Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Christmas!

 


Is Wall-E the best movie of 2008? Check out Steve's Interesting Stuff blog, here:
http://interestingbutpointlessstuff.blogspot.com/

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

What the Future Has In Store

This discussion was originally posted in MennoDiscuss:
This thread is only for those of pre millenist persuasion. I'd like a discusion of how present day events are pointing to the second coming of Christ and the rapture of the church.
-hillperson


I am pre-mil, although not pre-trib and certainly not dispensational (sorry GC).

It seems that there are three topics in this thread and I want to comment on each:

1. 1948
I don't find this significant for Biblical prophecy because the state that calls itself Israel is not the Israel of promise, as some would have us believe. Just because there is a rebel group in Africa called the Kingdom of God, that doesn't mean that we should all rush out and join it. Even so, Israel the secular nation is not spoken of in Scripture and there are no promises concerning it. Just another historical blip. An interesting one, but still, just a blip.

2. The Antichrist
First of all, I don't like the term. It is only used in I John, and he was speaking of false prophets, not "the beast" as referred to in Rev. 13, or the "man of sin" as referred to in II Thess. 2.
The main characteristics of the "beast" seem to be-- he is a worldwide power, he persecutes all the people of God and kills many, he desecrates all that is holy to God on the earth, he expects people to worship him as a god.
This person hasn't arrived on the scene yet, although Antiochus Epiphanies, Domitian and Diocletian are all excellent examples of such a person. We will only know who this person is by their leadership in the world scene and in the persecution of God's people.

3. Coming up signs
I need to say that I don't believe in a multiplicity of signs. I think the period we are in is pretty distinct and that the next items Biblically would be pretty narrow. I don't believe that we should be looking for a rapture, a temple, a nation, an economic crisis, earthquakes, famines, wars or rumors of wars. The gospel spread to all ethnoi is a prossibility, but that prophecy seems to already be fulfilled.

Rather, the best indication that God is ready to wrap things up will be on the basis of the actions of the world (which includes much of the church). When there is an organized effort to rid the world of all people who believe in Jesus, especially when that effort is directed by a single world power (whether a nation, organization or a single person), then we should start looking for other signs.

If You Think This Blog is Interesting...

Well, there's a lot more. If you want to read more of Steve's stuff, or to check out other resources that relate to some of the stuff talked about in this blog, visit my other blogs. There is a little overlap, but, honestly, not very much. I must be some kind of writing machine!

Ministry To The Homeless
http://pastoralblog.blogspot.com/
A blog about my ministry to the homeless.

Radical Sermons for the 21st Century

http://radicaltheologians.blogspot.com/
A selection of my teachings from 2001 to the present day.

The SKV—A New Translation in the Making
http://skversion.blogspot.com/
My translations-- literal and extremely dynamic-- of the Greek New Testament.

Brief Bible Basics
http://briefbiblebasics.blogspot.com/
Short summaries of Bible themes and a retelling of the story of Scripture.

A Commentary on the Sermon On the Mount
http://sermononthemountcommentary.blogspot.com/
Verse by verse commentary on Jesus' Law in Matthew 5-7.

Meditations On The Psalms
http://livingpsalms.blogspot.com/
A selection of the psalms and commentary

The Faithful: Brief Summaries of 20 Christians Who Changed The World
http://followingthefaithful.blogspot.com/
A list of my heroes throughout Christian history with a brief summary of their lives and what they teach us about following Jesus.

Class War: Thoughts On The Interaction Between Classes
http://jointheclasswar.blogspot.com/
Essays on povery and the relation between the middle and lower classes in the U.S.

Questionable Wisdom
http://pithywisdom.blogspot.com/
Short principles of life written by both me and quotes from many others.

Interesting Stuff
http://interestingbutpointlessstuff.blogspot.com/
Various stuff that I find interesting that don't fit the category of my other blogs. Movies, music, poems, internet sites, whatever.

SOON TO COME: An illustrated commentary on the book of Revelation!

Standards and Abilities

Two responses to the question, "Should we hold everyone to the same standard, or should we change the standard for those who have less ability?"

(First posted in MennoDiscuss)

Hopenafuture writes:
When you have a standard and someone is not naturally gifted in that area, it IS going to require that he work harder to reach that level. On the other hand, there are some things (such as dunking a basketball) that are [i]part of a larger goal[/i], and that a shorter guy might [i]play a different role[/i] than being a dunker. Perhaps his 3-point shots are his strength. Or defense, or moving the ball down the court. As part of a team, he can contribute to the scoring without being a "lean mean dunking machine" like a taller teammate might be. but the goal is still to win games.

In school, there is a level of perfection (A+ or 100% and there is an acceptable level of ability (C, or often 70-75%) If a student reaches the acceptable level, and is performing to the best of his or her ability, there is no need to hold them to the level of perfection. To do so is unfair and unkind.

So in that respect, one could say that I feel different standards are necessary. But in the long run, the basic goal is that each student passes his classes and learns to read, cipher, or write. So in another sense, the standard is the same for all.


Steve writes:
So then, perhaps the problem with education-- and much of the church-- is not that the standards are the same for everyone, but that some standards shouldn't apply to everyone.

In education, there are different ways of learning, and different skills that we are all good at. Some may be good at some things, while others good at other things. But if we only see someone as being educationally successful if they get 'A's or 'B's in everything, then perhaps our standards are faulty. Perhaps someone can consistantly get a 'D' in all math subjects, but an 'A' in all English subjects-- then they are still successful in many things, but not math. They have met the English standard, but not the math standard.

And in the church, we have a lot of standards. We want to see people pure and loving, because that is what Scripture says we all ought to be. But we add in many other standards as to whether someone is a "good Christian" or not. Do they attend service? And when they are there, do they disrupt the service? Do they only use language we deem as appropriate? Are they socially connected to other Christians? Do they wear (or not wear) the appropriate kind of headgear? And on and on and on... These are the kinds of things that Jesus calls "traditions of men" and they aren't appropriate standards in considering whether a person is a "good Christian" or not. We should stick to Jesus' standards, not our own, or else we put blocks in people's way to the gospel.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Discussion on Addiction

Originally posted on the Portland Mercury Blog:
http://blogtown.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2008/12/11/holy_diver_update

Posted by el cubano on December 12, 2008 at 1:11 PM

I just wanted to share something- while this might be hard to talk about, I wanted to ensure that it's not impossible. I'm 25 years old and I'm a year away from graduating at PSU- when I was younger, I had an addiction to drugs that lasted a few years and was homeless for a while as well- couch-surfing and whatnot if not sleeping out of my own car while I was trying to get a job that would scrounge up enough money to be able to afford rent in the L.A. area.

I was lucky enough that I had some family support, although I had to move all the way across the country to Miami to be there to get it. I had heart palpitations and was having all sorts of health issues, including trying to quit smoking to be completely clean. While I'm certainly not perfect now, I've definitely turned my life around and I know that I can stay clean, healthy, and happy- but the will definitely has to lie with the individual and they absolutely, positively have to leave whatever life they had behind in order to move on to a better one.

It's a shame, but it doesn't look like Diver has gotten the support he's needed to be able to do that, since he apparently felt a connection to those people in Gresham in that lifestyle again. It hurts to not have family support, and to not have good friends who are willing to help you through those dark times and won't bring you down. I hope he can pull it together and make it, and as for you Sarah- believe me, it's possible!


Posted by Steve Kimes:

Sarah, first of all, I really want to thank you for your article, and for your update of Diver here. It must be hard to correct a good story, even if you didn't write anything wrong. Ankles and I give you an honorary "breakfast pie" piece for your excellent effort.

But also to respond to El Cubano above. Diver has all the support he wants, if he wants it. Either from his mother, or from our community, which is a strong family, complete with arguments. We all want him to succeed in being clean and in living a positive life.

But there is another community that pulls at him. A community that encourages him to endulge, not really understanding that it means his death and it cripples him spiritually. And he's lived in that community for as long as you, El, have been alive. It's hard to surrender a whole life and begin a new one. We who have done it keep going back to the old life until we are really ready to surrender it.

The road to freedom is different for different people. The reasons for addiction are complex and the solutions can be even more complicated. Chronic homelessness is even more complex still. There just isn't a single answer-- sometimes not even for one person.

But I am confident of this. Diver has left before and returned. When it is time, he will return.

Remarriage

Suppose your spouse left you and divorced you, and either (a) sexual immorality prompted the divorce, or (b) your former spouse died, or (c) your former spouse has married another and there just ain't no way they are ever coming back.
Suppose you had someone interested in marrying you. How would you decide whether to marry them? I've heard some suggest that even when there are scriptural grounds for a divorce, you should not marry another. I've heard others suggest that if 'sexual immorality' was a grounds for divorce, you may marry another.
What guidelines do you suggest? And why?
Jonathan


According to Jesus (Matthew 19), divorce does not end a marraige. Only two things do: adultery and death. After adultery, the couple could be reconciled (as you see with Hosea), but the original covenant has been broken. Paul says that, in the case of a believer being married to an unbeliever, that if the unbeliever leaves the believer then the believer is "not under bondage", (I Cor 7:15) which I take to mean free to remarry.

I see marriage as being like a contract. Once the contract is broken by one party, then the second party is under no obligation to remain in the contract-- it was already broken. So one can join in another contract, in contradiction to the first, because the original is null and void.

However, again, the crux of the matter is that divorce doesn't nullify the covenant one made before God. But adultery (or remarriage) does). So for my congregation who are divorced, but neither of the couple has remarried, I strongly encourage reconcilliation, or celibate patience for God to reconcile. But if one of the couple remarries, then I can give freedom to the other to remarry, if they choose.

