Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Manifesto of Reading the Bible as Scripture

We often read the Bible as a text to be mastered... Yet, perhaps we should read Scripture as a text to be mastered by. We attempt to get through-the-Bible, when in reality what we really need is the Bible to get-through-us. We have been seduced into an approach to the Bible that is very informational driven, when it seems that the essence of Scripture desires to bring about an in-formational reorientation...

The following is a manifesto I put together of perhaps a more conducive posture towards engaging Scripture.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Bookinist [from designer Nils Holder Moorman], a combination chair/bookcase with a reading light, cup holder, and a more few surprises that combine to give new meaning to the term "bookmobile."

The arms and backrest can hold 80 paperbacks, and the chair hides secret compartments for journal, reading glasses, bookmarks, pencils, a pencil sharpener and a notebook (all included with the chair) and adds and a wheel for easy mobility...

Okay, I confess...

I have a 'thing' for books...

I love them...

I love reading them...

I love collecting them...

...Therefore, I have to say,

This is simply the coolist!

If only I were a carpenter...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Worth Stopping to Look At...

When was the last time you were out-and-about and you saw something that arrested your attention? Often, it takes quite a jolt in the midst of our busied and fast paced got to get to the next thing lives for our attention to be apprehended. Simply put, there are many things we have become immune to seeing and co-existing with. We drive by run down houses and buildings and swerve around the superabundance of post-snow plowed potholes in the wake of yet another Lake Effect snow, all without thinking twice of when they will be upgraded and fixed. Life is full of these types of things...

Recently I saw a video that got me thinking about how all too often the Church is one of those buildings that can easily be driven past without second thought as to what really happens in there... Without any mysterious wonder of the divine presence invading our earthly and temporal space with the power to transform humanity...

The origin of the Church was saturated with a deep sense of community and oneness. In part, it was these attributes that throughout history have arrested the attention of the known world.

I can envision a people, who authentically express their Christian Spirituality in the context of community that is saturated with such a mysterious presence that the world will wonder as to what is going on and how long has this been happening...

This community of people, known as the Church, will simply be something worth stopping to look at...

"His intent was that now,
through the church,
the manifold wisdom of God should be made known
to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
according to his eternal purpose that
he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord."

(Ephesians 3:10-11)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What is Christian Spirituality - Part 3 - Living Jesus in Community

One of the primary goals of
Spirituality for the Christian

is an actual embodiment and
lived expressions of Jesus –

living Jesus.
Such a concept will
of learning Jesus.
And, learning Jesus
is ultimately impossible

outside of community.

The Distinction of Spirit

First, without a living and resurrected Jesus, it is inconceivable to consistently demonstrate the professions of our faith. It is the resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that enables us to live such a life. It is possible to have a mental consent of doctrine and professions that declares Jesus alive, yet a life that shows not proof of such resurrection. The empowering presence of the Holy Spirit within the followers of Christ to live out their professed convictions is the very essence that distinguishes Christian Spirituality from all others.[1] When we fail to learn what it means to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) a significant severing takes place and our Spirituality loses its Christian distinctive; it is not longer Christian.

The Reality of Community

We are to be conforming into the image of Christ. To do so we must understand one of the first dimensions disclosed to us in Scripture regarding God’s image. From the onset of Scripture, we see God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together and in unison. This divine community is seen throughout the rest of Scripture, even until the closing of the last chapter. This divine expression is designed by God to serve not only as an expression, but a model imploring us to join in. “The life of God is a life of self-giving and other-receiving love,” writes Miroslav Volf. “Father, Son, and Spirit are so close that Jesus could say, ‘The Father is in me and I am in the Father.” The ancient Greek word for this “mutual indwelling” of the Trinity is perichoresis, which is related to the word choreography. “The Trinity exists,” writes John Ortberg, “as a kind of eternal dance of joyful love among Father, Son, and Spirit.”[2]

Humanity was created in God’s image. “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”[3] This is God’s declaration, not Adam’s. Why was it “not good”? It was not good, because as long as Adam was alone, it was impossible for him to demonstrate one of the essential characteristics of God’s image – to live in community. Without community, Adam could not express one of the very things he was designed to express – God’s image. The same is true for us, we cannot express God’s image on the earth without living in community. It is in such community that Jesus is more fully “known and loved.” He is the actual “presence and sustaining power” of the community of faith. [4] Deplorably, our Western world has elbowed community to the margins of society in favor of individualistic and privatized expressions of faith. It is imperative that we rediscover this reality if we ever hope to experience ongoing transformation into the image of Christ and live Jesus in our present world.
The Process of Communal Learning

