Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Longing for Unity

A friend recently reminded me of a humurous story that has a somber point. A man, as the story goes, was stranded all alone on a deserted island. This mound of sand, and a smattering of vegetation was his home for a number of years. One day, and to his astonished delight, he saw a ship on the horizon speeding in his direction. The crew spotted his signal, and sent a small boat to rescue him.

While ashore, the captain noticed three huts on the island. Curious, he asked the castaway why there were three huts. "The first," the man answered, " is my home. The second," the man continued, "is my church." Venturing a quess about the other hut, the captain asked, "So, is the third hut your office?" The man, with noticeable angst, responded,"No, That's where I used to go to church!"

Oh, for unity in the body.

Monday, November 24, 2003

The Iron Bowl: It's More Than a Game

Having grown up in Pensacola, Florida, the Alabama/Auburn (or is it Auburn/Alabama?) rivalry wasn't that huge of an affair. Don't get me wrong. Though I haven't conducted a scientific survey, per capita, there probably are as many Alabama or Auburn fans in Pensacola as their are Florida or Florida State fans. However, since moving to the state of Alabama in 1992, I've taken great interest in, not only the game itself, but the entire "Iron Bowl" week.

I have realized that the Iron Bowl is more than an intra-state rivalry in which two teams are pitted against each other on the gridiron. It's much more significant than which team happens to win the atheletic contest.

Here in Birmingham, Alabama, the local news stations run segments about the game all week long. Fans from both sides are interviewed, telling their stories about past games, and sharing their particular traditions surrounding this annual event. Past games. Emotional endings. Tailgating. Travel....And fellowship.

My self-righteous side wonders why folks spend so much time, energy, and money on a football game, especially when our world is saturated with more important concerns. In precisely those judgmental moments, however, I am reminded again that the Iron Bowl is more than just a game. And, I think the church can learn from this cultural phenomenon.

The game itself is only one factor in the overall equation. To its complex configuation, you must include the evocative power of story. During the week of the iron bowl, fan after fan would tell stories of their experiences at these respective schools, and the particular games that they've witnessed. These shared experiences become woven into the fabric of who they are. Thus, they cannot help but speak with great emotion about this game--because it's more than a game.

Story is what brings thousands of cheering fans together each year. And, it is also story that keeps the fire burning through the months "until next year's game."

The Church needs to learn this lesson. We have been shaped by an over-arching story of God's love that has been experienced uniquely by each of God's people. When we attempt to reduce our identity to rules we keep, or steps we've taken, the power of the gospel is drastically diminished. The story of God is about the Holy One Who has pursued the unholy, redeemed them through Jesus, and empowered them to holiness through His resident Spirit. Each of us has a particular expression of that story to tell. May we be so bold as to tell our stories...especially as we enter the Christmas season.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Postmodernism has become the buzz word among theologians and cultural historians. This critial/pessimistic paradigm (if it can be called that) has been gaining strength sense the 1960's. Unfortunately, only until recently have church leaders become slightly aware of this epistemic move, and just now are attempting to respond to it. If historical trends have any predictive ability, church leaders likely will chisel out a postmodern ecclesiology while the cultural stream will keep moving.

I don't know if postmodernity will become the dominant cultural paradigm, particularly sense it is a reaction against something, rather than a move toward something. What that ultimate something is has not yet been determined. This simply means that the church must continue to be "light on its feet" and respond as the body of Christ in any given cultural situation.

As culture continues to be in flux, it is important to, not only be aware of its trends, but develop a relevant ecclesiology to meet new demands. At this point, we do need to think seriously about a postmodern ecclesiology and what that means for churches who were born out of modernity.

A good resource to assist in this process is: Ancient-Future Faith, Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern Word, by Robert Webber. The following is Webber's own words regarding the focus of his book:

"The fundamental concern of this book is to find points of contact between classical Christianity and postmodern thought. Classical Christianity was shaped in a pagan and relativistic society much like our own. Classical Christianity was not an accomodation to paganism but an alternative practice of life. Christians in a postmodern world will succeed, not by watering down the faith, but by being a countercultural community that invites people to be shaped by the story of Israel and Jesus."

