one thing

the continuing saga of a follower of Christ
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29
Feb

02/29/08

Happy Leap Day! (I almost forgot about it, until I had to think of today’s date… all I could remember was that yesterday was the 28th, and then it slowly dawned on me…)


20
Feb

fun mileage

The other day, I hit a milestone of sorts in my car…

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By the way, I wouldn’t advise using a camera phone to take a picture of your speedometer while you’re driving on the interstate. It’s not particularly easy (or safe, probably). 🙂


17
Feb

update

Well, the weekend is almost over, and I’m almost feeling back to normal again. The longer I feel pseudo-rotten, the more it seems like I’ve had some sort of intestinal bug rather than food poisoning. But I’ve eaten a moderate amount of food today, and I even had enough strength to preach a ten-minute sermon at church this morning.

This evening, I got an e-mail response from my Homiletics professor containing his remarks/modifications on my second sermon, the one I will preach in class on Tuesday (and at church next Sunday). He gave me a lot to think about, which is good… one thing I’m noticing right off the bat is my tendency to avoid analogies or brief real-life illustrations that help, well, illustrate the points at hand. Preaching is more of an art than a science…

But for now, I get to work on an outline of chapter 1 of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together so I can present it in class tomorrow. (I guess we get lots of holidays through the year, so I shouldn’t complain about not getting Presidents’ Day off, right?)


15
Feb

sick

So Valentine’s Day, which Tara and I usually don’t celebrate with much gusto, was a bit strange this year. Tara got me a corded drill (i.e. not cordless – I have one, but its battery never lasts as long as I’d like!), and I cooked her dinner. It turns out that we were giving “gifts” of a sort after our own gift-receiving preferences: Tara likes to receive gifts, and I like to receive food. 🙂 So maybe next year we’ll swap.

After dinner, we proceeded to do our own things – Tara read a book while I worked on a sermon that’s due on Tuesday (or earlier, if I want any feedback from the prof). How’s that for romance?

And then I proceeded to get sick. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say it wasn’t pretty at several junctures through the night. The best we can figure is that I had some kind of food poisoning… Thankfully, I’m feeling mostly better today, but not 100% yet.

Lessons learned: #1 – Don’t eat Hamburger Helper for lunch if (a) it’s made with milk and (b) it sat unrefrigerated for three and a half hours the night before. #2 – Don’t top your salad with blue cheese salad dressing if the dressing has been sitting in your refrigerator for over a year.

I could go for some applesauce right about now…


14
Feb

car update

Solutions: rotate front tires to eliminate the pull, and tighten the wiper arm. (Stuff I could have done, I think.)

Time taken: one hour. (Way less than it would have taken me, probably.)

Cost: eleven bucks. (Worth it, I’d say.)


13
Feb

ice

I had a strange experience on the drive up to school yesterday morning. A small snow/freezing rain storm blew through town overnight, and the roads were a little wet (but not too slick) for the morning rush. And the temperature was still well below freezing. Now, I park my car in our garage, so I started with a clean windshield. At that point, there was no precipitation actually falling… but by the time I drove the one mile to the interstate on-ramp (where I stopped to change the flat on Monday), my windshield was covered with ice. Wipers and defroster made no difference whatsoever.

So I scraped… and went on my way. Even with defroster on full blast and wipers wiping constantly, by the time I got off the interstate some 40 miles down the road, my windshield was covered with ice again. My only vision forward was a small triangle, low on the windshield, where both wipers were making a tiny bit of difference.

I’ve never had the experience of having to scrape a garage-dry windshield twice in one trip. Ridiculous.

After classes, I had to scrape the windshield yet again, and in the process I discovered that my driver’s side windshield wiper is busted. That is, the car’s mechanism makes the passenger wiper move like normal, but the driver’s side just moves an inch or two, if that.

Oh yeah, and the new tire apparently makes the car pull to the left. So… tomorrow morning I get to have both problems fixed. Oh, to live in a money-less society…


12
Feb

Christian community

In my spiritual growth and development class (which I enjoy more and more as the semester goes on), we’re now reading “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but here’s a remarkable paragraph. Bonhoeffer has just described how spiritual love, which only exists through Jesus Christ, is far superior to human love, which is necessarily limited and flawed because it attempts to connect human to human.

