Good stuff recent reading

Here are some good articles that have come across the interwebs lately.

Church Meetings 101 - This article is a summary of things I have affirmed, practiced and have worked at moving churches towards. Great stuff on committees vs. team approach to ministry + agenda and task focus. 12 Principles for More Effective Church Meetings

I am sure I've shared this before: 5 Basic Mistakes Churches Make Over and Over Again

And finally a rejection of the neo-reformed/neo-calvinism/The Gospel Coalition's god: The Horror of Meticulous Determinism

This one is just because it needs to be said, learned, and put in all short-term mission/learning tour training: Serving Overseas? 3 Kinds of Selfies You Should Never Take

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#‎AltonSterling‬ ‪#‎PhilandoCastile‬ ‪#‎Dallas‬

Some of my thoughts on the recent violence...

I cannot even begin to know what solidarity means with the African American community when simply getting into your car to go somewhere could mean death because you're only Driving While Black/DWB. We need to do better in this nation for Black lives. I cannot imagine having to tell my sons or daughter that simply because you are not white you will be treated very differently by some in law enforcement. That part of basic drivers ed is about handling police (because they are a totally unknown quantity with any encounter or stop) beyond basic respect. That sudden moves or even no moves may be your last day on the planet. That others would be considered more valuable, even in their criminal activity, than you would, even if you've done nothing wrong. That we still think the militarization of government agencies is a good thing for any lives is amazing to me.

I've been a partner in helping plant two immigrant churches of people from Africa and South America. My past two congregations had a certain level of diversity. As a child of God I believe the church must be the new neighborhood. I believe in tearing down walls between people. Its a part of being the new people of God that is such an emphasis in NT. We are holy bubble-poppers! Not shills for our state nor ethnic tribe. We can appreciate the state and tribes but they must be subverted to second place. Particularly for those who have used power to prop up their tribe through the state's weapons and policies in the past and present.

If you do not know the way of peace you will believe the lie that killing will somehow balance things out. You cannot kill your way to peace. Every death creates seeds for future violence. Jesus life and teachings show us how to break the cycle. Church its time to stop playing and propping up the violent ideologies of the world. Pray, fast, get uncomfortable and start engaging your neighbor as Jesus. Give your life for others, in that, Jesus said you will find life. ‪

#‎AltonSterling‬ ‪#‎PhilandoCastile‬ ‪#‎Dallas‬

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Important Anabaptist Voices Part 1

I want to bring people up to speed on important Anabaptist voices for those who are in traditional or neo-anabaptist contexts. One of my biggest shocks and deepest disappointments is when a church identifies as Mennonite-Anabaptist, maybe even having "mennonite" in their name, but does not affirm nor teach Mennonite/Anabaptist theology. They are MINO Menno's! (If you're familiar with the RINO Republican label...) I say this out of a deep love for the Anabaptist -radically Jesus centered way of being Christian and desire that those with this tradition rediscover a Jesus-centered Bible and Gospel.

In coming to Bay Shore Church, a historic Mennonite church, I candidated on a solidly Anabaptist/Neo-Anabaptist and Spirit-filled Evangelical Biblical-theology conviction and core.

There are several large players in the Anabaptist movement both within traditional churches and outside of them. Here are three of the big-boys (they happen to be men):

Bruxy Cavey - who is lead teaching pastor at The Meeting House in Toronto, ON. Full disclosure: I was on his staff team to help launch their 15th full site in West Toronto and to learn about Multi-site church. I am a huge fan of The Meeting House.

Greg Boyd - lead teaching pastor at Woodland Hills church St. Paul, MN. Full disclose their new teaching associate Seth McCoy and I have known each other since the 90s when we worked together at the same church while attending college.

Brian Zahnd - lead pastor at Word of Life church St. Joseph, MO. Who I have never met, but am reading his Water to Wine which seems very similar to my own spiritual journey (and almost conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy - a story for another day).

I highly encourage you if you are a recovering fundamentalist-evangelical, a recovering neo-reformer, a new christian, or responding to a call to follow Jesus to listen to their sermons. Then find a church that does not recoil in horror if you name Jesus and their names in the same sentence positively.

If you are looking to go even deeper, these three voices are part of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary's MA in Leadership & Culture. FPBS is a Mennonite Brethren Seminary. http://www.fresno.edu/programs-majors/biblical-seminary/ministry-leadership-culture-ma FYI I have no relationship with them, nor have I received a dime for this promotion (HOWEVER I am a pastor and could use it if anyone is paying attention :-) ).

A good place to start is here: http://www.newanabaptists.com/

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Is Reformed (Neo-Reformed and Calvinism) Theology Heretical?

This was a conversation that seems to keep on happening.

