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Enough for All - My Bible Study

If you are in Germany then you might be joining the 100,000+ people in Hamburg for Kirchentag 2013 (Church Day) on May 1-5.

12 04 02 Kirchentag 2013

If you make it to my session, please say hello afterwards.

The Kirchentag folk do an absolutely incredible job of organizing and hosting a massive scale festival  - the best organized I have ever seen - and they invited me to teach over a year ago. Here is the info they sent me.

Information about your Bible study at the 34th German Protestant Kirchentag from 1st to 5th May 2013 in Hamburg

Dear Mr. Jones,

"As much as you need” – is the theme for the 34th German Protestant Kirchentag. Meanwhile there are tens of thousands of people who have received a program booklet and discovered that you are holding a Bible study.
Your Bible study will take place at the St. Pauluskirche (Heimfeld), Petersweg 1, Hamburg (758 / AA1)on Saturday the 4th of May 2013, from 9.30 to 10.30 am.
You will be welcomed and introduced. Furthermore, your Bible study will be accompanied by the gospel choir Schacht-Audorf.

The topic of Kirchentag 2013 is "As much as you need", with reference to the manna from heaven that sustained God's people in the desert. My teaching will add the miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (John 6) to the mix and will focus on abundance and poverty,  generosity and equitable distribution, sustainability, God's provision and His plan to use his people to solve the global challenge of hunger. Hope you can make it. 

 T 7f360c06ae

Reflections on Kirchentag 2011.


Thoughts on Pope Francis

GREAT to hear waves of excitement over the new Pope. I am also excited about the appointment of Pope Francis, because . . .

- he is from South America.

- he is a humble man, riding the bus to work and refusing ecclesiastic titles. 

- he has a heart for the poor.

- he wants renewal of the church, which is awesome.

- he is a Jesuit, and those guys are really cool!

- the charismatic Catholics really like him.

In Italy a few years ago, some friends and I met with Matteo Calisi, who heads up the 150 million people in the Charismatic Catholic Renewal, known as the Catholic Fraternity, and reports directly to the Pope. Lovely man, this Father Matteo, who invited us to speak in his church. Before the service, he was telling us how excited he was about what was happening in Buenos Aries, where he had visited, meeting the archbishop and seeing some of the communities there. I imagine he is totally pumped about having his South American friend living and working in Italy.

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Tony Palmer, who helped arrange our meeting with Matteo, has reflections on meeting Bergoglio, who was then the archbishop of Buenos Aries. 

"Here I am in Argentina in a meeting with Cardinal Giorgio Bergoglio, who made it very clear to us during the meeting that we were not to refer to him by 'Eminence' or 'Excellency' as these titles are not found in the Bible and that simply 'Brother' would be better . . . "

Father Anthony, quoted by Marc Van Der Woude, who was also with us in that Italian meeting, on why he thinks Francis is a surprising Pope.

Related: My experience with the Charismatic Catholics in Italy.


American Christians and the Mormon factor

Right now is an interesting time in American politics and religion. There are plenty of conservative evangelical Christians in USA who are about to vote for a Mormon to be their president. Who woulda thunk???

I read a few snippets on Billy Graham removing the "cult" status on the BGEA website. I would be curious to hear from Steve Knight on this.

Interesting quote from Norman Geisler, who wrote the textbook on "Inerrancy" and once chastized the emerging church for relativism. Regarding today's election choice, he says,

" First, even if as voters we wanted to apply such a test, we do not have a really good choice religiously. We face a painful dilemma of voting for a liberal professing Christian (Obama) with Muslim leanings or a cultist Mormon who claims to be Christian. The truth is that we do not live in an ideal world; we live in a real world. Realistically, we have only two candidates who could win the election, and we can only vote for one . . .

Secondly, we do not live in a black-and-white world. There is a lot of grey. So, on the question of good, we don’t have a purely good or evil choice in this election. There is both good and evil in each choice."

Brian McLaren said something very similar yesterday in acknowledging that all parties have their weaknesses and their virtues.

Norman Geisler and Brian McLaren. Probably a different name on their ballots but finally on the same page. Interesting times indeed! Who woulda thunk?

 


Why I decided to become a follower of CHRISLAM

You know when a word has real scare potential when Hal Lindsay starts using it on TV. Like the word "CHRISLAM".

insider movements, mission, chrislam

Last year, televangelist Jack Van Impe got kicked off TBN for calling Rick Warren a 'Chrislam' promoter. Rick Warren says the newspaper reports were false and he does not promote Chrislam, but the damage had already been done: Van Impe still hasn't got his job back on Christian television which is a shame for all his TV-watching fans and for the hair-spray company that has lost a loyal customer.

