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Archive for the ‘jesus’ Category

“Kenosis” is a theologically charged word that is loaded with hidden meaning … for me.

Posted by functionalchurch on 2011/02/11

Kenosis is a theologically charged word that is loaded with hidden meaning. It appears in Philippians 2 and is used to describe the way in which Jesus humbled himself. It says he “emptied himself ….” Of course the question is always put from the perspective of Jesus: of what did he empty himself? I don’t know how many discussions that I have had related to understand this concept of “emptying.”

Today I had an insight. The context of the passage is not focused on defining for us exactly what it was that Christ emptied himself of. The context is actually a question: Of what will you empty yourself?

What is your understanding of kenosis? What needs emptying in your life?

Posted in christian life, discipleship, jesus | Leave a Comment »

Pondering Matthew 5:42. Is Jesus serious?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/07/26

Pondering Matthew 5:42. Is Jesus serious about this? Do you have any thoughts?

I mean it’s not like I disagree with Jesus or anything but this verse tells me something that I not only don’t really want to do but even conventional wisdom tells me is wrong. Here is the verse according the the God’s Word translation:

“Give to everyone who asks you for something. Don’t turn anyone away who wants to borrow something from you.”

Here are a few thoughts:

1. If I did this I would have a lineup outside my door (literally).

2. What about the money I need for my own needs or even better for my family’s needs? Is Jesus telling me to give my money away when asked and then to ask others when I need money?

3. How inclusive is the list? Is it just money or does it apply to other things like my car, my house, my office, my tools, etc.? Is there a line that needs to be drawn or is it always “all in”?

4. What about the whole “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime” thing? Is that just a cute way of getting out of my responsibility?

I guess I can take the typical discipleship talk of denying myself and taking up my cross and following him daily but that is still pretty abstract. When it comes to my wallet, that is pretty real.

What has this verse meant for you? Do you even include it as part of your becoming more like Christ?

Posted in christian life, discipleship, jesus, truth-telling | 2 Comments »

The Church, the World, and the Kingdom of God

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/06/25

My favourite theological motif is derived from the story of the Loving Father (also known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son). It is in fact a story about the world, which is synonymous with the family of God. The story is about a Father with two sons. One son wanders off in search of his own joy in life (but ends up realizing that true joy only lies in his father’s household). The other stays at home and faithfully works for his father (but ends up developing a non-loving attitude toward his sibling). The father is very interested in both the return of his “lost” son, as well as the proper attitude of this other son.

This is a picture of God and his relationship with the world. Some people of the world have wandered off in search for joy. Many return to God. Others are safe in the church but sometimes end up having a dim view of those who are not yet there.

It reminds me of something I read from David Fitch over at Reclaiming the Mission. He made a statement about in March 2010 that has stuck in my head. Here it is:

“There is no dividing line between the church & the world. The church may precede the world today, yet it is only living today what the world itself is ultimately called to in the future. The church in essence bleeds into the world ever calling it to its true destiny. As a foretaste of the renewal of all creation, the church cannot be discontinuous with creation. It cannot be discontinuous with the world because the church is in the process of becoming that very world renewed in Christ. Neither can it merely blend into the world for then all Mission & renewal is lost. Its presence will be in, among & for the world even as it will be distinct from the world. This is what it means to take on the incarnational nature of Christ. It is this very incarnational nature that requires the church to be a discerning community which at times both refuses conformity with the world while at other times joining in (with what God is already at work doing).”

This resonates a lot with me because it is where I see the church’s role in the world right now. We can’t transform something if we are not involved in it. Note that the very concept of transformation implies that there is not a wholesale accommodation to the world, just a participation in what God is doing to enact that transformation.

I just have a nagging question: What is the relationship between the church and the Kingdom of God? David points out that the church is a “foretaste of the renewal of all creation.” But if it is a “foretaste,” it can’t be the final product. In the following sentence we read, “the church is in the process of becoming that very world renewed in Christ.” Is it the church that is becoming the world renewed in Christ or is the renewed world the kingdom spoken of in Revelation 11:15 – “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will rule as king forever and ever.”

I guess what it comes down to is this: Is it ok for me to work at building the church or should I instead work at building the kingdom? Or is to do one to do the other as well?

Posted in David Fitch, jesus, kingdom of god, missional, missions, parable, personal impact, transformation, truth-telling | Leave a Comment »

If Powerlessness Means No Power How Can I Lead My Church?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/05/23

“You know, Mike. The hardest one of the 4 for me is Powerlessness. As Pastors we need to guide our churches. Without our power, people will not move and the church will not grow. So there needs to be a balance.” Phil was wrestling with one of Michael Frost’s Four Ps of Incarnational Mission. As a churchplanter among middle-class Filipinos, he is concerned about the future of his church and the best way to minister to this group.

Phil was a part of SEATS latest School of Ministry class. In an effort to return to the roots of our movement we have been revisiting the Gospels under the guise of a hermeneutics class. Called “Understanding Jesus: Mark.” I thought it might be interesting to combine Frost’s understanding of Incarnation and Incarnational Mission with the stories we see in Mark. Here is a brief summary of each of the four:

Presence – Do what Jesus would have been doing, if he were here.

