What do I stand for?

I’m struck by a message I just finished listening to by Paul Manwaring. He asked this question – “What do you stand for? What are you willing to pay a price for?”

Honestly, I’m not quite sure yet.

As I look back, I have paid a price for certain convictions, but at the same time I’m not aware of clearly defined life messages in me or people knowing what I stand for. It seems that this is still developing in me – at the tender young age of 53!

At one point in the message I heard, Paul asks people who DO know what they stand for, to stand up and make declarations. Declare what they want to see; what they’re pulling for.

Well, I’m going to start to declare (write):

  • what matters to me
  • what I want to see

By writing it down, it gets it out of me and puts words onto sometimes shifting feelings/experiences. By posting it, I’m just starting to stand – to be public – preparing to pay the price for my convictions.

Here goes (in no particular order):

  • Europe matters to me – both the land and its people.  I wasn’t born here, but I most certainly trace my ancestry here.  It certainly began before I could say it was “God” but I know now that it was God who put it in my heart and brought our family here to live.
  • Reconciliation – ever since being awakened to reconciliation as a “thing” by Nadine Roure and Elvire Dieny, seeing reconciliation happen – at ALL levels – has been deeply satisfying and I increasingly see where it’s vital.  After all Paul told us in 2 Corinthians 5 that we’ve all been given the ministry of reconciliation.
  • Family matters to me – I’m certainly NOT the poster child for how to do family (in ANY of my family roles thus far in life), but the theology of family continues to grow for me on a regular basis.  God’s design for family; God’s government is family; The enemy’s incessant targeting of family; etc.
  • Identity/Son (and daughter) ship – WHO we are is so incredibly important.  When we understand the glory that God put in each one of us and His design for us and how being His son or daughter literally unlocks eternity TODAY for us – Wow!  It’s just the key to everything.  If I can (and increasingly as an older man, I CAN) help someone to find their identity – call out who and what God has made them to be – that is TRULY  satisfying and has eternal value.
  • Marriage matters to me – Why?  Because Jesus is coming for a Bride.  There’s going to be a wedding!  The power of this eternal union is echoed by what we experience right now between a man and a woman who commit before God to each other for their whole lives.  The power of that covenant is amazing and it’s only a shadow of the covenant that Jesus has with His Bride.  The depths of this are amazing.
  • Worship and God’s Presence matter to me – Not simply because I’m a musician, and one who is named David to boot, but I was made to be in His Presence and to focus on Him.  We all were, in fact, but because God has given me this gift and desire, I believe that He’s also given me a mandate to facilitate the experience of His Presence to others.  I also believe that we are changed by His Presence and we are fundamentally designed, as creatures, to become what we behold – to become like what we worship.  Hence if I worship God, I become like God.  If I help others worship God, I help them become like God.  This is my principle tool of discipleship that I have to offer.
  • The Kingdom of God matters to me.  It is so important to me that my citizenship is primarily with Heaven and that my understanding of “progress” in society is linked to the advancing of the Kingdom where Jesus is King and not necessarily a particular earthly government. My love of a country must be motivated by Jesus’ love for that country (and He loves them ALL) and what Jesus wants for that country.  This may or may not be my country of birth or my passport country(s).
  • Erasing Dualism and Living in Tension matter to me – So I’ve just finished stating “where I stand” but actually because of the things I stand for, I refuse (in principle) to let these stances hinder love or put God in a box.  Jesus was “box buster” in so many ways.  Our detachement from the cultural context of His earthly sojourn makes it easy for us to miss just how many boxes He exploded in His time.  We probably will never discover fully how He made people feel and react in in 1st century Palestine, but the willingness to understand that Jesus does do that – not just to 1st century Palestinian residents but to us as well – is the first important step to letting our own boxes disintegrate and letting Jesus out of the box that we so-easily stuff Him into. When we let typical “either/or” thinking dominate our reality, we immediately begin to de-humanize those who think differently.  In so doing we declare where Jesus is not welcome to challenge us to love that which we don’t understand or with which we don’t agree.  If, for example, reconciliation matters to me, then I can’t afford those walls to stand in my reality.  Not easy at all this wall-dismantling-process, but essential as members of God’s family.

So those are the things that I can say that I stand for and that I want to see – in me, through me, and around me.

Mind the gap! The difficult path to “both and”

Well, it’s the eve of the US mid-term elections and here in France…well…no one cares I think. No, it’s All Saint’s Day (Toussaint) here and they’re mostly at the local cemetery putting chrysanthemum’s on grave stones. Tomorrow is “All Souls Day” where one prays for the deceased in Purgatory. Add to that the US import of Halloween last night and the ever important VE Day celebrations on November 11th where the French gather in every town’s war memorial (they call them “monuments to the dead”) and there’s a whole lotta’ “death” being celebrated over here!

The recent strikes and riots and fuel shortages have not helped either. The sense of “division/divisiveness”, at least for me, has a consonant ring with the “spirit of death”. To surmise that this period of time on the calendar and this period of time with respect to political events in the US and in France, is fraught with activity in the spiritual realm would not take a genius. The stakes are high and the tempers are too…prime territory for enemy seed to be sown in hearts. Kind of scares me that we cast important votes in such a climate!