It's a silly word. Can we please stop using it?

WHAT IS CHRISLAM?

Chrislam is a tiny religion in Nigeria that happily mixes Islam and Christianity and counts about 1500 people in two churches in Lagos. I really don't think this group is any more a threat to American Protestantism than my daughter's dough recipe is a threat to Pizza Hut.

Today a conference is happening in Asia which tackles the "insider movements". One of the lectures scheduled for this afternoon is entitled "The Whoredom of so-called Contextualization: 'Spreading our Legs' for the Latest Religious Ideas." The book under discussion is called "Chrislam: How MIssionaries are Promoting a Islamicized Gospel" and it is published by the same people that are hosting the conference. I really hope its a balanced discussion today and not a one-sided witch hunt. Is anyone blogging it???

HEY - Lets talk about the controversial issues in missions, including contextualization and insider movements, but let's also try NOT to use scary words that freak out elderly evangelical ladies and drive extremists into tight corners. Like the word "Chrislam".

So why am I following CHRISLAM?

Because I was thinking that the blame for the end-times deception and the horrendous deviation of the past three decades of Christian mission should not be shouldered by a Vancouver based graphic designer named Chris Lam. Or a British breakdancer named Chris Lam, who I emailed this morning and apologized if people were blaming him for the destruction of the world as we know it.

So I am now following both Chris Lams. But I chose not to follow Chris Lam the MMA boxing/judo enthusiast as @cagedocbecause he looks as though he could kick my ass.

chrislam, insider, chris lam

Related: Emerging Muslim Followers of Jesus, Christianity's Next Challenge, Insider Movements and Wycliffe's Translation

Coming up soon: Is the Insider Movement the new Emergent Church Controversy of this decade?

BEST THING I saw recently on the Insider Movement was Cody Lorance's response to John Piper, summarized here by Warren Farah.


Mission of God Study Bible and Itinerant Ministry

The Mission of God Study Bible has just been released. It carries the missional theme and  . .  what I really love about it . .  it honors the memory of the Baptist missiologist Dr Francis DuBose who brought the word "missional" back into play with his 1983 book God Who Sends. [see the video I recorded of Dr DuBose shortly before his death] The Study Bible also has contributions from so many of my friends that I won't even start to name them. 

I was asked to contribute something on itinerancy that might share some light on Acts 12, when Saul and Barnabas are sent out.

 COOL! I ALWAYS WANTED TO HELP WRITE THE BIBLE.

Here's my bit which now appears on page 1153

Itinerant Ministry (Acts 12:2-3)

 

Maybe it’s not right, but I feel a slight pang of grief when I read the fate of Saul and Barnabas. Despite having a secure future as church leaders, they are sentenced by the church in Antioch to the downwardly mobile status of itinerant ministry. Doomed to wander the earth like Cain through places always foreign and rarely familiar, they will limp forward as borrowers and beggars, as strangers and sojourners, but never settlers.

 

MissionOfGod FNL CVR

An itinerant is a wanderer who travels from place to place without a home. Stereotypes are demeaning: drifters, hobos, vagrants, bums, squatters, tramps, and carnies. Some are neutral but few are positive. And yet there are people who have voluntarily embraced itinerancy for the purpose of the gospel, including circuit riders, pilgrims, mendicants and wandering monks. The worst examples of the latter were frowned on. Benedict called them ‘gyrovagues’ (lit. “those that wander in a circle) and Augustine called them ‘circumcelliones’ (lit. “those that prowl around the barns”).

 

However, despite the stigma of being homeless ragamuffins, it was often the wandering missionaries who enabled the church to accelerate its mission into new spheres: extraordinary itinerants including Jesuits, Franciscans, Methodist circuit-riders, tent-revivalists and the Celtic peregrine, who one writer described as “intrepid Irish adventurers”.

 

As an itinerant for most of my twenty-five years in mission service, I share both in the shame of this lowly disposition and the joy of freedom to travel wherever God is shining his light. I also have some perspective on why the Holy Spirit might have set such a precedent in Antioch.

 

Practically speaking, itinerancy is more effective in both cost and time, having no house to maintain or return to. Our apostolic efforts are not tempted by the idolatry of building our own empire because next week we will be somewhere else, serving another ministry project. But it’s more than that. 