The life or death of a Christian community is determined by whether it achieves sober wisdom on this point as soon as possible. In other words, life together under the Word will remain sound and healthy only where it does not form itself into a movement, an order, a society, a collegium pietatis [a group emphasizing piety], but rather where it understands itself as being a part of the one, holy, catholic, Christian Church, where it shares actively and passively in the sufferings and struggles and promise of the whole Church. Every principle of selection and every separation connected with it that is not necessitated quite objectively by common work, local conditions, or family connections is of the greatest danger to a Christian community. When the way of intellectual or spiritual selection is taken[,] the human element always insinuates itself and robs the fellowship of its spiritual power and effectiveness for the Church, drives it into sectarianism.

I think Dr. Froese would say that on this point Bonhoeffer is a “good Church of God guy.” Christian community needs to be oriented first and foremost around Jesus Christ, for without him there is nothing to hold the community together. And perhaps this is the most difficult part of living as the church – subjecting the human impulse to control, divide, and regulate, and reaching out for the spiritual truth of Christ. Our fragmented (and) American Christianity is enough proof that we enjoy putting up man-made fences and boundaries between each other.

In other news, if you back out of your garage and feel like you’re running over a human body, check your rear tires… you might have a flat. Lesson learned today… and I learned the importance of carrying a 2×4 in my trunk, which I don’t do but the AAA guy does, to help knock free a wheel frozen to the car. (Of course, it might actually be a human body, so be sure to check for that, too.)


09
Feb

nothing new

Well, it’s been a while since I posted here, but that’s not because of a lack of interest on my part – just a lack of anything meaningful to write right now. Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

  • Lots of reading. Actually, the reading load isn’t that bad this semester, but as always it’s keeping me busy. I finished a book on Christian spirituality which is very interesting – if you’re intrigued by the relationship between spirituality and the physical human body, then this book is for you. It’s called Tortured Wonders, written by Rodney Clapp, and is well worth the $10.19 that amazon.com is charging for it. (I’ve lately become a major fan of half.com, so you might check there for a bargain. (Um, yeah, you can get it for $0.93 plus shipping right now.)) It has me thinking much more of a unified sort of spirituality, one in which the stewardship of my physical body is very much related to the well-being of my soul, and vice versa. I’ve also been reading a book on preaching, which is quite interesting (if a bit thick and detail-oriented). I’m realizing that I will need to read/study preaching continually throughout my career, whatever becomes of it.
  • Other school stuff. Planning Taize services, doing Church of God research (which, by the way, is fascinating), and, um, driving. But on the plus side, I get to listen to Car Talk (among other things) every week while I drive, so it’s not so bad.
  • Preparing sermons and Sunday School lessons. I’m giving a short sermonette on the 17th, a sermon on the 24th, a sermon on the 2nd of March, and a Bible study lesson on the 27th between those last two sermons (pastor’s on vacation then). So… yeah, I get to fit all that into the schedule, too. In Sunday School, we’re working through one of my seminary classes, the theology and leadership of worship (but mostly its theology). Lots of interesting discussions, and I’m recording mp3s of all the sessions, so it might make for an interesting case study in a doctoral program some day…
  • Working on the house. The major project right now is the downstairs bathroom, on which we’re making slow and nearly-steady progress. The wood is 90% stripped and is looking pretty nice. We still have to think about the moldy walls and what to do with the flooring, but we’ll get there. This summer, I think I want to paint the house, at least the trim, because it’s in poor shape. Plus there are all those windows to insulate/replace…

Yeah, so that’s pretty much it. Oh yeah … and if you’re interested in Church of God stuff, you should keep your eye on CHOG Blog … its author writes some interesting posts about the relevance of the Church of God in today’s society.


26
Jan

new semester

It’s the beginning of a new semester, and I find myself thinking about lots of things already…

On the one hand, I’m taking a class on “spiritual growth and development in the life of ministry.” It’s hard to say precisely what this class is about, since we’ve only had one meeting so far, but it seems to involve practical and theological work on what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The most meaningful part of this class so far has been the structured way in which we all are required to do “daily devotion” things… something I’ve never been particularly good at doing. But this time I really see the value in it, and I truly appreciate the approach we are taking. The daily readings and reflections come from a book; it’s based on the lectionary (one of them, anyway) and contains themed reflections from all sorts of theologians throughout history. I have already found this particular book to be very helpful and meaningful, so if you’re buying books on amazon.com, you might just tack on an extra eleven bucks and pick up this one, too.