Christian Spirituality has been shaped by the biblical narrative, the development of the canon of Scripture, its creeds, God’s direct interactions with people throughout history, movements, cultures, various expressions and liturgies implemented through the ages and the myriad of experiences of those who have given their lives to the pursuit of Christ and His ways. As such, each member of the community comes with a story to share and something to deposit. Likewise, each should be postured in such humility to learn, be challenged and transformed by the stories of others.[5]

The modern world and Western church models have glamorized the sage on the stage at the expense of the dignity of the people.

The following is not necessarily commentary on a particular church, rather reflections regarding the Church at large and the ensuing thoughts and questions that I'm now wrestling through...

  • How might our modern church communities and worship services look, if there was space for organic community interactions, stories and improvisational input?

  • When was the last time a question was actually raised during a Sunday morning sermon? Do we believe that each person really “has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation”[6] to be integrated into our gatherings?

  • If Sunday morning is when most communities of faith gather, how much “community” is actually being experienced and expressed?

  • How much learning from one another is transpiring?

  • Could the gap between pulpit and pew, clergy and laity, and void of community interactions actually be serving to debilitate personal expressions of Christ-likeness by community members, thus creating a breach between what is confessed with the mouth and what is demonstrated with one’s life? (Note: I don't necessarily perceive the aforementioned gap to be intentionally erected by those in the pulpit or pew, rather more of an aftermath and residual ethos and culture still lingering from the systemic church structures forged during the Age of Enlightenment and into the Modern Era.)

  • How churches of the Western world respond to these questions and others may very well serve to connect us to the sustaining power of our past, propelling us into the present-future with authentic relevance and power or render us paralyzed and detached from the rich traditions found in the biblical narrative and the history of the Church.

[1] Luke Timothy Johnson, Living Jesus, (New York: HaperCollins, 2000), 46.
[2] John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 35-36.
[3] Genesis 2:18.
[4] Ibid., Living Jesus, 23.
[5] Ibid., Living Jesus, 28.
[6] 1 Corinthians 14:26.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Spiral of Questions: Exit Ramps to Discovery & Learning...

I have 3 children. The oldest is five and he typically hits his quota of 300+ questions a day, most of which are very similar to the “school” question. Almost daily, I find myself struggling to find an adequate answer to his questions… The “patent” answers seem so empty as the words are formed and ready to come out of my mouth…

…and yet, the more he asks (the more the patience wanes), and everything within me wants to give the ‘patent - dead-end’ answer that will give me some reprieve…. (horrible I know!)

The operative word there was “wants”…. There are those moments where I restrain that urge and dive into the spiral of questions with him, trying to discover something new…. Trying to inspire hunger for learning…. and the awe of discovery…. and the open-endedness of life - so that “we” keep searching together….

The last thing I want is to cripple any of these things with my selfish-had-enough-of-the-questions-here’s-my- lousy-dead-end-answer!

As Picasso said,

“Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist
once he grows up.”

Hopefully as those who instruct, model and parent we will be given enough grace to cultivate the “artist” within our children, and rediscover it ourselves.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

What is Christian Spirituality - Part 2 - A Living Jesus

In order for one to embody Christian Spirituality, they must first have faith, trust and confidence that the reality in which they speak of is actually a reality that can be accessed and experienced as ultimate reality. The accessibility to such a with-God[1] life was made available to us in the Incarnation, Person, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, the appropriation of such entrance into a spirituality that propagates a qualitatively new living reality hinges on the deep conviction that Jesus actually rose from the dead[2] and an accurate understanding of the essence of such aforementioned resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus wasn’t one that merely fostered a “perpetuation of the same life that was led before the moment of death,”[3] it was a life that possessed a qualitative distinction. Jesus, among other things, would never die a mortal death, rather ascend to heaven and remain eternal King forever. Christian Spirituality is just that – spirituality. It is something other than natural, though the essences of Christian Spirituality permeates one’s whole natural being. Paul declared that we are a “new creation.”[4] Essentially a new race emerged on the scene of human history. A race of people, defined by characteristics ambiguous and nonexistent since that dark moment of spiritual death that would infect the whole of humanity through the first Adam’s choice of self-sufficient disobedience.[5] Through the work of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit, humanity was granted the grace to once again be people identified as people of the Spirit.