I know this is in opposition to most Christian viewpoints, but the one side seems too harsh in comparison with Jesus' actual teaching, while the other side seems to just be ignoring Jesus' teaching.

What Does God Want In A Marriage?

First published in MennoDiscuss:

I think that the most important thing we should remember is that a Christian marriage should be a little congregation.

We should hold each other accountable to living in Jesus and obeying Him. We should restore each other with gentleness and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We should be aware of each other's needs and meet them when we can. We should pray for each other, especially when one is in difficult circumstances. We should rejoice when the other is rejoicing and weep when the other is weeping. And while the wife is to submit and the husband is to sacrificially love, this will often look on the outside as the couple submitting to each other. And there should be no place for pride in a marriage.

Obviously, this is a goal. My wife and I are still working on it. If we acheive it, we'll let you know.

Special Needs, Special Rules

First posted in MennoDiscuss in response to a discussion on the question: "Should we have lower expectations of obedience for those with special needs?"

Now I'm going to throw a wrench in the whole works.

My congregation is perhaps 75% mentally ill. I don't know what that says about me as a pastor, but I do know that we are a lot more flexible than other churches. For instance, I allow people to talk back to be during the sermon. This is partly because the folks get interested enough that they can't help but respond. So that's okay. But, at the same time, no matter how mentally ill someone is, I don't allow the conversation to be a free-for-all, where people are talking over each other.

Nor do I allow arguments. However, should there be an argument, I hold the more mature (read: mentally capable) brother to be responsible to back down. If they persist in the argument, then I ask the more mature brother to leave, even if they didn't begin the argument.

The church is also for the homeless, who are uncomfortable with a church where people dress well, because they can't match it. So the rule is casual dress in our church. Thus, if someone shows up in a tie, I politely ask him to take it off for the sake of the brothers.

The church runs well, although considerably different than one's run of the mill congregation. But since we are a congregation of the homeless and mentally ill, it SHOULD run different. And I will say that while the middle class isn't very comfortable in our church, for the homeless and mentally ill, they are able to develop community and call it home.

Thus, I guess, I create a different context for those unable to follow the rules, and then make everyone follow the new rules.

For more about our congregation, check out our website:
www.nowheretolayhishead.org

The Law of Jesus

First posted in MennoDiscuss in response to the question, "If we are all followers of Jesus, should Jesus' teaching be a law, and if so, how literal should we be?"

1. For those of us who declare Jesus as Lord, Jesus' teaching is law.
2. And Jesus is the only teacher of the law we have (Matt 23-- "And you shall call no one teacher, for you have but one teacher and that is the Christ")
3. Under Jesus, we are all equal in trying to understand the law of Christ and in trying to obey it.
4. We are to assist each other to be obedient to Christ
5. However, if we have a disagreement as to how to obey Jesus-- as long as we do not deny a principle of Jesus-- then we must allow other's their interpretation without judging them. (Romans 14)
6. Nor, if we hold to a more loose interpretation, should we cause our brothers to sin against their interpretation. (Romans 14)

Even this brings up a lot of points.
For instance, my "interpretation" of "love your enemies" means that followers of Jesus should never kill anyone under any circumstances. Does this mean that I can't fellowship with a brother or sister who holds to the idea of "loving them in your heart" but harming them in the flesh? I believe that the interpretation is in reality opposed to the teaching of Jesus, not in harmony with it at all. But what I can do is pray that the Holy Spirit reveal the truth to them, over time. But I shouldn't deny fellowship with them simply because of a misunderstood interpretation.

On the other hand, I would not allow such a person to teach in my congregation, because it says in Scripture that one who stands against the word of Jesus is a false teacher and shouldn't be allowed in the church (I Timothy 6; II John). I do, however, allow people to publicly have a discussion about these interpretations with me in front of my church, so people can hear the different points of view and make their own choice. It is good to allow the Holy Spirit reign to lead people as He will.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Grammar of God

Originally posted in MennoDiscuss:

Greek is often pulled out in converstions about the Bible or theology, as if a grammar is the final word. However, Greek experts are usually humble and recognize that there is much we do not know.

I think that there is much that we cannot prove from the Greek. First of all, no one today speaks the Greek of the NT, because that form of Greek is dead. Yes, some people could possibly learn to speak old English, but it is a dead language, and isn't used in a real way except to understand texts. Even so with Koine Greek-- it is fine for understanding texts, but we can't use even Modern Greek to really help us understand it.

Most of the time when people get into arguments about Greek or Hebrew, they are arguing the positions of their faviorite scholars, not their own understanding-- thus, it is an argument from authority, not from knowledge.

But in reading the Greek Testement, one the most important things I learned is how many things translations seem so clear on that are NOT clear. Every once in a while, I find a new insight from a literal translation that was translated more dynamically, but there are the occasions that I find translators just adding more words than exist in the original. Thus, I think they are trying to clarify too much. Sometimes this is necessary to have it make sense in English, but sometimes the translation just seems like an ideological rather than a literal interpretation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jesus, Law and Grace

Posted on MennoDiscuss, concerning the question "Is Jesus' teaching just another restrictive law that stands in the way of grace? Isn't that why Jesus taught in parables so that there would be varieties of interpretation and flexibility?" (That's my summary)

Jesus at first gave clear principles, opposing them to Moses' more specific laws (Matthew 5-7). These same principles he illustrated by his life-- his healings and his approach to the outcast (Matthew 8-9). But he was rejected by the Jewish leaders, specifically for his example and teaching of love, and so called a servant of Satan (Matthew 12). It was only at this point that he taught in parables-- not to illustrate his principles, but to hide them (Matthew 13). Jesus taught in parables because they had already rejected his clear principles of life. It is interesting to note that most of the parables in Matt 13 have to do with a division among God's people between those who listen to God and those who don't.

The main subject of God's word is that He has a lifestyle that He wants us to live. That lifestyle was presented in a very specific way in Moses' law and the world was invited to participate in it. However, Moses' law was also compromised (See Matt 19 about divorce) and it was also culture-specific. Jesus presented the same God-pleasing lifestyle in principles that could translate to any culture, among any context.

The principles are general enough that they offer flexibility to different points of view, as Paul talks about in Romans 14. But this does not mean that there aren't standards to uphold. It is clear that a free-love lifestyle isn't the love that Jesus talks about. Nor is a life of judging others based on petty rules. Jesus' standard is a perfect mean, a perfect moral lifestyle of both restraint and radical sacrifice, of both loyalty and striking out against the evils in our culture.

If we are followers of Jesus, I don't think we can compromise this life. I don't think we can talk about "love" in general terms and that's enough. But also, I believe that talking about hats and movies and coats aren't a part of the general principles. We might try to apply something in a specific congregation, but let's not call anyone else a sinner because they don't follow our specific constraints. The ethic of Jesus is a law, but it is the only law we need.

The Working Poor

I was asked on a survey about my experiences with the working poor. This was my response:

How much space do you have?

I have been working poor since 1997 when I quit my job and started living on donations. However, my children have never gone hungry, even one meal, nor have they had to sleep on the street. God has provided for us, and now even a house and our daily food, although we often eat food from dumpsters-- but not filthy food.

I have seen people who don't want to beg and so they look for cans to recycle. They may make 30 dollars a day for working five hours in independent recycling.

I know of some people who work for phone sales. They get hired in one place, work for a few weeks or months, get laid off and then they have to look for work again. They never get enough to get an apartment.

I know of others who are on disability at about 500 or so dollars a month. They try to work as often as they can, but their physical or mental disabilities don't allow them to work for long, so they soon have to quit or they get fired. Eventually they find another job.

People who live on the street all want to work. Everyone is looking for work to do. But they have mental or physical or social limitations that don't allow them to work as long as they would like. I know of some people who look for work, but then they have an attack from their mental illness, and they are unable to work for two days to a week after that. They can't hold down a job like that.

What people on the street and some folks on disability need is work that will be flexible with their situation. Work that will allow them to take off and who will help them to fill out the necessary paperwork. Not just a day labor place, but a social assistance project that gives people work as they are able to work so they can make more income than they currently get-- even if they don't have enough for an apartment.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gentrification and the Homeless

Originally posted in the Portland Mercury blog:

Gentrification doesn't have to mean kicking the homeless out of their outdoor homes, but it almost always does. After all, the name of the game is "beautification" and "improving the real estate value" and the homeless are unwitting enemies of those shining values.

When my apartment building in Rockwood was being "cleaned up" on the first day the new owner took ownership, he gave me and my family a thirty day notice, because the homeless people we had visiting us in our apartment (not sleeping around our apartment, mind you) wasn't good for the "work I am doing" as he put it.

The fact is, the homeless are seen as non-enitities, non-existant, or persona-non-gratia by property owners and developers. And those who work with or defend the homeless are simple nuisances.

What a wonderful day it will be when the poor of the world can kick the developers out of their homes for being compassionless!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sexy Stuff In The Bible

Published in MennoDiscuss.

I've been trying to find the place of Song of Songs in the Bible for some time.

It is a pretty common-- if long-- piece of love poetry that was pretty common in the Mid East in the first millenium BC. You can read Egyptian poetry that sounds just like it.

On the surface it doesn't seem very theological-- it is just a celebration of romantic and erotic love.

I did read an interesting article on it, though. The author was saying that there are a number of parallels between Song of Songs and Genesis 1-3, but with the idea that erotic love is the "leftovers" of God's original creation of the world. It is described as the "paradise" and the lovers at one point go into a "garden".

