Tag Archives: spirituality

|More Podcast Episodes

Looking for some quality conversations to listen to, here are some podcast episodes I’ve really appreciated recently. Spring blossoms lining my walk to and from work add to the listening experience; sorry I can’t offer you that here. 🙂

1) “The Fear is Real” (The Dirtbag Diaries). “Loosely speaking, there are two kinds of fear. There’s the fear of external, objective hazards–like getting caught in an avalanche, or taking a bad fall climbing or getting mauled by a grizzly bear. Then, there’s the internal, more slippery kind of fear, like the fear of not being pretty enough, or not being popular enough or not being perfect enough.”

2) “The Shorts: Catching Hope” (The Dirtbag Diaries). “We’ve heard the stories of addicts who found salvation in the outdoors and the outdoor community, but that’s not the way the narrative arcs for everyone. For Paddy, recovery looked less like slashing pow turns with his ski-bum buddies, and more like a game of catch with his dad on the back lawn of a treatment facility in Minnesota.”

3) “Bears Ears” (The Dirtbag Diaries).  “In the beginning, Josh came to Bears Ears, Utah in search of adventure. But the more time he spent there, the less his relationship with the landscape had to do with first ascents, and the more it had to do with connecting to the current people and ancient cultures who call Bears Ears home. Now, Josh is a leader in the fight to protect the 1.9 million acres of wild, history-rich, red sandstone landscape.”

4) Onleilove Alston (Chasing Justice). “Speaker Onleilove Alston joins us today to discuss black representation in the Scriptures and justice from a Christian perspective. Follow her vital work at https://wholeness4all.wordpress.com/propheticwhirlwind/ and on twitter @PropheticWhirl.”

5) “The Word of God in Print and in Person” (Bruxy Cavey). “How are other pastors and church leaders responding to Greg’s proposal for interpreting the violence of God in the Old Testament? In this sermon, we get to hear from the perspective of Bruxy Cavey, pastor of The Meeting House in Toronto, Canada. He summarizes his interpretation of Greg’s writings, and offers his take.” NOTE: I actually haven’t finished listening to this one, but I’ve appreciated the first 30 minutes.

Sometimes I enjoy a quiet moment in the day walking to work or heading home, but most of the time it’s a brief window for me to think about the deeper things of life. Podcasts (and for some people audio books) can be a great way to nurture a reflective spirit when life is so busy with family, work, and service commitments.

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|Resurrection as Biblical Theme

This past Sabbath I led a few friends in a morning “meditation” on resurrection (15-min introduction, 45-min contemplation, 60-min conversation).

Here’s a run-down of my introduction:

  • We usually think of two instances of resurrection–Easter Sunday and Jesus’ second coming. (1) Jesus’ resurrection became the center of my faith when my faith fell apart during seminary. (2) Resurrection at the second-coming is obviously important in the Adventist understanding of biblical interpretation.
  • But… resurrection is a bigger theme than these two critical instances of resurrection. For example, Ezekiel had a vision regarding bones that God would bring back to life. God resurrects the hope and dreams of Israel. So if God is in the same business of resurrecting hope today, what dreams has God brought back to life for you, and what dreams still make you long for resurrection? This was the first of our ten reflection questions (see attached PDF).
  • Taken further, we see the theme of resurrection in any action or situation where we see something comes back to life–a relationship, a neighborhood, a piece of clothing. Little things also convey resurrection; it’s not only the big things like Easter Sunday.

To explore this theme further, I gave everyone a 4-page handout. The final page instructed people how to use it. Yes, that probably should have been the first page, so I pointed everyone to it before we split up for 45 minutes of prayer and reflection. During those 45 minutes, I took the kids out to play in the mud so it would be quiet in the retreat house for the adults.

Then during the final hour of conversation (more or less), my wife played with the kids in a separate room. In that time and also during lunch we shared what we had been thinking about and journaling about during those 45 minutes.

Here is the document we used for the morning — resurrection-feb-2017. [The order to follow is (a) the beginning through Ezekiel, then (b) page 4.]

|The Youngest Disciple

As a parent, I think about what I want to teach the next generation. This includes the spiritual side of life’s journey (and it’s been said that “everything is spiritual”). So what do I want to teach this youngest disciple in the house about following Jesus?

