened. The last sentence of his response of absolute faith and utter confidence in the salvation of God ends with this little kicker, “But we will have to run aground on some island.” Jesus stopped the storm. Paul had to get folks to run aground on some island.

This wasn’t the only incident. “Three times I was shipwrecked,” he writes in 2 Corinthians 11, “for a night and a day I was adrift at sea.” Paul lived but the storms had their way with him, taking him to his destination but sometimes with a bit of a detour.

Storms that are stilled by Jesus must be endured by Paul, and others. We might heal. We might raise from the dead. We might preach goodly words about all manner of deep things. We might preach to thousands. We might save millions. We may prophesy in his name, and cast out demons in his name, and do many deeds of power in his name. Still we can’t stop the storms that upset our ships and cause us no end of worry. Indeed, our loss of faith in these storms will cancel out any of the other things we have done for Christ. Because, after all, Jesus only asked for us to get to the other side of the lake.

So we endure the storms, and not physical ones. We are tempted in every direction. We are crushed by our own sin. We are beaten and stoned and shipwrecked by our illicit desires and foolish failings. We cannot still the storms, even those that risk our safety and those around us. Sometimes the only answer is to ground ourselves upon the nearest island and find another route. Our faith in such things isn’t in our abiliities anymore, it’s in the promise that if we have faith we will get to the other side. Sometimes, this means grabbing whatever broken plank is nearby and hanging on for dear life, trusting the tide will bring us where we need to go, where we have been told to go.

Jesus who was without sin, could quell the storm. We get shipwrecked.

Still, he says to us as to the disciples, “Where is your faith?”

leadership hunting and Mark Twain

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In his book Roughing It, Mark Twain writes about his travels West when he was a young man. It’s a sad thing Twain is known mostly for Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer these days. Of all his many short stories and books these two are, oddly enough, the only two I actually dislike and find just about unreadable. Odd thing that. He’s a tremendous writer and immensely insightful about the deep psychology of humanity, only most folks never realize he writes a lot better without depending on dialect or stories about the goings on of mid-19th century boys. Anyway in one chapter of Roughing It Twain and everyone else around are struck by silver fever. They go off and find themselves a plot of land that might seem to have some silver in it.

Being ignorant Twain has in mind that the silver will just be lying around on the ground, able to be picked up by any fellow with a basket. He learns this isn’t the case when they arrive and there’s nothing but normal ground. An older gentleman, a veteran of gold and silver mining, shows them how to spot likely veins. So they go surveying and prospecting. Twain walks by a river in which he notices a glint in the water. It’s gold. He was ashamed he had set his sights so low as to think of silver, when there’s gold to be found. Excited over his new riches he picks up a piece and wanders back to camp.

“Gentleman,” said I, “I don’t say anything–I haven’t been around, you know, and of course don’t know anything–but all I ask of you is to cast your eye on that, for instance, and tell me what you think of it!” and I tossed my treasure before them.

There was an eager scramble for it, and a closing of heads together over it under the candlelight.

Then old Ballou said:
“Think of it? I think it is nothing but a lot of granite rubbish and nasty glittering mica that isn’t worth ten cents an acre!”

So vanished my dream. So melted my wealth away. So toppled my airy castle to the earth and left me stricken and forlorn.

Moralizing, I observed, then, that “all that glitters is not gold.”

Mr. Ballou said I could go further than that, and lay it up among my treasures of knowledge, that nothing that glitters is gold. So I learned then, once for all, that gold in its native state is but dull, unornamental stuff, and that only lowborn metals excite the admiration of the ignorant with an ostentatious glitter. However, like the rest of the world, I still go on underrating men of gold and glorifying men of mica. Commonplace human nature cannot rise above that.

Yep. Commonplace human nature. Which I suppose is why God sent the Spirit to be among us, to help us rise out of the muck and mica.

a sigh of relief

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In stress diminishing news, it has been reported that despite your constant fears and “despite rumors, black hole factory will not destroy Earth.”

We can all breath a sigh of relief and should now go off to celebrate our temporarily postponed terran salvation in whatever manner best suits us.

Indeed, upon studying the effects of really, really, really small black holes one scientist concluded, “It’s quite hard to destroy the Earth.”

So, really what are we all worried about?

Fire news

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There’s a bit of a conflagration a few miles north of Lake Arrowhead, which means a few miles north of where I’m sitting. It’s cool today, with little wind, and the fire isn’t threatening homes or anything.

Here’s the update:

Pinnacles Fire 2,500 Acres; Air Attack Imminent

Breaking News

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

As of 7:00 AM, there was little change in the fire. It’s size remains at roughly 2,500 acres. “The fire has laid down real well,” said one official Tuesday evening, “with no open running flame” The only problem area is the northeast corner near Apple Valley. Helicopter operations are to resume shortly, with fixed wing operations to resume after 8 AM.

Tuesday afternoon, the fire reached a trigger point along Deep Creek, causing officials to issue voluntary evacuations for the Highlands and Mariannas areas of Apple Valley, east of the Lake Silverwood spillway.

The Pinnacles Fire started just south of the shooting area along Highway 173 near Lake Arrowhead. Firefighters had a shakey containment on the fire shortly after 10 AM Tuesday, but the fire escaped containment just before 11 AM and has spread rapidly. It jumped and spotted to the north in gusty southerly winds Tuesday afternoon, burning north and northwestward toward Apple Valley.

To be honest, while I think fire is bad, and not to be encouraged or enjoyed, as it results in loss of life even if no humans are affected, I can’t say I’m all that disappointed in the chosen location. Me and the Pinnacles area have a wee history.

I have scars, I tell you. Scars from some of those now burning bushes, or at least close cousins of the same.