I think you will find Webber's book a helpful voice for these confusing times. His points about Christus Victor, and the place of baptism and communion are especially good.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

LifeSong, the music ministry at CrossBridge, is in the process of recording its 3rd CD. Under the gifted leadership of Greg Miles, LifeSong has become an integral part of what God's doing at our church. With these releases, our prayer is that God will work outside our walls, touching countless hearts, many of whom we might never know. And, to Him be all the glory.

The title for the CD is "Worship: Here and Now." As suggested by the title, the songs generally are vertically postured, though there is the horizontal dimension of calling all seekers to worship. The prayer is that the CD will bring people into the presence of God...where there is mercy.
Several weeks ago, my daughter Amber, my father, sister mother, and brother in law took a trip to the Grand Canyon. It was the first time I visited that famous landmark. The experience proved to be a very spiritual on for me. The following is one article of three that I wrote based upon that experience.

God and the Grand Canyon 1

I had seen pictures, heard stories, and read articles about it. I had even considered scholarly debates about its formation. Was it caused by tenacious uniformitarian forces over millions of years or did catastrophism play a large role in its formation? Being one of the Seven Wonders of the World, I knew Intellectually, that it was magnificent—truly a wonder to behold. But, I had never personally experienced it.

On my trip there, I tried to imagine the impact that the famous chasm would have on my psyche. How would I feel? What would I think? How would it affect me intellectually, emotionally, physically?

We left the Phoenix airport later than anticipated, causing us to reach the deep ditch after nightfall. Though the darkness of night shrouded the gaping crevice, I just had to stumble to its compelling edge. Even in the darkness, I could sense its vastness. It seemed as if the sky itself had been sucked into its gaping jaws. A strange sense of awe—if not fear—began to sweep over me. There, before me in the darkness, was what I had read about, heard about, dreamed about. Though I could not yet see it clearly, I knew I was in the presence of something overwhelming. “Wow,” was all I could form with my numb lips.

I became somewhat frustrated, longing to see the Grand Canyon in all its anticipated glory; all the brilliant hues of rock painted by the sun itself. As I groped along the path winding around the canyon’s South rim, I was reminded of the ultimate mystery of God. Paul said it well; “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 Corinthians 13:12; The Message).

At that point, I nearly wept. Wept at the reality that I really do grope in relative spiritual darkness, not fully knowing the Father. But that’s not what really made the tears well up in my eyes. I was overcome with the reality that, typically speaking, I’m easily distracted from a deep longing to see His face. Pressures of all kinds capture my attention. Ministry. Family. Home repairs. Administrivia. How easily these legitimate concerns become the epicenter of my life, creating waves of frenetic responses over the landscape of my soul.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about. If so, I hope you will be compelled to at least stand at the edge of God. For even at His edge, though still shrouded by the fog of our finite minds, you cannot help but be awed by His vastness; His depth; His glory. And maybe while there, you will be compelled to plunge into His presence…and experience His grace.

Oh Lord, “we want to touch you, we want to see your face…we want to know you more!”
Gordon Dalbey, a good friend and brother, has recently released the updated version to his classic Healing the Masculin Soul: How God Restores Men to Real Manhood. I highly recommend this book to all brothers.

As guys, we struggled with many issues, from sexual addictions to relating to our children and wives. Gordon traces out these particularly masculine issues, and points to the only true source of healing--the Father God. This book has become a resourse for me. Having two daughters and two sons, I find myself returning over and again to the wisdom packed in these pages.

To order the book, go to Gordon's website: abbafather.com
Amy Stroup, a gifted musician in the body of Christ, will be at CrossBridge for a Worship and Praise Concert on Tuesday, November 25 at 7:00 p.m. This will be a great opportunity to bring friends to enjoy an awesome time with the Lord.

She, along with Kelly Sutton (one of our youth ministers) will appear on Good Day Alabama that Tuesday morning. For those in the Birmingham area, be sure to watch for them.

Due to the Thanksgiving Holidays, we will not be meeting on Wednesday. May God bless you all in your travels.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

My best friend from Seattle Washington, Brad Bromling, is visiting with me today. He's the guy who fell off the treadmill--those at CrossBridge know what I'm talking about. Great to see him.
Blogging Comes to CrossBridge
This is the first entry for Weekly Words on the Web.