another quick update

16 05 2010

Hey again everyone. To give you a heads up, I’m going to be migrating my blog soon. It just doesn’t make sense to be paying for hosting when I’m not really using it for anything other than a blog. I’m going to keep the theycallmepastorbryan.com domain and I’ll save all my blog posts from here so that I can revive them when I switch over.

I’ll keep you updated, but I think if you are already subscribed to my feedreader rss, you won’t even have to change that. I’ll get back to you on that.

But this current format of the blog will be going the way of the buffalo here pretty soon.





Life Update

15 05 2010

Hey everybody, it seems like over and over I keep saying I’m going to start posting more and then I write a couple posts, followed by the obligatory post on how I promise I’m going to start posting more.  Who knows if I actually will.

Here is however, an update on my life.

Our missional community is growing together well. We’re going through some growth pains and trying to figure out life as a community and such. It could be easy to feel down about it, but I also see so much potential that it makes it hard for me to feel too worried about it. I eally love our community and I think we are just starting to get the ball rolling towards being something, maybe a community that is engaged more and more with our neighbors? If we do that, I’m fine with us staying a small community for a while.

There’s a good likelihood that I’m going to be doing a stint working full-time with Hachisoft doing software development stuff. It could be easy to start feeling stressed out about that and think it’s going to be bad, but I think the challenge of a new task and one where I iwll have to work my tail off for a while will be really good for me. I’ve always learned best by being thrown into the deep end and attempting to swim. I think it will continue to be true, and I’m excited to see how taking on this new thing with Hachisoft will help me develop myself as a developer.

Braxton and I are getting ready to move into a different apartment in our complex. It will be nice, it has an extra room, which I plan to use as an office. I think having an office is going to help me with my productivity, both with Hachisoft and with church stuff. At the least, it will be less distracting than having my desk be right next to the kitchen of our current apartment.

There’s one more thing, maybe the biggest difference out of all.  Last month, I woke up one day and was thinking about a friend who is in Korea for a year doing an english teaching program. So I sent her an email telling her I was thinking of her and hoping that she was doing well. Long story short, that email turned into a lot of emailing back and forth, turned into long conversations on chat, turned into me realizing while I was driving home to visit my folks that I really liked her, turned into me being in a long distance relationship. It’s been really, really good. And not something I was really anticipating. I actually have looked back at it a few times and wondered where the thought to email her came from in the first place. It really was out of nowhere!

Because of things popping up with the long distance relationship thing, having the extra hours at Hachisoft will be an added bonus, because I’m hoping it will mean I can save up to fly out to Korea and see her this fall, which would be really great.

Okay, that’s it for now. I do promise you, I’ve been thinking about the blog. I’ve got a book review for the Ooze Viral Bloggers that I will be publishing this week, with another short to follow after that. And I’ve been thinking about some other things as far as direction. I think I’m going to move more and more towards primarily pastoral writings and writings exploring what I believe to be the essence of Christianity, and maybe less on strategy and leadership and being strategically missional. Those are all good things, they just aren’t really what I’ve felt like my passion is towards.
The natural
Oh one last thing. I got told today that my look is very natural for me. That look being the combination of tanktop with striped hooded sweatshirt and beanie and plaid shorts. My words don’t do it justice, so I’ll attach a picture I posted on Flickr.





butchered thoughts

3 05 2010

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, I’ve been having a sustained conversation with a friend about issues having to do with how God is in control and how we understand that and what it means.

It’s a new thing for me, and I think something I’m growing in- to be able to give more leeway and lenience for theologies that I don’t necessarily find personally compelling.  Partially, I think it’s that I need to embrace things that are true about God that I don’t find compelling in my mind. But I think it’s also the only way that we ever can really survive as a church, to be able to be at peace while having divergent theologies.

In the end of the day, my friend and I can both affirm this idea, which should drive our spiritual lives: God is God and we are not.

In that light, my friend shared this verse, which has really sat with me and become a prayer for me.

Yet you know me, O LORD; you see me and test my thoughts about you. Drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter!

