Finished Isaiah

Today I finished reading the book of Isaiah. With what I’ve been learning from N.T. Wright’s books and lectures, I read this book with new eyes. I’ll need to come back to it later…but then I feel that way about nearly everything I read in the Bible!

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Rubel Shelly on Missional

On the Tulsa Workshop website there is a section of links to mp3 files of past messages. It only goes back a couple of years, but it is serving as a great source of sermons for me to listen to on my new mp3 player.

Among the messages is one by Rubel Shelly on going from attractional to missional. Overall, I found this to be a great summary of the differences between the two perspectives and strong points of being missional. Unfortunately, I think Mr. Shelly erred on two points.

First, he speaks as though there was no clergy/laity divide until the time of Constantine. This is simply incorrect. Anyone who has read the early church fathers knows that over the course of the decades following the first century the church began developing an episcopal form of government. The move was from one of a plurality of elders (as advocated by the apostle Paul, though I’m not certain how far this model made it through the churches) to a monarchical episcopate, with a few links in between leading to that point. To say that the clergy was an innovation brought about by the official favor bestowed on the church by the empire is inaccurate. It could be said truthfully that this situation accelerated the process dramatically, but it is not the source of the clergy/laity divide.

Second, in emphasizing the absolute importance of each and every Christian being a missionary, I think Mr. Shelly took something away from full-time, paid missionaries. He used the example of Rwanda and how a strong majority there claimed the Christian faith just prior to the genocide that killed hundreds of thousands of people. This comparison is unfair. Missionaries throughout the world have worked hard to bring the Good News of Christ to people, and they deserve respect for any good that has been done. I know many missionaries in Brazil who have spent their lives preaching, counseling and laboring for the Gospel, and they are definitely workers worthy of their pay. That some fail or that in some cultures a shallow form of the Gospel has been embraced does not mean that the entire missionary endeavor has been or is a waste.

Despite these criticisms of Rubel Shelly’s message to the 2006 Tulsa Workshop, I recommend it for its value in explaining missional Christianity. You can download the file here.

Sunday After Christmas – According to the Revised Common Lectionary

All readings taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
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I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD, the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”; and he became their savior in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Isaiah 63:7-9

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host! Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created. He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed. Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and women alike, old and young together! Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!Psalm 148

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.” Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.Hebrews 2:10-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”Matthew 2:13-23

Batismo Só Não Basta

Todos vocês são filhos de Deus mediante a fé em Cristo Jesus, pois os que em Cristo foram batizados, de Cristo se revestiram. Não há judeu nem grego, escravo nem livre, homem nem mulher; pois todos são um em Cristo Jesus. E, se vocês são de Cristo, são descendência de Abraão e herdeiros segundo a promessa. Gálatas 3:26-29 NVI

O moço só queria falar de bebida, festas e garotas sem juízo. Ele tinha 18 anos, e eu tinha 19. Estavamos trabalhando em manutenção para o estado durante as ferias escolares, e foi o primeiro ou segundo dia deste serviço no qual conversamos pela primeira vez. Quando ele percebeu que não estava muito interessado na conversa dele, ele perguntou: “Você é crente?”

–Sou – respondi.

– Sou também – ele replicou.

–Como você sabe, se não pratica sua fé?

– Porque eu me batizei.

A fé deste rapaz era parcial e deficiente, incapaz de salvar nada. Ele acreditava que a perdão de Deus era algo para receber uma vez na vida, e não ter mais nada de obrigação ou comprimisso. Felizemente, a fé cristã não é algo tão vago e sem valor. Ser um discípulo de Cristo exige todo o ser, sem reserva.

Fé é necessário para se aproximar a Deus, e também arrependimento dos pecados, mas estes não podem ser somente eventos que aconteçam uma única vez na vida. Para o batismo ter valor, precisa ter fé e arrependimento antes e depois. A vida toda é uma jornada de fé e dedicação, recebendo a graça de Deus diariamente. Isso se chama de “perseverança.”

