Faithful Presence

20 05 2010

Apparently James Hunter has been causing quite a stir with his new book “Faithful Presence”. I was reading an interview with him on Christiainity today and this comment stood out:

“The main reason Christian believers today lack influence in the culture, despite their aspirations, is not because they don’t believe enough or try hard enough or think Christianly enough. It’s because they’ve been absent from the arenas in which the greatest influence in the culture is exerted.”

In other words, culture changes when we get involved in structures that most influence culture. I thought that was a very good point. Christians are not called to retreat from the world but to see it as something that God will redeem. If we work in institutions where the influence on culture is high we stand to make a high impact on culture via that organisation. Hunter used the example of the Black Civil rights movement:

“In the case of the civil rights movement, it was black intellectuals in the church who mobilized people. The movement didn’t gain the kind of traction it needed to really change laws and public policy until white intellectuals and clergy from the North became involved.”

From what I know – this is quite true. Hunter has some great observations here. His book is going on my wishlist…anyone read it yet?


Keeping it personal

20 03 2010

Lately I’ve been trying hard to keep life personal. I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to relook at this area of my life. God is a personal God. Nothing about him is impersonal. He became very personal in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s ultimate self revelation. So I have very good reasons for wanting it to keep it personal. The only problem: the world I live in. I’m part of a big corportate company. They’re a huge multinational company, and I somehow I get the feeling I don’t belong. Not in the sense that I wish God would wisk me off to heaven so that I can be rid of work once and for all, however tempting that proposition might be at the present moment. Rather in the sense that I long to see it redeemed and functioning as it should. As crazy as it sounds, I actually want to work. I don’t want to kick out of life and retire at 30. If God has a plan to redeem all of creation, to put all things under Christ’s lordship and to make all things new, can that possibly include my workplace? Right now it’s taking a lot of immagination for me to even believe that. But inspite of all the evidence to the contrary I know that God has a plan.

Practice Resurrection – Eugene Peterson

15 03 2010

Rating: 4 out 5

When it comes to his books, Peterson and I have a love hate relationship. I’ve read 4 out 5 in this series (Eat this book is one I haven’t got yet) and each time I find myself going through a similar wave of emotion. There are times when Peterson meanders and waffles on to the point where I am ready to close the book and throw it away. But when I hit that point Peterson brings everything he’s said to a sharp conclusion, and it all makes sense. I love his books and I hate them at the same time. But I have to say that this was his best effort since “Christ plays in 10,000 places”. The book is an informal commentary on Ephesians, which Peterson claims to have taught for many years to his congregations. Peterson is intent on seeing Christians grow to the full measure of stature in Christ. In other words Peterson wants us to become mature Christians, not tossed by every wind and doctrine. There is so much meat in this book that it’s hard to summarise it all. I really like his chapter on Grace and Works. All my life I had seen the two as almost antithetical to each other. At best they should be a sign of the grace already received from Christ. But Peterson took a different route. Grace always requires a form, a container, otherwise it becomes an impersonal and abstract doctrine. Good works are the containers for Grace to be taken out from the impersonal to the personal. God is intensely personal, nothing about the God we serve is impersonal. I had never thought of it from that angle. If you’ve got the time and patience, read this whole series from start to finish. Scott Mcknight is right, one does not skim Peterson, one ponders Peterson.

Reflections on 5 Years with my current Employer

26 02 2010

When I was in High School I attended several career planning seminars & workshops. The more I attended the more predictable they got. Each one would start with a general gathering of all attendees to listen to a speech prepared by a university proffessor who told us that we would have 5 careers in our lifetimes, and probably not work in a career we studied towards. We would then be bombarded with facts about how the world was changing at such a rapid pace that the things we were to learn in University would be outdated by the time we left. These seminars painted a bleak picture. I guess we could say they were realitics. A University education is no guarantee of success, the world does not owe us anything. But in another sense I’ve come to see that maybe all those bleak pictures were somewhat overstated. I’d like to reflect on what the past 5 years has meant for me working at my current employer (who shall remain nameless)…

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24 02 2010

Last night someone in my homegroup said that after being a Christian for a few years they had only just heard the story of Samson. I was taken back by such a comment. The Seminarian in me instantly rose up and I could feel myself judging this poor girl, yet I managed to restrain myself and not say anything mean. I think that is a sign of maturity.
To put myself in her shoes, it must have taken an incredible amount of courage for her to admit that she did not know much about the Bible despite being a Christian for some years now. I know a fair bit about the Bible (well I like to think I do anyways), but sometimes all that knowledge can cause us to become arrogant. Anyone who knows less than us may seem like less of a Christian. I speak from personal experience when I say that our “good works” of learning the Bible can become “bad works” or “works of the law”. They can serve as marks of those who grasp at self justification.

For example, “I know a lot about the Bible so I’m a better Christian than you. You must all bow to my infinite knowledge.”

Or they can act as boundary markers, advance signs that tell who is a faithful Christian and who is not.

For example, “I read my Bible and you don’t, so you can’t be a faithful Christian.”

Whichever view you take, we cannot deny that Grace is the great leveller. No one can claim to be saved by anything other than Grace. If we preach grace but subtly demand performance we undermine our message.  

Maybe it’s time to repent of our “good works” as well as our bad?

The Shack – William Young

21 02 2010

My Father reccomended this book to me after a strange encounter with an old lady in our Church. We had some “forced” community time during a service and apparently this lady had the book on hand and said my dad would enjoy it. He never reads novels so I was surprised to hear him speak so highly of the book. In his own personal life he said that after walking with the Lord or 32 years, having been a pastor and studied the Bible for years, he felt refreshed and had all his preconceived ideas of God challenged. He had realised, from the book, that he served the Living God, the one who made himself known through Jesus, the word made flesh. Nothing new there, only that it’s easy to forget that the focus and point of all our theological endeavours should revolve around Jesus. Being Christians means we seek to know, understand, and share in the life of Jesus. My own experience has been similar; quite often we neglect this fact when we come to study theology and it can become just like any other subject out there.
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Justification – N.T Wright

5 02 2010

I expected this book to be downright heretical and controversial. I found was that it was neither. In fact Wright is a lot more orthodox than most people give him credit for – myself included. Wright’s specialty is to tie the text to history and the overall story of scripture. I must say that this way of looking at scripture has been an eye opener for me over the past few years. I read some of the reviews of this book, and many reviewers claim that Wright is not letting Paul speak for himself. I find that a strange comment. If we locate Paul within first century / 2nd temple Pharisaical Judaism, something which Paul claimed to be a part of, is that not the best way to hear Paul? How else are we to make sense of what he says? He did not write his letters in a vacuum, but was just as socially conditioned as any of us are today.

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