There are many things, but here are seven unoriginal and redundant answers to that question:

1. Loving God and people are the two great commandments. (Matt. 22 & Mark 12)

2. Treating people as I want to be treated has far reaching ramifications. (Matt. 7)

3. Following Jesus is a call to engage this life, not a ticket to escape it. (Matt. 25 & James 1)

4. How I live out my faith in the world is at least as important as what I do in church. That is, actions in church mean nothing if not followed with actions of love outside of organized worship. (Amos 5 & Luke 10)

5. Following Jesus is as much or more about learning to embody Kingdom values (compassion, peace, justice, righteousness) than about believing right theological claims (some people like the words orthopraxy and orthodoxy). (Matt. 23, Luke 4 & Luke 7)

6. Following Jesus is about learning what it means to be a citizen of Heaven and to be an ambassador of the Kingdom here and now. Following another king in another kingdom has political implications, but no political party represents God or speaks for God. (2 Cor. 5 & Phil. 3)

7. Following Jesus leads me to put on display–almost always in little ways–the goodness of God. The “Great Controversy” theme is about revealing the true nature of God’s goodness. Because God is loving and love is generous, my selfishness is a significant barrier. (Matt. 5 & Luke 6)

NOTE 1: There are so many biblical passages that could be given for each of the seven items. The ones I’ve listed are simply starter verses. I especially had to hold back on #5.

NOTE 2: Since teaching is by example and not merely speaking (or posts on Facebook and blogs), I need to step it up.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for your discipleship over these years. And thank you–other family members, church members, friends–for your influence and support as well.

|Three Sermons on Micah 6:8

The Woodland Hills Church recently had a 3-part series on Micah 6:8. I appreciated it, so I wanted to share it here.

PART 1: Love Mercy (Greg Boyd)

Normally I would be frustrated if a speaker made this biblical mention of mercy into a purely “spiritual” concept (i.e., God’s forgiving mercy toward us), but (a) this sermon’s rendering is beautiful to me, and (b) Boyd and the congregation have a deep and wide embrace of practical mercy that transcends a single sermon. Boyd hints at some of the social relevance of the phrase, but it’s not the focus.

PART 2: Walk Humbly (Seth McCoy)

Putting up with the poor audio quality is worth it. McCoy’s analysis of authority and vulnerability comes through loud and clear. Jesus radical vulnerability has moved me, challenged me, and I‘m encouraged to hear a pastor address it head on. It seems to me that many Christians are fixated on personal and national security rather than the vulnerability Jesus modeled for us.

PART 3: Do Justice (Greg Boyd)

The series ends on the critical theme of proactively working for justice–what is due people who were created in the image of God. As a neo-Anabaptist, you can guess a general approach Boyd will bring. It’s a conviction I share with him (not surprising since I studied at a Mennonite seminary), though I have sympathy for Jim Wallis’s approach too. I respect both men a lot, and I don’t feel the need to critique either of them on this. Regardless, it’s an important debate that I’m glad was included in the conversation.

I really appreciate what Boyd says about calling some government policies “Christian.” I have tried to make that argument as well. We can say some values are consistent with Christianity, but policy implementation is so fraught with unforeseen complications and unintended consequences. Let’s not drag Jesus name into our political quagmire.

Okay, I can’t resist. A “short” comment on the Boyd-Wallis difference. I’m all for systemic change, but I’m pessimistic about how much these fallen systems in our world can be redeemed without changed hearts and minds. And before Christians try to change the world through the government (a Constantinian model), I’d like to see us try to do it through the church by using the tools given us by the Spirit and by following the nonviolent, living model given us by Jesus.

And that means (at least partially) living what we want the world to be. Do we want racial justice in the world? Then we need to exemplify relationships of respect and fondness with all people created in the image of God with one blood. Do we want economic justice in the world? Then we need to demonstrate it in the mutuality of the community of Jesus. Do we want environmental justice in the world? Then we who believe God made the world good–very good–need to learn how to live in a way that supports the flourishing of all life on the planet, not just the short-term life of a certain economy or of a certain people group (a more robust definition of what it means to be pro-life). Like Boyd says, if all 2 billion Christians did this, we just might see some systems start to change.

If we are pursuing that as a faith community, then I support humble attempts to bring those values into our shared public space of a pluralistic society. But if we try to change society through the government without first pursuing and living these themes, then I can’t support that form of activism. Said another way, if I want the government to force people to live a way I don’t even follow (or my community doesn’t follow), then there’s a real problem even beyond the church/state issue.

I hope you’re as encouraged, challenged, and blessed by the three sermons as I was.
[I typed this on my phone while we were driving down the road recently. My partner was driving. 🙂 ]

Social Location and Biblical Interpretation

Two recent articles have spoken to a theme that I believe is important to “hearing the Word.” The focus of each is social location.

