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Posts Tagged ‘phyllis tickle’

faith2Here’s a good question. In the face of someone who knows does not know much about Christianity, how would you share the gospel of Jesus Christ?

My answer has been the same for some time. I simply tell my own story, my “testimony” as they say. Because I was just like the person to whom I am speaking, in one way or another, at one time or another. I did not come out of my childhood and into my teens as a saint. I was narcissistic and self-absorbed. The world revolved around me, so much so that I married at 18 and divorced five years later to pursue a career in the theater. My world, my dream, my everything. The story goes on, too long for a post/homework but needless to say, it’s interesting how God breaks through the fog, even we don’t recognize it as fog. I came to faith through the Word of God, through reading the Bible and asking a lot of questions. I tested for truth and certainty in my soul. I have followed the Christ ever since. I am alive today because of that surrender.

But, I did not have opportunity to tell my story this week.

Nor do I consider this a strategy or a plan or a way of delivering the message. Effectiveness for the listener is not based on my delivery.

The message of the Christ, promised to the Jews for centuries as the Messiah, is all about redemption, about relationship to God and how that relationship works. Back then, it was about substitution and blood sacrifice. In the time of Christ, it was also blood sacrifice, but once for all eternity, in a space that has no time.

The conversations in the Hillsong class have given me a desire to dig again into the Bible and to seek understanding of the patterns and context in a way that I never have before. I am grateful, however, that my first introduction to the things of God was from the Bible and as a result, I have read through it many times. I am familiar with the stories, the essence of Scripture, but not enough about the pieces that bring vibrancy and connections.

I am feeling solid in my faith which is really important in today’s political climate in which believers, wrapped in Christ, yet still at odds with one another and often in a very unloving and ugly way.

” . . . I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” II Tim 1:12b

In a way, it is a pattern in my own life that I cannot seem to shake, or perhaps I am not intended to do so. I am the daughter of immigrants and I did everything I could to “fit in” and be All-American. Yet I never really succeeded. I was never quite American enough, but on the flip side, never quite Latvian enough either. I wasn’t protecting and preserving my heritage enough. In college, I was in a sorority, accepted but only to a degree, I simply could not balance the game of wealth and privilege no matter how hard I tried. And in college, by marrying young, I ostracized myself from my single friends. Eventually, I ended up in New York for acting school, thinking I would finally really belong, but even there, one foot in and one foot out. When I had my conversion experience, I felt the divide even further. How could I be a believer and creative artist? Back then, there were no avenues for that.

The longer I was a Christian, the more I tried to walk and talk the way I thought I should, the well-spoken yet conservative believer who “loved the person but not the sin,” and who carried her faith as a badge on her sleeve. I was on the inside now, I thought. I knew all the phrases, I knew all the leaders, I knew all the praise songs, I even knew how to speak in tongues. I had arrived.

But that secure space began to crumble over the years. I grew tired of editing my words (for all along, I was) and not mentioning that I enjoyed reading books that others in that world found objectionable (even demonic) or listen to music that had a beat, or go to movies not on the accepted list.

Then I went into faith-based counseling and discovered the depth and power of forgiveness & breaking strongholds of all kinds. I found beauty in other church traditions. I experienced liturgy. I found I had been in a microcosm of Christianity and not the Church universal.

I began hearing other voices like Rob Bell, Phyllis Tickle, and Brian McLaren. I read about the Emergent Church, and Progressive Christianity and Post-Modernism. It was all so freeing and interesting and I reveled in the hashtag, #LoveWins.

But of course, I didn’t quite fit there, not 100%. Lo and behold, I was back in the middle. I loved and respected many of my more conservative Christian friends but I also loved my progressive ones. In any case, I was pulled slowly but surely out of the Christian Right.

I realize now that this series of classes is nudging me to fill in my theology. To not worry about fitting in or being in or anything like that.

I am an amalgam.

I am politically left leaning (especially now in this Donald Trump era); I am thoroughly grounded in my love of God and Christ and the atonement; I am surrendered to a sovereign God who can break through and “save” whomever and whenever God so pleases; I am learning to love and be content with my now, given by God to me (both the sorrow and the joy); and I am not going to assume that I know God’s intentions forĀ others who are “not like me.” I will lose validity with some people of faith and I will lose some validity with activists. But I will stand.

 

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I’m getting stuck in 2nd Peter Two. Holy Moly. Do I know any of these people? I keep checking back to the first verses, “they” this and “they” that; who are “they” who are on the short end of Peter’s wrathful indignation? False prophets, false teachers, and heretics! Whoa!

II Peter 2:10b,12a,17a
Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; . . . these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. . . .These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm.

Peter is writing some strong stuff here and although I do not take him lightly, how do I apply this chapter to my own life now? Who are “these” people in my world?

Some time ago, there were folks who attacked Rob Bell for his book, Love Wins in public places like television shows, Facebook, blogs, and magazine articles. They reviled the author (and his family) and called him a number of names, of which heretic was intentionally the most inflammatory.

Just looking at Peter’s use of the word heretic shows it to be a compelling word that carries lots of emotional baggage. Interestingly enough, a modern day dictionary is less provocative. Heretic is defined as someone who “has opinions contrary to those accepted by his church and/or one who rejects doctrines proscribed by the church,” or “one who doesn’t conform to established attitudes, doctrines, or principles.” That doesn’t sound so bad; gives me pictures of those “Wild West” Americans or even the Pilgrims who left England for religious freedom.

An old friend of mine, Kathleen Kent, wrote a wonderful book called The Heretic’s Daughter, that chronicled the life of a woman accused of being a witch, from her daughter’s point of view. Good stuff. But clearly, heretic in those days of Salem, Massachusetts, was a label that could get someone burned to the stake quickly.