Heretic is a word I try use in the technical sense only as understood by the larger church through history. It is to deny the essential claims of Christianity as defined in things like the Nicene Creed. In this sense I would say usually "no" to the question of Reformed theology as heretical. HOWEVER, Robin Phillips does a great job with these articles. I particularly like #2 and #5. In five he makes the case that Calvinism/determinism undermines the humanity of Christ and is therefore classically heretical. Enjoy! :

http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxyandheterodoxy/2014/01/09/why-i-stopped-being-a-calvinist-part-1-calvinism-presents-a-dehistoricized-bible/

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Sex and the Body

Embracing not only God's love for all he has created, but at the most immediate level, also the universality of sin is how we learn to love one another outrageously.

The denial of the universality of sin impact on our bodies and sexuality is the fundamental issue that fundamentalist-conservatives deny and the GLBTQ Christian thinkers deny.

One, because they can claim extreme holiness (complete) in traditional marriage, the other because they are either reacting against number one; or are, two, claiming the same fundamentalist-conservative extreme holiness for all covenant-couplings.

Both reject crucial scriptural revelations about the work of sin in our bodies (and this include the arrogance in Western reasoning), which is not fully redeemed UNTIL the universal resurrection. In other words they are the "word-faith" "name-it! claim-it!" about our bodies as regards sex. Same coin, different sides. This is also true and enabled by a blind cultural uptaking regarding identity categories of CIS, LGBTQ, etc. into their theological arguments. Same coin, different sides.

If a true third-way is possible it will be rooted in the affirmation of our "not yet" state in regard to the body and sex as fallen and not fully (at best partly being redeemed) redeemed until "the life of the world to come." Jesus makes this abundantly clear in his response to the Leverite Marriage question, "they will be like angels...no marriage" in heaven.

The universality of sin also must inform the structures and posturing around the false-holiness of the right and left. All we're doing in American culture is switching which team we cheer and punish. That is not true justice, nor does it make for reconciliation. The "owning" of universal brokenness and sin is a real work that we have all been avoiding through identity-language games.

Now this does not solve what do you do then as a church regarding people not experiencing, nor choosing a behavior that aligns with the classic/traditional applications. But it should at the very least turn down the heat and show a theological-practical new direction.

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Initial Reaction Reactions to Orlando

My first reactions are grief for/with those who have lost loved ones, and anger when lives are cut short and a prayer to God "come quickly Lord Jesus!" This world is a warzone because of human and spiritual freedom misused. A spiritual and physical warzone. Believers are to fight - but not with weapons as the New Testament makes explicit. Rather love, truth and grace, prayer and worship.

I am disheartened by:

(1)Those who jump on their left/right political bandwagons about solving evil that is in every human heart.

E.g. ban guns or

ban all Muslims or

make saints out of people - who are image bearers BUT saints-in-process at best or

demonize people, or

Hilary/Trump/Johnson is right! or

love is a simply a "feeling", etc. etc.

(2)All the trotted out false equivalency (AKA: equivocation) arguments against Christians. These are old. "Well this could have just as well have been a Christian!" Except you will not find in the teachings of Jesus (who is the fulfillment of all the OT in Christian teaching) a call to kill ANYONE! PERIOD. FULL STOP. Even in Hebrew Bible there is a progression by the time you get to the prophets where the old law/Torah is being altered significantly (don't have time to unpack that).

(3)Then there are those who denounce calls to pray. Prayer is one variable of many that influences our world. To deny the power of processing through prayer, let alone any spiritual realities behind evil and violence is claiming far more than anyone actually knows. If there had been more prayer and less "rash acting" the hate level on all sides would be lowered and perhaps 49 people would alive today.

So what does one do? Avoid answers that demonize another segment of society for starters. Name (pray and talk it through with others if need be) your anger blinding you to violence in your heart no matter how justified you think it is.

Love outrageously.

Look past categories of spiritual, religious, atheist(lot's of real state violence here too). Reject the ancient ethnic categories and modern reductionist of categories of orientation - both are tools of division and creating false identities that rob us of humanity (ironically claiming to give us more of our "humanity" back through division).

Love outrageously.

Give your life FOR life, not an ideology. The ideology battles are not worth it, they always make someones life just a little less human.

Society is changed by real relationships and tearing down walls. The ideology mongers in our media and political establishment need wall-builders to flourish. Jesus calls believers to tear down walls - not erect new ones with our ideologies and cheap-trick "solutions".