Such a reality is only available by faith in the Life of Christ, His Death and Resurrection. Luke Timothy Johnson, in his book Living Jesus: Learning the Heart of the Gospel, expends a great deal of ink working through the various implications of Jesus’ resurrection. Many would wonder why Johnson would labor to the extent that he does in defining the various parameters of Jesus’ resurrection and the necessity of our adhere to that as an actual reality. Yet, it seems his labor isn’t entirely in vain, since according to pollster George Barna, sixty-three percent of “Christians” do not believe Jesus is the Son of God. Moreover, an astounding fifty-one percent of “Christians” do not believe Jesus rose from the dead.

True Christian Spirituality is “joining with God”[6] in the ever day ordinariness of life, while living in the actuality of the Spirit’s Presence indwelling, guiding, filling and empowering[7]. An appropriate understanding of Christian Spirituality emerges out of an understanding that it can not be transcended and actualized in and of our own selves and endeavors of personal striving; rather it is a gift to be appropriated through faith in Christ and the ongoing dependence upon and presence of the Holy Spirit.

The question(s) then arise: Is my life a visual demonstration of one indwelt, empowered and in-lived by the Spirit of God, incarnating the very essence of who He is, or has it been reduced to a series of doctrinal creed of mental consent void of any ongoing and authentic interchange with the everyday ordinariness of my life...?

[1] With-God is a phrase frequently to describe an authentic, organic, intentional and relational interaction with God through Jesus. This phrase is frequently utilized in the writings of Dallas Willard and Richard Foster.
[2] Luke Timothy Johnson, Living Jesus, 4. “Do we think he is dead or alive?”
[3] Ibid., Living Jesus, 13.
[4] 2 Corinthians 5:17.
[5] Genesis 2:17 and Ephesians chapter 2.
[6] Ibid., Living Jesus, 19.
[7] Ibid., Living Jesus, 38-44.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What is Christian Spirituality - Part 1 - Unearthing the Story

All of life is shaped by some story. “The way we understand human life,” wrote the Lesslie Newbigin, “depends on what conception we have of the human story. What is the real story of which my life story is a part?”[1] This question is principal to what it means to be human. Deep inside of each of us is a deep longing to know, “what am I to do?”. As fundamental as this may be, the answer isn’t found inside of one’s personhood, existentialism or exercised efforts in self-actualization. Rather, it is embedded in the very fabric of the overarching story and meta-narrative in which one finds their existence. Alasdaire MacIntyre states that I “can only answer the question of ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of which story do I find myself a part.’”[2] Robert Webber, in his book The Divine Embrace, recognizes the formative influences of the overarching story in which one lives. This is remarkably true as it relates to the sphere of one’s spirituality. “Each spirituality,” writes Webber, “is grounded in a particular story.”[3]

To understand a given spirituality, one must unearth the embedded story in which it is situated. This greater awareness is found not only in the central characters and shapers of the plot, but the culture(s), time(s) and place(s) that have been instrumental in its origin, including the historical unfolding thereafter. The conception of Christian Spirituality is lodged in the story of Scripture. This story, His-Story, continues to unfold throughout the ages, but our initial and predominate understanding of what Christian Spirituality emerges from our understanding of the meta-narrative of God’s “romance with the world – God’s unquenchable and gratuitous love for humankind.”[4] For essentially, “biblical spirituality is simply living that story.”[5]

"Spirituality is theology on two feet."
Philip Sheldrake

The question then becomes, who is our comprehensive understanding of the Story of Scripture, His-Story that has unfolded through the ages since the conception of the Church, and exactly what story do we find ourselves a part of…?

[1] Leslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Company, 1989, 15.
[2] Craig G. Bartholomew, Out of Egypt: Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation,
Zondervan, 2004, 145.
[3] Robert Webber, The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life, Grand
Rapids: Baker Books, 2006, 110.
[4] Stevens & Green, Living the Story, ix.
[5] Ibid, Living the Story, ix.