Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tom Davis' New Book

Tom Davis, whose first book "Fields of the Fatherless" changed my life, has released a new book which is available from Amazon today. It's title is Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds and I am so very excited for my copy to arrive. Please, if you have not read, Fields of the Fatherless, buy it and read it. If you can not afford it, contact me and I will buy it for you. I am sure that this book will be equally as exciting.

In light of the email from CHC announcing Tom's new book, I visited Tom's blog and from there add him as a friend on Facebook. After adding him as a friend I saw he had received a comment from Mike Todd of Waving or Drowning which I am an occasional reader of already. Once one Mike's site I saw a reference to Pernell Goodyear, who spoke at Up/Rooted a few months back. So I surfed over and read down his blog. On his blog he had a reference to some research on community conducted by M. Scott Peck that I found very relevant to the issues of apathy and disengagement that I think plagues the church I attend.

First, read the 4 stages of community:
  1. Pseudo-community - An initial state of "being nice". Pseudo-community is characterized by politeness, conflict avoidance, and denial of individual differences. Let's be honest - most of us can't keep this up for long. Eventually someone is going to speak up, speak out, and the dam breaks.
  2. Chaos - In the stage of chaos, individual differences are aired, and the group tries to overcome them through misguided attempts to heal or to convert. Listening suffers, and emotions and frustration tend to run high. There are only two ways out of chaos: retreat into pseudo-community [often through organization], or forward, through emptiness.
  3. Emptiness - Emptiness refers to the process of recognizing and releasing the barriers [expectations, prejudices, the need to control] that hold us back from authentic communication with others, from being emotionally available to hear the voices of those around us. This is a period of going within, of searching ourselves and sharing our truths with the group. This process of "dying to the self" can make way for something remarkable to emerge.
  4. Community - "In my defenselessness, my safety lies." In this stage, individuals accept others as they are, and are themselves accepted. Differences are no longer feared or ignored, but rather are celebrated. A deep sense of peace and joy characterizes the group.
Based on the communities I have been a part of in my life, these stages are perfectly categorized. A lot of communities, never move past a see-saw of Pseudo-community and Chaos. When the pain from emptiness begins to ware into the group the choice is to retreat back to the appearance of pseudo-community.

Since this stalemate between pseudo-community and emptiness settles in a longterm lodging within chaos a new category emerges that sits outside, yet alongside the progress which is the disengagement. The members divorce themselves from any sort of dependence on the community, and instead of being forced to fledge for the growth of the community, their belonging a apparition, since they are present only in body.

This ties into our lack of focus on the authentic mission of the Kingdom of God, since one can not be deeply involved in the sacrifice it takes to follows Jesus' lifestyle as an island. The dependence that is necessary to force forward the nurture of the community is the weakness one realizes when they have over expended their personal physical, emotional, and spiritual resources in serving the least of these.

The challenge to leadership is to find ways to compel membership to "fish or cut bait" by enlightening them to the destitution their independence has led them to.

The Poverty Of Our Church

"Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate, I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, shall not confess to be right and just...." Fredrick Douglas Independence Day 1841
As I read Proverbs 28 today I continued to reflect on the same issue that has troubled me for a week now. I continued to wonder what power God's people at Cardinal Drive and everywhere would bear if our focus shifted away from the "influence" of our church in our community, to the impact of our ministry to the Kingdom. As members of our church continue to support slavery, and the exploitation of the poor through their consumerism, the blood of those poor, the sweat of the impoverished and the tears of the exploited testifies against us to God.

Proverbs 28:27
He who gives to the poor will lack nothing,
but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.
One of our elders asked my opinion of the lack of involvement present in our church body. Our church at Cardinal Drive, and the other churches I have observed around me, suffer from apathy and disengagement because there is no joy in the pursuit of carnal kingdoms under the auspice of spirituality. The curses that fill our churches, and fill the lives of our church members, can be seen as a consequence to our lifestyle pursuits. The fact that the "Bible [is] disregarded and trampled upon." is as much true now as when Fredrick Douglas spoke on domestic slavery, though better disguised through buzz words like "globalization".

However, our callous blindness to those suffering in poverty is not just a global ignorance but an unwillingness to deal with our domestic neighbors that suffer from the darkness of poverty, both fiscal and emotional. This issue is a deep spiritual sickness in our culture. Philosopher John Berger famously noted that as a people we have realigned our priorities to further marginalize those suffering in poverty.

"The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied, but written off as trash."
Even the "enemy of God" Charles Darwin, in his journal "The voyage of the Beagle," understood the defiance to our creator that is present when we ignore poverty as he wrote, " If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."

