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Never Again! and yet, sadly, “all over again”…

On World Holocaust Remembrance Day I also remember that I come in part from a people who were bloodily persecuted - almost all driven from the continent before the Holocaust. So on this day I remember.

Never Again!

And yet new genocide against Christians in the Middle East and North Africa is fully in swing...When will we learn that religious or atheist/statist inspired violence and purges are rooted in the evil in each human heart.

If you want to know more about Holocaust remembrance day:
Yad Vashem: World Holocaust Center, Jerusalem http://www.yadvashem.org/

and my Arab and Armenian christian spiritual family:

"The US government's indifference to the genocide of Christians in the Middle East is shocking, but, unfortunately, not surprising. The demonstrated disregard for the suffering of Christians in the Middle East by the administrations of Presidents Bush (Bush II) and Obama (Bush III-IMHO - Shel) is entirely consistent with a double standard established by the moralizing hypocrisy of Woodrow Wilson in the midst of the first genocide of the twentieth century. In fact, American administrations have been willing not only to turn a blind eye to genocide against Christians in the Middle East; they have gone beyond that, by consistently supporting, at least since the 1980s, Turkey's genocide denial efforts."

Never Again! and yet, sadly, "all over again"...

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Facebook to Blog…

I realize what I post on FB or other social media platforms probably belongs more on the blog...

!Theological geek out warning! (Am writing a thesis on the spiritual gift of tongues-speech and prophetic speech as liberation/casting down the idolatry of language and it's use as a means of confronting the idol of control as a sign of the in-breaking Kingdom). "Derrida notes that the entire notion of "gift" is problematic, because every gift provokes a comparable gesture from the recipient (equivalent exchange), creating an economy of exchange that cancels out the very nature of a gift as gratuitous. Thus, for Derrida, a true gift is "impossible." If a gift did exist, it would appear as impossible, making it something that defies all description or phenomenological identification. As such, it cannot be known, for "as soon as you know it, you destroy it. (macchia)" I would link this to the work of the Holy Spirit in giving gifts that are far beyond our natural talents and acquired skills. So gifts that flow from the cross of Jesus and His sending of the Spirit are excessive and rooted in the self-giving of God. Don't despise them...

Language is a method of communication (primary). It is also a way we try to control our world. This is good and also bad. Obviously there are whole industries and all governments use language as a means of control, order, often injustice, spin, etc. The worse state of the place the more language games/control is imposed. Of course educated and articulate can often find ways to push back. However in places where people have been so crushed their access to the power of language is limited to change the narrative. More empowered people who have been awakened or convicted can join them and "share" some of their "Say-so" - this is standing in solidarity with oppressed people (truly oppressed - let's not confuse this with people who say they are oppressed - they certainly may have a case - but if the message is getting out they are the "semi-priviledged oppressed").

Language is a method of communication (primary). It is also a way we try to control our world. This is good and also bad. Obviously there are whole industries and all governments use language as a means of control, order, often injustice, spin, etc. The worse state of the place the more language games/control is imposed. Of course educated and articulate can often find ways to push back. However in places where people have been so crushed their access to the power of language is limited to change the narrative. More empowered people who have been awakened or convicted can join them and "share" some of their "Say-so" - this is standing in solidarity with oppressed people (truly oppressed - let's not confuse this with people who say they are oppressed - they certainly may have a case - but if the message is getting out they are the "semi- privileged oppressed").

We often use gift as a way to empower others in the western world, but there is an expectation that the liberation through the solidarity of gift will result in people who also affirm our cultural values.

God, however, has not bought into all our western values of emotion, culture, etc. (indeed many are shaped by things that DO align with Jesus' life and teaching - but many are as anti-kingdom as well).

SO gifts of the Spirit - in particular those that go strait to the Western hegemony of language are fascinating to me. Tongues- speech and prophetic-speech do that. Tongues speech in particular hits the pride of control of language head on. Moreover, we are finding the explosion of Christianity around the globe in places where people are open to this - and usually were oppressed. Apparently there is some direct empowerment that occurs that changes the course of life for people. An empowerment that jumps over the idolatry of language as a means of control/domination. It's starts with direct, divine, sheer gift that is somewhat unexplainable and then moves into alternative-city (e.g. churches, etc) empowerment. Again, tongues-speech is a gift that you can experience - but it's non-communicative yet empowering effect is a gift that you can have, but not "know" in a control sort of way. It's a brilliant stroke to constantly bring the tower of babel down across powers, thrones, ages, cultures. It's the kind of crazy artist stroke that keeps painting across time. It's the order of God over the control impulses of men and women - particularly religious and rabid-secular types.