In other news, I am participating in a research project this semester, about which you’ll likely read more if you stay tuned here for the next few months. Another student and I are beginning a study of the history of Christian education in the Church of God. Yesterday, I spent several hours at the AU library in an effort to begin some preliminary reading and resource collection… and let me tell you, I think I learned more about the Church of God in those few hours than I’ve learned in quite some time. For starters, I found it particularly interesting to see how education, which is, historically speaking, something of a touchy subject in the Church of God (for various reasons), came to be associated with evangelism. When I mentioned this to Tara, she didn’t seem too surprised – after all, you teach children in Sunday School settings (or elsewhere) with the hope that they’ll become Christians some day, right? But for some reason, the connection between education and evangelism caught me off guard, intrigued me.

If we boil Christian education down to evangelism and evangelism alone, then where does discipleship fit in? Once people are saved, do we just train them to help other people get saved? Or is there some sense in which Christian education leads people to deeper commitment to Christ, to stronger levels of spirituality, to a greater understanding of the meaning of faith?

These are, of course, rhetorical questions, at least with respect to this research project. Hopefully the answers to these questions will surface in the next few weeks. The faculty supervisor for this project (who shall remain nameless, for now) is interested in having the two of us conduct interviews with people of importance in the Church of God, at least as far as Christian education goes, so that should be quite interesting, once we get the ball rolling in that department. Stay tuned for more details…


15
Jan

Christ’s Birthday Observance

A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a litany to be used next December in the Women of the Church of God publications for its “Christ’s Birthday Observance” special offering. (Click here to find out more about this offering and how it is used.) I jumped at the opportunity because I would like to become more involved in the life of the Church of God – more so than simply attending its seminary. The young lady who asked me to take on this writing task is an old friend of mine, so I was encouraged that this request didn’t come out of the blue… it had to do with who I am, not just with my name.

Anyway, I sat down this afternoon to begin working on the litany. My friend had sent me a couple of resources – last year’s litany, and this coming year’s CBO theme. When I read the theme document, I nearly had a heart attack, because I saw something in it that set off red flags in my mind. I would love to post portions of the document here for your reading pleasure, but I believe that would probably break at least one or two copyright/privacy laws. In fact, I’ll have to be careful talking about this in generalities…

Suffice it to say that the theme utilizes the image of light. Jesus Christ came into the world as the perfect light, the light that illuminates the reality of God and shows us who God truly is. John 14:7 (NLT) quotes Jesus’ words: “If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is. From now on you know him and have seen him!” The light of Christ points us, therefore, toward God the Father, who created the glory of the Son and sent the Son to the world two thousand years ago.

If Dr. Froese were to read this, I think he’d agree with me. We Christians are far too Arian for our own good.

Arius (remember) was a third/fourth-century Christian who propagated beliefs that eventually became labeled as heresy. You can read up on Arianism on Wikipedia, if you like. In short, though, Arius taught that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, did not exist co-eternally with God the Father. The Word of God, according to Arius (and a prooftexting of scripture), is the “firstborn of all creation.” This drives a theological wedge between Jesus Christ and God the Father; one is seen by Arius to be definitively higher than the other.

Why is this bad? Well, we as Christians have to maintain that Jesus Christ is “true God of true God” (as in the Nicene Creed). Our faith is based on the belief that Jesus Christ is, in fact, divine, one in essence with the one true God. It’s hard to be trinitarian if you don’t believe that Jesus is God.

So now… how about this image of Jesus as the light that points us to the reality of the Father who created that light? Oof… the language smacks of Arianism. Did God the Father actually create God the Son? Is Jesus not praiseworthy in and of himself? Are we supposed to draw a distinction between Jesus and God – to the point of saying that Jesus points to a divine entity other than himself in the same way that a source of light illuminates something other than itself?

I guess I’m in a theological conundrum. I agree that Jesus reveals to us who God the Father is – but I believe Jesus does that by revealing to us his very self, his own person. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). I don’t think Jesus is being vague here… he’s being deliberately self-referential. Look at him; that’s how you see the Father. That’s what led Paul to write that “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

So now I get to write a litany for this offering. I think I’ll try to include some deliberately christocentric and trinitarian concepts. 🙂

Ooh… on a side note, if you have a few extra minutes, read this short article. Yet more evidence that Christ should be the (only) head of the church.

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