Sunday, November 20, 2005

Down the Road, For a While...

Sorry for the abruptness, but I need to head down the road for a while. I have some demons to battle, some needs to meet, and some things to put to death in my life. For everything there is a season, and now is the season for trial and overcoming.

Two very special holidays are upon us, and I want to extend my Thanksgiving and Christmas blessings to all of you. May these be the best holidays ever for you. You will be in my thoughts, and I will make a place at the table in my heart for you.

I expect to return sometime in January. In the meantime, stop by the links I've provided on the right. You can also drop me a line any time you like at godscrum at gmail dot com.

I love you. Peace!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Godscrum: Episode 5 is Live

Yes, Episode 5 is Live!

I ask, "What is love, anyway?" Also, review of some notable blog threads for the week.

If you'd like to join the Scrum, send an email to godscrum at gmail dot com. Thanks for listening.

Friday, November 18, 2005

More From Missy...

This is my favorite of yet. Look at what she was able to capture in the expression of the elf on the left! Playful, strong... she's increasingly subtle and descriptive in her work. She's also making great progress in her understanding of and use of light. Notice the soft radiance of the moon and stars.

She's had relatives chide her constantly for being a nightowl, for not being more dedicated and passionate about the other things of life (school & work, really, eventually to become just work) but her mother and I could not disagree more. Missy has her own path in life, and what that looks like is up to her and her Jesus and no one else.

I think she's doing great and have nothing but encouragement to give her. Besides, I think the fruits of her labor speak for themselves.

I love you Missy, and you keep on rockin'.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Could You Be a Legalist?

Could you be a legalist? Take this quiz to find out (HT-New Jersey Gordon), courtesy of Plain Truth Ministries. Here are the ones that I found hit the hardest:

1) God's love for me depends on what I do.

3) Moral and ethical questions are usually black and white and only made into fuzzy shades of gray by hand-wringing, bleeding-heart types.

4) I try hard to obey God and it irritates me that others think they can get away with avoiding the same level of dedication.

8) I tell my children not to do something in church or around other Christian families that I allow in my home.

10) The exterior choices a person makes in what they wear, hairstyle, piercings, tattoos, etc. is a clear indication of that person's character.

12) After being around Christians for a while I feel drained —weary of putting up a false front.

How'd you do?

Zeke: Revolutionary or Narcissistic, Solipsistic Maslowian?

I don't mind being challenged by others, especially when it isn't personal and it forces me to learn something. As I mentioned in my previous post, Jolly Blogger turned me on to Barna's new book Revolution through his critical review of the work. In the review, he says:

And my two main objections in regard to the two fundamental flaws are:

  1. The cure is worse than the disease. In fact, upon closer inspection it may be that the cure is the cause of the disease.
  2. The revolution is a Christianized Maslowian revolution that is antithetical to the biblical communitarian worldview.
In other words, Jolly Blogger has reduced the "Revolution" that Barna is describing to a Maslowian movement (in other words, that Revolutionaries are focused on their own self-actualization rather than true discipleship) and that this very Maslowian impulse is as much a part of what is sick in the church as it is a cure. Essentially, Jolly is suggesting that the Revolutionary impulse has Maslow at the heart and in that respect is just reflective of a "recent tradition of sociologically-driven churchmanship."

