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AN IMAGINED JESUS


From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12)

This is something of an enigmatic statement, coming as it does on the heels of:

  1. John, from Herod’s prison, sending his disciples to Jesus to ask if he were the one to come or if they should look for another Messiah.
  2. Jesus sent them back to tell John what they saw and heard, adding ‘Blessed is he who is not offended by me.
  3. Jesus then commended John to the multitude, saying none born of woman is greater than he, but that the least in the kingdom is greater than John.

The Messiah said this to people who expected a military deliverance through the Messiah, but Jesus did not conform to their image of what the Messiah should be. Continue reading

Musing About Baptism


As a life-long member of the Church of Christ, I have had a keen interest in the subject of baptism as long as I can remember. In 1976, I wrote my Master’s Thesis on the subject The Use of Baptism in Exhorting Christians in which I demonstrate that the apostolic use of baptism when addressing Christians (i.e., in the epistles) was to encourage them to unity in Christ, purity in life, and surety in their hope. More recently, I have been tossing another idea around in my head about baptism for the remission of sins, an idea that deepens my understanding of Acts 2:38 considerably. Continue reading

Live Like You Give A Damn: Join the Changemaking Celebration by Tom Sine: A Book Review


Product Details

Tom Sine explains the provocative title in his introduction with a story of  eating in a restaurant priding itself on “serving only local, sustainable food.” He noticed  staff wearing shirts with the slogan “Eat Like You Give a Damn!” He said, “That’s it! I need to ‘Live Like I Give a Damn.” To do this he took 3 steps: volunteered to get “out of the bleachers and back on the field of play”; joined “those committed to empowering a new generation of changemakers”; and decided “to change to become a more authentic follower of the radical way of Jesus” by listening more closely to God, to others (particularly youth trying to change the world in innovative ways), and being disciplined in his use of time and resources. This book is an expression of #2 above. (p. 10)

This is the latest book (2016) to join the dozen plus books listed on Amazon authored or co-authored by Tom Sine. This futurist looks at the church, not just to project current trends, but to imagine new possibilities. He envisions what can be if the promise of the gospel is taken from pews into neighborhoods of our communities by those who choose to “Live Like You Give a Damn.” For those who accept his challenge, he sees celebratory joy, peace, and new sense of community with fellow-travelers. Without changes, he wonders if the church in North America, Europe, and Australasia has much of a future.

He takes his cue from the Millennial Generation and its interest in living to make a difference, whether through volunteerism or what he calls “social entrepreneurism” – sustainable businesses making real differences in the lives of people by making a better society. Many of the dozens whose work he reports in this book are not Christian (though some are). In looking at these, he challenges Christians to do the same, but to mix that spirit with the love and grace of Jesus.

Tom writes with passion in a “stream of consciousness” style. The book is not carefully edited, as he frequently repeats himself. He “has a gift for new suggestive phrasing that helps us see afresh.” (Walter Brueggermann, in the Forward, p. xvii) As examples, Brueggermann gives these:

  • Changemaking celebration.
  • The gift of disorientation.
  • Dreaming and scheming.
  • The future you want to inhabit.
  • The age of imagination.

There are others like these in the eight chapters including an introduction that sets the stage and maps his course ahead, a final chapter renewing his challenge to the reader to imagine what the future church could be if we truly began to Live Like You Give A Damn in a way that will bring youth back who are deserting the church because they see no authenticity, but only commitment to tradition and dogma, with six chapters in between in which he challenges us to:

  • Ignite Our Imaginations Today to Create Our Best Tomorrows
  • Anticipate New Opportunities to Create our Best Tomorrows Today
  • Choose a Changemaking Purpose Today for All Our Tomorrows
  • Imagine New Community Empowerment Today to Create Our Best Neighborhoods Tomorrow
  • Imagine New Social Enterprises Today to Create Our Best Tomorrows
  • Imagine Living on Purpose Today to Create Your Best Life Tomorrow (from the Contents)

Each chapter has group exercises for those interested in doing what he suggests. Thus, this can be a “hands on,” practical book.

