“The mission of the church is nothing more or less than the outworking, in the power of the Spirit, of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. It is the anticipation of the time when God will fill the earth with his glory, transform the old heavens and earth into the new, and raise his children from the dead to populate and rule over the redeemed world he has made… The split between saving souls and doing good in the world is not a product of the Bible or the gospel, but of the cultural captivity of both” ~N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly” (John 4:16-18)
Crazy thing. You hear or read a bible passage for more than thirty years and you finally hear something you didn’t hear before. The message Sunday morning was good—the preacher stuck to the passage and applied it to his audience; little to no talking about himself or why they need to listen. Just preached. But the message was a typical John 4 Samaritan Woman at the Well message. Nothing wrong with that…I have done that. But it hit me for the first time, we assume, as do most preachers, the woman’s shame stems from an immoral or adulterous life. Heck, she has had five husbands and not is with a sixth who is not her husband. Most conclude it’s her that keeps divorcing or in some way lives immorally. But that’s not actually the possibilities in mind. Two more likely possibilities exist for the multiple husbands—both suggesting she’s been passed around a bit. One possibility is that she is barren and cannot have children, meaning the men divorced her because she could not bare a child—particularly a son. Infertility was an easy ground for divorce in Israel. The second might have been that she was the wife of a series of brothers; the family wanting to produce an heir would have provided such a possibility. There were no more sons—possibly—so no more marriages or the next son refused to marry her. Both these scenarios would have left her economically vulnerable and a walking-shame in the land. The reference to the “sixth” not being her husband could have been a cryptic reference to this woman becoming a prostitute in order to have some level of economic resource. In the end you have a woman who, indeed, is faced with shame, but not necessarily because she choose an immoral life.
Although the application of this story certainly targets the shameful place many woman can find themselves—and not necessarily of their own doing alone—but of the men who never stepped up to love this woman. No wonder the Samaritan women is shocked that Jesus, and a Jew at that, speaks to her.
Perhaps these observations just point out our poor abilities to read a text, rather than see the true needs of people and why shame is attributed to them in the first place.
Monday, January 18, 2010
On Martin Luther King’s celebrated Birthday, I am hesitant posting James Lowell’s song, “One to every man and nation,” because some might think I do so to “protest” the our military or the fighting on foreign soils, or in some way want others to think I take an opposing position to a strong national policy on the War (yes I said it War) on Terrorism. I do not. Lowell did write this well known hymn, however, to protest America’s war with Mexico in 1845; and, Martin Luther King quoted in a speech given to protest the War in Vietnam (two days before he, himself, fell victim to an assassin’s bullet. I do post it to remind us that truth can be awfully hidden from us and it seems that God must work in the shadows. Just read the song, the words, and think of the greater, the so much greater war between truth and falsehood that exists around us everyday. And, think of how the poles have been reversed in our culture where right (or righteousness or truth) is spun as wrong or incorrect or politically incorrect, and where wrong (unrighteousness or falsehood) is triumphed as freeing, independent, and progressive.
Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each
the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and
Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.
By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
~James Russell Lowell, published in the
Boston Courier, December 11, 1845
Many yesterday, as well as in gatherings today, will sing Lowell’s song. I continue to be touched by the words. Though the causes that stem from evil seem to prosper, truth will triumph in the end. We live truth on the cross and falsehood on our thrones (or political offices). But still, God, although hidden in the shadows, keeps watch. Christ on the cross; Ceasar on the throne. Mismatched. But we dare give up hope, and find ways to join God—in those shadows, righting wrongs, and bringing righteousness in the midst of the darkness of unrighteousness. That is why I post the song. This should be ingrained in the Church’s mission.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
A faithful Words’nTone reader has made us aware of the need for helping our Haitian friends, brothers and sisters, and neighbors. She has provided a link to a page on the Christian & Missionary Alliance website where we can read about the need and how we can help. I encourage the Words’nTone faithful to take the time to click over to the site and help with what you can.