Crazy gift, received from the marginalized, turns into culture-transformation and then back into new speech (prophetic) against the powers of domination.
January 23 at 8:57am · Edited · Like

The other big piece here is what happens in this kind of speech - I argue the common-grace (all people in life) parallels are what happens in play (sports/a good game/art-experience) you are taken up out of "normal" or non-play life - into play: experience fun, joy, intensity - and are empowered outside of whatever else and other powers there are - and then enter back into your non-play life differently. In Jesus and the sending of the HOly Spirit (and on-going filling/sending (in the Lucan sense) - you are invited to be empowered at the deepest level of being. So charismatics, pentecostals, "P" pentecostals need to do a better job of communicating about this "non-communicative" empowerment. Teach and invited with gracious, humble hospitality more people into the play of the Spirit. Don't downplay (haha) or "vanilliaize" it - it's a HUGE mistake to do so to surrender the "furniture in the room" of theological discourse to those too captive to enlightenment thinking regarding the nature of being and experience.

I should add "P" pentecostals often (not all - but the spectrum in classical "P" groups tends to abuse or ignore tongues speech) miss the boat by a mile on tongues-speech because they seek to domesticate and control it - or ignore it and white-wash it. There is a healthy emphasis on being open and pursuing various pathways into receiving this gift. But it can quickly become toxic when "forced" by insisting it is THE IPE. When Acts makes clear inspired "speech" gifts - are multi-layered IPES. So the gift of primal empowerment and play becomes a shadow - or at worse a knock off. Instead of receiving with Joy and entering into play it's another form of human control and division.

Also instructive are the common-grace parallels - everyone is called into play as a child easily (Hence Jesus talks about becoming childlike in receiving the Kingdom - this is directly connected to the Holy Spirit's work now and of course part of that work is Spiritual gifts). As adults we have to more intentional about making space and time for play (game, sport, art - however we find it easiest to enter into that state of play or creative flow).

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Target: Bring Your A-Game or Go Home-They’re Going Home

The big news this week in Canada was the closing of ALL 133 Target stores. This means over 17,000 people will lose their jobs. It means there are fewer retailers aimed at the market.

However, this is pretty much all on Target (haha). We went to the Target near us several times and noticed immediately the selection was somewhat different and less (choice, product, etc). The prices were higher and the store was not very busy. Being new - we thought - hmm that's strange? Do they feel/know if Canadians want to pay more for this experience? I personally did not. Initially I thought out-loud, "well Target does it's marketing well - it must know better than we "new Canadians?" Immediately after first visit and seeing that it is was not like the US stores -I mentioned to Anne, "We'll just have to find the Canadian stores with similar products (as US Target)."

Target a Case for What Retailers Shouldn't Do/

In retrospect if I was a market researcher - that is one sentence I would not want to hear come out of the mouth of someone who was fairly frequenter of the store (in the US) say. That is a huge red flag.

Or to put in Canadian terms, from http://business.financialpost.com/2015/01/15/theresa-tedesco-pride-took-down-a-giant-how-targets-corporate-hubris-was-its-canadian-undoing/

"Such a needless waste. Rarely has there been a company to enter this country with more brand recognition than Target had. Canadian shoppers accustomed to cross-border shopping waited with great anticipation for its arrival in March 2013. All we wanted were U.S.-style Target stores in Canada, slightly retrofitted to adapt to our national idiosyncrasies, namely frugality and politeness. Instead, what we got were empty shelves, higher prices, sketchy customer service, and apologies."

So Target really missed the boat, the article put this well,

"Treat us like Americans — or else. That’s what Canadians kept telling U.S. retailer Target Corp., by staying away from its sparsely stocked and overpriced stores for almost two years."

I of course am American living and working in and with my Canadian friends - and expected it to be more like the US stores - just with more maple leafs - already got the red-hues down. Maybe with a few cultural shifts (see the first quote above). In fact at Christmas time we were looking for certain gifts and decided to go look online Amazon.ca and target - only to find out apparently an almost 40 Million population place does get a working retail website (Whaaat)? Yes Oh Canadians are not as much into online retailed as we are (yet) but NO retail website? Seriously?

“I don’t think they brought their ‘A game’ to Canada,” said Michael Mulvey, assistant professor of marketing research at the University of Ottawa. “They compromised who they were. Canadian shoppers figured it out and punished them for it.”

So long and the short of it - you failed me Minneapolis, ney, you failed one of the easiest foreign markets you already had in the bag (based on Canadians already shopping at your stores often when traveling in the US).

So bring your a-game or go home - Target is going home.

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Why You Dont Read The Whole Bible

This might help ya out in the New Year Bible reading dept...http://www.christianitytoday.com/amyjuliabecker/2015/january/why-you-dont-read-whole-bible.html?&visit_source=twitter

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Pentecostal/Charismatic and Episcopal/Anglican/Catholic/E.Orthodox Worship

I was having a discussion after worship on Sunday and this article by J. Martin popped up and reminded me of it today (https://medium.com/@theboyonthebike/on-going-to-an-episcopal-church-428781564139).

