Category Archives: Theology Thoughts

Review: Idaho Green Expo

Downtown Boise was a mess this weekend!!  Not only was the Idaho Green Expo going on, but next door (literally) Beth Moore was hosting an event.  Not to be left out, the area between the two events was hosting it's own function – ie. a farmers market.

This led to a shortage of parking spaces, tons of exhaust flumes and a multitude of people. The later was welcome while the former items were despised…

Overall, this was the BEST conference or expo we've ever attended! News reports have stated that over 15,000 people went through the Expo – many of whom we got to talk too.  In fact, I believe we talked to more people and sold more items then ever before!  Shoot, we had to print more Re:From brochures Sunday morning as we ran out!

Here are few stories from the Expo:[@more@]

1) The Love Justice & LTTG combo worked great! I talked to one presenter who kinda understood the environment side of our ministry, but could understand how the human injustice part fit in. This opened the door for me to share the heart of God. It was a God moment!

2) The t-shirts were a great conversation starter – one guy even chased down M and asked him where he got the shirt. That led into a wonderful opportunity for M to share a bit about about God and what the church is doing.

3) We had a lot of people come up to the booth who had heard of the Vineyard, but didn't know anything about it. As such, we were able to answer their questions about the church and put them at ease about visiting. Lord knows how many coffee cards we gave out!!! Laughing

Coffee cards = small brochures about the Vineyard Boise with a free espresso coupon. Yeah – we have an espresso bar in the church. It is the Northwest after all! Laughing

The Kingdom of Heaven was advanced this weekend! 

Thanks for all your prayers!!!

The Kingdom of God

In a previous post I mentioned that God has been taking me on a journey concerning the Kingdom of God. While I’m not quite ready to write down everything I’m learning (ie. I’m still sorting things out), I did want to highlight an amazing five part lecture series by Derek Morphew about the Kingdom of God

  1. The Prophetic Promise of the Kingdom (Part 1 & 2 combined)
  2. New Testament Coming of the Kingdom
  3. Sons of The Kingdom
  4. Bringing in The Kingdom

Morphew, as you may remember, is the author of the book Breakthrough as well as a theologian and director of the Vineyard Bible Institute in South Africa. In these lectures, he lays out the basics for Kingdom Theology in a very simple but in depth way.

I STRONGY recommend all five of these lectures
– you can download them now and listen to them later if you want. In fact, you can also download the Morphew’s Power Point presentation for each of the lectures.

Idaho Green Expo

If you read this and have time, please drop some prayers upwards with me and the LTTG/Love Justice team as we share our heart with folks at the Idaho Green Expo. While we will be advertizing the Vineyard Boise's 2008 Re:Form Conference, I'm praying for some God encoutners. Let His Kingdom Come!! =D

Oh – Please be praying for the ladies as they attend the Beth Moore conference this weekend. 

God bless

Christianity without Christ

Sound crazy right? But not to Canadian pastor Gretta Vosper. She part of a "Christ-less Christian theology" movement:

Vosper’s Christianity…[is] a sort of next step (the final step?) in a progression to build up a church without “a god,” Jesus, any traditions or catechism or moral absolutes. It’s already common among American youth; 61 percent of respondents to this 2007 LifeWay Research survey said the God of the Bible is “no different from the gods or spiritual beings” of other world religions. [worldontheweb.com]

This is just one more step into folks trying to turn the "church" into a social gathering. It is because of this that the true church (ie. those who have made a personal decision to follow JC; those with a relationship and not a 'religion') needs to step up and be the Bride of Christ. [@more@]

For too long we (the greater church) have sat back in our little "Christian" houses, read our "Christian" books, listened to our "Christian" music, watched our "Christian" TV and films, and did our "Christian" duty – all without doing crap!!

Let's stop throwing rocks over the wall and start living our faith. Jesus only gave us seven commandments – let's do them!!

