Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Song of the Day: Ben Shive and Rise Up...

This song is exactly what I needed to hear - beautiful, non-produced songs of the Lord... I will get into my music oddities later, as for now, be blown away:

Ben, if you read this, bravo... I wish you would write a whole album like this.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bleach: Alive Again!

(Before reading, go to the youtube video below and press play... enjoy said music whilst you you peruse). 

Bleach is one of my favorite bands. They were influential for me when I became a Christian about 10 years ago... They had some killer songs that were also cool. It was some of my first flavor of Christ-inspired music outside of worship and it was awesome.

The other thing I was into at the time was a thing we called nerd rock. It was big, slammin' electric guitar with clean singing vocals with lyrics about everyday life all the way to the nerd scene. Probably the most famous band in this style was Weezer, but faith inspired for me would have been Bleach.

They are doing some shows (no where around CA :( ) but hopefully I will get to see them. Until then, here is their website: http://www.bleachisalive.com/

I will leave you with one of my favorite songs from them, though the whole album "Again, For the First Time" Amazing. He is one of my favorite lines, "Hey Josh, how's the service? All this talk of war makes me nervous. Vin Diesel is coming to the show, tell me something I don't know."
  • It comes from the album above titled "Andy's Doin' Time":

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Radical Wesley: Wesley's Roots (Ch. 1)

This Chapter of The Radical Wesley is mostly about Wesley's travels to America coming out of the Holy Club at Oxford.

My wife took this picture when we visited Oxford
This is where the term Methodist was derived from his detractors calling names. It was a term to make fun of them for being so methodical. "The members of the Club spent an hour, morning and evening, in private prayer. At nine, twelve, and three o'clock they recited a collect, and at all times they examined themselves closely, watching for signs of grace, and trying to preserve a high degree of religious fervour... they frequently consulted their Bibles, and they noted in cipher [that is, coded] diaries, all the particulars of their daily employment. One hour each day was set apart for meditation... They fasted twice a week, observed all the feasts of the Church and received the sacraments every Sunday."
  • Do we know anyone like this? Who takes the faith so seriously?
    • Part of me yearns for something like this, for a discipline in group for accountability and mutual edification. The other part of me thinks that this is too much... that the faith should be more relevant than this. I lean mostly toward the former.
So they set off for America to settle a colony. Wesley desires to bring the gospel to the Native Americans but also, "to save his own soul and learn he true meaning of the gospel..." (Snyder's words, p. 20). While on board, there is another description of what the mini Holy Club did. It was made up of John, his brother Charles and two friends who were in their early 20's. The description of praxis is this: "The little band followed a strict discipline including private prayer from four till five each morning, joint Bible study from five to seven and public prayers from eight till nine. From nine till noon Wesley usually studied German (so he could converse with the Moravians on board) while the other three were variously employed in study or teaching. The four met at noon for prayer and discussion and again at eight. The afternoons were spent teaching the children and adults who would listen, while the hour from five to six was devoted to private prayer. The four went to bed between nine and ten in their two adjoining cabins" (p. 20).
  • Very methodical... but was it effective. We know John had his conversion experience much later (2-3 years). Was the method to make up for a lack of righteousness felt, or is it s gateway to piety and holiness? Either way, I think it would have been awesome. The 5 hours of sleep concerns me... :).
There is some great words in here about Susannah Wesley (John's mother) who lays into her husband about teaching a bible study that blew up from 30 to 200. I would love to spend 6 months on Susannah alone.

The thoughts that have been coming to my mind lately is that we, as Christians, spend a lot of time on defining Orthodoxy. And I admit, I still have a lot of study to do. But I would love to cease the endless debates about right belief and focus on Orthopraxy. What are the right actions. I am tired of hiding behind the curtain of right belief. "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder" (James 2). Most Christians agree that faith is to lead to works and that faith without works is dead (reciting this same passage). But do we believe it? Do we live it?

The Great Commission, which seems to be perverted by those who want to uphold their evangelistic and church enterprises, does say to go into all nations, baptizing them in name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But the other, equally important part is always undervalued and under expressed "... and teaching them to obey all my [Jesus] commandments..." We have to live it. We have to live it. It has to make a difference in our lives. It has to, or the faith is dead both personally and culturally.

My rabbit trail comes because I see Wesley doing these things. He is starting schools, discipling people to serve in an era where clergy did all, and he is desiring to live biblical church lives. He is doing something. It may seem radical, but it is something, and for THAT I yearn. For that I crave...

At the end of my fast on Tuesday, the Lord gave me a prayer, "May I hunger for your word and way as much as I do for food now. May I hunger for your presence in my life and for that to manifested to the community as much as I do for physical things now." May it be so!

The Radical Wesley: Introduction...

I am most definitely reading a book that should blow my mind. It has been in my sights for a long time and now I have a chance. It is "The Radical Wesley & Patterns for Church Renewal" by Dr. Howard Snyder.

Howard Snyder is a Free Methodist thinker who tends to be on the more radical side himself. He is deeply involved in the creation-care movement. He was involved in South American church life for years. He currently teaches Wesley Studies at Tyndale University College and Seminary in Canada. All in all, a prophet, who wrote way before his time.

