Check out Frank Viola’s blog for today. The comment section is pretty hot too.

http://frankviola.org/2012/05/24/calvinismarminianism/

And if you want my two cents, watch this vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCMyWA1gLXQ

BTW, I’m NOT sorry about the music :) If you don’t like it, turn the volume down…

Well, it’s home stretch again for the Spring 2012 semester at UCF. Unfortunately, when school gets busy, my blog must be pushed to the back burner. In the meantime, I’m always tucking away little notes, photos, emails, or links for future blogs.

I chuckle to myself when I read blog-help articles that address this particular complaint: Not having anything to write about. In my mind, there is no such thing as running out of material. I’ll trade your all-the-time-in-the-world-but-nothing-to-write-about for my everything-in-the-world-to-write-about-but-no-time-to-write any day :)

Today, I just wanted to say hello, and say something that Joe Elliott (lead singer of Def Leppard) says at the end of each concert I’ve attended, “Don’t forget [me], and [I] won’t forget you!”

Upcoming blogs include: Q&A with NPR’s Melissa Block (All Things Considered), local music, mentoring, sign language, support groups, excellent blog comments, social media, tangent (my band), Archbishop Lazar and the Eastern Orthodox Perspective, video blog on the Love of God, evangelistic tracts, 3rd Wheel Educational Drumming, several book and movie reviews, personal poetry and fiction, church advertisements, a response to two of Frank Viola’s blogs, an overview of the top ten blog posts from my first year blogging, and much more.  And of course, I’ll be continuing the Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell series.

Please feel free to send me your thoughts or blog suggestions (along with any relevant links or source info) if there is a certain topic close to your heart, and perhaps I will write about it. I might not get to it until next year, but better late than never, right?

I’ll leave you with the wonderful prayer a blog reader emailed me from the Book of Common Worship…

How great is your love, Lord God,
how wide is your mercy!
Never let us board up the narrow gate that leads to life
with rules or doctrines that you dismiss;
but give us a Spirit to welcome all people with affection,
so that your church may never exclude secret friends of yours,
who are included in the love of Jesus Christ,
who came to save us all.
Amen.

The other day, I got a voicemail from Gerry Beauchemin, author of Hope Beyond Hell.  It was good to match a voice to a face, even if we didn’t speak directly (we played phone-tag, but now he’s out of the country, so I’ll have to catch up with him later).  Then yesterday, I got a call from a friend from my former institution (i.e., church), just to say hello, and I still need to call her back.  Cyberspace is awesome for connecting with each other, but there’s something more personal about a phone call, or better yet, face-to-face interaction.

I’ve really missed connecting with other believers since I stopped attending the institution.  But I have also been basking in the glorious freedom to be who God created me to be.  I’ve experienced many opportunities to demonstrate God’s love, even though I don’t have an official ministry-stamp-of-approval.  But I’ve missed out on hearing about a lot of behind-the-scenes spiritual activity.  God is constantly involved, with His sleeves rolled up, elbows deep in our lives; unfortunately we view His activity through a small, foggy lens.  We sometimes overlook the individuals for the masses, and since the masses tend to make a mess of things, we don’t see the unique displays of kindness, love, patience, and hope in the everyday.

I had a dream one time about trying to convince people who were watching fireworks on a tiny black and white T.V., one of those old ones with bunny-ear antennas and snowy interference, to come outside and see the real thing.  I guess this blog is an invitation for people to come out and see the fireworks!

Regardless of whether one attends the institution, there’s one thing we all have in common – unique gifting from God to accomplish various assignments in His Plan of the Ages as the seasons of our lives come and go.

Maybe your divine appointment was to let someone else do something for you – to humbly accept that we depend on each other and that you are no exception.  Perhaps your mission for this particular season was to do nothing – recharge your spiritual batteries, be quiet, and rest with a clear conscience knowing God has everything under control without your help.  Maybe your calling was to put your time and talents to use in a physically exhausting yet spiritually invigorating task.

