Saturday, July 29, 2006

Thank you, Mr. LaHaye...

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

Okay, I'm officially going out on a limb.

I'm really heartbroken about the conflict in the Middle East. I'm heartbroken because tremendously inhumane acts are being committed and the US is refusing to step in. I'm most heartbroken of all about the Christian response, or lack thereof.

Check out this excerpt from an interview between Newsweek magazine and Tim LaHaye, co-author of the "Left Behind" series:

NW: Does this explain how living right with God, in a Christian sense, would entail supporting the Israeli state right now?
LaHaye: I think those two things are related. Christians who take the Bible literally are generally supportive of Israel because God promises to bless those nations that are a blessing to Israel and curse those nations that are not. And the history of America bears that out.

I can't think of a more damaging PR statement for the cause of Christ. Consider the implications of this statement to the rest of the world: We believe the Bible tells us to support Israel, therefore we will stand by, regardless of what atrocities are committed by that nation.

Flip this around and see it from the opposite perspective. Are we not currently engaged in a war on terror with nations and people groups who believe the same thing- who believe that the Qua'an says they will be blessed if they act a certain way? And this is how they justify their acts of terrorism.

Are we anything more than terrorists in a different wrapper? Many in the Middle East would argue that we are not, and in light of Mr. LaHaye's comment, I think they're justified in their position.

Personally, I would be more blessed in my life (in an eternal sense, not a current temporal sense) if someone were, in love, to hold me accountable to my wrongful actions rather than turn a blind eye to them. Shouldn't the same apply to our relationship with Israel, God's chosen nation? I don't equate "being a blessing" to Israel with refusing to call them to account for their actions.

Consider this final quote from a European security research fellow at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London.

"The U.S. angle is to put Hezbollah in the same box as the global war on terror: Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda are all part of the same basket. The Europeans are more inclined to acknowledge the world is far more complex than this Bush mantra."

Friends, I'm no justifier of Hezbollah or any other terrorist group here. But I think the Europeans have a good perspective. The world is not as simple as our foreign policy makes it out to be.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Part The Last: Vision

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

Currently Reading
Visioneering : God's Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Personal Vision
By Andy Stanley
see related

In his book Visioneering, Andy Stanley examines the story of Nehemiah, who set himself apart for the purpose of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s vision was about a lot more than a wall, though. It was about restoring Israel to their status as a people set apart by God. If I could, I’d quote Stanley’s entire elaboration for you. It’s that good. If you want to dig into crafting a vision for your life, or for any part of your life… get this book.

I’m suggesting that our vision as CTI fulltimers should be synonymous with our expectation of having an experience of significant spiritual formation through our involvement with the ministry. The passive becomes active: let’s stop expecting some program to turn us into someone we want to become, and instead, choose to actively pursue a vision of spiritual formation for our lives, using the environment and structure of the CTI experience to help us realize that vision.

The fourteenth chapter of Visioneering is all about distractions. Stanley cites three kinds of distractions that can kill a vision: opportunities, criticism, and fear. He goes as far as to say that anyone who pursues a vision will encounter these distractions.

It is our response to those distractions that determines how our vision will be realized – how well our expectations will be met.

The potential distractions for a CTI fulltimer are too numerous to mention.

When Nehemiah was nearing completion on the wall, his adversaries (rulers in the region who didn’t want to see Israel restored) sent him an invitation: “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” (Nehemiah 6:1-2a) Though this could have represented a chance to make peace (seemingly a good opportunity,) Nehemiah’s response, according to Stanley, evidences his commitment to the vision that God had set him apart for:

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (v. 2b – 4)

Nehemiah had set himself apart, and saw even a potentially good opportunity as a distraction from the greater work he had been set apart to do. (Oh yeah, and they were plotting to kill him anyway… which really would have derailed the vision.)

Stanley maintains that “any vision worth pursuing will demand sacrifice and risk.” Unquestionably true. So what are the sacrifices we need to make, and the risks we need to take, as we pursue our vision for spiritual growth?

I can come up with a list of suggestions (and, for the sake of future fulltimers who don’t have the benefit of context, I plan to…) but I want to end this exposition on that line of questioning:

What sacrifices do we need to make as we pursue that vision – that expectation we all say we have for an experience of personal spiritual growth? I am convinced that no environment can create that experience for us without our personal willingness to be set apart.

And being set apart begins with the realization that we are doing a great work, and we cannot come down.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Part V of VI: Set Apart

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

Just as creativity blossoms when focused by limitation, and water becomes power under constraint, so I believe that our expectations of having an experience of significant spiritual formation can realized through our commitment to be set apart, accompanied by a personal diligence in spiritual disciplines, and a realization that no environment or structure can make those choices for us.

My vision for the fulltime program is that of a community in which passionate and authentic disciples of Christ grow each other in His image, are equipped for ministry and evangelism, and are released into the world as young leaders. At the end of each individual’s season of ministry with CTI, I long to see team members equipped and motivated to lead others in discipleship, equip them for ministry and evangelism, and grow them in Christian leadership. Ideally, I want to see everyone leave the fulltime program with an expanded worldview, and to continue to have a leadership impact in their church and community, equipping others and embracing ministry and discipleship as a lifestyle.

Isn’t that in keeping with what we all say we want to see happen in ourselves as participants in this program?
The fact that we get the opportunity to live in community for a year with others who also desire to have this experience of personal spiritual growth puts us in a position of tremendous ability to spur each other on towards that goal.

It puts us in a position of tremendous responsibility too – to each other – because it may be the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in such a community. It’s an opportunity not to be wasted, in my view. It’s an opportunity to be set apart.