 

As itinerants, our dependence on others for their participation with us in the gospel becomes a filter that leads us to the right people at the right time, as Jesus outlined in Luke 10.

 

We depend on God. We depend on God’s family. We even depend on the people we are sent to.

 

Like Abraham, we are told to go but not given a destination. We find ourselves in intimate company with the people of faith, who viewed the heavenly city as their real home. We have no house but we enjoy a hundred houses in this life and the benefits of a large and diverse spiritual family. 

 

We drink deeply of the sufferings of Christ who, having no place to lay his head, walked the same path we tread.

 

Strangely enough, recent years have seen a more positive spin added to the mobile lifestyle. Partly in response to globalization, and the necessity of competence in foreign cultures, many are eager to embrace new itinerant identities such as global nomads, couch surfers, existential migrants, and even families on the road.

 

Likewise, interest in itinerant ministry has intensified as a new generation discover a spirituality of the road and new forms of missional pilgrimage. 

 

Like Antioch, there are still young spiritual leaders of export quality being sent out on itinerant journeys that are initiated by God, modelled by Christ, led by the Spirit and given an enthusiastic thumbs-up by the church. 


Muslim sanctuaries: For Your Eyes Only

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"Cinderazahd: For Your Eyes Only" has its world premiere at the Dowse Art Museum next week but men will not be allowed in. The Qatari writer and film-maker Sophia Al-Maria has expressed her wishes that men should not see the unveiled women in her video, a wish that corresponds with her Muslim faith.

Fair enough. I respect that. She is the artist and she can determine the boundaries of her audience at the showing. My wife and two of my daughters will probably attend while I, obviously and with no hard feelings, will stay home.

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The same thing happened when we visited the hamam (public bath) in Chefchouen, Morocco. The women were allowed in and I had to stay out. No bath for me, which was a bummer because we had just been chased over the Rif mountains by drug dealers and we were all in need of a bath. But it was women's day only in the hamam so I can understand their refusal :-)

Chefchouen, where my family enjoyed the hamam,  was once a Muslim holy city that forbade non-Muslims to enter. Until 1920, only three Christians had entered. One of them was Charles Foucauld, who I wrote about recentl, entering the city  disguised as a Jewish trader. Another dressed as a Muslim. The third was an American missionary who was poisoned and never got out to talk about what he saw. Maybe it was the mickey mouse t-shirt and white Nikes that gave him away???? I don't know. Today, the city is a lot more welcoming to non-Muslims and a great place to visit. I can't say the same for the Rif mountains.

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Speaking of Muslim holy places, a friend of mine visited Mecca last month for the opening of Ramadan.

"I was actually inside the Grand Mosque, next to the Kaaba, and a loud canon went off – letting the million plus Muslims there know that tomorrow Ramadan would begin. From there, within seconds, the rest of the Muslim world would know.  ”Tomorrow we fast.”  Everyone began congratulating each other – me included.  Then the evening call to pray went off, and we all lined up, facing the Kaaba (right smack in front of us) and we prayed."

Apparently Carl has upset a few Muslims and a whole Sunday potluck full of Christians and so he is asking for some feedback.

Related:

- Blog a Koran Day on Sep 11 will be in its third year. Write something and let me know.

- New resource from Pew Research Center: The World's Muslims: Unity and Diversity

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Challies and Perriman on the existence of hell

Sunday theological conversation that requires a cup of tea and an armchair: 

Tim Challies kicks off a series on hell. Andrew Perriman responds.  Tim Challies concludes with his final post  and Andrew Perriman gives a  summary response. There might be some more posts in the middle but the book-ends are worth a read. Last year, when the talk revolved around Rob Bell's book, I suggested Perriman had the skinny. The kindle book that emerged from those posts [Heaven and Hell from a Narrative Perspective] is a keeper.


William Cavanaugh on Religious Violence

William cavanaugh

"The myth of religious violence promotes a dichotomy between us in the secular West who are rational and peacemaking, and them, the hordes of violent religious fanatics in the Muslim world. Their violence is religious, and therefore irrational and divisive. Our violence, on the other hand, is rational, peacemaking, and necessary. Regrettably, we find ourselves forced to bomb them into the higher rationality." William Cavanaugh, DePaul University

Tomorrow, I will be enjoying a lunch with William Cavanaugh. If you have any questions you would like to ask him, let me know in a comment below.


On Muslims Destroying Religious Shrines and Pagan Artifacts

Are the Muslims REALLY planning to destroy the pyramids? I think NOT. The story this week from Egypt appears to be a hoax. Which is good news.