Two family members shared this article with me by Brian Zahnd — My Problem With the Bible. Zahnd writes:

I’m trying to read the Bible for all it’s worth, but I’m not a Hebrew slave suffering in Egypt. I’m not a conquered Judean deported to Babylon. I’m not a first century Jew living under Roman occupation.

I’m a citizen of a superpower. I was born among the conquerors. I live in the empire. But I want to read the Bible and think it’s talking to me. This is a problem.

This reminded me of Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (Robert McAfee Brown, 1984).

The second bit of writing is by Miguel A. De La Torre, author of The Politics of Jesús: A Hispanic Political Theology. This essay–A Colonized Christmas Story–is actually based on that book. He writes:

The Gospel narratives depicts a careful dance which takes place between Rome the colonizer and Jesús the colonized. Not far from the story-telling surface is the real world dynamics and consequences of colonization. We see it throughout Jesús’ everyday experience and how he responded to the circumstances brought about by the economic and political occupation of Judea, as made evident by questions posed concerning paying tribute to Caesar (Mt. 22:20), constantly facing danger for preaching of another reign or kingdom more powerful then the one to which Jews were subjugated (Mk. 1:15), or given a death sentence under the charge of being “king of the Jews,” hence a rival sovereign (Mk. 15:2). Even the very audience that first heard the words of Jesús was fellow colonized compatriots, many of who held an abiding hatred toward the Roman oppressors. From this colonized space, the Gospel message is shaped and formed, and ignoring this historical reality leads to false remembrance, if not pure illusions.

What does my social location blind me too? What steps can I take to change that location or to somehow see with new eyes and hear with new ears? Do I have the courage and desire to do it?

Interfaith Solidarity

I’ve heard two stories lately about interfaith solidarity that really impressed me.

First, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds was taken prisoner in WWII. A Nazi prison guard demanded to know who of Edmonds’ men were Jewish. Edmonds refused to single them out, but instead declared, “We are all Jews here.”

Even with the threat of death, he didn’t change his answer. This courageous act saved the lives of the Jewish soldiers. The story goes:

Nazi leaders had told the Jewish soldiers to assemble outside their barracks one morning, to be taken to labor camps where they would almost certainly die.

But Edmonds, of Knoxville, Tennessee, ordered the entire contingent of 1,000 U.S. servicemen to join them, saying the Nazis had to kill all of them or none.

Even when threatened at gunpoint, Edmonds didn’t budge, and his gambit worked. The Nazi official backed down and around 200 Jewish soldiers stayed in captivity with the others until they were liberated.

You can learn more of the details here (“‘We are all Jews here’: U.S. soldier honored after leading revolt against Nazi prison guard who demanded Jews step forward so they could be killed,” Kieran Corcoran, Daily Mail, 2 Dec 2015).

Second, a similar situation recently occurred in Kenya, but this time it was Muslims protecting Christians. The BBC reports:

A group of Kenyan Muslims travelling on a bus ambushed by Islamist gunmen protected Christian passengers by refusing to be split into groups, according to eyewitnesses.

They told the militants “to kill them together or leave them alone”, a local governor told Kenyan media.

At least two people were killed in the attack, near the north-eastern village of El Wak on the Somali border.

Learn more about this brave stance here (“Kenyan Muslims shield Christians in Mandera bus attack,” BBC, 21 Dec 2015).

What would I do if I had been in that camp or on that bus? Would I have the courage in the moment to stand up for others? Would I express that level of solidarity? I’m thankful for those who such a brave example for us to ponder. May I be shaped and formed by these stories.

CT: Survey: Frequent Bible Reading Can Turn You Liberal

A few years ago Christianity Today (CT) reported on interesting research regarding the Bible — Survey: Frequent Bible Reading Can Turn You Liberal (12 Oct 2011). I just learned about CT’s article from friends who shared Addicting Info’s recent coverage of the study (link).

Christianity Today reported:

Frequent Bible reading has some predictable effects on the reader. It increases opposition to abortion as well as homosexual marriage and unions. It boosts a belief that science helps reveal God’s glory. It diminishes hopes that science will eventually solve humanity’s problems. But unlike some other religious practices, reading the Bible more often has some liberalizing effects—or at least makes the reader more prone to agree with liberals on certain issues. This is true even when accounting for factors such as political beliefs, education …

Addicting Info provided more details than were shared in the “Article Preview” CT offers non-subscribers. Read the more recent analysis here.