Monthly Archives: July 2011

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God Is a Community of Persons

Perhaps the most astounding discovery of my last ten years or so has been the realization that God is a community of persons existing in an eternal relationship of love. The Father loves the Son. This is more than a source of doctrinal acknowledgement or confession. It is even more than a source of inspiration. We actually share in this community of persons because He loves each of us with that same unconditional love. This is what St. John tells us when he says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

trinity To be a Christian is much more than imitating Jesus. It is certainly more than following his commandments, as important as this really is to living faith. Authentic faith leads us beyond these limits into the richness of a divine relationship. We are called to not only imitate Jesus but to live our lives in Him.

Through faith and Christian baptism we share in the glory that was his before the world began. This

By |July 31st, 2011|Categories: Love, The Trinity|

The Trinity Is Not an Abstract Doctrine

Christian_Triquetra I wrote yesterday about my growing awareness of the love of God as a community of persons. I was brought into this community by faith in the Son of God and through Christian baptism. This is why I was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Far too many Christians I’ve known over the years seem to find the Holy Trinity to be nothing more than an abstract doctrine. It is not, in their understanding and experience, a living community of persons. We think of God as pure mystery, at least in the sense of his being someone who is impossible to understand, rather than as an invitation to endless love and understanding. The fact that God is three persons in one is a mystery, a mystery so profoundly deep that it is endlessly rich. It is in this sense that St. Paul speaks of “the mystery of God.” Without this insight our life will become little more than a moral effort

By |July 30th, 2011|Categories: Lordship of Christ, The Trinity|

The Great Reversal

Historians have long written of what they call “The Great Reversal.” By this term they are referring to a time in the early twentieth century when evangelical Protestants turned away from their earlier position about the poor, a position that had a lot more in common with the language I used yesterday about a “preferential option for the poor.”

But thanks to men like John R. Stott the global evangelical Protestant church began to move back to its earlier emphasis in the last few decades of the twentieth century. This movement is still going on and the younger leaders of churches in North America are calling for this stance more and more. I believe this is a healthy development all around.

images Put in theological terms there is an intrinsic link between theology and ethics, thus the way we respond to the persecuted and marginalized demonstrates whether or not we are acting in faith and obedience to Christ.

But is God on the “side” of the poor? And if so what

By |July 29th, 2011|Categories: Jesus, Kingdom of God, Poverty|

“God’s Preferential Option for the Poor”

Over the last two centuries wealth has grown in the West. Now it spreads to other parts of the world through a growing globalized economic system. I am a huge proponent of this growth and believe one way of addressing the issues of poverty is through global business and the growth of education and jobs that go along with it. At the same time there are serious dangers associated with wealth, especially in the absence of true virtue.

The Poor Yesterday I referred to the way modern Western Christians began to read the Bible statements about the poor metaphorically once wealth increased and more Christians had more income. This problem has resulted in a number of aberrant responses, one of which was Latin American liberation theology.

I refer often to recently published The Cape Town Commitment. I believe it is the most important global mission statement in the twenty-first century. Here is an important excerpt, addressing the dangers of prosperity emphasis from the West, taken from Section IIE

By |July 28th, 2011|Categories: Ethics, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Poverty|

The Church and the Poor in Our Midst

My post on Monday, regarding the politics of cutting the federal budget and the dangers of these cuts harming the poor in the process of attempting to balance our federal budget, struck a nerve. For this I am grateful. I have continued to reflect on several comments and responses, from both this site and my Facebook page.

images One person wrote on Facebook: “As a Pastor in the U.S. I can state, unequivocally , that if the care of the poor were given to the church in it's present state the poor would cease to exist as a class in one year. They would starve to death the first Summer and freeze to death the first Winter.”

There is a note of cynicism in this comment but it makes the point. People often say, “Let the church help the poor.” I want to ask, “Which churches and how will they do this on such a massive scale?” Show me the way this works and how it would help right now?