The Alliance Responds to Haitian Disaster
CAMA is gearing up to assist survivors of the 7.0 earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, on January 12. According to a CNN report, the death toll may top 100,000. The hospitals are gone, and medical supplies are desperately needed. About 3 million people—one-third of Haiti’s population—were impacted by the quake.
In partnership with sister organizations already on the ground, CAMA will provide immediate assistance—including clean water, emergency shelter, medical aid, and other necessities—as well as long-term help in rebuilding efforts, integrating Jesus’ message of redemption with practical acts of compassion.
A compassionate response during a disaster tangibly expresses Christ’s love and opens doors for other ministries, says Phil Skellie, CAMA’s president. [CAMA is Compassion and Mercy Associates, a ministry arm of the Christian & Missionary Alliance.]
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Non Christians want to know if the gospel we proclaim is true and meaningful. People are seeking an anchor for their lives—something that will not move, decay or change. They are looking for something worthy of their trust. One skeptic and critic chides the Church:
The world expects of Christians that they will raise their voices so loudly and clearly…that not even the simplest man can have the slightest doubt about what they are saying. Further, the world expects of Christians that they will eschew all fuzzy abstractions and plant themselves squarely in front of the bloody face of history. We stand in need of folk who have determined to speak directly and unmistakably and, come what may, to stand by what they have said (Albert Camus).
The world wants to know if we take the gospel seriously. They want to know if the gospel is able to provide the meaning they long for.
Our confidence in the gospel will build confidence in those who follow our lead. Paul adds, Also, as a result of my chains, most of the brethren have confidence in the Lord, so that they have far more courage to speak the gospel without fear (1:14, author’s translation). Christians are to know that the cause of Christ is worth pursuing and proclaiming—whatever the adversity (cf. Romans 8:31 39). Such conviction will dissolve the doubts of those who question the gospel’s power.
Who follows in our footsteps? Friends, workmates, spouses, children, Christian brothers and sisters. Each of us is in a singular place to influence someone else’s life. What kind of influence will it be? We can demonstrate a life anchored on the Solid Rock, Christ Jesus. Or we can give in to the whims of hardship. When the gospel is our central concern, we will be focused. We will have meaning in life and we will show others how to have meaningful lives.
Another excerpt from my book, Destroying Our Private Cities, Building Our Spiritual Life, a lay commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. Enjoy a taste with a free downloadable chapter, “Putting Jesus Back into Our Potential (Phil 2:1-11).”
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
“The real paradox of our time,” someone has remarked, “is not poverty in plenty, but unhappiness in the pursuit of pleasure.” Today there are more distractions from boredom than at any other time in history. Yet Malcolm Muggeridge comments:
We have everything that we want materially, and it ought to make us happy, but for some reason it doesn’t. It should be the case that…where all these material things are most available, where the pursuit of happiness is most ardently undertaken should also be the place where human beings are most happy. . . In fact, it’s not so. Something has gone wrong. It hasn’t worked.
Why hasn’t it worked? Why are masses of people, especially youth and young adults, so bored, aimless and even apathetic about life? Our culture—our media, our educators, our politicians, our technological advancements—cannot give the human heart ultimate purpose and meaning. Every person longs for a reason, a purpose for living. We tend, however, to draw our meaning from things and people that are earthly, transitory, susceptible to change and decay. What is lacking? Lacking is a purpose that raises us above the disenchantment and decay of our culture.
The Oscar winning classic, Chariots of Fire, illustrates the search for meaning through the lives of two runners destined for Olympic gold medals, Harold Abrams and Eric Liddell. Abrams dreamed of being the fastest runner in the world. Liddell, a missionary’s kid from China, dreamed of following in his parents’ footsteps. He was caught up in preaching and preparing for his missionary service in China.
Harold Abrams wins his race. He has accomplished all he ever wanted to do. Instead of satisfaction, however, he finds his life empty, bankrupt. Meanwhile, Liddell is confronted by his sister. She is concerned that the running will distract him from his call to China.
