Learning how to use authority responsibly

The Despised Ones are doing a synchroblog on leadership. I hate the idea of leadership. I hate the way that my evangelical world has created celebrity cults around various leaders. I was going to write a post on how there should be no leaders in Christian community but we should all consider ourselves servants with different roles. And I definitely believe that to be true. But it’s also dishonest to deny that I’m a leader. I’m a leader because people treat me like one and I have to figure out how to use the authority I’ve been given responsibly rather than pretending like I don’t have any. Continue reading

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The painter’s studio: a metaphor for thinking about worship

PBS Remix-Happy PainterI’m at the semiannual Five Talent Academy gathering. It’s an initiative of the Virginia Methodist conference among churches who have covenanted around a set of goals for congregational vitality. Our topic today is worship, led by Rev. Dr. Constance Cherry. I’m seeing a lot of intersection between what is being said here and a book I just started reading by Andy Crouch called Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. And it put a metaphor in my head for thinking about worship that seems helpful to me. Continue reading

“For the glory of Your name” (Psalm 79:9)

For about the past year, God has been giving me verses from psalms to memorize in Hebrew. I can’t really explain why. But the meaning of the verse that He gives me is slightly different than what’s literally written.The latest of these is Psalm 79:9: “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake.” When I read the psalm today, I knew it was the verse I was supposed to memorize so I started working on the Hebrew and saying it as a real prayer to Him, and then He asked me one of those pointed questions He always asks: Do you really care about the glory of my name?

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Yoder-gate: learning how to speak nonviolently

yoderSometime in the last couple of weeks, I got wind of the John Howard Yoder sex scandal. Yoder is a hero in the Christian pacifist community and a key influence on Stanley Hauerwas, one of my key theologians. Anyway, Yoder sexually assaulted, harassed, and/or had adulterous relationships with a lot of women. A Mennonite commission was just formed to investigate cover-ups that happened. A whole lot of radical Christians in our Despised Ones bloggers collective have been heavily influenced by Yoder’s teachings. And then somebody asked a question about the sex scandal and the fit hit the shan. So I wanted to offer some reflections on our messy conversation. I’m not sure how interesting this will be to people outside of our little club, but I’ll try to write it in such a way that you can get something from it.

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Five verses God has tattooed on my heart: #3 John 1:5

In my second semester of Biblical Greek in seminary, I discovered John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not seize it.” I had to translate it for my homework. What immediately drew my attention was the verb in the second clause which the NRSV translates as “overcome” and the NIV translates as “comprehend.” It was reflecting on the intersection between these two translations that gave John 1:5 the meaning that it has for me. Continue reading

Could you worship a God who makes Himself nothing?

[This is the first synchroblog of our new blogging collective The Despised Ones addressing the question of power and authority in the light of Philippians 2. Check out other synchroblogs on our facebook page and like it while you’re there!]
What does the cross say about God’s nature? Not just Jesus, but God — all three members of the Trinity, including the Father. When Jesus says to Philip in John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” how do we apply that statement to the cross? If Jesus “made Himself nothing, taking the form of a slave and being born in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7), does that tell us something about what God is like or is Jesus’ incarnation and crucifixion only a very specific tactic that God used which reveals nothing about how God really is? Continue reading

Fearing God vs. carrying a fearsome god-puppet who agrees with you

Those who have read this blog for a while will recall that about a year ago, God took me on a journey of exploring the Biblical concept of the fear of the Lord. The problem is that Christians conflate two different kinds of fear when talking about God: the Biblical sense of awe that compels our worship and the frightfulness which causes us to hide our sins and cling to idols. But I’ve also realized that fearing the Lord in a good sense is more than just awe; it also means that I hate the thought of dishonoring God with my sin, not because I’m worried about being punished, but because I love His truth, which I zealously seek and defend. This is very different than carrying around a fearsome god puppet who spews wrath on His enemies and happens to agree with me on who His enemies should be. Continue reading