This could very well be. In the ancient world, sex was used in two ways-- as a commitment of marriage and for prostitution (usually as an idolatrous practice). But if we think of it, the eroticism of marriage is as close to being a part of the original creation of Adam and Eve that we have left. Perhaps Song of Songs just celebrates this.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

God's Gifting and Calling

'Everyone should spend time with God. But it should be in the manner God has appointed them'. Would you please expand on this point, with scripture. Also, what way do you think has been appointed to me? -Gordon


In general, the different kinds of connecting with God or serving God is found in Romans 12. This is where Paul says that everyone has something to do with God, a God-given function (one of which is prayer, btw), but no one has the same function, and no one should look down on another because they have a different function.

There are two types of appointments with God: calling and gifting.

Gifting is the ability or abilities that we have received from God. Not necessarily the abilities we were born with-- although they can include that. But that which is especially given after we become a believer and are truly following God. Paul talks a lot about gifting, especially in I Corinthians 12. We know what gifting we have because God has granted us an ability to do something and we do it well. We are often drawn to do this thing because we know we do it well and we are praised for it. I am gifted in Bible teaching. I may do nothing else in my ministry well, but I know I do this well. I'm not certain what your gifting is. It is good to know, though.

Calling is that which God specifically directs us to do, whether we have the ability to do it or not. We have an example of this in Acts 13 1-3. Paul and Barnabas were specificall called out by the Holy Spirit in community to a particular task. They didn't do that task in the same way. And it might be said that Paul was more gifted to the task than Barnabas. But that's not the point. Sometimes God calls us to do something we are not particularly talented in. Or only marginally talented in. But we do the task because God calls us, not because we are good at it.

Sometimes we are called to do something long term, and sometimes short term. A person might be called to do a particular ministry only for a year, and then they are called to do something else. Or a person might be called to a lifetime project, like Mother Teresa. But the calling is just as much God's appointement as a gifting. I am called to do Anawim.

You, my friend, are called to service and prayer. It doesn't matter how WELL you do the service and prayer, how talented you are at it. Rather, you are doing it as an obedience to the most high God. You keep at it, not because you are particularly gifted, but because it is what you are called to do. It is God's appointment for you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Centrality of Prayer

How important is prayer? If prayer and meditation are not foremost in our lives, what good are we to God? For that matter, if God (through prayer) is not first in our lives, then what good are we to anyone (i.e. friend, girl friend, family, random people we meet, who ever)? Should we not allow worldly things to get in the way of our relationship with God? ?Should not God come before other things? Such as: music, books, learning, even people? What would happen if we spent more time in prayer then reading some trivial novel (be it entertaining). Should prayer and meditation come before down time? Should prayer and meditation be our center. Should prayer and meditation be more to us than some thing we try to fit into out daily, mundane, trivial lives?
-Gordon




Excellent questions.

Prayer is one of the most significant things in our spiritual life. Without asking, God will do nothing-- God only acts when someone requests it. Apart from prayer, there is a system that God designed-- the natural world, government, spiritual judgment, etc-- that works adequately well, as far as it goes. But it doesn't work for everyone. If anyone wants God's mercy, or God's justice in an unjust situation, then they need to ask.

Prayer is not as significant among most of the the higher classes, because they already have decent lives. This is why when a country or society becomes well-off, spirituality may be significant, but devotion and supplication is little-- because so little is needed. God's special assistance is only desired when the regular systems of life fail. Those who do not need salvation rarely ask for it. After all, why pray "Give us this day our daily bread" when you have a refrigerator full of food? God's salvation is unnecessary and prayer becomes hollow.

This does not mean that the well-off cannot pray with sincerity. But it can only happen when they associate with the needy, and truly have compassion for them. Then they will find many to pray for and God will heed their prayers as long as they sacrifice what they have for the needy. But if prayer is all they offer to the needy they know, then their prayer becomes a curse to themselves, not a blessing (see James 2:14-17).

Prayer can also be connection to God. But what we don't want to ignore is that God connects to people through different ways. Not everyone is gifted with direct speech from the Spirit, just as not everyone is gifted with tongues. Some delve into the word for connection to God, some experience God through His people, some are intimate with God by living out the characteristics of God. So we can't be judging some because their lifeblood isn't prayer. That is only given to some.

Everyone should spend time with God. But it should be in the manner God has appointed them.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Orthodoxy and Anabaptism

Posted At MennoDiscuss under the topic "Is Anabaptism more than Pacificsm)

A friend of mine who has a doctorate in church history has come up with 26 Anabaptist distinctives (which I am posting at this blog site:
http://26anabaptistdistinctives.blogspot.com/

I have tried to simplify these distinctives to these points which the anabaptist does not share with the orthodox viewpoints of Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox churches:

The teaching of Jesus and the apostles takes precedence over the Law and the Prophets. Thus, Mennonites do not hold to a “flat” Bible, but see the teaching of Jesus and the apostles as central, and the rest of Scripture being interpreted through the teaching of Jesus. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

The end of all Bible study is to do what it says. We can believe in the Bible, but unless we do it, then our faith is dead. The true believer in Jesus is not just one who agrees with the word of Jesus, but who lives it out. (James 2:14-26; Matthew 7:21-27)

Believers of Jesus must be faithful to the teaching of Jesus, even if this brings them into conflict with the authorities placed over them by God. (Acts 5:29)

Baptism is for believers only. Baptism may not be given to infants or family members of believers in Jesus, but only for those who are firmly committed to Jesus for their whole lives. (Mark 16:16)

Each local congregation is qualified and responsible to decide what should be taught to it. Local congregations should also call, support and discipline their own pastors.

Believers of Jesus are literally to love their enemies and not to resist evildoers. This means that Christians cannot participate in the military. This separates all disciples from the world system which demands warfare and violence. (Matthew 5:38-48)

Believers in Jesus must share what they have with other believers who have needs. (Luke 12:33; 16:9) This means that believers need to live simply, in order to reserve their extra resources to share with others.


hi steve,

i read over your list of qualities which supposedly separate anabaptism from those other faiths you mention, and will say that what you may not realize is that Eastern Orthodoxy has taught many of those things long before anabaptism came on the scene-in fact, i have discovered they are actually emphasized and practised just as much, if not more so, amongst the Orthodox as amongst the mennonites. true, we do practise infant as well as adult, baptism, and there is no official "doctrine" of non-resistance (i believe in it myself), but the Gospel is indeed central to our Faith-indeed utmost reverence is always accorded the Holy Gospels at all times. worship of the Holy Trinity and becoming more Christlike (theosis) is absolutely central to our faith.

anyhow, i just wanted to clarify a bit for you (how would you know these things if you had never experienced the christian life as an Orthodox Christian? we view our Faith not as a religion, but as a "way of life"). Eastern Orthodoxy is neither Roman Catholicism nor Protestantism ,and in fact, the reality is that in many ways RCism and Protestantism are more akin to one another than the RCC is to the Orthodox Church.

did you check out the website i sent you http://www.stjohnsmission.org ? you can see for yourself how active these folks are in loving and caring for the poor in our midst! we Orthodox are very interested in praxis too! we believe very strongly in the importance of suffering, humility, taking up our cross, sharing what we have with others, living simply. indeed, most of my Orthodox friends live far more simply than the majority of the conservative mennonite folks i used to know-most of whom, upon their marriages had to have everything new and fancy. you would be shocked to see the poverty in which many of my orthodox friends (including myself) live in. i would say that list and characterizations therein to be not quite true, from personal experience.

please forgive me, and do not be offended,

unworthily,

theosis


I am certainly not offended. I have a number of friends who "converted" to Orthodoxy and I have done a bit of research on Orthodoxy myself, although honestly, I've really only read a few authors and the Philokalia.

I am truly very impressed with Orthodoxy, and feel that it comes close to what is considered a New Testament standard. So can Catholicism and Evangelicalism. I feel that the longer any church becomes the persecuted minority, the closer it comes to being the NT church. This is probably why Orthodoxy is further down the track than the other two paths-- they haven't been oppressed near as long as the Orthodox have! Heck, the evangelicals in the U.S. still think they're in charge!

However, I would still hold that these are Anabaptist ideals, not really shared by the orthodox. The Orthodox do see the faith as a "way of life", as you say, but they are less based on the word of Jesus for that life. That doesn't mean that they exclude Jesus-- by no means!-- but they interpret Jesus through the patriarchs, while the Anabaptists go straight to Jesus without any other interpreters (in theory).

As you say, pacifism isn't an Orthodox official ideal, and to not baptize infants would be conisdered a grave wrong. So, although I appreciate your insight, I wonder if your proximity to Anabaptism is adding more to Orthodoxy than you think. Perhaps you yourself see Orthodoxy in this way, but would the average Greek or Russian Orthodox person see their life in this way? I doubt it.

It is the same with Catholicism and other forms of Christianity. There are many that take on a particular aspect of Anabaptism-- like the Baptists not baptising infants or the Emerging church adopting pacificm-- but that doesn't make them Anabaptist.

Still, I appreciate you, your insights and the Orthodox church as a whole. I thank God that you are all there.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Anarchy and Government

Thomas writes on the MySpace group "Philosophy":

Governments use violence and force on others to get them to conform to what they consider to be right. The Epitome of Might makes Right. Anarchism does not mean people dont communicate anarchism doesnt mean people do not work together to accomplish tasks. Anarchism simply means that nobody has a monopolization over the use of force. Since not all people are good it is not logical to appoint anyone to be superior over others. Since all people are supposed to have rights of conscience it is unjust for any entities to use violence to enforce their moral standards on others. Without governments such horrific historical events such as holocausts and ethnic cleansings would never have happened. Those things happen because of government and the BLIND supporters thereof. Yeshua was an anarchist he was brutally murdered by government because the government was afraid his teachings would pacify the people. What is it with these people that are so afraid of peace? Gandhi was an anarchist Buddha was an anarchist in fact every single Great spriritual person EVER were anarchists. I cannot be a follower of Gods ways and support government. It is an absolute impossibility. Governments are made by people who choose not to follow Gods ways they want to instead own the world and place people into subjection under them. The ambitious and unrighteous of the world.