He then busts some Calvin on the Revolutionaries: "But, as you can see from these words of John Calvin, this revolution that Barna touts as future has been going on for at least 400 years or more now." So here's some of what Calvin had to say 400 years ago that is apparently apropos of the Revolutionaries:
Seeing that among those to whom the gospel is preached, the fruit produced is not in accordance with the doctrine, they forthwith conclude that there no church exists. The offence is indeed well founded, and it is one to which in this most unhappy age we give far too much occasion . . . Still those of whom we have spoken sin in their turn, by not knowing how to set bounds to their offence. For where the Lord requires mercy they omit it, and give themselves up to immoderate severity. Thinking there is no church where there is not complete purity and integrity of conduct, they, through hatred of wickedness, withdraw from a genuine church, while they think they are shunning the company of the ungodly.
But because pastors are not always sedulously vigilant, are sometimes also more indulgent than they ought, or are prevented from acting so strictly as they could wish; the consequence is, that even the openly wicked are not always excluded from the fellowship of the saints. This I admit to be a vice, and I have no wish to extenuate it, seeing that Paul sharply rebukes it in the Corinthians. But although the Church fail in her duty, it does not therefore follow that every private individual is to decide the question of separation for himself.
Still, however, even the good are sometimes affected by this inconsiderate zeal for righteousness, though we shall find that this excessive moroseness is more the result of pride and a false idea of sanctity, than genuine sanctity itself, and true zeal for it. Accordingly, those who are the most forward, and, as it were, leaders in producing revolt from the Church, have, for the most part, no other motive than to display their own superiority by despising all other men.
Wow, where to begin? If Jolly believes that what Calvin spoke of in his day is what is true of the Revolutionaries, then we can conclude of them that:
  • because the fruit at local churches is "not in accordance with" Revolutionary doctrine, that "there no church exists"
  • Revolutionaries have committed the sin of mercilessness in their treatment of the church and are immoderately severe
  • Revolutionaries are leaving churches because there is not "complete purity and integrity of conduct" and that Revolutionaries believe they are "shunning the company of the ungodly"
  • That Revolutionaries' beef with pastors is that they are not "seduously vigilant" in rebuking and excluding from fellowship the "openly wicked"
  • That Revolutionaries are characterized by an "inconsiderate zeal for righteousness"
  • That Revolutionaries are excessively morose
  • That the heart of the Revolutionary is full of "pride and a false idea of sanctity"
  • That those who would be "leaders in producing revolt" have "no other motive than to display their own superiority by despising other men"
So, I won't even dignify that with a response. I'll just put it out there so it's crystal clear what Jolly is imputing to the Revolutionaries via Calvin. I will say that Jolly makes every effort to de-personalize his dismissal of Barna's Revolution, and clearly strives to be thoughtful and respectful. But his use of Calvin the way he has speaks louder than his genteel words. As does his characterization of Revolutionaries as narcissistic, solipsistic and Maslowian.

Wikipedia: Narcissism, Solipsism, Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs

Monday, November 14, 2005

On the Nightstand: George Barna-Revolution

Those of you who read this blog know that I, with many of my other blog friends, have been struggling with how to either reform the church or form a new of life of faith away from it. At first, they helped me realize what I needed to say before I knew I needed to say it. Then they helped me put a voice to it.

Now I realize every so often that I am not terribly plugged into What's Happening in Christianity. For example, until I started blogging in July I had never heard of the Emerging Church Movement. I just thought it was interesting that people were looking for new ways of doing church. And until this morning, I had never heard of George Barna's new book, Revolution. I had been researching theonomy and caught a Jolly Blogger post on it, so I stayed a while and read his review of Barna's latest release. The post wasn't favorable. And I knew I had to read this book.

Barna's premise is that a quiet, under the radar revolution is taking place: committed believers are leaving the established church in droves. And they are leaving not to indulge themselves in sin away from the eyes of accountability; they are leaving because they see the established church as an obstacle or even just an irrelevancy to fulfilling their passion for a more authentic faith. Some completely leave the church, others scale back their involvement. In all cases, these Revolutionaries continue focusing on following Jesus, they just stop relying on the established church to be the venue for their acts of faith.

And aside from simply documenting a trend impacting the church (Barna's specialty), he has another motive for writing this book:
...I desire to help Revolutionaries gain a better understanding of themselves. Many of them feel like the odd person out, and most of them strugggle with conflicting feelings about their status as spiritual champions who have no spiritual homeland. What a joy it would be if this slim volume helped to crystallize their self-awareness, legitimize their commendable quest to be Christlike, and provide some clarifying language and practical resources to assist them on their journey.
Finally, I want to encourage people who are struggling with their place in the Kingdom of God to consider this spiritual awakening as a viable alternative to what they have pursued and experienced thus far. Sometimes peopel know what they want and need to do, but feel constrained by circumstances or expectations. May this book provide those people with the permission they need to reach their next level of spiritual maturity.
I can't tell you what it means to me to read these words. I guess it's true that we are never alone, and that there is nothing new under the sun, but to hear this icon of the evangelical movement describe what I was experiencing was powerful in a way that I can't express. I have said before of what is happening around us (visit many of the blogs in my links to the right to see what I mean) that "God might be in it." If you believe Barna, he is. In a big way.

I won't try to synopsize this book; I may do that in another post. If you are on the same path that I'm on, it will be enough just to hear of this book and you'll already want to read it for yourself. If you are opposed to the idea of sincere Christians leaving church, you have company, as Jolly Blogger can attest to. He even enlisted John Calvin in his critique.

I'm still digging into it, and I will likely have more to say. In the meantime, get this book and read it. Once again, Barna is on to something.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Godscrum: Episode 4 is Live!

Yes, Episode 4 is live! I declare that all sin derives from a failure to love perfectly. My heresy is now complete. Plus updates on family, the spread of Godscrum across humanity, and I am not the nice guy you think I am.