Proximity – Identify with those to whom we are ministering, much in the way Jesus identified with nearly everyone to whom he ministered.

Powerlessness – giving up our position of power – be it money, position, education, or whatever – and depend upon God for the things we need in ministry. Rather than trusting in my own power, I trust in God’s.

Proclamation – it is all worthless if we never get around to discussing and presenting Jesus as the good news.

Granted these summaries may not accurately reflect Frost’s concepts since they are my summaries but they did form the basis for our discussion in class.

Of course, like Phil, we are all ok with 3 of the 4. We are happy to see that we represent God’s presence in the world, that we drawn near to others just as he drew near to us, and that ultimately, without the good news being proclaimed, there is no value to our mission. But when we get to that pesky #3 – Powerlessness – something seems to hold us back. We begin asking questions like Phil: How do we balance leadership with servanthood? Am I just supposed to sit back and let my church fail? To sit back and let people just do what they want?

The key to all of this is to remember that in Powerlessness we are imitating Jesus. Perhaps the Trinity had a similar discussion “before the foundation of the earth” where they debated the nature of the Incarnation. Perhaps they thought about all the positives and negatives as they discussed the plan. Certainly God’s concerns are bigger than ours. If I am concerned about my church and its growth, God is concerned with the universe and its growth. But yet, when all is said and done, God chose to use powerlessness as a key part of how he presented his love and salvation to us.

Another key is to remember that it is not really Powerlessness that is being spoken of but rather a dependence upon power that is not our own. Jesus is constantly speaking of how he is the one who depends upon the Father for certain things. We also read how it was the Holy Spirit who filled him and enabled him to do his marvelous acts. When we embrace powerlessness, we set aside our own resources, powers, abilities, etc and embrace humility and dependence upon God in it all.

I thought of a few points that might help us focus on the key concepts that relate to Powerlessness:

1. So does the ‘Pastor’ have to be the best at everything? If we believe this, we will never be able to embrace powerlessness since we will need that power to keep up the hectic pressure and pace we need to set for ourselves.

2. Does the church depend upon the ‘Pastor’ for its existence? Obviously we need to answer “No.” It is Christ upon whom we depend for our existence as a church. As such, maybe we need to let go a little bit and see where God is leading. (See #1, above).

3. How do our gifts play into this concept of powerlessness? The fact that the Spirit manifests himself through gifts he gives to each Christian as he sees fit means that one person can’t carry the whole load. We need to give up our idea of the pastor as the key figure in the church, as the one with whom the church lives or dies and embrace the fact that each part of the body is crucial to the future of what God does through us!

4. The concept of team understands powerlessness and uses it effectively. “There is no ‘I’ in team” is an old saying that has some truth to it. Team means we do it together not that you or I do it alone.

5. Is ‘Pastoral’ leadership based upon leadership through power, or leadership through example or leadership through serving? Jesus is pretty clear in saying that power isn’t to be the basis for our leadership. In fact, in his example of washing the disciple’s feet, he showed that it is really through servanthood and example that our leadership lies.

What are your thoughts on powerlessness and how it relates to leadership?

Posted in church, church impact, ecclesiology, jesus, leadership, leadership training, missional, pastoral training | Leave a Comment »

Do you want God to "keep the balance"? I Don’t.

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/05/07

Just watching Avatar on DVD at home with the family the other night when the line jumped out at me. Near the end of the show, when Jake Sulley is questioning himself and his quest to free Pandora of the “Skypeople,” he asks Eywa to help him. His girlfriend Neytiri replies, “Eywa doesn’t take sides, she keeps the balance.”

I’m not sure about you but I want a God who does take sides — one who chooses the side of good over evil, who chooses right over wrong. Because a God who chooses to keep the balance makes sure that there is just as much evil in the world as there is good.
For an example of a God choosing right over wrong, take a look at the story of Jesus.

Posted in christianity, jesus, LORD, truth-telling | Leave a Comment »

Villar, Politics, & the Church

Posted by functionalchurch on 2008/05/26

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the President of the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines, Senator Manny Villar.” It was strange to hear those words coming out of my mouth. In fact the whole situation was a little bit of a surprise for me. As the producer for this year’s Baptist Conference of the Philippines Biennial Assembly, it was my job to ensure the program ran smoothly. I spent the time running back and forth making sure everything was working well. The first night, as expected, we had a few program changes, due in part to the anticipated late arrival of the keynote speaker, the aforementioned Senator Villar. Rev. Gary Harrison, VP of BGC-US, another of our speakers, graciously agreed to preach his message early, just to accommodate the Senator’s busy schedule. Of course, as the producer, the big question for me was, “When the Senator arrives, do we get him to wait or do somehow signal the other speaker to wrap things up so that the Senator could have his shot?”

A variety of discussions ensued with a variety of participant’s. In the back of my mind I was thinking that we shouldn’t be to eager to stop the preacher just for a politician to take his place. Others shared the same viewpoint and so the Senator waited for about 15 minutes. Of course, as my colleague Rene pointed out, “Politicians never show disappointment in public.”