As God's people we have become so entrenched in lifestyle choices that compel us to blindness toward the poor. Christ's compassion was deeply attuned to the suffering of the impoverished, both fiscally and emotionally, he encountered. Until we deal with the root self obsession that is an infection present in our churches, we can not correctly address the symptomatic apathy and disengagement that troubles our leadership and plagues our membership. Our spiritual impoverishment, to be cursed for this blindness, is a far more grave gallows for our future.

I personally must continue to be more transformed by the example of my contemporary heroes and friends, the Fitzjerrells, the Nowells and the Browns, to choose the wealth that comes from being a blessing to the poor.

Meant To Live

Monday, August 27, 2007

Have We Made God Deaf?

Several years ago when our good friends were dealing with a pregnancy that medically would not end well. I often questioned God and his providence as he ignored our cries for a miracle that would changed the verdict of this medical reality. I trust God and his providence, but still the scars cut deep as I mourned with my friend because of God's refusal to intervene.

This week I rejoiced with my friends Benny and Niki as God provided an amazing miracle in healing their son. These friends son, have dealt with a crippling milk allergy that has caused him to live in fear of the consequences of food. I wept as I shared in their joy. My heart swelled as I considered the possibility of a life without Celiac.

Still the old wounds creep to the surface, and the old scars hurt deep as the barometer of my heart leans toward hope in the news of my friend's child. Academically, I absolutely believe in the power of miracles. Practically, I challenge God why he chooses to heal a milk allergy, and leave another child to be born still.

As I was struggling with these conflicting feelings toward God, I ran across this verse in my daily study.

Proverbs 21:13
If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,
he too will cry out and not be answered.

I must admit, I "heard" nothing else that chapter contained. My eyes continued reading, but my heart, my mind, and my spirit stopped right there at verse 13. I found myself unable to think about anything else. I have found myself unable to move on in my thoughts for the six days since I first read that passage.

The question that keeps recurring over and over in my head is, "Have we made God deaf?" The miracles of the first years of the church are AMAZING. They stand as AWESOME praise to God. Yet, that power, that presence of God's power seems to be unfound in our world. I am left to wonder, "Where did God's power go?"

Then I hear the amazing miracle of my friends who have surrender the comfort and convenience of many career paths available to them, and instead chosen to serve as missionaries among the homeless teenagers in Boulder. The have given up the hope of the American dream, for the hope of rescuing teens struggling with physical, emotional, and spiritual addictions through the redemption of Christ blood. They have not been building the Nowell kingdom in the suburbs, instead they have been building Christ kingdoms in the dark places of American's urban refuse.

Perhaps God's power isn't present in his people like it was in the early church, because his people are present in the places where his power has always dwelt; with the helpless, the hopeless, the rejects.

I want to be where God's power is.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

One Upon The Altar, and The Other Accursed

Leviticus 16:20-22
"When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. "
In the epistle of Barnabas the writer provides through quoting passages and interpreting symbols not recorded in the scripture adds flesh to actual way in which the people of Israel practiced the ritual of the scapegoat. The author writes of "crowning the goat with scarlet wool" and how the one leading out the goat to freedom would entangle the wool crown in the thorns of a shrub. He shows how the two goats represent Christ crucified and Christ resurrected. He then interprets the meaning of the wool in the brambles portion of the ceremony for his readers:

Epistle of Barnabas 6:14-15
But what then signifies this, that the wool was to be put into the midst of the thorns?
This also is a figure of Jesus, sent out to the church. For as he who would take away the scarlet wool must undergo many difficulties, because that thorn was very sharp, and only with difficulty could he get it, Christ says, "They that will see me and come to my kingdom, must attain to me through many afflictions and troubles."
The author's quote by Christ here is not found in any gospel account, and yet it is also used by Paul after his stoning in Lystra in Acts 14:22. I am forced to consider the quote as I reflect on my current thoughts about myself and the church I am a part of.

The Kingdom of God (scarlet crown) is placed inside the the church (the thorn bush) and there is great suffering if we are to hold onto the Kingdom. By the end of the first century the author (who likely based on language and writing style also wrote Hebrews) sees the fact that the church and Kingdom are not the same and that this reality must be pointed out to people.

This thorn bush is in the wilderness. The wilderness (the world) which is also your enemy since it will dehydrate and starve you, is not the greatest danger the true seeker of the Kingdom finds in the illustration. It is the sharp thorns of the church that pose the promise of affliction and troubles. Kingdom building in the church will always be met with violence since most members are more concerned with church building, or worse the church building than with expanding the redemption of Christ on the earth.

It is my prayer and my commitment that I will continue to place my hand into the bramble bush to hold onto the scarlet crown, which is the kingdom of God, despite the pain that brings me from the church.