But Peter had other concerns: the teachings he condemned were teachers/prophets who seduced others and committed blatant sexual acts, used formidable cursing, flagrantly blasphemed anything and everything that remotely smacked of God, and worst of all, they “faked the faith.” [verse 13] The listeners who were most in danger were those he called “unstable.” Why? Because an insecure or unsettled person can be swayed more easily. A person without a solid sense of self and knowledge/faith of the presence of the Holy Spirit, will be blown about by the winds of charm or magnetism.

In October (2011) another book is coming out about Jim Jones and his “People’s Temple” (circa 1978), A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres. How could all those people be duped? How could nearly 1000 people commit suicide at the command of a single man? We shake our heads and yet, wasn’t Peter describing “heretics” of that order?

When I was a young believer, one of my greatest fears was that I would follow the wrong denomination or get sucked into something unholy because I didn’t know better. Since I came into my faith in those days of charismata, giftings, miracles, and exuberant praise, there were many in the mainline denominations who called those practices heretical at their worst, and misguided at best. Was I in danger? Had I missed it? Was my faith real? I have to assume I survived in tact: still a believer after thirty years.

Of course, Martin Luther had the same problem back in his day. And let us not forget Jesus, himself crucified for his heresies.

I’m not saying there aren’t heretical people in the world. There are, just as there is true evil and darkness. Some say it’s the culture itself that has betrayed humankind and is ultimately heretical and sexual and misleading.

I believe we are in a time of transition, much like Phyllis Tickle teaches in her wonderful book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why.

We need to spend less time looking for the heretics and more time looking for the hungry, the poor, the unclothed [Matthew 25]. Doing this, we will never need fear heresy, for love and empathy and mercy will drive us.

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Change is hard today and I doubt it was any easier at the height of the Roman domination over Judea. After all, codified Judaism had been around for 1250 years since the time of Moses. And Jesus wanted to do what? Build a new structure? A new type of temple? No way.

I Peter 2:5
[Come] and, like living stones, be yourselves built [into] a spiritual house, for a holy (dedicated, consecrated) priesthood, to offer up [those] spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.
[Amplified]

I have written about this before, but it keeps coming up in the epistles. When it finally dawned on the disciples what Jesus was offering, what he was asking of them, it was hugely shattering to their world. One of the reasons the priests and scholars were in an uproar sooner than later was probably due to the fact that they understood exactly what Jesus was proposing. And they would have none of it: blasphemy!

The temple structure would be torn down under the new way. Animal sacrifices would no longer be necessary (the entire commerce that was wrapped around this procedure would fail). The authority of priests would be diminished, their extended families and tribe would be undermined. The temple was a huge operation; it kept a lot of people working and fed.

Jesus, as the cornerstone of a new and “living” way, was rejected for a lot of reasons. It was not about “dullness” of mind or a hard heart.

So, now, it’s been 2000 years plus, and all this time, those who have followed Jesus and spread his message of a new structure, a new way, were supposed to be getting people into the building of spiritual houses where spiritual sacrifices were being made daily. Is this happening? Did we get off the road somewhere?

I look around and it appears to me that we’re building a lot of brick and mortar, just as expansive as the temple of old. Huge budgets, salaries, and programming. People in these settings would be equally reticent to “change.” I’m pretty sure these structures are not particularly necessary to building a spiritual house.

Here’s a list of the types of spiritual sacrifices that are mentioned in scripture (copied from a sermon outline website):

TYPES OF SACRIFICES TO BE OFFERED BY CHRISTIANS…
1. Our bodies, as “living sacrifices” – Ro 12:1-2
2. A lifestyle characterized by sacrificial love – Ep 5:1-2
3. Praise and thanksgiving, which we do in prayer and song – He
13:15
4. Doing good and sharing with others – He 13:16; Php 4:15-18
5. Even in the way we die for the Lord! – Php 1:20; 2:17; 2Ti 4:6

There’s nothing in here about building buildings or huge organizational structures. It’s about our personal behavior, our commitment, our giving of time and energy to God. Now, I know, some people consider their contributions to a local church as the expression of these sacrifices and may be it is.

But I think that’s a bit of a cop-out. So much is put on the leaders of these organizations while the “body” merely pays for it. We are losing our real roles as priests and builders of the structure within.

There are a lot of young and exuberant believers (see tags) who are calling for the same revolution that Peter espoused: to rebuild our spiritual houses on the cornerstone of the Christ.

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Acts 17:4, 12
Some of the Jews were persuaded [in Thessalonica] and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women… Many of the Jews believed [in Berea], as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

I don’t really know much about ancient Greece except that men viewed women in much the same way as women were viewed in Israel and other ancient cultures. Generally, women were relegated to the home and were not encouraged to participate in politics or other “manly” pursuits. And yet, there seemed to be a group of women who broke this mold and managed to become “prominent” or influential all the same. I think most people assume these women were wealthy or connected to free-thinking fathers or husbands who encouraged their independence and abilities.

These were women of power.

And so, when Paul specifically notes that these “prominent women” became believers, this was important. Their faith and leadership would make a difference. Their stand for the Christ would bring others to the faith.

Women have changed the face of our world many times. In recent years, the women’s movement gave rise to prominent women in a variety of fields and interests. [See Women’s Hall of Fame for a short list of just American women who had made a mark.]

Who are the prominent women of faith today (in my own lifetime)? Who is really using her influence and placement to further the message of Christ? I’d really like to start building a list. Can you help? Do these qualify? What makes a woman influential? What makes a woman prominent?

Phyllis Tickle, Mother Teresa, Joyce Meyer, Pearl S. Buck, Joni Eareckson Tada, Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Sandi Patty?

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