I find it interesting because it is in the middle of Jeremiah questioning whether or not God is really just. He sees the wicked doing well and asks how that is fair. But in the middle of it, his response is this verse.

Yet you know me, O LORD; you see me and test my thoughts about you. Drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter!

If you’ve read much of what I write, you know I can’t go very far without writing about doubt and questions and how I think they are a vital part of a faith that is real.

I think what I am learning in this phase is that there is a tension in which we need to be honest about our feelings, but also receptive of the fact that God always remains a mystery, never totally understood. and so Jeremiah’s prayer that his thoughts be slaughtered rings true, even while I affirm the need to be honest and wrestle through those thoughts.

Do you have thoughts that it might be time to let go, or to let be slaughtered by God?

Could it be if we let them die that there might be something better, more rewarding for us to be invited into?





Lesslie Newbigin on Election

30 04 2010

Due to some conversations I’ve been having lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about election and predestination and why I feel so repulsed by the idea that God doesn’t give some people a chance and just predestines them to hell.  I don’t think that idea will (or should) ever sit well with me, but I came across this quote from Lesslie Newbigin, which has been encouraging to me in the tension I’m feeling inside.

No one can say why it is that one was chosen and another not, why it is that here the word came “not only in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost” (1 Thess. 1:5), while there the same word carried no regenerating power. The answer to that question is known only to God. But if we cannot know for what reason one was chosen, we can most certain know for what purpose he was chosen: he was chosen in order to be a fruit-bearing branch in the one true vine (John 15:16), a witness through whom others might be saved. He is chosen in order that through him God’s saving purpose may reach to others, and they too be reconciled to God in and through His reconciled and reconciling people…

And we can also see that wherever the missionary character of the doctrine of election is forgotten; wherever it is forgotten that we are chosen in order to be sent; wherever the minds of believers are concerned more to probe backwards from their election into the reasons for it in the secret counsel of God than to press forward from their election to the purpose of it, which is that they should be Christ’s ambassadors and witnesses to the ends of the earth; wherever men think that the purpose of election is their own salvation rather than the salvation of the world; then God’s people have betrayed their trust.”

I really like this idea from Newbigin, because he says, that predestination or election is a fact that happens biblically and is something that we can’t get around, but also offers that much of how we dwell on it is usually misguided. It seems to me that Newbigin’s stance is that when we ask the how question about election, we can miss the more important why question. That is why are we elected? To be a part of God’s mission of salvation in the world.

It’s comforting to know that we don’t need to agree on how predestination happens, but that we can agree that it happens so that God can send His church into the world.





naming something to have power over it

22 04 2010

In Peter Rollins book, The Fidelity of Betrayal, Rollins discusses an idea that the ancient egyptians had, that to be able to name a god was to have power over that god.  In reflecting on this as it applies to the discussion between Moses and God when God calls Moses to deliver his people, Pete writes:

Still unconvinced about accepting this immense task and still skeptical that this promise of presence will be enough when faced with Pharaoh’s formidable army, he attempts a different strategy: “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?

Here we can see that Moses is looking for more than some common name.  After all, he already knows whom it is that he is being addressed by.  Instead, the writer is presenting us with someone who is seeking the secret, sacred name of God, a name that will wield unheard-of power, power that will be able to overthrow even the Pharoah himself, power that will enable a stuttering old man to carry out the world-historical task that is being asked.

In response to this query concerning the Name, God replies with the enigmatic phrase ‘ehyeh ‘asher ‘ehyeh, a term which since the Septuagint, has generally been interpreted as a noun and translated in English as “I AM WHO I AM.”

… The narrative is thus interpreted as representing the Israelites’ God as infinitely greater than the gods and goddesses of egypt precisely because the Israelites’ God cannot be manipulated through sorcery and thus has no fear of disclosing the secret name.

I have been thinking about this idea of naming something in order to have power over it, and I think it has a wider range in our lives than just as some sort of vague spiritual principle that other religions at the time of the Israelites believed.  I am firmly convinced that we engage in this process of naming something so that we have power over it regularly.

