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Archive for May, 2008

If you were to discuss important things with me, it wouldn’t be long before I talked about shalom- I’ve mentioned it in these blogs already. I would say that the Kingdom of God is the most important thing I learned about in grad school and to me, shalom is a short-hand way of understanding it. I will try to explain. In grad school, I also learned to write concisely (supposedly!), so I’ve given my long-winded-self 350 words for this huge topic:

The OT prophets looked forward to a time God would reign over the earth, a kingdom characterized by shalom. Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace, but a more full meaning is harmony, completeness, wholeness and fulfillment; it is a flourishing relationship with God, other people, creation and oneself.

Jesus came preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.” Yet, the world is not yet a place of shalom. It was once (the Garden of Eden) and it will be again (see Revelation 21-22), but God is still in the process of working out his purposes in the world.

What do we do with Jesus’ message? The kingdom is near? Huh? We Christians believe reality was fundamentally altered in Jesus, his death and resurrection conquered sin and death. This victory is still being worked out on the earth; the Kingdom has, in a sense, already come (in Jesus), but has not yet come.

Two more things. First, we Evangelicals focus on the Cross: Jesus was born and then he died. We tend to forget he lived and taught. Jesus embodied the Kingdom, he lived and taught a way of life that embodied and created shalom. And he says, “Follow me! (which you can’t do without my Spirit, which you can’t have unless you put me on the throne of your heart).” Second, Jesus did not say build the Kingdom. That is His job. He said, “repent and believe.” Change your mind, live like I am ruling now, despite appearances…Be shalom-makers…My power will be displayed in your weakness…This is the way that leads to true life, have faith in me. Certainly there is mystery here. I don’t know how we get from here to there, from glimpses of God’s reign and power, to where the thirsty will thirst no more. But for now, I yearn for that day and try to live a life characterized by the sort of faith, hope and love that believes that day will truly come with all its fullness, flourishing and fulfillment.

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Time Travel: Part 1

 “When I was a boy, I thought a lot about time travel,” is what I almost said. Well, that would be a lie. I thought about time travel today. I’m not afraid to admit it. My first thought: if I were given a choice between traveling into the past or future, which would I choose? I still don’t know. On the one hand, if I traveled into the past I could change the course of human history, while, on the other hand, if I traveled into the future I could see what my life would become. It comes down to a choice between changing the course of the world or changing the course of my life. Either way, something’s changing. Of course, if you’ve spent anytime whatsoever thinking about time travel (don’t lie, you know you have), you would realize that changing the course of history could result in a break down of the space-time continuum, as Back to the Future so eloquently pointed out. But, traveling to the future in order to glimpse my future would probably make me overanalyze everything in my present. Oy. What am I to do? 

I couldn’t help but wonder why my mind always goes to the past and future, rarely to the present. What makes me want to time travel at all? Hmmm

When I find myself thinking about the future or past, it’s often because I’m unsatisfied with my present. In my future, I think things will be better: I’ll have more time, I’ll be able to spend more time with my friends and family, I’ll be able to do the things that I love, finally getting to India or back to Paris. In my past, I think about what I should have done, things I should (or shouldn’t!) have said, things I should have experienced, or options I should have explored. Thinking about my future and past releases me from the reality of my present. It allows me to divert my attention to things I cannot change or predict. My present is always so much more complicated than the endless scenarios of regret or hope.

My present is always more difficult. To face the challenges of my everyday life, to see my life from the perspective of right now, challenges me to, quite simply, live. To focus on my present requires me to look at every area of my life, asking myself not who I am but who I want to become. Asking myself who I want to become is always a more difficult question because I am forced to come face to face with who I am right now. And who I am right now is never satisfying.

At this point, it could launch into a diatribe about what a wretched human being I am. I could make a list of the things I’m not happy with about myself and my small part of the world. Well, you probably get the idea. Why is my tendency self-loathing and regret? I still can’t figure this out …  

PS. Part 2 may never come …  but i certainly hope it does. 

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D.L. Moody was a 19th century revivalist preacher. Admittedly, I am using him as a figurehead and I suppose there are other people I could have chosen, but Moody is famous (why go after the little guys?) and he said this: “I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel. God has given me a lifeboat and said to me, ‘Moody, save all you can.’”

Now, I’m all for people giving their lives to Christ, so thanks to Moody for helping many do that. But it has taken an awful lot of school for me to get rid of that kind of attitude and replace it with something better. Being a Christian is not about wanting to escape an evil world, waiting to be rescued. Nor is praying a prayer all that it takes to follow Jesus (though, of course, it can be a good start). The Gospel is bigger; at its heart it is a story about shalom, about flourishing, thriving relationships with God, other people, creation and yourself. More on that in later blogs.