  1. Love God with all of our being
  2. Love others
  3. Heal the sick
  4. Cleanse leapers
  5. Raise the dead
  6. Cast out demons
  7. Proclaim the Kingdom of God

Yeah – there's only seven. It's not that hard. Let us do what the Father does.

John Wimber: Kingdom of God

As some of you know, I have been involved in a personal in-depth study into of the Kingdom of God and what that really means. God has been radically changing the way I look at the Bible, life and this world. I’ve been given a new pair of glasses.

The deeper I get into the study of the Kingdom of God, the more the name of John Wimber keeps popping up. To be sure, I’ve heard of John Wimber before – after all he was the founder of the Vineyard Movement, which I’m a part of – but it was usually connected to a quote or phrase such as “the meats in the street” or “doin’ the stuff”.

In an effort to learn more about the Kingdom of God and John Wimber I picked up a book of Wimber’s teachings as well as a seven part CD series by Wimber about the Kingdom of God. Both of these items are amazing – yet that’s not why I’m writing today.

I was browsing online this week trying to locate some additional material about the Kingdom of God from different sources. During this hunt, I discovered two sites that had personal testimonies about the writer’s first meeting with John Wimber. The fact that these testimonies were online wasn’t that odd as both sites where affiliated with the Vineyard in some way. The thing that struck me was WHAT Wimber was doing when they meet him.[@more@]

Let me show you.

The first article I found was on the South Africa Association of Vineyard Churches (AVC) website. It is an excerpt from the book, “Doing Church”, written by Alexander Venter (Area Pastoral Coordinator for the South Africa AVC). This is how he meets Wimber:

I will never forget the first meeting I was in with John Wimber. It was the first morning of the Pastor’s Conference in Johannesburg. When it was time to begin, John strolled up to the piano, sat down, and gently began to play and sing ‘J-e-es-u-s what a wonder you are, you are so gentle, so pure and so kind …’ Slowly we all joined in, but I quickly found myself overcome by the simplicity of the words, the warmth, gentleness and intimacy of the experience, and I began to feel all tender and tearful….Then John stood up and casually opened his Bible and began to talk to the pastors about the Kingdom of God. Again, there was no preacher’s tone or loud voice, no religious jargon or sermonising; just an honesty, openness and clarity that was completely disarming.

The second testimony is vaguely similar – just on a different continent.

This article was written by Don Williams who was a Presbyterian pastor at the time. He is now a member of the Vineyard movement as a theologian, author and former-pastor. He recalls his first introduction to Wimber as such:

As I entered the parking lot of Canyon High School for the evening service, people were literally running toward the gym. Clearly they weren’t drifting in for church as usual. Once inside, I was greeted by an auditorium filled with about 2,000 people, informally dressed. I slipped into the bleachers. A group of musicians mounted the platform at one end of the basketball court and began to play simple songs….After worship, the large man at the keyboards, who I identified as John Wimber, got his Bible and began to speak. From my days in the “Jesus Movement” of the ‘60’s, I expected a pop sermon from Revelation on the end of the world. I got a thoughtful sermon on the kingdom of God, come and coming and our place in it “between the times.”

Did you catch the similarities? There were two of them. The first was the simple worship that started each meeting. The second was that John Wimber talked to each group about the Kingdom of God. It is the second similarity that really hit me…

Pause there for a minute.

A few years ago I butchered a sermon in Chile (granted I had five minutes to prepare), afterwards my mentor told me to prepare my heart message so that I would and could be ready to preach at any time. Honestly – I had a tough time coming up with such a message – in fact, I couldn’t... I mean, most of my heart was caught up with the “missions bug” and the missional heart of God – yet somehow that didn’t seem right….

Enter the Kingdom of God.

This was THE central message of Jesus Christ as well as John the Baptist, the Apostles, Isaiah, Moses, Paul and a pretty much everyone else (granted they all didn’t use those words). Now I find that it was also the central message of John Wimber – a man whom God used to change the course of the church. I say that not just because I’m a member of the Vineyard Movement – but because the influence of John Wimber transcended denominations.