Theologically, this book shows strong influence and quotations from Walter Bruggermann and N.T. Wright, scholars in the Old Testament and New Testament respectfully. Socially, he is inspired by the activism of Jim Wallis, whom he also cites. Most of social inspiration, however, comes from those in Gen X and Gen Y and their youthful enthusiasm for making a difference that betters the world.

I do see some weaknesses in this readable, short volume (206pp including 10 pp of Bibliography with 181 entries).

First, he whets a taste for change with examples of things being done by change makers around the world – but does not give enough information about these for us to be truly inspired by them to make real changes. Most examples receive only a few sentences.

Second, an index would be useful, especially when making reference to previous examples by saying “Remember….” Unfortunately, my memory is not photographic, and without at least a page reference I am unable to refresh my memory easily.

Third, at times he appears to be seeking change for the sake of change. I believe change is necessary, but also recognize that not all change is beneficial. In biology, nearly all mutations are harmful. The same can also be true in sociology and ecclesiology.

Fourth, he preaches a social gospel of activism in which even the activity of unbelievers is taken as evidence of the moving of the Spirit of God and that those activists are living the gospel of God’s kingdom. It is certainly true that Jesus said “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8, ESV). There is nothing wrong per se in looking at what non-Christians are accomplishing to make a better world, or even in joining them in their enterprises for good (see Philippians 4:8). Yet, to fail to do these things in the name of our Lord does little to promote the knowledge of the glory of God in the world.

I recommend this as a sourcebook that can challenge imagination and lift our eyes to opportunities yet undreamed. Without shaking up the imagination and the practice of the church, there is likely to be little change. After all, as some wise person said, “Insanity is doing the same as you have always done but expecting a different result.” Most will agree the church needs different results. So why do we keep doing the same things? In this book Tom Sine attempts to shake us out of our rut into doing different things that will bring better, eternal results.

Note: I received this book with the understanding I would publish a review on this blog. I was not told what to say. This review is my honest opinion with no further consideration. – Jerry Starling

A Reminder in a Tumultuous Election Year


In this tumultuous election year, all Christians need to ponder Isaiah 33:22. “For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; he will save us.”

Note that the LORD is all three branches of government, as defined Continue reading

Are Fractured Churches Necessary?


(18) For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.  (19) And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

– 1 Corinthians 11:18-19 (ESV)

Is verse 19 facetious? Do we really have to have factions in the church so we can recognize who is genuine and accepted by God?

Or is Continue reading

Where Is Your Allegiance?


….Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven…. –Paul, Philippians 3:20b-21a, NIV.

A few months ago, I saw some articles about a movement among some Protestant congregations to put a Christian flag in a place of prominence over the flag of the United States, contrary to the protocol of always displaying the Stars and Stripes in the preeminent place: on a pole, it is the top flag; on a podium, it is to the right of the speaker, etc.

This was largely in response to the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding homosexual marriages. It was those congregation’s way of saying that God’s authority is greater than the authority of any human court. They said, “After all, the pledge of allegiance to flag says, ‘…one nation, under God…, and that’s what we are showing.”

This, of course, is in keeping with the statement of the Apostles when they were ordered by the Supreme Court of Judea, the elders of the Sanhedrin, not to speak or act any more in the name of Jesus. They responded:

We must obey God rather than men…. –Peter, Acts 5:29a, NIV.

This is not to say that Christians are not to respect the laws of the nations in which they live. Even when Nero was the Roman Emperor, Paul wrote to the church in Rome that they should “be subject to the powers that be,” for God had put them in place to maintain order in society (Romans 13:1ff). Paul also took advantage of his Roman citizenship when a Jewish mob threatened to kill him, even appealing to Caesar for judgment.

This does emphasize that our final allegiance is to God, not to any human government. This ultimate submission to God is the basis for the following “Christian Pledge of Allegiance.”

“I pledge allegiance to the Father of the united saints of the kingdom, — and to the Redeemer by Whom we stand — One Body, unified in Spirit, indivisible, with liberty and love for all.”Al Maxey

UNITED IN THE SAME MIND


I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)

Whatever is meant by this, it cannot mean “united in the same opinions.” If that were so, then the church would be hostage to the opinions of the most opinionated, stuborn, and self-willed members! In other words, it would require Continue reading

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