“I know that God has made me for China,” Liddell assures his sister. “But He has also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
What is the difference between these two men? Abrams had nothing but his win for pleasure. Once he won, he was without a goal. Eric Liddell had his run. But once it was finished, he had China. After China, he had heaven. (Liddell died a missionary martyr in China.) Eric Liddell knew why he was created, and that was his pleasure. He was created for a purpose—the glory and service of God.
Excerpt from my book, Destroying Our Private Cities, Building Our Spiritual Life, a lay commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. Enjoy a taste with a free downloadable chapter, “Putting Jesus Back into Our Potential (Phil 2:1-11).”
Sunday, January 10, 2010
My paper on Evangelism and Social Action, which I presented at the 2008 Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting in Providence, RI, has been published in the Africanus Journal’s recent edition. I am honored and humbled by their kindness in asking for and publishing this paper as an article. You can obtain both the article and the Journal online through the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary website, the Boston Campus.
The Task of Evangelism and Social Action Outcomes
Chip M Anderson
A number of years ago my pastor had a great idea to get people to come to church. One Sunday morning he asked us to list on the 3 x 5 card in our bulletin topics that our friends would like to hear. He was planning a “relevant and practical” sermon series during the evening services. The pastor hoped the topics would interest our non-churched friends if there were some “practical” value to them. This was a no-brainer for me, so, without hesitation, I wrote down “workforce development” and “poverty,” topics that would interest my friends. Some weeks later, I asked the pastor if he had seen my 3 x 5 card. He acknowledged he saw my topics and then made this comment, “That’s your area.” For sure, these areas are mine in the sense that I work within the social service world, and, in particular, a Community Action Agency, whose mission is to alleviate the causes of poverty and move families toward self-sufficiency. At that moment, I realized I needed to develop my own “theory of evangelism” as it relates to the Christian faith and issues like “workforce development” and “poverty.”
The pastor’s comment was in line with a history of dissonance over the Church’s social responsibilities and how the Bible speaks to issues of poverty…click here for the full article...and scroll down…
Saturday, January 09, 2010
“The basic thesis is that mass publics respond to currently conspicuous political symbols: not to ‘facts’ and not to moral codes embedded in the character or soul, but to the gestures and the speeches that make up the drama of the state” ~Murray Edelman, Politics as Symbolic Action (1985 ed.)
Thursday, January 07, 2010
2009 Christmas was Christmas present-lite, for obvious reasons. But we were going to my dad’s in South Carolina for our first Christmas in over 50 years. We wanted to bring something for household. I decided for my brother the “End of the Spear” DVD. The DVD is a movie about the real event of the missionary-martyrs we often hear about in sermon illustrations at church. The Director of the “End of the Spear” tells us that the Waodani tribe of the eastern rainforest of Ecuador, at first, did not want to allow them to be portrayed on film, especially the events of January 1956. As the shot at Concord was heard around the world (April 19, 1775,), there was a true sense that the spears piercing into the five missionaries on that river sand bar in the jungles of Equator, too, were heard around the world. Many Christians know the story as repeated in sermons, Sunday school, college chapels, and missionary stories: Missionaries Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roget Youderian met the end of the spear in a deceitful twist of what was to be a fruitful missionary journey to bring the Good News to one of the most violent tribes of South America in 1956. When the Waodani tribe, now many years later, and many who follow “God’s carvings” as the Waodani call the Bible, said no at the invitation to retell their story on film, Steve Saint began to explain to them about the violence in America. He explained the incident at Columbine where, for no real reason, students had murdered their fellow classmates. After hearing some of America’s violent stories, Mincayani, the actual one who had killed Steve’s father in 1956, noted that the stories of violence in American was just like how the Waodani had lived before following “God’s carvings.” The tribe then agreed: if their story could help us in the U.S. stop killing and live in peace, they saw telling their story through film as a good thing. The truthfulness of the Gospel is an objective fact of history; its power can even be applied to the wildest, most violent, hate filled tribe in the deepest parts of the jungle. Perhaps, it can be applied here, in the US, in our own schools, neighborhoods, and communities.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Writing projects sometime have a mind of their own—taking you places you didn’t expect to go. At the previous 5 posts to this drawn-out thread indicates, I have draw some conclusions about my political leanings, about taxing and taxes, and about political rhetoric. In particular, I have concluded that I can no longer be a registered republican—certainly not because I am not conservative in my political views, for the most part I am, in particular in my view of the constitution, limited government, and policy related to taxes and business. Nonetheless, it is the affiliation that is at heart—I cannot find myself affiliated by commitment to a political party: neither major parties represent my views on my relationship to the world around me, particularly to the poor. Neither party offers solutions that are biblical enough for me to sign my name to, actually. Although simplistic, but certainly not naïve, the political action arena and too much of the business associated with the issues of social action and poverty seem more about power—who has it, who controls it, and making money off it—for me to align myself in a political affiliation.
