Category Archives: 500

Life by the Spirit

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Paul, in his Letter to the Galatians

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Being a travel writer sounds like good fun. Go to exciting places and meet interesting people. Find out all sorts of new customs and try out flavors of foods you’ve never even heard of before.  Write about the exotic experiences to others, highlighting the good, maybe mentioning only a sliver of the negative.

It’s interesting that when we want to watch shows or read books about exciting destinations we tend to turn to expert travelers. It’s the residents who know more about a place. They’ve dwelled in its history, know the neighborhoods to visit and the neighborhoods to avoid.  But, they know it so well, that it is easy for them to get bogged down in description.  We want a quick overview, after all. What can we see in a day and where’s a good place for dinner.

Writing about theology has the same problem.  There are a lot of tour guides out there.  Offering a quick trip through various doctrines or topics. And there are a number of residents, who have lived a long time in the world of theology, providing an in-depth study of the history of a particular corner, but not really speaking a language most people can understand.

That’s the tension I’m feeling.  Give too quick of an overview of the various models–the “cities”–of theological education and I risk oversimplification. Say too much and I get bogged down without ever getting to my main goal in these musings.  It’s like being on a road trip and getting distracting by the sights along the way rather than getting to the destination.

But, to get somewhere you have to go through other places.  My hope in not just describing the models but sharing a bit about my own story with them was intended to give some brief depth. I’ve spent time in most of these “cities” (except Geneva) and so I’ve gone beyond the superficial and know what each place is like in different seasons.

On a personal note, I’m using this blog as a way of sketching out ideas and exploring themes.  Some have bemoaned blogs for their tendency to encourage unedited publishing.  That’s certainly a danger. My writing can certainly use editing. Yet, blogs have an immediacy that makes them useful, hopefully even a conversational encouragement.  Blogs aren’t a fully formed systematic theology. They’re much more like Table Talk, where the table can be as wide as the whole world.

I’m also trying to practice writing.  One of my goals is to get back into a more fluid, even conversational, style.  And that takes practice.  For instance, one of my problems in writing, speaking, and teaching is that I spend too much time on prefaces before getting to my main point. This post originally was intended to be my discussion of the “cities” of Azusa and Skete. But then I wrote a preface that’s too long.  Now the preface is its own post and doesn’t nearly as crowded.

I like places with less crowds.  My writing should have less crowds too.

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“In storms and squalls we need a pilot, and in this present life we need prayer; for we are susceptible to the provocations of our thoughts, both good and bad. If our thought is full of devotion and love of God, it rules over the passions.”

Isaiah the Solitary

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Spending a lot of time on the story of the Rich Young man in Mt 19 (and Mk 10; Lk 18).

It hit me the other day that while he was indeed rich, he was also part of the colonized people.

The message to him, however, was still “sell it all and give the proceeds to the poor.”


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“Bad citation formatting is a bit like going to a business meeting wearing a shirt with a big ketchup stain on it. It’s not essential for the content of the meeting, but it always help to look as neat as possible.”

A comment I just wrote on a student’s paper.

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Transformative Church on sale!

My book Transformative Church is currently on sale at Amazon, $26 for a print copy and only $7.99 for a kindle version.

RThe Transformative Churchegularly goes for $69, so that’s a very good deal!

Scott Daniels had this to say about it:

“Transformation takes not only a new way of thinking but a new way of living. For that reason, a transformative congregation needs not only the right theological vision but also the right practices to be conformed to the kingdom of God. Patrick Oden beautifully and thoughtfully brings together theology and practice in ways that should be read by every church leader. The church can’t just think like a people of hope but must also learn to live as a community of hope in the world. The Transformative Church is a great place to start.”
–T. Scott Daniels

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From Wikipedia:

“That which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal.– as recounted by Aristotle, Physics VI:9, 239b10

Suppose Homer wants to catch a stationary bus. Before he can get there, he must get halfway there. Before he can get halfway there, he must get a quarter of the way there. Before traveling a quarter, he must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one-sixteenth; and so on.

This description requires one to complete an infinite number of tasks, which Zeno maintains is an impossibility.”

Clearly, Zeno never moved to a new house.

Moving from the truck is a big step, and it’s an infinite number of increasingly smaller steps to actually get settled. One can move a fridge and a couch in, even get the entertainment system set up.  But, there’s always that next box, that cabinet that needs the special screws that are in some other box, those books you knew you had but aren’t in any of the dozen boxes that you were sure they were in.  There’s always yet another thing to do, unpack, arrange. Infinitely.

Ergo (a Greek word meaning absolute exasperation), one is never really moved in.  One just moves to the next place starting the sequence over again.

Hell is going to be a place where you move in for a couple weeks, then have to move again.

Heaven is where they pack up all your stuff with wonderful care, and arrange it just right before you arrive, pictures on the walls, shelves attached and assembled. The only things lost in the move? Those boxes of random things that have been in the garage for three years and you don’t even remember you had.

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walking on time

This is something I wrote in 2003, reposted at a high moment in 2011, and as I came across it again this evening, it asked to be reposted, this a time where life once more seems fairly hazy. Promise-Faith-Fulfillment, and parts between.

We walk in a world not our own, possessing yet holding loosely, letting go all that binds, all that hinders the goal. We are the redeemers of time – what is fateful becomes fruitful, what is a fear and foe becomes a tool, a force, a power to be walked on like water.

Yet like water we sink into time, letting our faithlessness cover our heart. We sink, worried, fretful, possessive, greedy, grasping because time is drowning us in its overwhelming force. We must walk on time, above and outside, yet touching it, letting its waves be that which we place our feet upon. It is only through and by faith we become Time-Walkers – eternal beings who transcend yet are connected with this elusive dimension.

I am Peter stepped out of the boat, “Lord, Save me! Time is swallowing me!”

“Have Faith,” is the given response, “Walk forward neither looking to the right or left but at me, in my eyes. That which is lost is gained. That which is behind is yet ahead. That which is despaired is still a hope. Walk. Stand. Move. If you do not have faith, you will not stand.

“Time flows, but I am the one both in and out of time. Do not look to those trapped for assistance but to the one who has a stable hand. I am the one who brings order to disorder, disorder to order, upsetting and twisting around all things so that all things are directed towards me.”

“Lord, I am weary – I have not faith.”

“It is what you do when weary that marks a person of faith. Have faith, even though you have none. Sing and dance. Marvel at the beauty even in the smallest thing. Delight in the senses, taking in all in a fivefold way the encompassing bounty found even in this present sin-stained world. If this is stained, imagine what is possible when it is all cleansed.”

“Lord, I do not know where to walk or what to do.”

“Then stand, and keep standing, like a soldier waiting for orders. Stand and wait. Do what is before you and wait for counsel and guidance.”

“How long must I wait?”

“As long as you must.”

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