She Must and Shall Go Free [Live Album Version]L

Fun With Fridge Letters (Explicit)

Since my posts have been "HEAVY" I thought I'd share photos of late night fun at the Bowman household. NO, not those kind of photos!!! This is a respectable blog.

The depth of immaturity shared by my wife and I in using our kids fridge letters to do this has no boundaries.

I must admit it was incredibly fun.

The explicit was for my mom because it uses the "p" word for relieving one's urinary tract.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Thank God For Brad

I intended to continue writing about my frustrations with VBS and the children's ministry as a whole. I was going to diss on the fact that children's sunday was canceld this year and other issues, but then I watched Brad. Brad is absolutely my HERO at church. I watch him often, HONORED by the way he quietly serves the king's business. Brad is not an "on stage" person. No he is the type who bends over to pick up a dropped pencil. He is the type to make sure everyone recieves a hug. He is the kind who loves people because he loves God. I need more Brad in my life to remind me that the Kingdom is about the people, not about the events, the plans, and the ministries. Thank you God for Brad.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Holy Thumbs, Lying Liars, and an Ugly Brick Maker

So it's VBS day at our church and I am FRUSTRATED!!! I have a holy, err I mean Wholly, no I guess Hole-ey thumb that has caused me to question claims made by our church and to settle into a feeling of frustration. Keep reading for the explanation.

I am a bit of Maverick, and do not allow myself to be helped as much as I could. At the same time I KNOW my limitations, and will rarely take on a task I am unqualified for. However! today I was forced into a task that I am GROSSLY deficient at and now I have a giant gash on my thumb. You see I need ONE and only one male, (the more masculine type not a sissy artsy fartsy type like me) to ask if there was anything he could do to help prepare for VBS. How many of these males did I find. ZERO!!! Not one out of the 60 men who worship at our church asked if I needed any assistance preparing for VBS. This left me to build the "brick maker" for our hands-on room. So after buying the wood, cutting the wood, and screwing a screw into my thumb, rather than the wood (yes I am REALLY that uncoordinated) I finshed the construction of the UGLIEST BRICK MAKE EVER!!!!

This leads me to the lies. We sent out a mailer to our community that claimed, "We are a church that values children." This is a lie. If we valued children, our men would desire to assist with VBS. If we were a church that valued children, we would not have needed to BEG for VBS volunteers. If we were a church that valued children I would not have needed to bring in a friend from another church to supplement our staff. I could go on about other frustrations, but that is just "digging up bones".

I will never understand my gender. I will never understand what makes dads desperately rework their schedules to be involved in their children's athletic lives, yet be too busy to serve in the children's ministry at church. I will never understand what makes a men able to find time to watch sports center and go golfing with their friends, yet have no time to spend time as key developers of the children's spiritual future. THIS IS A SPIRITUAL SICKNESS!!! It in an infection in the minds of my gender. I just don't get it!

I LONG for the men of our church, and for the men of churches everywhere to stop lying and TRULY begin to have a passion for valuing the spiritual development of children. I believe we can and SHOULD do better!

Jesus Loves The Little Children (Rebecca St James Album Version)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pray For Iraq

I was reading this post on my friend Dr. William Kooi's blog. He verbalized VERY WELL the things I have been thinking about, and praying about in regards to the conflict in Iraq. I have become very conscious to pray for peace both for American and Iraq's interest. No matter what your politics, what your allegiances, we must pray for peace!

My Hope Is In Christ's Kingdom

My grandfather told me when I was a young man that everything can be taken from you except your hope. I was a young man and had no understanding of his words at all, yet I have treasured them in my heart all these many years since his passing into glory. It has been 19 years since and I am a "man" now with a wife, a family, a job, and a great hope. Yet, I have not suffered. Still after all these years my understanding of his wisdom is only academic. I empathize with those who have only their hope yet I have never walked in their moccasins.

I think suffering is an advantage, because it aligns your hope. I was reading 1 Corinthians 13. I was reading it because I LONG to LOVE the way Jesus loved. I got to verse 13 and God revealed a beautiful "rhema" to my heart.

1 Corinthians 13:13
But now we still have faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
My experience in life has been insular with "Christian" people. As I have known them, most all of them have had their faith in Christ. Their forward looking truth has been in the promise of salvation. The faith leads them to a righteousness that is modeled in Christ, the apostles, and the heroes of faith. However their faith, is as far as their walk with Christ ever goes. I have struggled to love like Christ, because I have placed only my faith in him.

My hope, and the hopes of those I have known, are not placed in Christ. My hope is placed in my wife, my family, and my job. I hope to have a happy marriage. I hope to have children who are obedient responsible members of society. I hope to be making $150K a year. My hope, or "my treasures" as Christ also calls them, are stored up here on earth.