1. A government is not automatically "might makes right" if the people being ruled approve of and support the might. I would not say, for instance in the U.S., that everyone supports the "might" that upholds the law, but the great majority do.

2. "Anarchism" is "without rule", not without force. Without rule means that there is no agreed-upon means of rule. But there is always the ipso facto rule-- whoever has the most power makes the rules. Thus, I believe, anarchism reverts back to that foundational principle.

3. I agree with you that democracy does not exist. Never did. That doesn't mean it couldn't. We have the technology. We can make government better than it was. Better. Stronger. Faster. (no, wait...) It is possible via the internet to give every literate adult to participate in the everyday rule of a government. It just has never been tried before.

4. Yeshua was not a supporter of anarchy. He just taught that every government that ever existed was inadequate. He has a new concept of government-- let God rule through him. The real unique thing is that he wouldn't win that rule through armies or through the vote, but through his death, at which time God would hand him the rule.
Gandhi was not an anarchist, as he supported a national government of India.
Buddha, on the other hand... he was probably an anarchist.
Shiva, Kali, Moses, David, Muhammad, Krishna, Confucius, Socrates, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Francis-- none of them were anarchists.
But the ancient Chinese philosophy of the Moists-- that might have been anarchist. I'm not sure.

5. My favorite presentation of anarchism is "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" by Robert Heinlien. It's really rule by capitalism, but it's still very well presented.

6. I also agree that "governments are made by people who choose not to follow God's ways. " There are two ways in which people understand God: through judgment and punishment of societal sin and through grace, mercy and encouragment to repent. The first is the way of government. The second is the way of Yeshua. You can choose one or the other. But this last comment is religion, not philosophy, so I'll leave this train of thought.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why Does God Test Us?

John Johnson wrote:
One of my theological pet peeves has been this issue of God "testing" us. I had a pretty satisfying theological box until this past week in BSF when God clearly says He will test Israel (In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. Ex 16) apparently for the purpose of seeing what they will do. Still, that is not exactly what the passage says. Then I thought of the three purposes of a test (a test tests the student's knowledge, the professors ability, and the test's validity). Thus, to keep the lid on my theological box, I entertain the possinility that God's tests are not to show Him what we will do, but to show us what we really are. That fits for me.


Here's another idea about God's testing. Perhaps He is not proving to us-- certainly He is not proving to Himself, because He already knows!-- but actually proving to the spirit world who we really are. This seems to be the case in Job. And it would explain Genesis 22 when the angel speaks for the Lord "Now I know..." because it would be speaking for the whole spirit realm. It would also explain why Jesus himself needed to be tested, apart from the fact that He needed to be like us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Is Anything Possible?

Little Mike posts: Is Anything Possible?
(On the Philsophy group in MySpace)

Anything is possible in reality that does not contractict the definition of anything within reality.

Thus, if we have proper definitions, then it is possible to predict the realm of possibilities which is more vast than we can imagine.

The problem is with many things-- especially the human mind-- we have not properly defined it. We don’t know it’s limits and so a whole realm of possibilities are open to it that we cannot imagine.

Kids on the Street

Elle asked: "Are you working with homeless kids? Are there programs connected with you that are working with homeless kids?"

I'm not sure what you mean by "kids". If you mean youth (14-21) then there are a lot of homeless kids in Portland, and a great ministy working with them is Home PDX, run by Ken Loyd. I could get you his wife's phone number, if you like. Outside In, of course, has also got a great street youth work.

But if you're talking about young kids, under 14, those are few and far between. Families who are homeless either: get off the street really quickly or the kids are taken from the parents quickly by AFS. So young kids don't stay on the street very long, with, of course, the rare exception.

There was a famous example here in Portland of a father and his young daughter (10? 11?) who were discovered by the police living in Forest Park. He would provide for them and teach her through a set of encyclopedias and other school books he'd pick up. After the police found them, they made front page news for about a week. They were offered a lot of services. Then after two weeks, they disappeared again. I assume they went back to their former life. But this kind of example is pretty rare and if they were caught again, the daughter would be taken from her father because he refused to live in a house with electricity. (It is considered child abuse to have one's children live without electricity in Oregon).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hail to the Chief!

Poem by "ben Adam" on Young Anabaptist Radicals under my post "Why I Don't Vote"


Election Day

Celebrate the coming of the two-term king
who rides on wings not hooves.
Do not be distracted by the injustice next door;
look to the Maverick of Hope.
He will save you from this mire
of systemic iniquity around you.
You are his chosen race,
a royal nation,
a holy priesthood,
the middle class.
Focus your eyes on the ephemeral emperor;
listen as he lulls you to sleep.
“All is well.”
He has come to keep it so.
“All is not well.”
He has come to redeem,
and the suffering of the poor
will be the blood sacrifice for your depression.
Go! Earn your salvation
with your tithes to the alabaster abode,
and he will give you rest.
Cast your lot in the ballot box;
join as heirs to his oval throne.
He will universally heal the sick,
progressively reduce war to peace,
end infanticide with a word,
and pierce the seas to save sedans.
There is no resurrection for a messiah
who does not die, only re-elected.
His democracy shall last forever.
For all eternity, his grace,
liberty, and justice
will be for all who can pay the price
of their freedom.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Good Shepherd

 


This was the main pic Anawim used for years.
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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Is Denominationalism Partisan?

I am firmly opposed to the two party system in American politics. It doesn’t really give anyone a real choice, just two sides of the same coin. Real change isn’t possible, because the issues are all blocked by partisan rhetoric and limited logic. No one can take a really effective new look at politics and effect real change. Rather, change is slow and bogged down by the fact that nothing will change until it is obvious to almost everyone that the old system has completely failed.

But is denominationalism just another form of the same kind of system? Are we locked into traditionalism this way? Can we really accomplish anything new and exciting in the Spirit through the forms of denominational agreement? Are we not locked into old institutions, with their old systems of bureaucracy, unable to enact the true change of the Spirit?

And if that is the case, then should we be supporting these old systems? And why do we support them? Because of money? If we follow the old means of doing church business, then the old money and the old resources will follow. But should we be limited by these old means? Or should we be set free to seek out the direction the Holy Spirit is going, so that we can also be freed from these old ways of doing God’s business?

I am not denying God’s Spirit in the denominations, nor in traditional ways. I know that God was there, especially in the past. But it reminds me of an ant trail. Certain worker ants, when they find food or something of benefit to the colony, leave a trail that other ants can follow to the significant resource. And that trail will last, and the ants will follow it, long after the food or resource is gone.

Even so, it seems that denominations follow these trails to the Spirit, only to find, in the end, that the old measures are empty and devoid of the Spirit’s true life. Sure, we can obtain the world’s resources through these old trails—money, denominational contacts, the support of the old guard. But when it is empty of God, what is the use?

We need to first seek God, His kingdom and His righteousness. We need to stop first seeking the resources of this world, as if that’s our real goal. Our goal should always be God through Jesus and the Spirit. If something is but the empty shell which Jesus and the Spirit left behind, then it is time to go. This doesn’t mean that I’m saying that we should leave denominations behind, necessarily. But perhaps we need to see where in a denomination God is really working. Where is the Spirit really moving? Who is living out the life of the power of God? Where is Jesus’ word and live truly being fleshed out in the denomination? That should be the direction of any denomination, leaving the past behind.

Because God is not I Was. God is I Am.

And finally, we should not allow the resources of God’s people be limited to those who are a part of a denomination. We should allow God’s resources be used by whoever is doing God’s work, and take it away from those who are only following the structure of old tradition.

Who is giving generously for the poor, not just seeking the least for the least?
Who is living successfully on faith, not just depending on a regular salary for doing the same old thing?
Who is receiving the outcast and helping them life for Jesus, not just keeping an arm’s distance from those outside the church?
Who is discipling the people of God, not just educating them?
Who is getting the world ready for Jesus’ coming, not just talking about it?
Who is building bridges between the separated, not just creating new divisions?
Who is delivering the healing of God, not just the pomp and circumstance that surrounds it?
Who is living out God’s generosity, faithfulness, mercy, truth and forgiveness, not just preaching about it?

This first group should be the focus of any denomination. The second group is the empty shell that should be discarded. However, the difficulty is that the first group is hidden within each denomination. They are the ones who cannot be found unless sought for. They are the hidden saints, the secret heart of the body of Christ. If any denomination, any conference, any board, any bishop, any minister is worth the salt of the earth they claim to be, they will spend their energy seeking these out and pouring all of their effort supporting them.

Otherwise, the denomination is no light of the world, no city on the hill. It is just another part of the shadow f the world.

Set aside the ways of the world, and find the hidden power of God within your ranks.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Why I Don't Vote

1. The system of choosing leaders requires the leaders to boast about themselves, to be self serving. But Jesus tells us to have our leaders be humble, to serve others, not themselves.

2. The only people who gain the highest offices are those of the rich elite. We do not live in a democracy, where the people have a voice, but a plutocracy, where only the wealthy have a real vote to change the country.

3. Voting is the least effective of all political action. Our ideas would be heard much more by the world if we act out the life of Jesus, or if we write people in the government, than if we vote.