Recently I had a chance to sit down with him. When I visited Asbury Theological Seminary in an attempt to decide if I would relocate there to finish the M.Div., I had a short list of three that I just had to meet. I was bold and emailed all three and all three were gracious enough to give me some time. I wanted to meet Donald Demaray (our signals got crossed and we didn't meet), Dr. Ben Witherington (my intellectual hero) and Howard Snyder (A Radical Free Methodist who modeled something close to what I desire). 

Snyder was gracious and confident. We sat in a small library (the size of an office) with a closed door. We had never met and I am 45 years his minor yet we talked for nearly an hour and half... well, mostly me asking him questions and trying to glean the wisdom being offered. I asked him about pastoral ministry, how to cope with living out a radical gospel in a world and denomination that despises radical, his diagnosis of the future or the church (denominationally and otherwise). Sincerely, without over-idealizing the situation, it was a fantastic opportunity and time together.

My dilemma was that I had only read articles from him, which can be found on his website here. He has had some acclaimed books out (on my list to read), "The Problem of Wineskins" and "The Radical Wesley & Patterns for Church Renewal." I should probably read Wineskins first, but I'm a radical :). Also, I have his biography on B. T. Roberts "Populist Saints: B. T. and Ellen Roberts and the First Free Methodists" but am too afraid of the massive leviathan that awaits :).

So here is my interaction with the introduction.

It starts off wonderfully with a story about John Wesley ("the small man") preaching. This moves quickly into Wesley's impact on history and personality. There is great content in this introduction. I am glad I didn't skip it like I do with most books.

We see, already, a brilliant separation of Wesley's organizing ability from his evangelizing. "Wesley, the master organizer, never built a great evangelistic organization" (p. 2). It is pointed out that the organizing was done for Christians and evangelism for non-believers. This is mind blowing. That Wesley, who was so A-type, probably to the point that none of us would actually like him for a friend, yet a personal hero of mine, was so organized but didn't let that get in the way of his evangelism. It wasn't a Billy Graham or Louis Palau type thing, where thousands of mailers were sent out, phone calls made, add a sick concert on the front and then preach a sermon with a massive altar call. This was one man, riding into town on horse back, starting to preach in the town square and thousands would literally be drawn to the Holy Spirit.

I thought Snyder made a great remark about the western brand of Christianity when he said, "Perhaps the church today can learn new things from John Wesley. People, even the born-again kind, are notoriously weak at holding together paradoxes which belong together - like the Spirit and the Word, the private and the social, or 'things old and new' (Mt. 13:52). Yet true renewal in the church always weds the new insights, ideas and methods with the best elements from history" (p. 3). This seems to get at the fundamental issue for me found in modern evangelicalism. The holding together of paradox. The least shall become greatest. Life is found in the sacrifice of life. Christ is victorious through the cross and death. It is paradox that we try to explain away and with it goes our faith. I believe is was Chesterton who attributed part of his conversion to paradoxes. That since there were paradoxes in the Christian faith, he found something beautiful and truthful in it. You can read about Chesterton's writings about "The Paradoxes of Christianity" in his book "Orthodoxy."

Next, Snyder defends Wesley, mostly from the devouring of his people, who "have sometimes been rather apologetic about Wesley's theological work..." (p. 4). He contends that Wesley was both a "practitioner" and "theologian" and that "both really were one" (ibid).

My only contention with the book/introduction so far is that Snyder seems to have widely different thesis statements for the book. He seems to suggest that the book is about varying topics, seemingly unrelated:
  • (As stated above) "This book looks at Wesley both as practitioner and as theologian."
  • "The key question is: What is the shape of our life together as the people of God? I believe that Wesley can help us precisely at these points. So this book examines John Wesley - not just Wesley the Anglican but also Wesley the radical. My aim is to understand Wesley better by viewing him from an angle too often ignored and to search for insights needed in the contemporary church."
  • Between the connection of Methodism and Anabaptism: "This book suggests that significant relationship does in fact exist, and that is hinges primarily on ecclesiological questions rather than on historical continuity. The purpose of this book is, in part, to explore the purpose of this relationship."
  • "In these pages I delve into Wesley's view of the church and Christian discipleship to see not only what Wesley believed, but also how his views may help earnest Christians today."
I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but it seems like 3 unique hypotheses, (1) that Wesley was more than a pracitioner, he was a great theologian, (2) that we will be exploring what life looks like in the church through radical Wesley and (3) we will also be exploring the connection between two sub-groups of protestantism without much historical connection. I don't think I could pull off a great book with these three as my aim, but maybe that is why he is the teacher and I am the student. Also, he doesn't assume this will be easy, especially in the connecting of the two traditions. He conveys it this way, "The relationship between early Methodism and Anabaptism remains largely unexplored. Since two hundred years and major cultural differences separate the two movements and there are almost no direct historical links..." (p. 6). The author seems to know that this is going to be a difficult task, I'll be watching to see how he does.

One final awesome quote:
"Part of Wesley's problem -- or rather, our problem with Wesley -- is that he doesn't fit the molds in which we place him. We are not used to a popular mass evangelist who is also a university scholar, speaks several languages, knows classical and Christian authors by heart, and publishes his own English dictionary. Nor are we any better prepared to handle an evangelist who is also a social reformer or a theologian who preaches several times daily, develops his own discipling and nurturing system, sends out teams of traveling preachers, and publishes a home medical handbook that goes through twenty-some editions!" (p. 7).

If I am going to make it through this book interaction, I really need to stop quoting large sections from every page :). Hope you enjoy...