In a lot of ways, I wish I could have had the sort of broad, open, positive worldview I have now when I graduated from high school. In a lot of ways, it has taken 8 long, hard- and expensive- years of school to get it. As I sit here now, there are lots of things I could be, but can no longer be. Once I wanted to be an engineer. I could easily have been part of Engineers Without Boarders, a group of engineers developing infrastructure and generally making life better in third world countries. I toyed with the idea of being a lawyer, but could never think of the sort of law I would want to practice. I could have worked for International Justice Mission, an agency of lawyers and investigators that works for rule of law in places where there is none. I could have been an ecologist or conservationist. I could have been a kick-ass economist (and surely we urgently need to improve on our current sort of capitalism). But in the 18-yr. old version of my worldview, these sorts of things were either not worthy or unimaginable.

I am not bitter; this is a tongue-in-cheek reflection on the school loans I soon start to pay back. Moody owes me, ha ha ha. But it is also lament. Do not get me wrong, I am thoroughly satisfied with who I am and the journey I am on. I am excited about the direction God is leading me and how I will use my education. But it is also proper to recognize our brokenness and lament. There is much that I am thankful for in my fundamentalist upbringing, but there was also much in the worldview I was given that needed supplementing or even replacing and healing. In his grace, God took me as I was and is working in me and with me. This is my story. I blame Moody in good fun, but the important thing is to be aware of where I have come and what God has done in me. Part of that is recognizing that I come from a context that shaped me and God must work with who I actually am and not some ideal self.

Heirs of Moody, I’m waiting for my check!

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I graduated from Regent College with an M.Div a few weeks ago- it took me four years. Add that to four years of undergrad getting a degree in philosophy and you have a heck of a lot of school. And school costs lots of money; I figure we’re well into six figures all total.

After graduating with my philosophy B.A., I worked my love for coffee into a series of coffee shop gigs (some stereotypes are true!). Despite my complete lack of marketable skills, I wouldn’t have changed my degree for anything. Still, throughout my M.Div- especially as debt and the number of people I was responsible to rose (i.e. a wife and then a kid)- I was pretty aware that I really didn’t want another “character-developing” degree. Fortunately, the M.Div is specifically designed for people looking to work: in churches, that is. The M.Div is eminently practical- even vital- for being a pastor in a church. Unfortunately, another thing I became increasingly aware of throughout my M.Div was that I didn’t really fit in a traditional church. Enter the aforementioned Moody.

I grew up a fundamentalist. I carried my Bible around my public high school and was surprised to find other Christians there. I wrote a paper in senior English decrying evolution as nonsense in light of an obvious 7-day creation. Even after a year of college, the “evil” that I choose to write a term paper about was existentialism (ironic indeed, considering my later degree choice and that Kierkegaard is now my favorite author). I had a narrow, ignorant, militant worldview, more concerned with confronting the world and staying pure, than with actually loving and helping.

But why Moody, why finger him?

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No Pressure.

The pressure to write something profound, something that will forever change the trajectory of humanity, has finally passed. When we created the site, over one week ago, we thought it would be only a matter of days before we would begin our small, pitiful existence in the blogosphere! Tonight I decided that I would write something and forgo my messianic compulsion to offer a timeless manifesto of the Christian faith. Instead, I find myself thinking about pressure. You know, the kind of self-imposed pressures we confront on a daily basis and, for me, the pressure to write an inaugural blog that, at the very least, will change the trajectory of my life. Yeah, Jeff made a funny.  

My desire to write something profound had so outweighed my desire to write, to get all of these random thoughts about life and faith out of my head, that I succumbed to the pressure of believing that the only thoughts worth writing (or actions worth living) are those that radically change the world. Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t mind changing the world. Who wouldn’t? But I’m no superhero; I’m too human for that. Why, then, do I continue to feel such pressure?

I have a theory. Pressure is my internal conflict between a desire to be something great (Translate: superhero) and my humanity. In other words, I hope that I can make a difference in spite of myself, not because I’m such a great person. Then I get to the inevitable fork in the proverbial road: 1) the road of self-loathing and 2) the road of uncertainty. This doesn’t seem like much of a choice, on the one hand, a choice between what, in my most silent moments, I believe I am and, on the other hand, the hope of what I can become. The first road is predictable, paved with excuses and littered with self-doubt. The first road consumes me as I try to create a path to the other road, only to realize that my internal focus has blinded me to the reality that I’ve never actually left the first road.

After many attempts on the first road, I decided to walk straight back to find the fork again and start down the other road. I hope to share some thoughts about my journey with you. My blogs will share the mundane (and hilarious) experiences of my everyday life, while others will capture the most personal and pivotal moments both present and past.

Ok, I think I’m ready to blog. No pressure. 

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Greetings! Thank you for visiting our blog! We are just a couple of friends who are interested in sharing our thoughts from along the Way. We hope our thoughts will encourage you in your journey along the Way.

Stay tuned. We should be up and running within a week. 

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