4. There is not a single candidate that is concerned about the issues Jesus is concerned about. Not one has a platform about loving our enemies. Not one has a platform about giving to the poor. Not one is concerned about living out a radical life-transforming faith in God. Although some talk about health issues, no one is really concerned about healing the sick.

5. All the candidates are opposed to life. One candidate is a supporter of abortion, while another will increase war. There is no candidate that will support all life.

6. We are only allowed to vote FOR a candidate, not AGAINST one. If they’d let me vote “no” then I’d vote, because then I’d really be able to state my opinion.

7. I could, some say, write “Jesus” into the line. First of all, that’s just wasting a vote, and wasting my time. Secondly, Jesus isn’t running for president and he never will. He is running for absolute dictator of the world—and He would be the best thing for the world.

Because of my radical stance against voting, some think that I am immoral. But it is because of morality and my commitment to Jesus and refusal to compromise that I will not vote for a candidate that I believe will not lead the country into ethical purity.

Some think that I am rejecting my national and patriotic duty. Rather, I do a lot for both of my countries—the U.S. and the Kingdom of God. I help the homeless, I talk about issues, I contact the government about helping the poor. What I am rejecting is to compromise my moral stance by taking part in the least of all patriotic duties.

Some think that since I don’t vote, I have no right to say what goes on in the country. Rather, I say, my vote has been taken from me. The politically all-powerful parties have made the decision about who my choices really are, and all the choices are awful. If my rights have been taken away from me, then I have a GREATER responsibility to speak out, as do we all.

If you feel that the current political arena has given us no real choice, then don’t vote. Speak out for REAL political change.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Being One With God

God is gracious
He provides for all our needs, whether we deserve it or not.
God is compassionate
He looks with pity upon our shortcomings, and fills up our lack.
God is slow to anger
He hesitates again and again before He punishes us for our sin.
God is true
Never has he spoken a word which has proven untrustworthy
God is good in his faithfulness
He always keeps his promises in a way that is good for us.
God forgives our sin
No matter how often we sin, He is ready to wipe it away, if we would but repent


As followers of God, all God requires is that we be like Him. To be sharers in the divine character. “Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful.”


How radically different would your life look if you were god-like?

God have mercy on us. Through Your Spirit, let us live out your ways of mercy.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What Does "Under the Law" Mean?

A Question found in MennoDiscuss: "What does Paul mean when he says 'under the law' as in 'you are not under the law, but under grace.'?"

The way I understand it, "under the law" refers to being under the law of Moses as an authority. Paul is saying that to be in Christ, one needs not be of the ancient Jewish Temple system.

Some applications of this:
a. There is NOONE "under the law" in our modern age as there was before 70AD. The ancient temple system with it's distinct Jewish perspective no longer exists.

b. However, this does not mean that we don't deal with the same issues. Many people feel that to be a Christian one must also be under the authority of something else: a particular denomination, a particular non-Jesus theology, a particular cultural habit, a particular politcal party, a particular natinality, etc.

c. Paul affirms that it is only Jesus that saves, not anything else. Only Jesus' law, not any other law. Only Jesus' grace, not any other grace. Only Jesus' government, not any other. Only Jesus' politics, not any other. Only Jesus' hope, not any other dream, American or otherwise.

A dialogue I wrote on the subject could be found here:
http://paulinedialogues.blogspot.com/20 ... ation.html

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Living Well

A question was posted on the Young Anabaptist Radicals site: "What does it mean to live well and to die well?"

For me, to live well means to be present for others.

Being present means that I am not distracted by other concerns, expectations or by various technologies, but I am with the person who is in front of me.

Being for others means that I am not using the other for my own gain or well-being, but I am just thinking of their need and how I can best meet their need.

And in this, I meet my own needs. I am not just forgetting myself, but I am living my life through being there for the other and the One who is the Most Other. In this, I find my health and satisfaction, not because I sought my own health or my own satisfaction, but due to God's having made me that the more I give, the more I receive.

I do this in the lives of others, and in their deaths. In my context, it means that even when I contact a recent homeless person's family about thier death and they don't want to talk about him, I will do what I can to offer him the respect of remembering him, of talking about him, of crying for the loss.

I hope that I may do this with my dying breath.

Of course, this is as much a goal as a lifestyle. There are still so many times that I obtain my satisfaction selfishly, for the sole intent of satisfying my needs. But it is so much more nourishing for me to cook a stew to share than a hamburger for myself alone. Yet I write this as I am considering eating a candy bar in the solitude of my office... ah, well. I try.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Was the Book of Revelation Fulfilled in the First Century?

Part of a discussion in MennoDiscuss:

According to the preterist interpretation, there are two events in the first century that could be called Jesus' parousia (coming):
a. Jesus' coming to the Father to take up his authority over the universe. This is described in Rev. 5.
b. The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70AD, which is the judgment of Jesus against those who persecuted him and his church.

While the Book of Revelation might allow for this, I don't believe that Jesus does, for the following reasons:


1. Jesus said that "every eye shall see him", and "as the lightning flashes from the east to the west", meaning that the coming would be obvious to everyone, without dispute. Yet for every event that has been declared to be the "coming of Jesus" in the first century (or every century since then) there has been great dispute as to whether Jesus actually returned or not. And the early church after 70AD was still expecting Jesus to return-- they didn't give up on the parousia after Jerusalem was destroyed.

2. After Jesus' return, Jesus said that the people of God will be gathered to him from the four corners of the earth (Matt 24:31). This has never happened, but rather the diaspora has just become more distinct with each age.

3. When the Master comes, Jesus said, all the hypocritical leaders of the church will be cut into pieces (Matt 24:50-51), and yet we find hypocrites just as abounding in the church after 70AD as before. If not more so.

4. Jesus said that when the Son of Man comes all nations would be gathered to him to be judged according to their hospitality to the brethern. (Matt 25:31ff). Every good person will be separated from every bad person (Matt 13:49-50) This has not yet occured, but the judgment is still to come. The majority of the world will still be surprised on the judgment day as to who will be on the "good" side an who will be on the "evil" side.

Thus, I think that we need to admit that the final coming has not yet occured. Thus, Revelation is not competely fulfilled.

This does not mean that the preterist argument doesn't have some excellent points. Matt 24/Mark 13 was certainly talking about the 70AD judgment, and Revelation is certainly talking about the judgment of Roman emperors. But just because things have occured in the past at one point doesn't mean that it won't happen again.

Daniel's abomination that causes desolation was certainly speaking of Antiochus Epiphanes. That was fulfilled long before Jesus, yet Jesus said that the abomination would be fulfilled later. The reason is that not all of Daniel was fulfilled-- much of it still had to come to pass. Even so with Jesus' apocalypse and Revelation. Although much of it is already fulfilled in the first century and other centuries, there is still some that must need be fulfilled. Therefore we can expect more fulfillment in the future.

Thus is my hope. Should the eschatalogical hope have already been fulfilled, then I am sorely disappointed. But as it stands, there is much of Jesus' words that have yet to be fulfilled and I expect that to happen any minute.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Helping Those Who Don't Want Help

There is one thing though that has been obvious to me, some people that are on the street don't really want the kind of help we want to offer them for the long haul, some just want money to continue to do as they please, they don't want to really change. How do you deal with this mindset in your ministry? Or, am I missing something?-Truthseeker, on MennoDiscuss

Some people don't want help for the long haul, that's true. But there are sometimes good reasons for that. They don't want people assuming what they want out of life-- often they don't have the same goals as middle class people. Most everyone wants a change of some sort, but perhaps not the ones we want to give them.

This is how I work things in my ministry-- I offer everyone a step in a particular direction that is for their benefit. For everyone I offer a step toward Christ and an opportunity to eat, for some I offer an opportunity for posititve counsel or for extra help in getting work, or for being more healthy or for getting a detox. For a few I offer the opportunitity to get off the street (if they are ready for discipleship). But everyone gets an opportunity for one small step. Once they take that, then I offer them the next step. But they are making the decisions themselves and doing all the work themselves. Eventually, others will get involved to help them out, but everything has to be initatied from them. That way, no one is forcing them to do anything.

I believe that this also allows the Holy Spirit to do the majority of the work, rather than taking it upon ourselves. If I were just "adopting" some folks (as I have done in the past and other ministries do full time), then WE are the ones with the ideas, WE are the planners, WE are the parents. Rather, what we should be doing is just being a guide, providing small opportunities and allowing God to be the Father and the Holy Spirit being the power.

If we are being the discipline force in someone's life, then when we are no longer in the picture, that person's discipline is gone. But if dicipline is something that comes from within, by the power of God, then that discipline need never fade-- it will always be with them wherever they go.

Why am I going on like this? I don't know. But I guess I'm just saying that we need to be there for people, be patient and gentle at all times, and to be with them, reminding them God's desire for them, but not rejecting them. And then God will do the work of calling them to himself at a pace they can accept.

Am I making sense?

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Wife In Wikipedia

 

Daniel Markoya thought this would be funny. And it is!

I looked, and it is true, Wikipedia really does have an article on "nitpicking".
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A Frightening Picture

 


This photo of myself and Jon Yoder was placed on the cover of the Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference directory. Although I think it accuratly portrays my likeness-- wild eyed, hair mussed, in the middle of an intense discussion (or possibly making a sardonic statement)-- I can't believe they would put this photo on the cover. I don't think I make a good Mennonite poster child!
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The Apocrypha

This was originally posted on MennoDiscuss.