Assignments can last a very long time – years or even decades.  They can be something very simple, such as leaving a very generous tip or picking up a piece of garbage.  My assignment for today (I’m not sure if it is self-assigned or God-assigned.  Nevertheless…) is to return that phone call and to remind blog readers, whether believers or normal people, to connect with and encourage each other as we come and go.

As I said in several recent blogs, I’ve been inspired by Frank Viola’s blog.  He took some time off, but now he’s back at it again.  One particular aspect of his blog that I appreciate is the sense of community he fosters by offering people the opportunity to participate in various ways – other than just leaving blog comments.  I’d like to emulate his technique by giving you this opportunity to share how someone you know connects with, encourages, or demonstrates love in a practical way to others.  This person does not need to meet any specific criteria or hold any particular position in the institution or an official 501c3 organization.  On the other hand, if the person you have in mind is involved in this kind of thing, that’s okay, too!  Maybe you know this person very well, he or she is a stranger you bumped elbows with on only one occasion, or an individual who you have never met who has made an impression on you by way of cyberspace, the news, radio, or other media.

You have two options for giving kudos to others:

1. Leave a blog comment on this blog.  I can’t guarantee how many people will read it, because I’m still learning how to use my stat tracker and I have yet to learn where to find stats blog comment views.  I know there are people who hover and never comment, because they tell me so in private emails.
2. Send an email to alicespicer2003@yahoo.com.  In the subject heading write “kudos”, and be sure to include photos, links, or anything else that seems important.  I’ll feature your information in a blog either by itself or along with other responses, depending on how many people respond.  This will be viewed anywhere from 34 to 649 times.  (I got those numbers from Google analytics of my single-day stats: the least-viewed blog is the first one in an ongoing series, “Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell” and the more recent, most-viewed blog “Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell: Saved by Whose Choice?“).  These days the blog usually averages somewhere between 40 and 80 views per day, and this number increases if the link to the blog post for that day is shared.  It’s like a wave that gradually dissipates in cyberspace.  Some waves keep growing, though.  You never know!

Please feel free to forward this invitation to your friends.  I’ll wait one week to allow time for people to respond.

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a lily.” – Chinese proverb

 

I don’t remember who said it, nor do I have an exact quote, but the idea is something like this: The world is a reflection of the state of the Body of Christ.  A 1986 (!) article Frank Viola posted on his blog reminds me of that concept.  I was taught from an early age, in a fundamental-turned-evangelical church climate, that the world will get worse and worse, that Jesus will rescue all the Christians just before the #@!* hits the fan, and everyone left behind will get what they deserve.

I suspect that this point-by-point future-predicting theology may not be entirely accurate and that God intends to establish His Kingdom in the same way yeast works through dough, that is, consuming very little energy and multiplying in a slow and steady manner that mimics human respiration in a repeating cycle of oxidation and reduction.  It happens quietly, almost imperceptibly.  Someone might be inclined to question whether the yeast is actually working at all.  In unnaturally leavened bread, which rises very rapidly, the enzymes in the dough are destroyed. Consequently, the habitual consumption of unnaturally leavened bread is partly to blame for the current obesity epidemic, it is a contributing factor in candida and anemia, and may be responsible for a host of additional health problems.  But, hey, it sure does come in a flashy package, complete with misleading phrases like “enriched” or “multi-grain”.

From a spiritual point of view, this is very interesting: the yeast DIES as the dough is baked, and when the yeast dies, the little air pockets in the bread stop expanding, resulting in the bread’s pleasant texture and taste.  Perhaps the body of Christ needs to die to its own idea of Ecclesia in order to function in the world the way Jesus described.  He said that the reign of Heaven “is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour it permeated every part of the dough..”  It seems to me that believers (myself included, for over a decade, at least) have been unnaturally killing the dough.

On a more positive note, the reign of God might work in the same way God Himself works: After we learn Who God is not, it is much easier to learn Who God is.   I learned, through my own long season of spiritual obesity and spiritual health problems, who the church (Ecclesia) is not.  It is not a building, programs, rigid claims on orthodoxy/heresy, hierarchy, etc.  I’m still discovering who the church (Ecclesia) is.  I’m not the only one who makes this observation.  A blog entitled, “Organized Religion is Dying” by Tyler Jones represents the mindset of a slew of Christians around the globe, who notice that organized religion doesn’t play the central role in culture that it once did.  He suggests, “Let’s host a funeral”, because this just might be a blessing in disguise.