Eucharist and Prayer Ministry - not preaching are the focus in most non-evangelical church worship gatherings.
I maintain that the highest point of worship in the P/C context is the prayer ministry (the altar is the place where people gather to receive directly, often through laying on of hands, prophetic words, or simple prayers in weakness the ministry of CHrist's Spirit) following the sermon. This is where the worship, teaching, earlier prayers/gifts of the spirit, giving all manifest in the ministry of the Body of Christ gathered to the body of Christ and to those who are being drawn in.

The Eucharist in the P/C context is the living body in the people manifesting the Spirit for the common Good. This does not replace the bread and wine but it is the point of the bread and wine.

The high point in more traditional (not necessarily ancient form - e.g. do not assume these reflect in their euro-centered aesthetics the first centuries of the church) is the communion/Lord's supper mediated through a set-apart ministry-class of people.

Another similarity is the use of embodied practices.
High liturgy (for lack of a better word) and Pentecostal/Charismatic worship practices all call the WHOLE people (not simply the show on the platform) into using their voice, body, and interactions with one another and the leaders of the gathering into the play/worship.

Whether encouraging kneeling, hands raised, movement, shared prayers, creeds, confessions, visual, instrumental, arts, etc. or simply singing together - the use of the senses is a huge part and shared part of non-evangelical worship in Pentecostal/Charismatic and higher liturgy churches. What you do together shapes you more than a sermon alone (even if the sermon uses video, smoke machines, etc). What move you beyond being entertained as a spectator into action in worship and response - shaped you more deeply.

That is probably why many people fear engagement in worship -they know deep down it does more than calls them to change - it actually starts to re-wire and change their experience of life, self, others and God!

This is an ongoing area of interest to me. I believe the most important theological word (other than love) as regards Jesus is the Play of the Holy Spirit. Or simply put play.

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The Power of Public Confession in Worship

when I was involved in crafting pragmatic worship in a neo-anabaptist context we brought back creeds (and some modern ones adding the life and teachings of Jesus), out-loud prayer (a safe way to get participation/embodied worship beyond songs), and this included varied public confessions of sin/declarations of grace. Jamie's article here makes a case for this...

But what if the opportunity to confess is precisely what we long for? What if an invitation to confess our sins is actually the answer to our seeking? What if we want to confess our sins and didn’t even realize it until we were given the opportunity? In other words, what if confession is, unwittingly, the desire of every heart? In that case, extending an invitation to confession would be the most “sensitive” thing we could do, a gift to seeking souls. Oddly enough, contemporary television seems to appreciate this truth. I can think of two stark examples that illustrate just this point.

Read the rest here: http://augustinecollective.org/augustine/the-gift-of-confession

This desire to confess may seem counter-intuitive. Obviously the seeker-sensitive movement assumed this was the last thing non-Christians wanted to do. The assumption seemed to be that the last thing sinners want to be confronted with is their sin. But I wonder if these artifacts of popular culture actually suggest the opposite is true: that deep down we already know what’s true about our faults and brokenness. If that’s the case, rituals that invite us to confess our sins are actually gifts. The rites of confession have their own evangelistic power.

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Merry Christmas!

To all my friends and family - wishing you the best this Christmas and also the New Year! Seek to grab onto that which has caught hold of you.

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How God Moves Us Into New Things

8 Reasons for Leaders to Give God a Blank Check

Shel: Great sermon clip (same thing on following God/leading from a freewill then a more reformed perspective) and article below, Before the last two ministry changes in my life the Lord had nudged me for a while to get me to go and be "a blank check" to go invest the "talents"He's given in a faith risking way. I should also say Greg Boyd's sermon series1 on Spiritual gifts and not resting on yesterday's faith with facts and people who change was also important . Again, the Parable of the Talents continues to challenge and inform my personal risk-taking for the Kingdom.

1 http://whchurch.org/sermons-media/sermon/mystery-of-the-miraculous Boyd's particular teaching that reinforced the gift of faith God has given to me from time to time - and knowing when a season is over:

One thing I will say about it is this. It’s important when you are in a ministry or task or relationship that you need persistence against all odds that you keep checking in with the Holy Spirit.

Here’s why.
People make decisions, angels make decisions that effect things that come to pass and sometimes circumstances change windows of opportunity can close.

[NOTE: In the sermon Boyd makes a strong point of persistence in the face of obstacles - even impossible ones if God has given a gift of faith for that. No willy-nilly jump ship teaching here. However, he adds they important of ongoing listening/checking-in with the Spirit because things might have changed - listen or read the sermon!]

So it can happen that a plan that God has to move you this way gets closed because of decisions that people or angels or other things make and so now God wants to reassign you something.