The apocrypha are a collection of very important ancient books. As has been mentioned before, some are quoted in the NT and they definatly fill a conceptial gap between the OT and the NT.

I think that we should be reading some of them not just because they are historically significant, but they are great spiritual books. Some are spiritual novels-- like Bel and the Dragon and Tobit-- but they easily compare to the best of any modern Christian novel, and are better than some "classics" such as "In His Steps". I and II Macabees-- as well as III and IV-- are important works historically, but tough to slog through. Ecclesiasticus is wonderful widsom.

We should also be reading some of the post NT literature for spiritual insight. I especially liked the Shepherd of Hermas (kind of Revelation crossed with the parables of Jesus, all focused on repentance). I also enjoyed the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Acts of Thomas as fictional stories-- I found them hillarious. II Clement is an excellent sermon and the letters of Ignatius are gentle and wise.

Are they inspired? No, but neither is C.S. Lewis-- and we recommend his books all the time. Why would we want to miss out on reading the books that Jesus himself read (the apocrypha) or reading the spiritual classics of the second century?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Seven Letters for Seven Churches

This is in response to a question on MennoDiscuss: "What is the significance of the letters to the churches in Revelation"

The seven churches represent seven kinds of churches that could exist in any age:
Ephesus-- The doctrinally orthodox church that has lost it's love for the needy
Symrna-- The persecuted church
Pergamum-- The church that upholds the name of Jesus but has compromised its purity from the world
Thyratia-- The church that has been divided by heresy

Etc.

Also, John intended this section to be a very significant section in his book. One of the purposes of the book, according to chapter one, is that one would be blessed because they "keep the words in this book", in other words, obey it. But the only section that really has stuff to "obey" is the letters section.

Thus, the letters are just as significant as the rest of the book. Sure, 4-20 talks about what happens to those who obey or disobey, but the meat of the book-- what IS the obedience he's talking about-- is found in 2-3.

If we put these churches in a historical box, we will miss the point of what the letters are saying to us.

Will The Real Satan Please Stand Up?

This is a comment I made on MennoDiscuss about the use of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 being about Satan, or about the Kings of Babylon and Tyre, as stated in the texts.


I believe that the Ezekiel passage and the Isaiah passage do NOT speak about Satan. At most, they speak about two individual spiritual powers behind the thrones of Tyre and Babylon, but not Satan himself. But they might also just be using poetic language for the kings themselves, but I personally think spiritual powers, such as Daniel speaks of when he talks about the Prince of Persia. Each nation has its own power/angel leading it, and God holds them responsible for the actions of their people.

I think that Satan is not spoken of here, not only because there is inadequate evidence, but because in Revelation 12 Satan is spoken of as fallen after the birth of Jesus and in Luke 10 Satan is spoken of as falling at that time (although I think that the "falling" in Luke 10 is speaking of a defeat in battle, while Rev 12 is speaking of a more ultimate defeat after Jesus' death and resurrection).

Another point about Satan that is often not made: "Satan" is not a name, but a title of a position. It means "accuser" and it speaks of one who is a prosecutor in the court of law. This is how it is clearly used in Zechariah 2, but also in Job 1-2. He is also the judge who sends his evil spirits to attack the guilty. All this is done with God's permission. But Satan finally stepped over the line when he attacked and judged Jesus, an innocent man and God's Son. So he was thrown out of heaven, having lost his approval from God.

The Two Swords

This is a comment I made on a discussion on Luke 22:36-38 in MennoDiscuss, as follows:
"And He said to them, "But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, 'AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS'; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment." They said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough."


It is notable that two swords were carried around by the apostles, in that they just had them available.

But they were clearly misunderstanding what Jesus was talking about. He was "applying" the Scripture saying, "If I'm supposed to be hanging with robbers, then we need some swords." The apostles repled, "We've got two swords, should we get some more?" Jesus replies, "Enough"-- which was probably a note of irritation, telling them to shut up, but they understood it as two swords being sufficient.

But when the time came to use the swords later on, Jesus commanded them not to.

The whole point is: Jesus came to fulfill the Scriptures by any means. It doesn't have anything to do with weapons.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hangin' With Our Enemies

This is in response to someone who opposed Mennonite Central Committee meeting with the President of Iran because he threatened Israel and because he is a "liar". Posted in the Anabaptist Network Group in Facebook:

If the Iranian president was a follower of Jesus, then we would be right to cut him off, according to I Corinthians 5. However, I Corinthians 5 has other instructions for the Iranian president-- that we are not to cut ourselves off from the world, no matter what they claim or threaten or do.

Spreading the gospel means to keep lines open with those we do not agree with, and this means listening to those whose views we find repugnant. If we do not listen, then we have no right to speak. If we are to be like Jesus, we must provide an open context, even for those we disagree with, so that we can talk about Jesus.

This is exactly what Jimmy Carter did when he invited Began and Sadat to Camp David. He remained humble (as President of the U.S!) and passed messages between them until they were ready to speak to each other. And he shared the good news of Jesus to both of them. And in that context, Anwar Sadat decided to follow Jesus as best he understood. And so he pursued peace with Israel.

To share the gospel means that we get put in uncomfortable circumstances, talking to people we might find difficult or even distasteful. My ministry is to the homeless, some of whom are theives, liars, drug dealers, etc. I have been stolen from and lied to and threatened. But that doesn't stop my relentless pursuit to love those who have harmed me.

It's just what Jesus has called us to do.

Steve K

Monday, September 22, 2008

An Example of a New Economy

God's economy is to grant to other's what they need and they in turn would grant what we need.

There is a coffee shop in Seattle that is a step between captialism and God's ideal: The no-price coffee shop.

Check it out:
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2003558690_terrabite06e.html

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Church Tradition and Jesus

This was posted in MennoDiscuss under "How To Avoid The Slow Fade".

The Question: How can the Mennonite tradition make necessary changes to the tradition without harming the core values?

One answer: We shouldn't be following Mennonite tradition, but Jesus.


I agree that we need to be a part of Jesus' church, rather than a particular tradition. And the Spirit is essential. However, I think that there is also a place for different traditions. Menno's tradition is not the only viable tradition out there, and for many (including myself) the plain tradition isn't right for our context or the calling God gave us. However, should the plain tradition disappear, the loss to the Christian church at large would be felt. Menno's and the plain traditions are interpretations of what Jesus said-- and without them, the church at large would look so much more like the rest of the world. The Menno tradition is a constant reminder to the church that we aren't supposed to look or act like the rest of the world. That we have to constantly be comparing worldly things and ideas to the light of the gospel to see it for what it really is. And that the church as a whole often accepts without thought that which they should be examining and possibly rejecting.

I have chosen to do this examination on my own instead of buying one particular tradition. Many of us post-boomers are doing that-- not because we just want to do things in a new way, but because we distrust any tradition without solid evidence that we should buy into that tradition.

However, I deeply respect those who hold to a conviction of a tradition because they believe that they are following Jesus in it. Following Jesus is the key, no matter what tradition one is a part of. And following Jesus will look differently to different people. For me, it is giving up all semblance of middle class lifestyle, quitting my job and having my family live among and minister to the homeless and mentally ill. That's our calling and that's the way we need to follow Jesus. Plain folks can't do what I do, and they shouldn't. I can't do what plain folks do and I shouldn't. But we are all necessary to make up the full spectrum of colors in the rainbow of following Jesus, including Charismatics and Catholics and Orthodox and even conservative evangelicals.

A tradition is preserved for as long as God wants it preserved. And a tradition will fade when God wants it to fade. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away-- blessed be the name of the Lord.

Various Thoughts About the Law

Originally posted in the thread "Christians and the Law" in MennoDiscuss.

Three questions-- a. Why did Paul make such a fuss about circumcision in Galatians and then turn around and circumcise Timothy in Acts?
b. Did Jesus abolish the Mosaic Law or not? Jesus said he didn't but Paul seems to indicate He did?
c. What does it mean to be Jewish?


a. I believe that Paul circumcised Timothy NOT because Timothy was Jewish, but because he was going to minister to Jews as well as Gentiles, and Paul didn't want to offend the Jewish listeners unnecessarily. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for ministry that we wouldn't have to otherwise.

b. There are commitments that we are entered into from birth, and we have no choice about. I am an American whether I like it or not, and unless I "convert" and become joined to another nationality, I am limited by American laws no matter where I go around the world.

This is the issue with "law" in the first century. Those who were born Jews were required to fulfill the law throughout their lives. They were born under Moses' law and so needed to fulfill it as best they could, whether they were Christian or not.

Paul's argument in Galatians (as well as the argument in Acts 15)had nothing to do with Jews, but with Gentiles-- with those who were not born Jewish. The question was not "should Jews still act Jewish?" but was "should Gentiles convert to Judaism to be real Christians?" Since Jesus himself was a full Jew, this was a serious question, but the church wisely affirmed God's choice that the Gentiles don't have to live as Jews, but simply follow the law of Jesus-- which Jesus himself said is summarized by loving God and one's neighbor.

c. We need to remember that to be "Jewish" in the first century (pre-Temple destruction) was very different than being "Jewish" today. To be Jewish is to commit oneself to the government and service of Yahweh, which included the Temple cult, the law of Moses, obedience to the priesthood and the Sanhedrien and a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at least once a year. To be a religious Jew today is not to be a Mosaic Jew, because it is impossible to obey the Mosaic law without a temple or a priesthood. They make do with the Rabbinic teachings because the Mosaic law must be re-applied to a post-Temple context.

This is why Judaism and Christianity are actually sister religions-- they are both responses to the question "How do we honor the one true God without a Temple?"