God spoke to me in that verse and opened my eyes to the fact that I could not achieve the "greatest of these" so long as my hope was still placed in carnal accomplishments. I could not embrace the power of agape love so long as I was the center of my treasure. As I have been busy building my kingdom, I have been unable to become like the King of the eternal kingdom.

As I begin this process of moving my HOPE to Christ. I begin to understand 3 very important truths.

1. Faith is the substance of things hoped for (Heb 11:1)- My faith takes on new dimensions with each day that I move more hope to His Kingdom rather than my kingdom.
2. There is Nowhere to Go, since only Christ has the words of life (John 6:68)- The comings and goings of this life make more sense when I hold on to the only direction that bears life.
3. Abundant Life is a good thing (John 10:10) - The saints of the persecution and the heroes of awesome faith like George Muller and Mother Theresa are marked by their embrace of abundant life. Their hope being placed in Christ's kingdom allowed them to understand that physical peace and economic comfort were mere shadows of the Abundance that was promised.

My grandfather was right. No matter what mankind takes, when our HOPE is in the KINGDOM OF GOD, when we understand that he is making all things NEW! That is the kind of HOPE I want to have!

There Is A Reason

Monday, August 13, 2007

Cleaning Up Facebook Quotes

I went to add a small portion of the Diognetus text to my Facebook profile and realized my quotes section had gotten WAY to long. Not wanting to lose these quotes, because I still think they are each great. I decided to compile them into a little post here. Please feel free to ignore this post. It is for my future reference.

Anglican Church of Canada:
For food in a world where many walk in hunger
For friends in a world where many walk alone
For faith in a world where many walk in fear
We give you thanks, O Lord. Amen.

Philo of Alexandria:
Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.
Phillip Yancey:
The people of God are not merely to mark time waiting for God to set all that is wrong right. Rather they are to model the new heaven and the new earth, and by doing so awaken longings for what God will someday bring to pass
F. Scott Fitzgerald:
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold
two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.
Saint Augustine:
The church is a whore, but she's my mother.

Imitator of His Kindness

I went out to read the whole epistle after loving the 2 quotes that Mark Moore used in his post and comments. I thought this segment from Chapter 10 (the website I used did not have verse breakdowns) was also amazing!

Epistle to Diognetus 10

And if you love Him, you will be an imitator of His kindness. And do not wonder that a man may become an imitator of God. He can, if he is willing. For it is not by ruling over his neighbours, or by seeking to hold the supremacy over those that are weaker, or by being rich, and showing violence towards those that are inferior, that happiness is found; nor can any one by these things become an imitator of God. But these things do not at all constitute His majesty. On the contrary he who takes upon himself the burden of his neighbour; he who, in whatsoever respect he may be superior, is ready to benefit another who is deficient; he who, whatsoever things he has received from God, by distributing these to the needy, becomes a god to those who receive [his benefits]: he is an imitator of God. Then thou shalt see, while still on earth, that God in the heavens rules over [the universe]; then thou shall begin to speak the mysteries of God; then shalt thou both love and admire those that suffer punishment because they will not deny God; then shall thou condemn the deceit and error of the world when thou shall know what it is to live truly in heaven,

I do believe this is a formula to "awaken longings for what God will someday bring to pass" as Philip Yancey speaks of in his writings about the Kingdom of God.

Come, Lord Jesus

Who The Christians Are!

I was reading an old blog post by Mark Moore and he had this WONDERFUL quote in the comments of the post:

Epistle To Diognetus 5:1-17
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.”

I want to live my life in such a way this could be written of me!

Not That Kind of King

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

You Are Chosen By an Extraordinary King

Jane Espenson in her article " Harry Potter and the Secret to Selling Sci-Fi: " points to the reality that what makes stories about Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, and Dorthy Gale have such universal appeal, as compared to many other characters and stories is,

They're living a life, sometimes a fine one, often a troubled one, but certainly one governed by ordinary rules, when suddenly the curtain is pulled back and a whole new world, or a new set of rules of this world, is revealed. And what's more - and this is the important part - in that new world, they are something special. They are The Chosen One.

Isn't that the reality behind John 10:10 - Christ came to give us ABUNDANT LIFE! We are CHOSEN ADOPTED children of the FAMOUS and ALMIGHTY king. We live in a new world, a new kingdom governed by new rules. When we build our life on the old dead structures we are living CONTRARY to the truths of this new world!

We as God's people need to live as citizens of his kingdom, and be about his business after all he CHOSE US!

Famous One (Live From Austin Music Hall)