Now perhaps more naïvely so, it seems to me that Christians should not be too quick on affiliating with a party. I know some Christians turn to the Conservative Party, or the Libertarian Party (which I now seem closer to in basic philosophy, except this party, too, undervalues the role of government in addressing the issues of generational poverty), and even some Christians seem to now pump the so-called Tea Party as a political home. I think as an independent, non-affiliated citizen-voter, I have power to give away (which seems a more biblical view of political power), so that politicians and parties need to win my vote and support.
Many Christians won’t be a democrat because as a party they are pro-abortion—that seems clear enough for me, and personally, understandable. But simply because a party (in this case, republican) is via platform and rhetoric pro-life should not be enough to sign on. Because both parties seem to have enough to make my Christian-skin feel uncomfortable at this time, an independent position seems best for me. Candidates will have to win me over—and I will be specific on my questions to them regarding their positions and actions on behalf of the least vulnerable among us. Rhetoric will not be enough. Power is to be given away—not grabbed. I see too much of that now. How do I perceive their hold on power? These will be some of the criteria for my support and vote. I am committed to be a more thinking Christian when it comes to politics, political support, and voting.
The previous Expressing my independence thread posts...1 of 6, 2 of 6, 3 of 6, 4 of 6, and 5 of 6.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
I am going to get in trouble here, but that’s the way it goes. Shouldn’t surprise regular readers of Words’nTone. You can search the New Testament high and low and you will not find the Gospel writers (Luke, James, Peter, or John, even Paul) dwelling on the subject of evangelism. I know to speak against or downplay evangelism (that is, contemporary, individualistic, personal evangelism) is like committing sacrilege—and it certainly would not make one a popular candidate for a pastoral position in today’s modern church. (Maybe that’s one reason the a pastoral position continues to allude me.) I have been a student of the Bible for over 31 years, not just over three decades. I have a Masters in New Testament Theology (with a Greek concentration). I have been a New Testament and Greek Professor at a Bible College and Graduate school, and have pastored churches for about ten years. And I still get strange looks and condemning comments when I ask where are the commands to evangelize. Of course I appreciate the passion of those who are committed “verbal witnesses,” who make it part of their daily lives to share Christ with others. I am moved by the commitment of those who weekly participate in programs like Evangelism Explosion and witnessing teams. But as a formal command to share the Gospel or for a church to develop and plan for evangelism (and to tell people in the pews it is their job, their responsibility to do the work of evangelism), there is a lack in New Testament scripture of such a perspective and application.
Go make disciples (Matthew 28:19), of course. The general call to preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15), this is there, too. The promise of being Christ’s witness to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), yes, indeed that is there as well. Some will think these are enough to suggest each individual Christian is responsible to evangelize. My issue, however, is we all too often attach “witnessing” and “evangelism” to growing my church, our individual local congregation. There is that expectation, as if the burden to bring “in the numbers” is a people-of-the-pew responsibility. But go ahead, read each New Testament Letter and find me one place where Paul, James, Peter or John (or Luke for that matter) commands those individual churches to get busy evangelizing, or calls for individual Christians among the congregations to go out and bring people in.