Lots of Scripture behind what I'm saying, so be sure 1) not to miss the show notes, where I hot-link all of them for your convenience and 2) not to assume that because I don't list them all in my podcast that I don't consult Scripture. There are 17 different references in the notes; I don't list them in the podcast because it would clog the narrative and I wouldn't be able to finish in the 20 minutes or so that I try to keep the audio essays to. Enjoy, and thanks again for all your comments and support.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

A few years back, our friends at TBN (otherwise known as the charismatic branch of Americhurch) built themselves an ornate headquarters building in Costa Mesa right on the 405 freeway across from South Coast Plaza (home of Orange County's swankiest full-size mall--a short walk away for Jan's personal shoppers!). This time of year, they deck the place out with white Christmas lights, including a string across the top of the facility that reads--and I kid you not--"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS!"

Now, this place is just a few short miles from my house but I've never been there before. So I went to the TBN website to see what the attractions were, and check this out:
Visit us at your new Trinity Christian City International center in the heart of Southern California. Conveniently located near many world famous attractions and shopping centers, you can spend the whole day, or make your visit part of a complete vacation.
I can spend the whole day? Be still, my beating heart...
Experience the Virtual Reality Theater, home of "The Revolutionary", an original motion picture, filmed entirely on location in Israel. This state-of-the-art high definition virtual reality theater features a 48 channel sound system that virtually puts you in the picture.
So I called their 24-hour message line, and it turns out that there are five hour-long films being shown (two of which are Omega Code and Megiddo, sort of TBN takes on Left Behind). But that's not all:
Take an intriguing walk through an actual recreation of the Via Dolorosa, the street in the old walled city of Jerusalem where Jesus carried His cross to Calvary. View "The Revolutionary" or "The Revolutionary II," portraying dramatic events in the life of Christ, or "The Emissary," depicting exciting events from the book of Acts. Each of these virtual reality features is an hour long experience you will cherish for a long time.
And for those who have always wondered what it's like to walk the halls of this media giant for Jesus, check this out:
Tour the Demos Shakarian Memorial Building. The breathtaking interiors and magnificent studios are seen regularly on international television broadcasts. Never before has it been possible to walk right into the studios and look into the heart of a working production center.

Now, for the first time, you are invited to take a peek behind the scenes and see how this mighty work is accomplished. Stroll the beautiful gardens with their lush plantings and sparkling fountains. Although they are fully equipped for television production, the gardens offer a restful setting for meditation and contemplation, right in the heart of busy Orange County.

All right! I mean, check out that picture! Gold and marble... just like Jesus would have wanted. And now, for the cherry on the sundae: the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh Gift Shop!

The Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh Gift and Book Shop offers a tempting array of items for every budget, including music, tapes, Bibles, gifts and a complete selection of TBN souvenirs.

Tempting? Aw, Paul, you card.

So here's the plan: I'm going. Who's coming with me? We can get together some Friday night or Saturday and make an evening of it. Talk about a Holy Crap experience. Can you imagine the fun?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Welcome to the Digital Meadow

I've been researching how, using the internet, we can reform (as in literally "re-form") church by creating new models of Christian community apart from the "I go to x church" way that we are all so accustomed to. In my wanderings I happened upon a Wired essay that questioned the very premise I was working under:
You think technology benefits you because it gives you an easier row to hoe? Bollocks. The ease it provides is illusory. It has trapped you, made you a slave to things you don't even need but suddenly can't live without. So you rot in a cubicle trying to get the money to get the stuff, when you should be out walking in a meadow or wooing a lover or writing a song.
Fair point with regard to the walking in the meadow, wooing lovers & songwriting thing--who among us wouldn't acknowledge that we don't have enough of smelling the roses?--but the context of the point he's making is that technology has served more as a tool to extract more economic benefit for the capitalist overlords from us worker units, or something like that, than as a tool for improving the quality of our lives. I'm pretty dismissive of these kinds of arguments because it's clear to me that whatever the motivations of capital might be it's much more clear that what some criticize as a time-waster or an electronic lease is actually a powerful enabler for helping man to do what he naturally wants to do: reach out and touch beyond the barriers of his physical location. It started with smoke signals and carrier pigeons, progressed to messengers and postmen, leapt to telegraph, telephone and radio, then to email, then wireless phones, and finally the internet--a tool for communication liberation from physical constraints that will only be matched when we invent the transporter beam.

Until then, our ability to form community beyond the bounds of our physical location using the internet is almost boundless. The only boundaries that remain against the free speech of the internet is language, internet access, and government censorship (and thanks, Yahoo!, for helping to make that possible).