BTW this article I found quite good: http://www.christiantoday.com/article/owen.jones.right.about.homophobia.wrong.about.religion/88237.htm

And this from Nabeel Qureshi

"As an ex-Muslim who loves America and my Muslim family, my heart is hurting beyond expression. Today we witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history: 50 tragically killed in an ‪#‎Orlando‬ gay bar. The authorities announced the details just a few minutes ago: it was Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a devout American-born Muslim who had pledged his allegiance to ISIL. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/florida-gay-nightclub-shootin…/) Mateen's father has said the shooting had "nothing to do with religion," and that his son may have committed this crime because he saw "two men kissing in Downtown Miami a couple months ago." But no one goes on a killing rampage for seeing two men kiss. Clearly there's more to this that his father doesn't see. I do not blame him, though. His son has just died, and he's not in a state to think clearly. We ought to be praying for him. None of us can think entirely objectively, especially on the heels of a terrorist attack charged with so many political controversies. The rhetoric and agendas are flying, even though the dust has not yet settled. Gun control? Homophobia? Islamophobia? As we are clouded by agendas and struggling to react, two opposing positions are coming to the fore: "Islam is a religion of peace and Mateen's actions therefore have nothing to do with Islam," or "Islam is inherently violent therefore we must see all Muslims as latent threats." As an American and a former Muslim, my heart is torn by these two poles of rhetoric. Those who take the first position are endangering my country by overlooking the very real cause of Jihad, which are the teachings and history of Islam. Those who take the latter position are endangering my Muslim family and friends, loving and patriotic Muslims that are as innocent and American as the rest of us. The fact is, the vast majority of Muslims are loving, peaceful people who would never want to hurt any American or homosexual. I know this because I was deeply rooted in the Muslim community, and not a single Muslim out of the thousands I knew were violent or harbored violent tendencies. (The community I am referring to is in Norfolk, Virginia, with Sunnis, Shias, and others attending the same mosque. It was an open-armed and diverse Muslim community.) Regardless, Islam itself has always taught that gays should be executed. Muhammad commanded: "If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done." (Sunan Abu Daud 4447) Imams who have been trained in these Islamic teachings are teaching in our communities. Just three months ago, an imam who is well known for proclaiming Muhammad's teachings on homosexuality spoke in Orlando. In a prior speech about homosexuals he was noted to have said, "Let's get rid of them now." (video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBlwxqqAprQ; news article: http://www.wftv.com/…/iranian-doctors-planned-tal…/185803158) The imam spoke at an Islamic center that is less than 20 miles from the site of today's atrocities. Some American-born Muslims, such as Omar, are taking teachings like these at face value, listening to their imams and following Muhammad. How can we understand this dilemma? How do we not react against all Muslims despite the fact that Islam has always taught such violence? My answer is simple: truth and love. This may sound trite or fanciful, but I am not advocating a whimsical or baseless love, which would never stand in the face of Jihad. I think we must respond with a love grounded in truth and self-sacrifice, reflecting the person and heart of Jesus Christ. We need to acknowledge the truth about Islam while holding that in tension with a respect and love for Muslims. (If you want more on this, I wrote a book on the topic after San Bernardino, ‪#‎AnsweringJihad‬: http://www.nabeelqureshi.com/answering-jihad). Orlando marks the beginning of a new phase in our nation's history: The worst mass-shooting on American soil is now an Islamist terror attack. Our country has to respond, and it will respond. I pray that those of you who have taken the time to read this (thank you) will be a voice for responding with truth and love."

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The Unseen Realm

One of the great things I learned in Pentecostalism was an enchanted worldview. Spiritual warfare matters that material is not all there is to the world we inhabit. It's been encouraging to see this coming back into the Western Church. If you want to learn more there is a new book Im reading that points to much of this: The Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael S. Heiser Also I would recommend God at Warand Satan and the Problem of Evil by Greg Boyd also check out: http://www.patristics.co/2016/06/08/what-are-demons/

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Authors I Read

A pastor friend recently posted an article on authors they approve of. The list was primarily in the fundamentalist neo-reformed and largely cessastionist (not be confused with the more generous reformed crowd, e.g. James Smith, etc.) wing of the American church. Several of whom in my mind border on Gnosticism, and all of whom are hard-core "God is an anxious, insecure, extreme control-freak who must micro-manage and determine everything" types. They start with a view of God (non-Biblical and un-orthodox IMO - rooted in Helenism more than the Hebraic culture and background of the Bible) that says this, then impose it on all of the Bible and life.

Here is a sampling of theologians I read, Biblical scholars and pastors that speak to the non-Augustinian, non-Anselmian, Anabaptist, Wesleyan, Pentecostal/charismatic and grand orthodoxy of the Church:

NT Wright
Walter Brueggemann
Craig Keener
Richard Bauckham
Ben Witherington III
Brian Zahnd
Valdimir Lossky
Roger E. Olson (Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, Against Calvinism, )
Amos Yong
Dallas Willard
Randy Maddox
Clark Pinnock
Greg Boyd
Robert Menzies
Frank Macchia
Roger Strontad
James KA Smith
Wolfgang Vondey
Miroslav Volf
Gordon Smith
Roger Stronstad
Martin Mittelstadt

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Bible Translations

Recently I had a conversation about the Septuagint vs the Hebrew for Old Testament/Hebrew Bible study, devotional, etc. use. In my efforts to summarize that Jesus and most Jews in that time used the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible we got lost in the weeds. Ken Collins has a good summary of the issue when he recommends a study Bible. Here it is: (For his recommendations - which I do not all agree with: http://www.kencollins.com/bible/bible-t2.htm#osb) "...The Orthodox Study Bible is unique among all the translations on this page, because its Old Testament comes from the Septuagint , not the Hebrew text. The Orthodox Study Bible contains the first translation of the Septuagint into English since the nineteenth century.