What does this have to do with me?
I’m not sure right now. But God is taking me on an incredible journey into His word. I’m just hanging on and yelling like a mad man on a roller coaster.

Come Lord, Come.

Partisanship Splits Americans' Views on the Environment

Hmm.. Yeah?! Did you really need a poll to tell you that?

Apparently they did as YouGov/Polimetrix just finished a nationally representative survey for the Economist. I thought some of the graphs where interesting, so I copied them for your viewing pleasure (or displeasure). Wink

What do you think is the most important environmental problem facing the world today?

Partisanship Splits Americans' Views on the Environment graphs

[@more@]

The partisan split was again clear in the perceived seriousness of global warming. How serious a problem do you think global warming is?

Partisanship Splits Americans' Views on the Environment graphs

My thoughts:

I think it's a shame to see such a partisans divide when it comes to the environment. It's almost like the political parties are dictating science to the people. Frown

Some times to be Biblical consistent, you have to be political inconsistent.

Resurrection and Creation Care

Rarely do I post fully articles as they tend to be long and have that nasty copyright issue attached… However, today I have decided to post an article or, one might say, essay about Easter and Creation Care.

While I know that some of you will not agree with Brandon Rhodes views on creation care, he does provide a good view of how some of the ideas of Gnosticism and Platonic Dualism (to be defined in the essay) have sipped into modern Christianity. Hopefully each reader will be able to walk away from this post knowing a little more about how these early heresies are making a comeback.


Resurrection and Creation Care
How Plato Has Hoodwinked Hope and Eviscerated Easter
By Brandon Rhodes
 
Originally Published by Restoring Eden

Easter is about unbridled hope. But I never really got the holiday, about what Easter had to do with the future. Like many Christians, I grew up very confused about hope, and so also about Easter.

Best as I ever heard, the Christian hopes that he or she will go to heaven after they die, and they can do this because of Jesus’ death on the cross. Heaven is really where it’s at, where our home is. This world’s not our home, after all – or so I heard in Sunday School. “I’m just travelin’ through this world, in this life,” I’d hear many say. And at a funeral, death was sanitized as the departed “going home”. This life was just training ground, went the conventional wisdom, for heaven. What happened on Earth, or to the Earth, was of only marginal consequence.

But there was another aspect to this hope – that one day Jesus would come again and judge everyone. We’d all be resurrected, and he’d take us to heaven. It’s the very stuff of that much-loved hymn, “I’ll fly away, oh glory, I’ll fly away.” Death is talked about as a welcomed doorway to escape the jail of this world and flesh, and arrive home on God’s celestial shore.[@more@]

What was lost to me in all this was quite why Jesus would come again, only to take us away. And what would become of the rest of creation? Do our souls get vacuumed out of it and into heaven just as God crumbles it up and throws it into the trash bin? I couldn’t figure out, either, where to put that talk in scripture of “new heavens and new earth” – is this just fancy talk of heaven, or something more? And why would Jesus teach us to pray for heaven to come to earth, if we were only going to heaven in the end anyway? Jesus must have been terribly confused!

Moreover, I couldn’t square this “creation-as-prison” hope with the dozens of clear biblical teachings that creation is good, is to be tended, and will in the end be healed. The gap between this escapist hope and the command of creation care has felt wide indeed.

This is the conventional hope of millions of Christians. But it’s not the hope of the Bible.

This view of escaping creation, of what author Paul Metzger calls “rapture and retreat”, is often pinned on to dispensational theology. It’s the theology popularized in the Left Behind books, and supports the end-times fervor latent in many American evangelicals, whether they’ve heard of dispensationalism or not. I regularly see it blamed for the “it’s all gonna burn anyway” excuse so often used in Christianity to escape ecological responsibility. And indeed, some blame may be appropriate here.

But I won’t settle for the usual lambaste against one school of theology, of smugly poking fun at all those end-timers and letting that be that. We’ve been reading escapism into the Bible for far longer than dispensationalism has been around. The roots of our ambiguous hope go much, much deeper.