But this will not be without the naysayers, inside and outside the church. The Wired essay is one man's outside the church opinion, and here's the essence of his critique:

Look around. Our collective humanity is dying a little more every day. Technology is killing life on the street -- the public commons, if you please. Chat rooms, text messaging, IM are all, technically, forms of communication. But when they replace yakking over the back fence, or sitting huggermugger at the bar or simply walking with a friend -- as they have for an increasing number of people in "advanced" societies -- then meaningful human contact is lost. Ease of use is small compensation.

The street suffers in other ways, too. Where you used to buy books from your local bookseller, you now give your money (by credit card, with usurious interest rates) to Where you used to have a garage sale, you now flog your detritus on craigslist. Almost anything you used to buy from a butcher or druggist or florist you can now get online. Handy as hell, to be sure, and nothing touched by human hands. But little shops lose business and close, to be replaced, if at all, by cookie-cutter chain stores selling One Size Fits All. The corporations have got you right where they want you.

Of course there's a part of me that sympathizes and would even agree. And this man has a lot of sympathizers inside the church that will argue against the ability to form community outside church. But here's the thing: I don't really like my physical neighbors (their kids steal our fruit, they have too many cars and crowd the street, they have loud fights at night and they throw beer bottles over the fence when they have parties), I buy my "books" in electronic audio format for the most part, and isn't the choice that becomes possible with the internet better than the choices imposed by physical constraint? What if my local bookstore doesn't stock what I like, the butcher has a dirty shop, the druggist is an ass and the florist charges too much?

And what if you look around, what if you pop your head out of your rabbit hole and discover that churches no longer serve discipleship but the very consumerism that characterizes the rest of our culture? What if the best way to find new meadows, new loves and new songs for the Jesus-seeking soul is to actually drop out of church and plug into the internet? Then what?

Then we do just what we are doing. Welcome to the meadow; let's do some love and write some new songs.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Listen Up, Americhurch!

The groundswell of discontent with the flaccidity, vapidity and self-indulgence of Americhurch is widening and deepening. And it's not just the "burnouts" and "backsliders" like me.

Witness this post from Adam at for instance. Adam and I don't see eye to eye on everything; he is a seminary student at a pretty conservative evangelical college in Texas and is probably, I think it fair to say, conservative politically and theologically. But he's fed up too:

I am a leader, I am from a generation of leaders. We are guys and girls who are sick and tired of churches that are more like businesses and country clubs than they are like communities of faith.

We are tired of the name of Christ being trampled and trodden under foot, not by pagans, but by professed Christian's stupidity.

We are tired of Christians being seen as stupid men with stupid hair standing up with stupid smiles and saying that 'God loves you, he wants you to have your best life now...'

We are tired of bumper stickers that are nothing more than crappy cliches that make pagans laugh at our stupidity. We are tired of these bumper stickers being on the very same car that has a middle finger being stuck out the window.

We are tired of 'evangelicals' getting all up in arms when a man wants to marry another man, yet we say nothing when a man leaves his wife, and then his second wife, and then his third...

We are tired of being cozy within our big homes while our brothers and sisters across the sea are dying within prison cells.

We are tired of having to go to the pagans to have our minds challenged through books and literature because all that is within our 'Christian' bookstores is how to have a happy life, and how to pray a mantra that gives the reader a successful life.

Preach it, brother. There's not a hair's width between us on this issue.

I admit I spend a lot of time just bagging on Americhurch, and it deserves every ounce of it. I have no idea if anyone beyond those who already agree with me pay it much mind, though. But if you are in the halls of influence in Americhurch, you best be paying attention when the future leadership, the ones who are being groomed to take over your sanctuaries and seminaries, start losing respect for you.

Should I Be On My Best Behavior?

What I've put up on occasion on this blog--the Naughty Thread pictures, the goofing off with my friends, talking about how much I like beer, the occasional swear word--please let me know if you think it detracts from the overall message or, like I hope it does, serves to underline the message.

Somebody dropping in for the first time might not know what I mean, but this is really for those of you who frequent this blog. I'm not blithely unaware of how we are supposed to respect the weaker brother, nor am I unaware of how we are supposed to live lives that are beyond reproach. In emphasizing the point that I believe we in the evangelical church overemphasize external cleanliness at the expense of internal cleanliness, I've purposefully--and I do mean purposefully, with intent--neglected to polish the outside of my bowl. Like I've said in my podcasts and in other comments before, I don't mind poking a virtual finger into the eye of what I think is a Pharasitical spirit. Also, it's frankly a relief to not have to pretend that I'm cleaner than I really am. However, people I love and care about are worried for me, and that hurts like a--well, it just really hurts. If we burn up hours and hours talking about the f-word or randy pictures, what have we really accomplished for the Kingdom--on either side of the debate? And have I become unbalanced in my criticisms of the evangelical church to the point that I'm not really serving anyone save myself and those who agree with me?