Last year we had a fantastic tour of both the pyramids and the Cairo museum by Ibrahmim Morgan, an egyptologist and historian. We even took a camel tour of the area. So you can imagine my concern this week to hear of plans to destroy the pyramids or cover them with wax because of their pagan symbolism.

Destroy pyramids

But apparently there are no such plans to destroy the pyramids. 

Calls from a Bahraini Sunni cleric to destroy Egypt’s Great Pyramids have been revealed as a hoax. The demands were made from a Twitter account which claimed to be owned by Bahrain’s President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud. Source

But the story, even though a hoax, does illustrate the tension between religious extremists and pagan artifacts which have been destroyed and defaced through the ages by Christians and Muslims alike. What is our response to pagan symbols? Idols? 

Pyramids egypt giza

But first, let me show off my pics of me in Egypt last year. This is the photo where you imagine my right hand is actually a little lower than it is and it looks EXACTLY like I am holding the pyramids in my hand and you say  . . . . "Wow that looks EXACTLY like you are holding the pyramids in your hand!"

Andrew sphinx cairo egypt

This is the famous Sphinx and I am attempting to do a Maori hongi nose-touching greeting. But, obviously, as you can see, even with my head positioned lower than it should be for such an amazing photographic illusion, the Sphinx has no nose, ever since its face was vandalized, they say, in 1378 A.D. by Mohammed Sa'im al-Dahr, a "fanatical sufi of the oldest and most highly respected sufi convent of Cairo." Source.

Looks like payback time for the sufis. According to news reports, sufi tombs and shrines are, in fact, being destroyed in Timbuktu, Mali. This is a tragedy and an outrage. In fact, I am considering doing a series of blog posts, one for each sufi shrine destroyed in Mali. That would be a way of preserving them on the internet, even though the physical tombs and shrines are disappearing.

In Morroco a few years ago I visited the tomb of the famous sufi mystic and poet Sidi Ali ibn Harzihm. It would be a terrible shame to see these shrines around the world being destroyed. So much history to learn from. I believe we should preserve pagan history and learn from it.

Yes, you can preserve something without worshipping it!

William Carey, famous Baptist and father of modern day missions movements, believed along similar lines. He was a positive force in PRESERVING religious history, even though it conflicted with his own views. The Ramayana, Hinduism's major mythological epic, only existed on birch bark and palm leaves before Carey and Joshua Marshman decided to print it in book form for the world to read and understand.

"I have recommended the Ramayana to begin with, it being one of the most popular of all the Hindoo books accounted sacred .. The Ramayana will furnish the best account of Hindoo mythology that any one book will, and has extravagancy enough to excite a wish to read it through." William Carey, July 24, 1805

What about icons? As I blogged once in "How your Emerging Church can stay in Calvary Chapel", the subject of icons has come up before and the Second Council of Nicea 787 names 'the pictoral icons" as something good which the church has received. Jean Luc Marion in his book The Crossing of the Visible (Cultural Memory in the Present), distinguishes between the idol, which receives the "gaze" and the icon, which passes the "gaze" onward to it proper destination.

What about pagan symbols and practices already embedded in Christianity? Now thats an interesting subject. I recommend a book by some friends of mine called Pagan Christianity. Or have a look at a few of my blog posts:

Easter at the ancient stone circle, Sometimes I dress like a pagan, Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, We Bow Down and Worship Thee.


Coptic Pope Shenouda III Dies

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Shenouda III has passed away at the age of 88. He was greatly loved and respected. I saw pictures of him on walls all over Cairo.

Pope shenoudaiii

I have a lot of respect for the Egyptian Orthodox church. It's one of the oldest churches in the world and has so much to offer other streams of the Christian faith. While in Egypt last year, I got myself a Coptic cross tattoo as a way of identifying with the plight of the Coptic Christians in Egypt and a sign of respect.

coptic cross tattoo in cairo egypt

I heard Pope Shenouda speak at the large prayer gathering in Cairo that happened on 11.11.11 as a response to the recent violence. Some of us felt he should have been more embracing of the evangelical wing of the church and so we were disappointed when he banned their leaders from speaking from the platform. I hope the next Pope will be a little more ecumenical and not too frightened of the Protestants but at the same time I hope the Protestants will be considerate of their older brother in the faith, especially in the lands where the Orthodox have been holding the light for so many centuries.

See the video I shot of the the prayer gathering.