We name someone as liberal or conservative or catholic or protestant or atheist, because to have a name for that thing is to be able to have some sort of power over it and be able to categorize it.  Don’t we also do the same things with relationship? We name one relationship “friend” and another “lover” and another “mentor” and another “mother” all with the intention of being able to put some control over it.

Surely, this tendency to give something a name so that we feel like we can categorize it or control it is not all bad. It is part of how we cope with life.  But I do wonder if it doesn’t say something to us about how we think of God.  In some forms of theology, there is a tendency to have an answer to every question, to in a sense reduce God from a person to some sort of divine math problem. If we can just find the right variables, we can figure out what that math is and then we will feel in control.

And so we identify different theories of the atonement and say it must be Christus Victor or Penal Substitution or Satisfaction theory. We look at God’s return and argue over pre-millenial and post-millenial and amillenial or over whether the rapture is pre-trib or mid-trib or post-trib, but we do all of it to try to exert some form of control over God.  We feel that if we can name these aspects of God, we can control God. We think that we can go about with no mystery about God as a person.

I find it refreshing that God knows that he cannot be controlled by being named, and so when Moses asks him who this God is, God responds ‘ehyeh ‘asher ‘ehyeh.

I am who I am.

I wonder if there is something to embracing this mystery, this God who is, that has to do with us giving up on trying to control him, on realizing that this God is.

And when I think of that I wonder if it doesn’t also have something to say to us about how we interact with others, naming or labeling them so that we feel like we can control them. Maybe there are times that we need to abandon the names we believe we have for people, and see that they are beyond the name we attempt to give them, because they are made in the image of the God who can’t be controlled by being named, the God who is.

May it be that we realize that our naming things does not give us control, that as much as we attempt to name others with labels, that they go beyond those labels and defy our naming. And may we also realize that while we speak about God that we also never get to control this God by naming him, the God who is has a tendency of smashing our formulas of how we think he is and invites us to figure him out on his own terms.

ehyeh ‘asher ‘ehyeh – I am who I am.





Review – The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers

19 04 2010

The Vertical Self by Mark SayersA while back, I received The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers from Thomas Nelson to review.  The basic idea of The Vertical Self is that as people we best derive our identity and value from our relationship with God.  Sayers spends the first half of the book investigating what he calls “the horizontal self,” or deriving our identity and value in how others perceive us.  I found this section to helpful and fairly insightful in pointing out the various ways we get our value from the “horizontal self.” Sayers does a good job of using movie examples and pop culture references among others to illustrate this concept.

The second half of the book is devoted to discussion of the “vertical self” and becomes a crash course in basic Christian ideas about drawing our value from our relationship to God, and explorations into how we be transformed into people who are espousing the “vertical self.”  Included is a helpful discussion about passions/desires and how much of what we experience as negative in our lives can also have a very redemptive side to it as well when ordered in its right place.

All in all I found the book to be a helpful discussion and the perfect book to give to someone in the 18-30 age range in reflecting on the differences between how our culture talks about value and how Christians talk about value. There’s a good chance I will be passing it on to others in my ministry.





Eugene Peterson on preaching

15 04 2010

Here’s a great thought from Eugene Peterson on listening to the Bible reflectively and its effect on our preaching:

The preaching will be more conversation and probably less polished.  In the last class I taught at Regent, a young woman came up to me and was very irritated.

“Dr. Peterson,” she said, “three times during the lecture you did not say anything for 20 seconds. I know because I timed you. I’m from Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, teachers go: Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! I want my money’s worth.”

We’re going to have people like that, people who want very polished and efficient teaching. But when I see people in my congregation taking notes during the sermon, I stop and say, “Put you pencils away. I want you to listen. Listen to the word of God. It’s not something for you to figure it; it’s something for you to respond to.”

[Source: pg 18, Catalyst Leadership Digital]

Eugene Peterson’s pastoral stance is always refreshing for me, particularly when it seems like so many people have a very different, much less reflective idea of what Christians gathering together should look like.








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