Why I am even bringing this up? Don’t I care about people going to hell? Why wouldn’t I emphasize evangelism? What’s wrong with me? I think this cognitive approach to spreading the Gospel is an excuse for actually not doing the work of the Kingdom. I believe church leadership uses this “place-the-burden-on-the-pew” approach to evangelism to replace their responsibility for fulfilling true leadership and the call of pastoring. New Testament writers seems to be more concerned about expanding the influence of Jesus, His kingdom and His righteousness than making a series of individualistic, building-centered church bodies just increase their body-count (i.e., attendance numbers). I’d like to see more biblical theology on church growth (and not just social trends and sociological studies—all good and could be useful, but not just for numerical church growth). The church is called to be an expanding temple of Christ—moving outward, expanding outward to encompass more territory demographically and geographically. As we seek to develop plans for evangelism, church leadership is to, well, lead (and that means do, people, do, not just talk or preach), and whole congregations should implement ways to expand the kingdom, which includes it social dimensions, not just its personal application. It seems to me that the New Testament writers spent their writing time disciplining and assisting the local church communities to be better “Cities” on their respective “hills” and evoking the church’s leadership to lead in developing in this type of evangelism, that is, the growth and advance of the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
“To live lives of faithful worship, to cultivate God’s imagination for justice, to trust Jesus Christ to do a work of liberation and transformation means there will be times when our noses will be filled with the stench of human need and evil. But far more profoundly, we will also have glimpses of the glory of God that can set the capives free. That’s God’s imagination” ~Mark Labberton, “Imagining Justice” (Prism 2007)
Friday, January 01, 2010
From what I understand, New Year’s celebration is considered one of, if not, the oldest known official holiday. In fact, it was first celebrated in ancient Babylon, which is now Iraq, four thousand and ten years ago, around 2000 BC. Of course, everyone doesn’t celebrate New Year’s on January 1—now nor then. Only those with a 365-day solar calendar originating from Roman origins mark the first day of the month of January as the beginning of the New Year. Thomas Mann is right, we mortals might not have invented time, but we sure do take pains to mark it, count it, reflect on it. Perhaps, because we are in the habit of looking back and looking forward, marking time by the good or bad that happens, and praying for a future more desired or less tainted by error. In fact we call our first month January after the mythical king of an ancient Rome whose head adorns early calendars going as far back as 153 BC. This ancient legend also started what we now call New Year’s Resolutions. Janus, that mythical king of Rome, had two faces, one looking back on past events and forward to the future. This king’s two-face head accompanied ancient calendars, becoming a symbol for resolutions for making amends for the past and resolving more positive commitments for the future. The Romans used to celebrate New Year’s in what we call March, but Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, changed the calendar to more reflect the seasons and named the first month after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances. That calendar has struck for close to 2056 years.
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- Wasted Evangelism - Barriers militating against an open discussion on evangelism
- A thought on atheism’s problem with time
- L&S Quote - Thrust forward to a total testimony of salvation
- The Wasted Evangelism thesis—social action can be evangelism
- Wasted Evangelism-A long argument (my introduction)
- A working definition of biblical social action
- L&S Quotes - Dare to be right when the majority is wrong
- L&S Quotes - Evangelism isn’t table talk, it’s an emergency bulletin
- L&S Quotes - Don’t be pushed off your story
- A conclusion for my wasted sigificance and the Mark 3 commission
- L&S Quote - How holy women and men show their inner spiritual lives
- L&S Quote - This sounds odd: who lives, who dies
- Noah and the flood isn’t a children’s story (revised-reposted)
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer and getting our hands dirty
- Using Bertrand Russell’s own logic
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