Friday, September 19, 2008

Commands of Jesus we have a hard time obeying

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. (Luke 12:33)

Lend to those in need and expect nothing back. (Luke 6 34-35)

Take care with every word you say. (Matthew 12

Pray persistently for justice. (Luke 18:1-7)

Pray for the Holy Spirit. (Luke 11:9-13)

Don’t worry about your basic needs. (Matthew 6:31)

Don’t worry about tomorrow. (Matthew 6:34)

Don’t serve money. (Matthew 6:24)

Be at peace with your brothers and sisters. (Mark 9:50)

Renounce all of your possessions. (Luke 14:33)

Do not insult another. (Matthew 5:22)

Don’t look at someone to desire them sexually. (Matthew 5:28)

Keep all of your promises. (Matthew 5:37)

Don’t do evil to those who do evil to you, but do good. (Luke 6:27)

Give to those who are in need and ask for help. (Luke 6:30)

Don’t collect earthly treasures. (Matthew 6:19)

Don’t determine the final destination of another. (Matthew 7:1-2)

Repent of your sins before you accuse another of sin. (Matthew 7:5)

Do good to everyone, without exception. (Matthew 7:12)

Be prepared for testing and persecution, especially with prayer. (Luke 14:26-27;
Mark 14:38)

Strive to be the least of all the church. (Luke 9:46-48)

Do good and give to both the righteous and the wicked. (Luke 6:35)

If a brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. (Luke 17:3)

Give in secrecy. (Matthew 6:2-4)

Evangelize with nothing but the clothes on your back. (Matthew 10:9-10)

Celebrate the Sabbath by doing mercy on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:7, 11-12)

Feed the hungry. (Mark 6:37; 8:2-3)

Be rid of your wealth. (Mark 10:21)

Forgive sins. (John 20:23)

Make disciples of Jesus. Teach them to obey Jesus. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Justice and Prayer

Originally posted on Young Anabaptist Radicals, under "2nd Anniversary Post":

ST got me into your website and I read many articles with great interest. I wish there was this much dialog about “things that matter” in my Asian constituency. Many young people in Asia are busy building their careers, doing well at school, putting up an image and conforming to norms of society—to the point that it prevents them from speaking up and sharing things that really matter. Although, I’m not sure if this issue is specifically Asian …

However, in reading the articles, I don’t see a lot on prayer. Yes, prayer. It’s the one thing that Jesus did every single morning before he did anything else. The one thing that every great person in the Bible did throughout their journeys.

Some of us may think that just praying is not “practical” enough in this world of inequality and injustice.

I have been there, said that.

Or maybe because praying is seen as “too easy an action to do” for us, young people full of energy, willing to sacrifice our lives for a cause that really matters.

Been there, said that too.

But all the problems of the world, the things that bug us in our sleep and stir up our compassion, are too big for us to bear. And God knows this – that’s why God said, “Come to me, ye who are weary …”
In prayer, we surrender the things that we cannot solve into God’s hands, allowing God to work in our midst. On God’s terms and in God’s ways. We surrender the matter into THE hand that is bigger than all our thoughts and efforts combined.

Maybe it’s easier for me to say, being an Asian. I have been attacked by an army of evil spirits sent by people who hated me. I have seen my friend eat a box of intentionally poisoned lunch and not be harmed by it because before every meal he prayed that God would cleanse his food. I have a colleague whose autistic child got healed upon a year of prayer and refusing to take medication. I have seen an evil-possessed young man launched himself like an attacking tiger to a 60-year old lady who prayed for his deliverance, and saw him fell to the ground just a few inches before whacking her head … as if there was an invisible wall created by angels protecting her from harm.

And maybe it is easier for Asians to pray because … many of us simply don’t know what else to do. Many don’t have access to a doctor or even clean water, let alone mental illness experts. Is North American privilege and decadence working to diminish your faith?

And maybe it’s easy for me to say that prayer works, because it has worked throughout my life, without fail. I grew up with God continuously speaking to me in dreams, visions, Bible verses, prophecies and just by making strangers bump into me and say something out of the blue. I asked God for a partner, and God gave me a great husband. I dreamed of living in a community where the people come from all over the world, and I do live in a global melting pot now. My (then) fiancĂ© and I prayed that we would own a home before our wedding day, despite a cash crunch that year, and we now live in the apartment that we dreamed of getting.

So this is just a little poke and encouragement from halfway across the world. Our great God desires for us to speak to Him in prayer so He can show His ways to us. I am not saying just pray and do nothing, but let’s combine the supernatural power of prayer and the natural power of compassion and will.

And you will see your energy not going to waste. And that’s a promise, not from me but from God.



Elina, I think you offer a realistic critique of us Western Christians. I don't think that it is simply Asian youth that only deal with the material world, alas those of us in the West are often superficial and materialistic-- not just striving after "stuff" but also denying the reality of the spirit world in practice.

The writer of Ephesians noted that we, as Christians, do not need to practice warfare on the human realm, because we do so on the spiritual realm. In II Corinthians Paul also said that we do not use worldly weapons, but weapons of the Spirit.

But modern Anabaptists seem to be neglecting both.

I have a Mennonite pastor friend who says that if it were not for God's power and God's kingdom, then the pacifist stance is idiotic. I agree. I think that the world can only be changed by some kind of power, and we are neglecting our duty as people aware of the injustices of this world if we do not pray.

This is why I am so pleased with the Micah Challenge. Their first (but not only) action against worldwide poverty is prayer. They understand that prayer is our first line of attack against injustice.

After being challenged by a businesswoman in Bangladesh, me and my family right now are praying for God's justice and blessing on every Muslim country in the world, one by one. After this, we will be praying for the poorest nations in the world. It is only if we-- and everyone else who knows these issues-- pray that God will take action. And only if God takes action will things change.

Because humanity, on its own, has really screwed things up.

Steve K

Monday, August 25, 2008

Can We Love Too Much?

Originally posted on MennoDiscuss, answering the question, "Is it possible to love someone too much?"

Honestly, we all suffer from loving too little. We are too caught up in our own needs, more often than not (even if that need is a compulsion to help others). The Bible says that if we really love God, then we will love others, and that should never be in conflict. Our usual problem is not loving others too much but loving others in a way that is not love at all.

I know of a woman who loved her adult son so much that whenever he was in need, she would always be there for him. Whenever he needed money, she would provide it. Whenever he needed housing, she would always give it. Whatever he wanted, she was there. And so he became an emotional mess, serverly depressed, never able to provide for himself, a user of drugs and of people because he felt that others were there to help him overcome his suffering. She didn't love her son enough. Not because she didn't care for him, but because all she could see was her role as "mother who provided everything" rather than seriously looking at him to see what he really needed.

True love provides for one's need. But our human needs can be complex.

At times we need to be cared for. At times we need to be left alone to fend for ourselves.
At times we need to listened to. At times we need to listen to God.
At times we need a pat on the back. At times we need to be rebuked.
At times we need free food. At times we need an opportunity to work.
At times we need sex. At times we need abstinence.
At times we need corporate worship. At times we need a silent retreat.

Love is providing for another what they need, when they need it. True love is knowing someone well enough to provide what they really need when they really need it.

Churches Helping the Poor

This was posted in a forum on MennoDiscuss, in a discussion about whether it is enough for a church to help the poor or whether they should give them the gospel as well.

One thing I have noticed in working with the homeless for years in a church context is that "churchies"-- by which I mean middle class Christians-- are willing to give the gospel and they are willing to share resources, but they are often unwilling to do the very thing that would bring people to the Lord-- have a realtionship with the poor.

Both options that have been batted around on this forum-- giving help alone or giving the gospel with it-- are easy to do from a distance. I pass people with signs asking for food or some kind of handout. Usually I have breakfast bars to hand out to people. Sometimes I have a bag which has socks, a bar, some fruit and a tract. But honestly, does any of this really bring anyone to the Lord?

Of course, it is the Spirit that really brings people to the Lord, and we can pray for them. But do we? Do we enact the Spirit by praying for those whom we help?

The best thing we can do to bring people closer to God, to really meet people's needs is to do these things in the context of relationship. I know about 500 homeless people now. I know how they live, what their weaknesses are and their strengths. In the midst of this, I know if I can give them money or not. I know what they really need. I know how to pray for them, and I do. Now, that's easy for me, after all, I'm a pastor to the homeless. It's harder for someone in a middle class context to connect with someone in a lower class.

My recommendation: Rather than setting up a program in which one's church is "serving" the poor with a wall separated between them. Rather than handing out tracts to the poor in hopes that they would come to know Jesus and so become "like us" (which a lot of times means for them not only following Jesus, but also being middle class). Instead, as a family, invite a poor family out to dinner. Don't have them come to your house or go to their house, because they would feel either inadequate or judged. Find a neutral ground that you can just talk and find out more about each other.

Evangelism is so often seen as an instant event. But in reality, it is a long process. And the ones who will win souls aren't those who preach the message often enough, but who get to know people enough that they can really see Christ in them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Interpreting Revelation

The book of Revelation is just so tricky. Everyone interprets it differently, and though there are schools of thought, I haven't seen any that I'm really enamored of. It seems to me that Revelation pretty much interprets itself.

1. The author says it was written to seven churches in ancient Turkey, most of which do not exist today. Thus, it means that the book was supposed to be understood by them. This doesn't mean that they would have seen all the events it expounds, but they would have read the book and said, "I know what that means"

2. The book has over 2000 OT references. So if we understand the OT well and looked at all the references, we might have a pretty good idea of what it meant.

3. The book clearly talks about future events. We just know these events were after the writing, but not when, specifically.