It is time for a court summons for these villainous roots, and a presentation of the true Christian hope, that we may again celebrate Easter for all it’s worth. These deep roots have strangled our task as God’s stewards, and have made Easter into a magic trick in the shadow of the cross, rather than God’s emphatic ‘Yes!’ to His good world.

Our culprits now dragged into the courtroom are Platonic Dualism, and its pseudo-Christian partner, Gnosticism. As Westerners, we instinctively read the Bible through the first, and subsequently, for all our creedal vehemence against it, functionally fall into the deceitful morass of the second. Let’s get some brief definitions on the table.

Platonic Dualism is the view that this world is fundamentally bad, and that spiritual things are good. Our bodies are cages, prisons that keep us from the bright light of a disembodied bliss with the divine. Various branches of this physical/nonphysical dualism emphasize different things. To some, it means that the philosophical or contemplative life is best. To others, what we do in the body is of minimal moral importance. And to most dualists, death is a welcome doorway to heaven, God, freedom, nirvana, or whatever. The dead will never rise, and why in the world should we hope for that anyhow, if the spiritual world we’re freed to is home?

We see creeping tendrils of this all over Christianity, as stated above. Heaven is our afterlife, to the dualistic Christian, and creation is something we’ll never have to return to, thank goodness. To borrow from a popular movie, death becomes the welcome liberator which frees our minds and souls from the Matrix of this putrid place. The gospel becomes about only going to heaven after we die, instead of receiving and sharing the life of heaven on earth before we die, much less still anticipating a God-healed world. Judgment isn’t God’s loving setting-things-aright, but a wrathful destruction. And the future is God’s final dissolution of Earth. Trees and caribou, salmon and wild places, weather patterns and springtime blossoms – none of these have a stake in the dualist’s hope. And why, then, should the dualistic Christian want to care for any of it?

Gnosticism was the explicit celebration of this dualistic theology to its uttermost extremes. It was an early heresy soon stamped out by the early church fathers. I grew up hearing that Gnosticism’s great sin was its denial of Christ’s full humanity, which then shredded the meaning of the atonement. While true, Gnosticism’s root sin goes deeper: it denies the goodness of the creation, and so denies the goodness of the Creator God. They believed that the world was made by a bad god, and so was also bad, a prison for our immortal souls; the good god revealed in their vision of Jesus taught us the gnosis, the mysterious way of inward contemplation and emancipation from creation. This led to moral laxness, a ‘prayer closet’ spirituality of inward-bent mysticism, and acquiescence to the Roman Empire’s cruelties. Easter was spiritualized, bodily resurrection denied. Escape was the new hope.

Most pastors and theologians today would veheme
ntly deny and combat any latter-day Gnostic movement. Indeed they have: apologetics against the DaVinci Code and the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas and Gospel of Judas attest to the biblical Christian’s continuing rigor against this ancient heresy.

Yet its dualistic impulses continue to throb in various parts of the American church, as if we’ve denied Gnosticism in name only. Its dualism can continue unchecked in our lives and theologies, so long as it goes by any other name.

“God only cares about your heart” is but one of many oft-said evidences of Gnosticism’s continued creep into Christianity. Embedded within that saying is the assumption that the inside is better than the outside, that the spiritual and the physical do not go hand-in-hand, but can be neatly severed and excluded from one another. What we do with our hands, the semi-Gnostic logic of this goes, is irrelevant so long as our hearts are warm. This can lead to moral collapse regarding sexuality, war, economics, and of course creation care. While God cares deeply about the heart, it should be understood as the lotus of His solution to rescuing all of creation. God’s loving renewal of our hearts is an outworking of the power that raised Jesus from the dead, on the one hand, and so is a microcosm of what God will one day likewise do for the whole world, on the other. God cares so much about our hearts precisely because its renewal enables us to get on with being his new humanity in His new creation, His kingdom agents, firstfruits not of the Pie-In-The-Sky By-And-By, but of God’s good creation at last healed of its bondage to sin, decay, and death.