In biblical times, the city of Alexandria, in Egypt, was famous for its voluminous library, its schools, and its intellectuals. It also had the largest Jewish community in the Diaspora, that is, anywhere other than Judea. When Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to Egypt, this is most likely where they settled, so Jesus’ early education took place in the Alexandrian school system, which was the best in the world at the time.

Since Alexandrian Jews spoke Greek, they undertook a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures about two centuries before Christ. It is called the ‘Septuagint’ because there were about seventy translators. The Septuagint was well entrenched as normative Scripture for Greek-speaking Jews by the time of the events in the New Testament. Since Galilee was a Greek-speaking territory, the Septuagint was normative Scripture in Galilean synagogues and for Jesus and His disciples. We know that because the New Testament quotes the Septuagint, not the Hebrew scriptures that we have today.

The Septuagint is more messianic than the Hebrew text, which meant that early Christians could easily mine it for proof texts to make converts. They were so effective that the rabbis standardized on the Hebrew text for the synagogue scrolls, and the Septuagint fell out of use among Jews. Many lay Christians accused the Jews of editing the Hebrew text to make it less messianic. (See Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, chapters 71-73.) This is hardly possible, because the Jews have too much respect for the text to do such a thing. The motive for this accusation was mainly emotional: Christians were under persecution because the rabbis had disowned the church as a Jewish sect, making it an illegal religion; therefore, Christians were quick to accuse the Jews. Since the switch took place in reaction to Christian use of the Septuagint, my guess is that there was more than one Hebrew text to choose from and that the rabbis chose an accurate text whose phrasing was less conducive to Christianity than the Hebrew text underlying the Septuagint.

Here is how it happened:

the Temple in Jerusalem sent Hebrew scrolls containing the Scriptures to Jewish scholars in Alexandria. The Jewish scholars translated the Scriptures into Greek. The Septuagint became authoritative Scripture among Jews in the Diaspora. It was considered divinely inspired. Many of Jesus’ arguments presuppose the wording of the Septuagint. (John 10:34) When people checked up on Paul in the Scriptures, they were in Greek, otherwise they would not have been able to read them. (Acts 17:11) The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the library of Alexandria was burned down. The Hebrew scrolls in both places were destroyed. The rabbis gathered Hebrew scrolls from other locations to produce a new standard Hebrew text. The current Hebrew text is younger than the Septuagint and the scrolls on which it was based. The rabbis discontinued the use of the Septuagint in the synagogues and started using only the new Hebrew text.

The Septuagint was the canonical Old Testament of the ancient church, and has remained so in Orthodox churches to this day, which explains its presence here in the Orthodox Study Bible.

In the early fifth century, Jerome translated the Bible into Latin for western use. He switched to the Hebrew text for the Old Testament. His translation, called the Vulgate, became the standard Bible of the Roman Catholic Church until well after the Protestant Reformation. Therefore, under Jerome’s influence, Catholics and Protestants use the Hebrew Scriptures for their Old Testament. However, Jesus, the apostles, the New Testament, and the ancient Church all used the Septuagint as their Old Testament. The Septuagint is older than the Hebrew scriptures we have today.

Even though this is a study Bible, I have included it in this list because it contains the only modern translation of the Septuagint, which is not available separately.

Disadvantages The Old Testament in the Orthodox Study Bible does not match the Old Testament in any other Bible, because this is the only English-language Bible in existence that uses the Septuagint as its Old Testament. The footnotes do not represent the findings and opinions of modern western scholars, but the historical use of the texts in eastern Christian theology. If you are a seminary student, your professors may object to using it in Old Testament studies, because it is not the Hebrew text, and because the footnotes Christianize and allegorize the Old Testament text. Within the bounds of academic study, they do have a good point.

Advantages The Old Testament in the Orthodox Study Bible gives better insight into the New Testament, because it is the version that the New Testament writers read, used, and quoted. It can give depth and context to the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament and in the theology and interpretive techniques of ancient Christianity and contemporary Orthodoxy. Since Jesus, the apostles, the New Testament, and the early Church Fathers all use the Septuagint as their Old Testament, one could make the argument that the Septuagint is the canonical Old Testament for Christians.

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Community – Church as Community

http://www.missioalliance.org/stop-using-word-community-unless-mean-part-one/Just read it! A good start for the conversation.

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