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?

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:

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 ? 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,



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.
Posted by Picasa

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.