But I have gotten ahead of myself. Pardon that intrusion of the future.

We turn now to the hope of the New Testament, the Easter hope we will celebrate this Sunday: God’s bodily raising Jesus from the dead. If you want to know what the future will be like, scripture insists, look to the risen Lord. He is the shape of our hope. What God did to Jesus, He will also one day do to all people. But the hope doesn’t stop there, only for humans – all of creation will similarly experience its own resurrection! Romans 8 says that all of creation is groaning for this to happen – it’s bristling with anticipation of the day when its redemption and ours will come in full. It’s not waiting for the dualist’s hope, to itself be discarded as our spirits are uploaded to heaven. That’s no hope at all!

Consider the final picture in Revelation. It is one of heaven and earth coming together, the New Jerusalem coming down to Earth and both being mutually renewed. The angel cries “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4) This is a rapture in reverse: God peels away the grit of pollution and sin, and fills all of creation with His glory. Eden is restored, globally!

And the life of that age is what we find in the risen Jesus. Here is one who is fully physical, made of the same substance that was exhausted on Calvary, but which seems freed of decay and curse. Recognizable yet hard to recognize, radiant yet plain: the risen Jesus defied how we understand creation at all! Expert theologian on this topic N.T. Wright says that the first apostles were struggling to even create language to describe what they met in Him. Here was the presence of the future in the flesh of the risen Lord – a startling, exciting, hope-inciting snapshot of God’s intentions for the world.

Like the ancient frost of curse melting across C.S. Lewis’ Narnia as its false ruler is cast down, so also on Easter we see the long winter of sin and death crackling under Christ’s warmth – the springtime is here, assuring us that the summer of new heavens and new earth are on the way. The climate has indeed changed, and God’s own global warming is on the loose, melting our sins and idols constantly. Just as the dualist finds himself freed from creation and now in heaven, Easter shows heaven healingly burst upon an aching Earth! Better than life after death, in Wright’s word, is life after life after death: resurrection in a restored creation.

An Easter-shaped hope is not God’s throwing creation into the rubbish bin, nor the recycling bin (tempting as that metaphor may be)! No: on this Sunday we celebrate that God’s creation is indeed good, and His mission to heal it has been launched. Creation has been held captive by mutinous powers and humans for a long time, but God’s rescue operation to make it His home was decisively won on Good Friday and launched on Easter. This world is our home, and God’s too, if we are to take Revelation’s curtain-call seriously.

On Good Friday, may we meditate on Jesus taking on the pains of the world, of our sin and creation’s failed bearing of it. And Jesus bears what all creation cannot. He ached for extinct species, for clear-cut forests, for polluted rivers and smog-poisoned children. And it killed him: our exhaust, in effect, exhausting itself on him.

Easter, then, is God’s victory over it all. Where once were sad memories of extinct critters, God invites us to imagine new possibilities of animal care. The old world of oceanic dead zones are replaced with restored zones of life. The reality of the risen Lord Jesus lights up the world with God’s glorious Yes! May we this Easter give thanks to God that in Jesus we may join all of creation in this sure and steadfast hope.

Further Reading: Surprised by Hope, by N.T. Wright, 2008.

Animism or Traditional Religions

Last night as part of the DIA class I talked a bit about Animism – since I had the notes typed out, I figured I would share them with you all. Enjoy. Laughing
Animism
or Traditional Religions

Defined:

“The term ‘animism’ comes from the Latin world anima, which means ‘soul’ or ‘breath’. As such it refers to that which empowers or gives life to something. It follows, then, that animism is the religion that sees the physical world as interpenetrated by spiritual forces – both personal and impersonal – to the extent that objects carry spiritual significance and events have spiritual causes”. – Dean C. Halverson, The Compact Guide to World Religions

Why understand animism? It is….