What seems to be trumpeted around so often in American politics and, I see in French politics too, is that you have two real choices…no more…no less. One must fall on one side or the other and responsible engagement in the political process (aside from the ubiquitous call from all fronts to simply “VOTE!”) requires fighting for one side or against the other. As I’ve mentioned in other posts this sort of default engagement by the Body of Christ does no one any favors as we abdicate our priestly role to steward the land in which God has put us.

How do we get out of these deep ruts? Well, as one for whom concepts are primordial to shape certain kinds of behavior, I think we need to better understand what it looks like when the Kingdom of God is advancing…i.e. when God is King. What it looks like typically flies in the face of “either or” dualistic views of the social and political landscapes. Jesus bridges the gap and takes a path that doesn’t necessarily align with either right or left-winged expectations (no matter how hard we try to put Him in such “one-sided boxes.”

Recently, Duke University Divinity School held their Convocation and Pastor’s School where they had 3 outstanding speakers: NT Wright, Andy Crouch and Rob Bell. Each of these speakers, in different but complementary ways, outlined both concepts and practical application of how we “mind the gap”; how we, as the Body of Christ can and must embrace the tension of the “both and” and reject the easy slipping into left or right-wing ruts. I don’t do their excellent talks justice at all in this short blurb of publicity, but I’m much better at pointing you toward excellent source materiel than I am at summarizing it! So, I highly encourage a listen to these speakers. If you have iTunes and want to use the iTunes U. service, you can simply use the links here. If you, as I do, rather despise iTunes, feel free to take advantage of my efforts to extract these free mp3 resources from Apple’s grip and download them/stream them directly from here:

NT Wright Part 1

NT Wright Part 2

Andy Crouch

Rob Bell

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The Wisdom We ALL Need

I just received Jeff Fountain’s Weekly Word by e-mail today. I confess that often I don’t have time to read them. Today, I’m a bit under the weather so a more measured pace has me perusing some e-mails that otherwise would suffer neglect due to my haste.

This one was a gem! I quote it in its entirety:

The wisdom Europe needs

• European leaders came to an historic agreement in Brussels last week to limit co2 emission levels to help save the environment.
• Just a few days earlier, Christian scientists and philosophers met to discuss the relationship between faith and science at the University of Leiden in Holland.
• Also near Leiden, in 1642, two philosophers met in a castle to discuss this same topic-the interface of science and faith. Europe’s future, including that of her environment, would depend on which of these men’s views prevailed.
• It still does.

French philosopher René Descartes, sometimes called the Father of Modern Philosophy, spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He had been lodging in Endegeest Castle for several months before his visitor arrived for their four-hour discussion. Descartes’ famous statement, Cogito ergo sum, was to mark a fresh beginning in Western thought based on rationalism. His dualism separated the physical from the spiritual, science from religion.

Jan Amos Comenius, although exiled from his homeland at the time, also brought with him a reputation as one of Europe’s leading thinkers. He would earn himself the title Father of Modern Education and is today one of the Czech Republic’s national heroes. Comenius had developed a holistic or integrated philosophy called ‘pansophy‘, meaning ‘all wisdom’, taken from Colossians 1:28: We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

Wisdom for Comenius was more than simply knowledge of things. It involved knowing the relationships between all things. It meant knowing the right decisions to improve conditions and circumstances. It was the ‘fullness of the right knowledge’.

Respect & Reservation
Both men had prepared for their meeting by reading at least some of each other’s works. They approached each other with respect and reservation.

Comenius proposed a philosophy of unity with distinct but not separated fields of science, while Descartes objected to the integration of non-rational knowledge with science.

The two men cordially exchanged arguments without convincing the other. They continued to hold different views on man and his world. The Frenchman, a practising Catholic, saw man as an observer of the world from the outside. The Czech, one of the last bishops in the Ancient Moravian Church, understood man as an inseparable part of something that had been a harmonious whole until disrupted by the Fall.

Comenius continued to criticise a science free of moral values which would result in the fragmentation of the essence and existence of man. He foresaw accurately that separation of faith and natural science would lead men to ask what could be done rather than what ought be done. The Cartesian reductionist approach merely asked for causes, not meaning or destination, he objected.

Ring of gold
He who improves in scientific knowledge and thereby declines in moral knowledge, will end up in decline rather than progress,’ he wrote. Quoting from Proverbs 11:22, he said learnedness without virtue was ‘like a ring of gold in a pig’s nose‘.

How different Western history could have been had Comenius’ pansophy prevailed! Today we find ourselves facing drastic measures to correct problems arising from Cartesian dualism.

The scientists and philosophers who met recently in Leiden believe the answer lies in Comenius-style wisdom, integrating faith and science. Twenty-two Christian scholars complied the book, ‘Geleerd en gelovig‘ (something like, ‘Scholars and believers‘), presented to the Dutch Prime Minister on the occasion of the Veritas Forum.

Jan Peter Balkenende suggested that faith and science today were actually closer than often presumed. Both involved a search for truth that existed but could never be fully known. Faith didn’t make you better a scientist or politician, said the prime minister, but raised different questions. Take the environment debate, for example. We seek all sorts of technical solutions. But the question how to steward God’s creation and pass it on to the next generation, for him personally, had a spiritual dimension.

That doesn’t make me a better politician morally,’ he admitted, ‘but it does shape my way of thinking.’

I, for one, think Europe would be a better place with more of this pansophy.

And I, for one think that the United States would be a better place with more of this pansophy.