Portanto, também nós, uma vez que estamos rodeados por tão grande nuvem de testemunhas, livremo-nos de tudo o que nos atrapalha e do pecado que nos envolve, e corramos com perseverança a corrida que nos é proposta, tendo os olhos fitos em Jesus, autor e consumador da nossa fé. Ele, pela alegria que lhe fora proposta, suportou a cruz, desprezando a vergonha, e assentou-se à direita do trono de Deus. Pensem bem naquele que suportou tal oposição dos pecadores contra si mesmo, para que vocês não se cansem nem desanimem. Hebreus 12:1-3
NVI

Leaving Arizona

Now that Arizona is going to try on a state-wide level what failed on the municipal level throughout the United States, immigrants are packing up and leaving that state. What is Arizona doing? It is prohibiting private enterprise within the state from hiring undocumented workers, on pains of revocation of the business license for the second offense (the first offense calls for suspension of the business license, which alone for many businesses would spell catastrophe).

So the xenophobes are at it again. Under the cover of “national security” and claiming to want to be “tough on crime,” the anti-immigration sector in the United States is waging war on those not like themselves. Forgetting that their own ancestors, at least some of them, were discriminated against in times past by those who wanted to keep them out and preserve the national identity, these U.S. citizens will likely find that not only the “illegal” immigrants will leave, but also the “legal” immigrants who are related to and/or do business with the “illegals” and others will depart. The economy as a whole will slow, and the state government will blame the federal government for not having a nationwide policy.

Minha Participação Numa Conspiração

Foi numa casa de materiaís de construção no bairro Santo Inácio que fui acusado de fazer parte de uma conspiração americana. Na verdade, o homem que fez a acusação foi até gentil comigo, e admitiu que era possível o governo americano ainda não tinha me abordado com a tarefa de espionagem.

– Eles vão te convocar – afirmou o dono da loja – e você vai aceitar porque será seu país mandando.

Eu estava no Brasil poucos mêses quando esta conversa aconteceu, e mesmo que fiquei lá quase três anos e fiz várias viagens ao consulado americano no Rio e uma viagem à embaixada americano em Brasília, ninguem nunca pediu para eu ser espião americano no Brasil.

“Coisa mais doida”, pensei para mim mesmo, “O que tem para ver no Brasil?”

Quando fiz esta pergunta ao comerciante, ele me falou que o governo americano iria querer saber das ruas, fluxo de trânsito e opiniões populares, entre outros fatos.

Deixei de ir naquela casa de materiaís e depois de alguns mêses fechou. Talvez o dono ficou assustado com a minha ausência. Não faço idéia.

Agora já faz quase sete anos desde aquela conversa, e com mais refleção posso assumir que fiz parte e, pela graça de Deus, ainda faço parte de uma conspiração. Esta conspiração é divina, sendo que foi dado por Deus.

“Portando, vão e façam discipulos de todas as nações, batizando-os em nome do Pai e do Filho e do Espírito Santo, ensinando-os a obedecer a tudo o que eu lhes ordenei. E eu estarei sempre com vocês, até o fim dos tempos”. – Mateus 28:19-20 NVI

É uma verdadeira sabotagem! Esta comissão foi dado para todos os discípulos de Cristo em todas as épocas, não somente para os 11 apóstolos originais. Sendo assim, me pareça que tenho uma tarefa mesmo, tanto aqui nos Estados Unidos agora, quanto no Brasil um dia novamente. Tenho uma obrigação como cidadão de um reino que não tem origem neste mundo, e a um Rei que exige a minha obediência e lealdade por completo.

Não é somente uma teoria de conspiração. É uma realidade.

Poverty at Christmas

When I was in Brazil I had a personal website entitled “The Christian Independent.” It’s been offline for a while now, replaced for the most part with this blog. On that website I had a very rudimentary weblog, and the day after Christmas in 2002 I put up a posted entitled “Christmas Dinner”(here’s the link to last year’s re-post).

Unlike many people this time of year, I don’t feel guilty that my kids are going to be getting some nice gifts and other kids won’t. I feel bad for those other kids, but not guilty. I don’t feel guilty because there are people picking through the trash for food and items to recycle for money. I feel bad for those people, but not guilty.

I cannot feel guilty about the good things my family and I enjoy that others don’t have. That doesn’t make any sense. However much some folks would like to push the emotion, I do not feel directly personally responsible for the poverty in the world. Collective guilt in this regard is not something I embrace as a moral stain on my conscience.

If I feel guilty about anything this Christmas season, it is for not doing more to help those in need. Though my time and money is limited, the call sounds out from Scripture to lend an ear to those on the margins.

It’s time I started listening.

“For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11 NRSV).