If you are not listening to the Spirit, you will keep following last year’s call and you may find yourself stubbornly hitting your head against the wall where God knows that wall is not going to move and He’s trying to tell you but if you’re not listening then you’ll just keep on doing it.

Just because God called you to something last year doesn’t mean He’s calling you to it this year.

That doesn’t mean you heard wrongly when He changes the plan, He does it in the bible, all of bible. God changes His mind on certain things because circumstances change.

This was feasible but is no longer feasible because people made this decision so lets move in this direction, that door closes let’s go in this direction.

Folks, following the Spirit isn’t about coasting on something He told you to do 5 years ago, it’s listening to the Spirit today, moment by moment. We need to be walking in step with the Spirit because God knows all the things, all the variables; He knows the best place for you to put your time, energy and persistence to.

He doesn’t want you wasting your time on things that are no longer a possibility. This is why God may call you to pursue something, something like this building, but it may not turn out.

It doesn’t mean that we heard God wrongly; it just means that people made decisions or angels made decisions that changed the circumstances. What would happen if these 3 owners had not got in a fight? A lot of things could happen that would change the plan but God saw that this was possible, maybe even feasible and so he pushes in this direction and worked behind the scenes to bring it about.

So stay in touch with the Spirit, always be checking in on what’s going on today.

Don’t coast on yesterday’s calling...

Here is a more conservative take on the same thing by Chuck Lawless 8-Reasons Leaders Give God a Blank Check (cheque)


I will simply state up front what you will likely realize: I write this blog as a Southern Baptist, but I trust its application is clear for all Christians. Twice now within the past several months – first from International Mission Board president David Platt, and most recently from my president at Southeastern Seminary, Danny Akin – I have heard a similar challenge. “What we must do,” they have said in different contexts, “is give God a blank check. Give Him the check, and let Him fill in the blanks.”

I have been a follower of Jesus for a long time, but the “blank check” image is still stretching me. In fact, few exhortations have been as thought provoking to me. Below are eight reasons why the “blank check” call is both necessary and challenging for me as I strive to be a leader in God’s work. Perhaps the image will likewise challenge you.

It forces me to recognize the idolatry of my comfort. If I’m honest, I can easily get comfortable where I am. The routine may be monotonous at times, but it’s safe . . . convenient . . . familiar . . . reassuring. If I agree to follow God but only within my comfort zone, though, my ease has become my idol.

It requires me to evaluate how deeply my faith affects my daily living. Do I, for example, really believe my life is not my own? If I have given my life to Jesus, my yesterdays are forgiven, my todays rest in His hands, and my tomorrows are entirely His. The blank check about tomorrow should not alarm me today if I trust that God is holy, loving, and sovereign.

It reminds me that the Christian life really is about faith. Living by faith means trusting God as He unrolls the scroll of our lives. We follow Him obediently each day, not knowing what each further roll – that is, the blank check – will bring, yet believing the fully unrolled scroll will reflect His glory and wisdom.

It reinforces the truth that God’s plan might be costly for me. God alone has the right to fill in the blank check. He may use us to conquer kingdoms . . . or He may send us to persecution and death (Heb. 11:32-38). I proclaim this reality, but seldom do I deeply consider the truth that death could fill the line on my blank check. That thought is, to be honest, almost too heavy to ponder.

It calls me to ask if I truly believe God is all-wise. It’s easy to preach about His wisdom in the relative safety of my North American seminary classroom or local church pulpit. I don’t know if it would be as easy, however, if His calling were to require moving my family to a center of Islam . . . or leaving a mega-church to plant an urban congregation . . . or downsizing to provide more dollars for His work . . . or suffering in the midst of telling the gospel.

It prompts me to consider my burden over the lostness of the world and the reality of hell. Both David Platt and Danny Akin are driven by a theological urgency to get the good news to people who do not know Jesus. My level of willingness to give God a blank check may well be a reflection of whether I share that urgency. Frankly, that assessment stings a bit.

It fractures any belief that I am Christ-like. Jesus, of course, knew what obedience to the Father would cost Him. With “cross” written on the check, Jesus said, “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Until I am willing to have the ultimate cost written on my blank check so others might be saved, I do not yet fully reflect the heart of Christ.

It drives me to deep self-reflection. No matter how long I have been a Jesus follower, I still need Holy Spirit-led personal reflection in the light of God’s Word. I need men of God who challenge me to a level of holy discomfort, who unreservedly call me to give God a blank check.

I have a long way to go. Please pray for me.

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

FYI Here's another one - I remember years ago confronting a leader on this one: http://thomrainer.com/2014/12/17/one-sentence-pastors-church-staff-hate-hear/

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Ben W: The Nonsense of Christmas

Shel: I've been enjoying these great summary posts. Much of this stuff I've taught over the years:



The comments and BW3's responses are great...

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