The

By |July 27th, 2011|Categories: Politics, Poverty|

Winning and Losing: Culture Markers That Destroy the Quest for Unity in the Church

consumer_behaviorThe idea of “winning” and “losing” prevails in our culture. No one likes to come in second thus we are all conditioned to win. In fact, we now have a culture that seeks to promote winning while at the same time we are seeking to compensate for all those who are not first so they will not be damaged psychologically. Ask any teacher about grades and students and you will understand what I mean.

But my point today is rather simple and obvious. We live in a culture that is marked by patterns of belonging that are shaped by the spirit of voluntary association. Because of this freedom we can belong to and leave groups, organizations, associations and communities any time we desire. We can even opt out of families if we desire. (Some will legally change their name, as NBA player Ron Artest, whose new name come August will be Metta World Peace!)

These cultural patterns of belonging are reinforced by a prevailing individualism and complemented by a consumerist orientation.

My Struggle with The GOP’s Hard Stance on Social Services

The Republican Party opposes the continual escalation of government with a passion. (The consistency of this stance is debatable historically but I’m not addressing this matter in this particular post.) How will we stop the ever rising debt that we have created and save our federal government from financial collapse? The answer, if we are honest, is anyone’s guess. Both parties have delayed for so long that the dangers are profoundly real. They will not go away this week or next. One scenario has us bailing out on our debt. Others have towns and cities, even states, going into bankruptcy. What this will do is almost beyond imagination. I personally stand to lose my small pension and be very adversely impacted.

Having said this I cannot agree with the irresponsible way many in the GOP speak about cutting certain social services for the poor. Let me explain.

index About 60% of the elderly in nursing care rely on Medicaid to pay for their services. And at the beginning of life

A Reformed Liturgy for Communion

I am often amazed at just how little some Christians understand their own church and the theology that church affirms. This is particularly true with regard to the understanding many in the Reformed churches have of communion.

index Very few Reformed Christians realize that John Calvin actually held this meal in very high regard. He believed it was more than a memorial of Christ. It was the “real presence” of Jesus with his church. He also hoped weekly communion would become the norm.

For some years I have longed to receive the Eucharist often. Minimally, I want to come to the Table once a week. Ideally, even more often.

I recently looked at the Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America regarding the communion service and found the following words:

Together we proclaim the mystery of the faith:

Christ has died!

Christ is risen!

Christ will come again!

This affirmation is followed by this prayer:

Send your Holy Spirit upon us, we pray, that the bread which we break

Dealing with Consumerism Through Biblical Asceticism

Let’s face it – there is a growing personal freedom that comes by living in a culture deeply rooted in materialism and consumerism. If I have enough money, and the desire to spend it, I can buy a new car, a bigger home or a new iPhone or iPad. In fact, I can have all of this stuff and never even pay for it, or at least not for several years anyway. This is not all bad. But this particular kind of consumerism feeds into two major problems – individualism and hedonism. And these two problems create devastating moral consequences in our society. This explains, I believe, why so many well-intentioned Christians link free markets with consumerism and them reject them both in the process. I tried to show yesterday why this connection was false.

Make no mistake about this — the dangers here are very real. In fact, a great deal of modern evangelistic practice has fallen into a consumerist trap. We seek to fill a personal niche by appealing to consumer needs and desires. We tell consumers (the non-Christians we are evangelizing) that they need

Does Economic Freedom Lead to Consumerism?

A number of false conclusions are drawn by focusing only on outcomes. A common one focuses on the dangers of free markets and an open economy. Critics, especially earnest Christian critics, often attack economic freedom and capitalism based upon the very real dangers of consumerism. This association between markets and consumerism is so common that it often goes unchallenged. I hear it almost daily. But is the connection between free market capitalism and consumerism correct? Does opposition to consumerism, which is clearly a rampant problem in the church in the West, obligate one to oppose markets and growing a (global) business? Keep in mind, before you leap into this debate, that you should always ask a few questions before you leap.

globe_and_money The first question should be obvious? What exactly is consumerism? So far as I can tell the term "consumerism" was first used in 1915 to refer to the "advocacy of the rights and interests of consumers" (Oxford English Dictionary). But this is not the common way most

By |July 22nd, 2011|Categories: Business, Economy/Economics, Wealth|
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