The blog begins to move in the wrong direction when Jones writes, “legalism is dead” and “we have nothing to fear”.  Why?  Because legalism is most certainly not dead.  It is as active as unnatural leaven.  That’s part of the reason WHY fewer and fewer people in their 20s and 30s attend any church at all.  When Jones writes “we” have nothing to fear, he is correct, so long as “we” refers to “followers of Christ.”  If every church in the world folded, the followers of Christ would still be followers of Christ with nothing to fear.  The reign of God is firmly established, and it would, of course, continue to expand. To my surprise, Jones concludes the blog by suggesting that we plant “thousands of new churches” and revitalize “hordes of existing churches.”

If the death of organized religion is a blessing, why the hell would we want to keep it alive?  Sure, it can make the dough rise in a manner that people notice, but what if God’s not making quick-rise bread?  What if God intends to leave His ministers of reconciliation right here on this Earth for a very long time, to reconcile the world to Himself?  What if He plans on letting His reign work through this three-measures-of-flour-world until His reign permeates through every part of the dough?

Jones writes:

Churches that live, teach, and believe the Gospel are prevailing; not even the gates of Hell can stand against gospel-centered churches! [...] Someday, we will look back on this period of history and realize we witnessed an amazing transformation. We will have watched as thousands of churches closed due to the fact that the core of their existence was based on legalism instead of the Cross of Christ.

I have a lot to say about that (especially the gates of Hell bit), but that’s another blog for another day.  For now, it will suffice to conclude that eventually, just as believers have chosen to abandon abusive, legalistic environments, they will also choose to abandon abusive, legalistic doctrines like eternal torment in Hell.  They will recognize that a gospel-centered church, should be, according to the definition of “gospel”, a Good-News-centered church.  And when believers discover that the gospel-centered claim is a farce, when they finally let it sink in that the gates of Hell, according to orthodox doctrine, stand against not only the church, but Jesus Christ Himself, then there will be another mass exodus.

And when the dust settles, there’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors, where are the people?  Don’t assume that they are no longer viable as ministers of reconciliation in the reign of God.  They are being a “blessing in disguise”, yeast that accomplishes its purpose in God’s time and God’s way, no need for a flashy package or misleading phrases.

Today is Shameless Promotion Day on Frank Viola’s blog, Beyond Evangelical.  Viola writes, “I want to highlight these two posts because they promote the work of others that I deem valuable.”  In order to participate in Shameless Promotion Day, I have been instructed to post the following:

 

N.T. Wright Interview: “Simply Jesus” & Wright Responds to Critics

Click this link to read the unedited interview:

http://frankviola.org/2012/01/23/ntwright

 

Scot McKnight Interview: “The King Jesus Gospel” & McKnight Responds to Critics

Click this link to read the unedited interview:

http://frankviola.org/2012/02/08/scotmcknight

 

At the moment, I do not have the time to read or write commentary on the interviews.  I am not familiar with either Wright or McKnight or their critics.  I am, however, familiar with Frank Viola after reading his excellent book, Pagan Christianity, during my two-year trek through church history a few years ago, which culminated in the Amazing Hope that Jesus Christ is, in fact, the Savior of the world.  The traditional teaching is that He is the Savior only of those who believe before they experience physical death, but scriptures say otherwise – “He is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.”  I think it is fair that I point out that to my knowledge, Frank Viola does not share or endorse some (a lot?) of the views expressed in this blog.  Viola has a good head on his shoulders, and much of what he says is relevant and true.  Yes, we disagree on some things, but that is the nature of the very diverse body of Christ, unified in LOVE.  I hope you enjoy reading the interviews, and let me know what you think of them.  I’ll respond to the interviews in the near future.

To see the shameless promotion of www.whatgoddoes.com and other blogs, view the comment section of Beyond Evangelical.