So if you, who I also respect, think the "dirty on the outside of the bowl" behavior detracts from the message more than it serves it, then I'll dispense with it. It's the message that matters. I'm genuinely open on this, so speak up and help me out.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Godscrum: Episode 3 is Live

Yes, Episode 3 is live! I challenge the Americhurch contamination and endorsement fallacies that grow out of the mistaken "in the world but not of the world" characterization of John 17. Plus Taco Tuesday, and Godscrum is the first SCP Certified Podcast!

Check the show notes for website links and Scripture references.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Yeah, My Daughter Did This

Missy's 18, and she does this kind of work all on the computer. She's awesome, and I'm a very proud dad. Seriously, she wins contests. I've been bugging her to give me something to post, so everybody give her some props so she'll give me more.

On the iPod: Tears for Fears-Elemental

Mrs. Zeke has leveled the accusation at me--fairly--that I don't pay attention to the lyrics of music that I love. Well, for some reason Tears for Fears is hitting me like a hammer this morning, and I'm listening closely. Here's what I'm hearing:

You can't fight the fear you can't, this is the road you're on
You don't belong to me you don't belong to any one
Your reputation lies not in your eyes, but those who dare
Will bite the hand that feeds when it don't meet your needs When you got
blood to bleed, you got a life to lead

In the flood with my blood I can hold you...


So those are my dreams

And these are my eyes
Stand tall like a man
Head a strong like a horse

When it's all mixed up
Better break it down
In the world of secrets
In the world of sound

It's in the way you're always hiding from the light
See for yourself you have been sitting on a time bomb
No revolution maybe someone somewhere else
Could show you something new about you and your inner song
And all the love and all the love in the world
Won't stop the rain from falling
Waste seeping underground
I want to break it down...

Yancey Delivers Again

In his latest essay in Christianity Today, Philip Yancey observes how the external perception of evangelical Christianity has become so warped in today's culture. One friend of Yancey's says, "They're motivated by hate—sheer hate!" A trio of gay Christian acquaintances state bluntly that "It's obvious the country doesn't want us, and I believe most evangelicals would like to see us exterminated."

Of course Yancey dismisses these statements as hyperbolic, and so do I. But it's worth reflecting on what we have done to generate that kind of fear on the part of the unchurched. Money quote:
I thought, too, how tempting it can be—and how distracting from our primary mission—to devote so many efforts to rehabilitating society at large, especially when these efforts demonize the opposition. (After all, neither Jesus nor Paul showed much concern about cleaning up the degenerate Roman Empire.) As history has proven, especially in times when church and state closely mingle, it is possible for the church to gain a nation and in the process lose the kingdom.
Gain a nation and in the process lose the kingdom? Like I said, if you're not reading Yancey you should be.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Well, not really, but I've noticed lately that many of the blogs I visit regularly are focused on what--in my mind--amounts to something like this:

Point: As long as I exercise my Christian liberty in the service of love, everything is permitted.

Counterpoint: But not everything is beneficial, and that means pretty much anything you think you are exercising your liberty on. You are just looking for an excuse to sin.
Naughty boy!

Sure, that's quite a simplification. But it's all out there for you to judge for yourself. The Big One is here, with follow ups here and here. The Marshall Brothers chime in here and here. I won't reargue the points here, but if you want to go ahead. These days, it's a ringer for comment counts.

And sure... feel free to question my use of the photo. For the record, I'm feeling pretty cheeky about the whole debate and feel just played out.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

On the iPod: Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

The Pingers recently brought this book to my attention, as well as the fact that Anne Rice has returned herself to the Catholic Church and pledged that from here on out she will "write only for the Lord."

This is her first major novel since returning to the faith of her youth, and she has a lot of Christians sitting on the edge of their seats to see what develops out of her extraordinary talent. Some are concerned, some excited, and some reserving judgment until they see the product. See here for a recent exchange on Adam's blog to see how some Christians have already been talking about it. Time was I wouldn't have given her much thought once I learned she was in favor of John Kerry and gay marriage, but I'm not as straight-line evangelical as I once was. I try not to confuse culture and politics with faith anymore.

So, I will listen and report. Stay tuned.