4. The book is a good portion allegorical. Since John often tells us "this symbol has this meaning" like at the end of chapter 1, then we know that a lot of the stranger symbols have specific meanings, which are often explained in either the OT, Jesus or other apocalyptic literature of the time.

5. The ones who are blessed are not just those who read the book and understand it, but who "do" it (1:3). Thus, the book isn't just about prophecies, but about actions that need to be listened to and obeyed. The majority of these commands are in chapters 2 and 3, but not exclusively.

These princples don't explain everything about the book, but I think it explains some. And I think that we can rule out most of the interprtive schools of the book from them:

Preterist: The whole book couldn't have taken place in the first century. Jesus didn't come back. Thus, at least part of the book hasn't been fulfilled yet.

Futurist and Historist: We can't read the book with newspapers (or History books) in our other hand. The seven churches didn't have the benefit of our contemporary literature, thus the contemporary literature must not be necessary for interpreting it.

Thus, I think that the book is full of symbols that could be interpreted in the ancient world about event that might not have occured yet. And one of the main focuses of the book is the life we are to live before God. So even if we get an event wrong, if we get the princples right and live them out, then we are okay.

Causality and Randomness

Posted in MySpace Philosophy group under the topic "Chaos and Randomness":

Whether any action that happens today is uncaused is a matter for debate.

But unless we hold that time is cyclical, was there not ONE action that was uncaused? That which initiated all things to exist?

The Big Bang was not uncaused. So there had to be some event before that. But the initial event of existance was uncaused.

We depend on causal thinking-- what was called "lazy reasoning"-- because it works, for the most part. Sometimes causal thinking doesn’t work because we have determined the wrong cause. Perhaps it is because some action has too many causes to consider. And perhaps it is because it has no cause.

But considering how many actions occur in a given day, how many forces, both sentient and non- are at work, then we can say that most actions have a cause, no matter how complex it may be. Whether we know or can understand the cause or not.

The Symbol of Light

Light, except is physics, is a symbol.

The question is, what does the symbol mean? Most of the time, light is equated with "truth", which definition deserves it’s own discussion.

But its use goes back to the ancient world, long even before the Gnostics, the New Testament or Plato.

The ancient concept of it goes like this:
In darkness, one cannot see well. In light, everything is exposed. In darkness everything is hidden. In light, everything is open. Thus, light becomes a symbol for knowledge, for truth that was otherwise unknown and for personal openness.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Justice and Traffic

In my opinion, justice is the societal responsibility to make sure everyone has the opportunity to meet their needs. This does not mean that society has to meet everyone's needs, but they need to give them the opportunity to do it for themselves. If they are unable to meet basic needs on their own then society, out of mercy, might help them, but justice is giving everyone opportunity.

People's needs vary greatly, but the basic category of needs are the same for everyone: everyone needs food, shelter, warmth, a place to go to the bathroom, connection with others, basic health, a certain amount of pleasure, security, inner peace, and some respect. No one can be promised any of these things, but they can be assured that nothing would block them from receiving any of them.

Where I think our society has gone wrong is the decision to micro-manage rather than make the big decisions that would be good for everyone. A controversial example is traffic laws. We have a whole system of traffic, a combination of motorized vehicles, bikes and pedestrians, and everyone has to know the complex system or else people could be injured or die. If this system is to be safe at all, then it must be micromanaged carefully and with precision.

However, I wonder if a more rational and just decision would be to just make motorized vehicles over a certain weight illegal, except on personal property. We weren't meant to have two ton appendages to our body-- we just aren't careful enough. And the system as a whole is a failure. Simply because we allow large motorized vehicles, 43,000 people a year die in the U.S. And two and a half million people are injured per year. That's almost one percent of our population.

Micromanaging doesn't seem to work. We just spend more money and aggrivation trying to force people to follow a complex system that changes all the time. I don't think humanity is smart enough for all that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pornography

Somasoul posted some excellent thoughts on pornography here:
http://young.anabaptistradicals.org/2008/07/05/owning-women-youve-never-met/#comments

My thoughts in response are as follows:


Somasoul, I think you’re dead wrong.

In your “topic” list, you put “dumb stuff” as well as other topics– and porn isn’t dumb at all.

It is deadly.

I was exposed to it at 12 and it changed my sexuality for the worse for the rest of my life. The man who showed me this shit was thinking he was doing me a favor. But instead he hurt my future sexuality, by establishing sexual patterns and expectations that would be destructive for my future spouse and I and took years to overcome. In some ways, I am still overcoming it.

Not only that, as Prism Magazine recently pointed out, in the modern day, porn is intimately linked to sex slaves and prostitutes. No matter what they claim in porn sites, pornogrphy is simply glorified prostitution, and often glorified sex slavery, with the ones paying for the act to be performed are thousands of miles away from the acts they pay for.

Next time anyone pays for porn, he needs to remember that he is paying for a prostitute and possibly perpetuating slavery.

One last comment on the sexual revolution: We need to remember that the revolution wasn’t only for women. Yes, there was a lot of freedom for women to do as they please, sexually and certainly there is much more opportunity for a woman to express her sexual needs that there never was before.

But for many men, the sexual revolution was just a new lever to get more sex and to be able to openly speak about their “needs”. For women, the sexual revolution was freedom. For many men, it was slavery to their own desires and addictions.

Steve K

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Structural Outreach Support

Hi Steve,
Is being "missional" primarily a PNMC thing or a congregational thing? I've always thought the rise
of the term "missional" corresponded with a movement away from agency and
denomination-level mission activity and towards congregational activity. In
other words, "being missional" is something we all need to take responsibility
for at the local level, not expecting higher-level organizations to do all the
mission work on our behalf.
Shalom,
Dave



Dave, you bring up an excellent point, and I think it gets to the heart of our disagreement about the ODC and other missional issues. I'm not talking about my one word I wish to add to the Bylaws. I want to see what others have to say before I support that. I would like to continue the ideological conversation you began:

You see the issue of being "missional" as being centered in congregations. And I am firmly of the opinion that this is not enough. And I will now spend a lot of words telling you why.

Of course, congregations must be missional to survive. They must draw new folks in, because "bedroom evangelism" (as Nelson so politely put it) can only go so far, especially when we find that our children leave our congregation or our church, for one reason or another. So congregations must learn how to be missional and to be structured that way.

But this is what I've seen:

Human beings get culturally and idealistaclly "stuck" in certain patterns. There is just something that we see as "right" and there is just no other way to do it. Studies have been done (who pays for these things, I don't know) that indicate that, with few exceptions, by the time we are 30 we know what kind of music we like and that opinion won't change. And what we like and are used to, in the human psyche, becomes "the good" in our mind and anything else is "less than good."

How does this work in a congregation? Well, a congregation is made up of, usually, like minded folks who are in agreement as to what is "the good" and are very conservative (read: stubborn) about changing that which they consider "the good". So when others come to the church and indicate that something else might be "the good", then there is a disagreement, often sharp. Sometimes the congregation shifts, like Zion has so many times. Sometimes, if there is a church split-- again, we can look at Zion and her various offshoots. And sometimes, the congregation sticks to their guns, so to speak, and thus just pushes those with new ideas out. That third kind of congregation ends up dying with the members that have been strong against change from what they say is "the good."

I am not saying that any of these options are bad. But what I am saying is that if we are to keep the good traditions we have-- which we should-- and are to develp new traditions-- which we should-- then it is highly unlikey to happen WITHIN a congregation. It usually happens in a new congregation, such as Anawim or Old Growth, Rusty and Mary Lou Bonham's new, possibly Mennonite, congregation. Anawim at first tried to be a part of an existing congregation, but because our new idea was not part of "the good" in the established congregation, we were pushed out and forced to be a separate congregation. All this is good. And all this is necessary.

Thus, being missional cannot be seen as happening within congregations.

Within the PNMC, I have been trying to promote a model of congregational mission in which the new "good" might be able to exist parallel, but not joined to, existing congregations. This would mean that a congregation might sponsor a new and different congregation, perhaps under their roof. But in promoting this and seeing it happen at times, I find that usually the established congregation ends up pushing the new congregation out because the new congregation is seen to threaten the existing one, even if only ideologically.

Existing congregations tend to be conservative. And so it is my opinion that, most of the time, the conference must support new congregations. This does not mean financial support, except perhaps for some small "seed" money just to help a new congregation through a difficult period. However, the conference must be there to support new congregations, to welcome them, to honor them, to treat them as equals, to pray for them, to give them significance, to give them community. Otherwise there will be very little mission, because most established congregations are ill equipped-- nay, even resistant-- to be missional.

The church/conference should be the place where congregations of different cultural, ethnic, and theological traditions should meet and support each other, recongnizing Christ in each other's tradition. The conference should also put limits on this, determing what is and is not part of the church (this is a big disagreement, I understand, but we aren't ready to accept Buddhist monestaries as a Mennonite congregation, I believe). AND if the conference is to be a place of diversity, then they must support new congregations, because established congregations have a hard time with this.

The conference does this because we want to support brothers and sisters in Christ. The conference does this because we know that to survive as a conference, we must welcome new members. The conference does this because Christ is not limited to our old traditions.

We must allow congregations to stick to their old traditions, if that is what helps them be a community. But we also need to recognize that congregations that stick to ONLY the old traditions will, eventually, die out. Congregations, as organizations, only have a limited life. But if we as a whole entity are missional, we can extend that life to the next generation.

So, I hope you see, Dave, that my persistence in trying to keep the PNMC as an entity, missional, is, in my mind, for the survival of the PNMC itself.

I hope we'll be able to continue this conversation.

Steve K