So it was up to me. I should point out that my role at the Assembly did not include any public role. In fact, I was just wearing jeans and a t-shirt when the message came to introduce the Senator!

I must admit I was impressed with the Senator’s speech (although for the life of me I couldn’t get the image of him dressed in his leather suit, singing, “Manny Villar para sa Senador” to the tune of an old Tom Jones song, out of my head.). Either he or his speechwriter understood the issues of Transformation enough so that he said all the right things in the right order. Perhaps much more boldly than I might but then that is not a bad thing.

Afterward it was very interesting. As he was leaving he began (as politicians do) to shake hands with the assembled host. I have in my mind this image of pastors scrambling down to the aisle just so they could shake his hand.

Having said all of that, this phenomena brings several questions and or observations to my mind:

Firstly, it seems to me that in situations like this, the question running through everyone’s mind is, “How can he help us.” There is, as Rene once again pointed out, a certain star quality to having a famous politician grace our circles, even circles as politically neutral as a church gathering (said with my tongue firmly in my cheek!) We all want to meet the famous person and more importantly perhaps have them join our church. But to what end?

The second thing it makes me ask is, “Why isn’t it the same way with the political world?” Why are our leaders not as rabidly excited when we are given the opportunity to speak in the public arena? Why are they not beating down our doors looking for our support so that they can craft their programs accordingly?

Could it be that we have become so rabidly anti-political in our churches, scared to say even the slightest world in support of one candidate or another? Could it be that when issues come up, we as a church have either ignored it or over-spiritualised it so that our answers become meaningless? Case in point, a local Baptist minister in Canada saying, when asked about a horrible child-abuse ring that had just been uncovered in his town, “I think they are demon possessed!” How is that answer relevent to the issue facing that town – namely that of pain, betrayal, distrust, anger, cries for justice?

The church needs to get its voice back! We need to speak out on the issues that are shaping our societies. We need to bring not only the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ into the world, but also the message of the truth of who God is and how he wants us to act.

Mike Fast welcomes feedback on any of the articles he writes. Please leave your comments below.

Posted in christian life, christianity, church, church impact, ethics, good news, jesus, leadership | Leave a Comment »

Speed Racer & The Messiah

Posted by functionalchurch on 2008/05/15

Enjoyed a great movie the other day – Speed Racer. (Beware: Spoilers follow. If you haven’t seen the show, go now and watch it before reading the rest of this blog :-). I am not sure what it is but it really appealed to me. I found myself of the verge of tears at times. At others I cheered. Still others saw me reflecting on my own life and limitations. A great movie! Of course the story was not a-typical. A small-town, family-owned racing business tries to compete in the world of corporate racing – together with its inherent corruption and manipulation.

What really clicked with me however was the whole messianic nature of the struggle. In a world oppressed by the aforementioned corporate bigshots that allow no one but themselves to succeed, people are looking for a saviour – someone who can destroy the structural evil of society and bring freedom and peace to the world.

Of course you know how the end goes. The underdog wins; the corporate criminals are jailed; and the world is a better place. The Messiah has come through (again) and done his saving thing. Or has he?

I struggled with identfying the Messianic figure in the show as I compared him to the real Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The obvious choice for Messiah is Speed. He is definitely the underdog. He is a man who lives by a strict moral code. He is passionate about his role in the world. He is even a really nice guy. In the end Speed wins the big race (surprise surprise) and thus brings salvation to the world. A happy ending. Or is it?

A less obvious choice for Messiah in the show is Speed’s brother, Rex. Rex has all the makings of a champion racer. He is fast. He is one with his car. He sets all kinds of records. He also has all the makings of a social advocate. Righting wrongs. Seeking justice. Striving for freedom in the world. Until it all comes apart. He is disgraced. He is ridiculed. His name is dragged through the mud until he dies in a firey crash on a lonely stretch of road in China. We later find out that in fact he has given up his life as a champion racer; his relationship with his family; really his whole life – all for the purpose of saving the world from the evils of corporate racing.

So how does all of this relate to the Messiah? Jesus left his position in heaven as basically the ruler of the whole universe (all Lapsarian, space-time continuum issues, and discussions of how past, present, and future tenses relate to God left behind for the moment) and became one of his own created beings. He lived a life of poverty and hardship on Earth. Spent his time fighting against injustice, structural evil, and abuse. Developed relationships with the world’s rejects and troublemakers and then was crucified on a cross and died.

At the end of “Speed Racer” we are left with a question in our minds. While rejoicing with Speed and his family (and the world) over his victory, we are reminded of the sacrifice that Rex continues to make in order for the world to be a better place. He remains incognito to them knowing that perhaps his job is not done. Perhaps evil will arise again (quite possibly from within his own family) and he will need to be there to stop it.

It’s all about sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed himself so that in the end evil would be defeated. Rex sacrificed himself so that in the end evil would be defeated. Perhaps we need to find out ways to be more sacrificial – to lose – in our lives rather than looking for victory.

Posted in jesus, movies, transformation | Leave a Comment »