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The religious suppose that only the religious know about God or care about God, and that God cares only for the religious. Characteristically, religion is precious and possessive toward God, and institutes and conducts itself as if God really needs religion, as if His existence depends upon the recognition of religion. Religion considers that God is a secret disclosed only in the discipline and practice of religion. But all this is most offensive to the Word of God. The best news of God is that He is not secret. The news of God embodied in Jesus Christ is that God is openly and notoriously active in the world. In this news the Christian Church is constituted; it is this news which the Christian Church exists to spread. Where the Church, however, asserts that God is hidden in or behind creed or ceremony—even those which are decent and which God gladly receives and blesses—or where God is thought to be confined to the sanctuary, then in such events the Christian Church, forsaking the good news of God’s presence in history, becomes vulgar imitation of mere religion. The Church, where faithful to the news, is not the place where men come to seek God; on the contrary, the Church is just the place where men gather to declare that God takes the initiative in seeking men. The Church, unlike any religion, exists to present to the world and to celebrate in the world, and on behalf of the world, God’s presence and power and utterance and action in the on-going life of the world.

William Stringfellow, A Private and Public Faith, 17. (via germerian)

Mark his words: my reaction to Mark Driscoll

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Much has been said concerning Mark Driscoll’s comment on British preachers and church leaders.  Being a slow thinker I thought I’d give my full response once the dust had settled.

When I read the article that contained Mark Driscoll’s challenge to the UK Church to stop being cowards I wondered why comments made over 6 months ago were causing such a fuss. I was not aware of a podcast interview he had done more recently. His words were practiced and considered. He had used almost the exact phrases at an Acts29 event on the 5th May in Birmingham, UK.

Even though I would consider myself somewhat reformed in my theology I rarely see eye to eye with Driscoll; neither do I see eye-to-eye with him on his disparaging on young male leaders. My issue is his inability to stand by his own words. 

As the backlash has ensued with magazines pulling outs of interviews it appears Mark’s publishers suggest he write an apology. What we got was not so much an apology but a fist full of excuses for his commentary on current church leaders and a jab at the interviewer. 

Pastor Mark could have fired  a response to many of his accusers- a simple “show me”.  I shun the cult of celebrity yet know a preacher who is truly making waves for the kingdom of God in the UK could not remain out of the limelight however much they shunned it.  Such shyness would be used by the twisted British media itself to create narrative and biography. We could have thrown leaders and church programmes at him and he could have answered “not enough… Not good enough!”

Instead we find a coward masquerading as a bully calling the UK church leaders a bunch of sissies (my paraphrase)in the hope somebody will buy his books.

A New Commandment…

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According to Matthew and Luke Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment and he replies

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

There is, however, a context we must be reminded of which brings a greater commandment than these that we have become distanced from acknowledging.

The Ten Commandments begin with a statement which was still seen to be true to the people surrounding Jesus:
“I am the Lord your God”

This is the first commandment. It is about relationship- it is about interaction- it is about allowing God into our lives.

“I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt and out of slavery”

The first commandment can be summed up in four words… it’s not really new, merely forgotten and it is God saying:

let me love you.

Sarah…

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A girl called Sarah walks up to me after I’ve been speaking at her church. There’s tears in her eyes, but she looks angry rather than moved. She begins to tell me her story… a story of how she would often look out of her bedroom window… the window that overlooked the church we were standing in.  And then she told me of how she was abused by her step-dad in that bedroom. And she told me of the time, on a christmas day her step-father closed the bedroom door and she looked out toward the church…

And I am waiting for the question i have no answer to “how can you tell me there is a god who loves me when this happened?”

But the question doesnt come. instead she begins to tell me how she found a father who was perfect… who would take care of her… who loved her and cherished her.

But the story doesnt end there…

The story rarely ends there.

When we entrust ourselves into God’s hands he entrusts us to his people- the church.

The church, as a community, have to accept not just the Sarah who walks through the door or they find playing in the street, but everything that she brings with her… the pain… hurt, the brokeness… the memories and all the patterns and coping mechanisms she has learned just to survive.

I know the world is not full of Sarahs. I know the church is not full of stories as desperate as Sarah’s, but our response should always be the same…

love, acceptance, forgiveness…with the hope of restoration.

On the new minimalism…

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I am addicted to minimalism and simplicity blogs. Amusingly they are one of the few things I collect (in my bookmarks tab). I am also fascinated by the idea of minimalism. I am attracted to it though I am nowhere near achieving anything like it.

But

I wonder if the new minimalism is a reverting back to a child-like state.

When I was a kid I had books and clothes and photos and gadgets and things- we all did, but they were in our parents house so we didn’t really notice them. They were there. We didn’t always see them. Often (though not always) one of my parents would help me search for what I wanted and pull it out for me.

Fast forward twenty years or so and google, Microsoft, apple (with iCloud) and a host of other companies now take on the role my parents had. I still have all that ‘stuff’ but the nature of it has changed. I still have all those books, photos etc, but their physicality has changed. I still have all those gadgets- but they now come in one handy iPhone pack. It is my typewriter. It is my games console. It is my camera and sometimes it’s my phone. Is that not some kind of quasi-minimalism?

“Hold this for me, dad!”
“Mam- I can’t find my homework!”

In a spiritual sense maybe my parents and the house of my childhood has become an iPhone backed up to the cloud? If that is the case then nothing has really changed.

Any thoughts?

The story has no ending…

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I grew up with adventure books.

Books where you could determine the outcome of the story.

At the time and as a seven year old I thought these books were amazing. I could interact with the characters- I could change things.

As I reminisce I realise how limited these texts were. I was always the good guy. The outcomes were limited and ended with victory or defeat. The fight was always against good and evil.

When i compare that to today’s interactive texts and games with unlimited outcomes and the ability to become truly lost and entangled in a world that grows and changes shape with you.

I am not envious for my sons who are already beginning to play in these ways. For them play and story is no longer about the outcome, but about what happens within the story. Both real life and play are now about developing character- like other social media it’s about building a reputation and voice that deserves to be listened to- rather than where the story ends… because they already know the story doesn’t end.