  • the form of religion to which people gravitate
  • popular because it infuses the sacred into a reality that has been emptied of anything spiritual by the scientific / evolutionary perspective
  • offers a way for people to deal with everyday problems

[@more@]The Ultimate / Immediate Division

  • Ultimate – who is God, what is humanity’s problem, what happens after death
  • Immediate – everyday issues such as illness, loss of job, find a mate, restore relationships

Different parts of Animism

  • Necrolatry (the worship of the dead)
    • reverence for a departed ancestor
    • fear that the departed with harm or haunt the living
  • Spirit Worship
    • The existence of personal spirits/demons as well as impersonal spiritual forces in nature (commonly called mana)
    • Shamanism
      • a shaman, priest or witch doctor who knows all the proper sacrifices and rituals designed to calm the spirits
    • Magic
      • rituals designed to control an impersonal spirit for good or bad
    • Fetishism
      • charms, amulets, or fetishes
  • Naturism
    • The personifications and worship of the forces of nature
    • Rituals tend to focus on fertility (both in agriculture and human reproduction
    • Totemism
      • the unity of the clan or people with a sacred plant or animal

Four characteristics as suggested by William Paton:

  1. The whole of life is pervaded with fear
  2. The absence of love and consolation from his religion
  3. There are no absolutes of morality
  4. The lack of relationship with God causes a fatalistic attitude since all the events of life are predetermined and controlled by nature or demons

Suggestions for Evangelism

  1. Be sensitive to the animist perspective
  2. Be aware of the influence of Secularistic thinking in our lives
  3. Find common ground
  4. Highlight the differences
  5. Model trust in God alone
  6. Be ready for God to work in mighty ways
  7. Turn their heart towards desiring a relationship with God
  8. Address their fears
  9. Be clear about who Christ is and who we are in Him
  10. Point out the deceptive nature of the spirits

Sources:

Halverson, Dean C. The Compact Guide to World Religions. Bethany House Publishers; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. 1996. pages 35-53

Olson, C. Gordon. What In The World Is God Doing? The Essentials of Global Missions: An Introductory Guide. Global Gospel Publishers; Ceder Knolls, NJ, USA. 2003. pages 183-186

Additional Resources:

Corduan, Winfried. Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions. InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, Illinois, USA. 1998. pages 135-188

Amos

“Christianity is essentially a religion of belief in the coming of the Kingdom of God. It begins with the message preached by John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mt 3:2). It was with the same preaching that Jesus came forward in Galilee after the imprisonment of the Baptist (Mt 4:12,17).”

Thus Albert Schweitzer's The Kingdom of God and Primitive Christianity begins.

In order to understand the Christian view of the Kingdom of God, we must go back to the Jewish view of the Day of Yahweh. The original idea of the Day of Yahweh was that God would execute judgment on the nations whom fought against the people of Israel.

Amos challenged this picture:[@more@]

“God's judgement would be executed not only upon the enemies of his people but upon the people itself as well. Because Yahweh is an ethical God, to show himself as such he must execute judgement upon all peoples, including the people which belongs to him in a spical way, and the verdict would be based solely on the good or evil of their deeds.”

“In these tremendous utterances (Amos 3:2; 5:18, 20-24; 5:14; 7:17; 9:8-10, 11, 15) the knowledge of the completely ethical personality of God is for the first time made known, and it follows that ethical thought and action along give the right to a place in the coming Kingdom of God.”

“Elijah and Elisha were zealous for the purity of worship of Yahweh. For Amos the cultus no longer has any meaning. It does not create any relationship between man and God; only moral action does this. The culic reverence for Yahweh demanded by his two forerunners turns in Amos into an ethical reverence. The change means a spiritualization of religion which has never since been lost.”

Wow! This could not of come at a better time…. last night in our Bible study, I had a disagreement whether or not the 'true' Israel was one of blood or faith. To hear Schweitzer echo the words of my heart that God's people are tied together by a common faith in Him – not by dna – was refreshing.

Adding to this refreshing view is a verse God gave me from Amos about a month ago… at the time, I did not see Amos in this light. Now I will have to go back and re-read Amos in the light of the Kingdom.

Gloria al Dios