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:: Saturday, March 29, 2003 ::

One final post:

Robin's shaver camera

Robin's camera somehow got messed up. Every time it advances, it makes a buzzing sound not unlike an electric shaver. This is even more accentuated when the whole roll rewinds. So when it happened right before the wedding, she ran it up and down my dad's balding head like she was shaving it. The whole group of us was falling down laughing.

So now you've heard the more humorous highlights of the trip. There's more in the way of spiritual reflection. Maybe I'll post it later. Or maybe not.

:: Matt 3/29/2003 11:22:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Paul and his Wedding

The wedding was the alltime fastest church wedding I have ever seen or heard of. I lit the candles at 5:57 and the bridesmaids and the relatives were all down the aisle by 6:23. But he's off and running for his honeymoon.

This was my first time ever standing up in a wedding. It was a new perspective.

Paul decided to paint his own car for the honeymoon - and he put "HOTTEST WOMAN" on the passenger side with an arrow pointing to the front passenger seat. He was absolutely hyper by the end of the evening.

God bless them in their marriage. Help them to grow to love each other more and more and continue to put you first.

:: Matt 3/29/2003 11:19:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
SWAT Team Hostages

Wednesday morning, Grant & Dad & I were sitting on the patio outside the hotel, next to the convention center. Two cops on bikes approached us and told us that they were going to have a SWAT team training exercise and that if we saw guys with guns not to worry, they were just training.

About 15 minutes later or so, two other cops came up to us in the all-black combat gear that seems to be their standard uniform. They repeated to us that there would be an exercise, and invited us to participate in their exercise as "hostages." We agreed.

The scenario was that we were to run out of the doorway of the convention center pretending to be handcuffed to one of the two cops. The other was to join dad & I in the exercise. Grant was the photographer. All went as planned, and Grant got a few pictures. We fell onto the ground when the "bad guy" was "hit" and the SWAT team swarmed in and peeled us off the "dead bad guy" and thanked us for our trouble.

As we turned to walk away, we got second thoughts and asked if we could take our picture with the SWAT team. They gladly complied, so somewhere there's a great shot of all of us surrounded by lethal weaponry.

All of a sudden, one of the bike cops came up and said that there was a felony arrest going down about 2 blocks away. The team all adjusted their weapons (I don't know if they chambered any rounds or not) and hustled down the street in formation.

We ran to the curb to see what was going on two blocks away. We could hear the "step away from the passenger side of the van" coming over a loudspeaker. Some pedestrians were pushed out of the way by the SWAT team.

All the time, we thought this was another part of the training exercise. So we decided to try to get closer to see what was going on. But someone stopped us. This was for real! They soon had a guy in a red shirt down on the pavement, cuffed, and put in an unmarked car. The SWAT team covered the regular cops throughout the whole incident.

A fellow observer commented that, "Those guys picked the wrong day to rob the bank... they've got to be sh---ing bricks about now."

We concurred.

So I suppose that this is the second "Strange encounter with the cops" that I've had in a few weeks' time. I rather enjoyed this one (more so than the last).

:: Matt 3/29/2003 11:15:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Grandpa's Dirty Laundry

Thursday morning, Grandpa announced to us that he'd mailed his dirty laundry back home so as to reduce the number of bags he had to carry. This was, well, very practical. It also strikes me as very funny, in a good sort of way.

:: Matt 3/29/2003 11:04:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
The Winding Road

When we were coming back down from the mountains to head back to Visalia, we decided to take an "alternate route" down the mountain. I think it was CA 245. About a quarter mile down the road, we saw one of those yellow caution signs with the double s-curve marked on it, and in bold print below, read "Next 31 Miles." We decided to go for it.

By the time we made it down to the valley, we were all a bit carsick and rattled from the extreme descent in 2nd gear all the way down from 7000 feet back to the 300 feet-above-sea-level of the valley. It was a lot of fun, though, and we saw some of the most breathtaking scenery I've ever looked at. And I think the brakes on the rental van are still good.

:: Matt 3/29/2003 11:02:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Grant & The Big Trees

Yesterday (Friday) we went up from the Valley where we'd been staying to see the Giant Sequoias up in the mountains. In a space of about 20 minutes, we went from 350 feet above sea level to around 7000 feet. Thus, we went from temps in the 70s to the upper 30s or lower 40s. There was still snow on the ground in places up there.

Anyhow, we went to the area known as Grant's grove. We got pictures of Grant next to the "General Grant" tree, which is the biggest around of all of them at over 40 feet in diameter at the base. Kinda funny seeing that Grant is the smallest around in our family.

No, I don't have any pictures developed yet. Maybe I'll post them here when I do. Meanwhile, you'll just have to laugh to yourselves without the visual cue.

We also took a picture of my sister trying to hug one of the trees so that she could tell her friends she's a tree-hugger. She looks like she's sprawled out on a climbing wall or something.

Those trees were just awesome. God, you're so cool...

:: Matt 3/29/2003 10:52:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Ok... Grant & Airplanes:

On the way to O'Hare, Grant announced to the whole carload of us that he was going to turn over a new leaf and "experience by not doing." By this he meant (primarily) that he was not going to use the bathroom on the airplane. He hadn't used it to and from Honduras last spring, so this 4-hour flight would be nothing.

Congratulations, Grant-man, you did it! But why?!?

:: Matt 3/29/2003 10:44:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
I've returned to Chicago after an excellent week in California. It was a bit of a shock to the system to go from wading in the surf in Santa Monica last evening to snow flurries late this afternoon during a long walk in the Herrick Lake Forest Preserve just southwest of Wheaton. But it was a great trip.

I've got a few stories to tell, and I'll split them up post-wise so that they're more blog-readable...

1. Grant & Airplanes
2. Grant & big trees
3. The winding road
4. Grandpa and his dirty laundry
5. SWAT team hostages
6. Paul and his wedding
7. Robin's shaver camera

:: Matt 3/29/2003 10:42:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 ::
Since it's spring break, and I had a lot of time in vehicles yesterday, I've finally been able to begin reading my first Bob Webber book. I've had three classes with him now, including an independent study, and I've never read a word of his - except what he assigned in a couple of his classes. Now I've picked up The Younger Evangelicals and I really like it. I'm about 50 pages in.

He really helps to put words to the discussions I have with my dad over how I think ministry needs to be done vs. how he thinks ministry should be done. We talk about that a lot, I suppose. Webber basically puts us in two different categories in his book - and we fit quite nicely. I'm pretty classically one of Webber's "Younger Evangelicals," I suppose. But I don't fit perfectly. I suppose no one would. Dr. Webber has told me that a lot of things I've been saying both inside and outside of class are things that many other people are saying. Now that I'm reading his book, I understand better what he means. The funny thing is that I think most of us kinda had to feel our way through this and into this on our own, and now we've all arrived at a similar place. I know that I've not been party to the "younger evangelical" discussion until very recently, but that I've discovered that there are a lot of people out there that share similar views. So it's kinda cool to see that. I'm not alone in it anymore.

It's cool to be a part of something big - and small at the same time.

:: Matt 3/25/2003 11:48:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Just glanced at an article on Relevant Magazine... it strikes me as a bit odd about the whole Hollywood gag rule at the Oscars on the war.

For once, Hollywood is trying not to be controversial? Come, now!

:: Matt 3/25/2003 11:30:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Heh heh heh... I found an Internet café here in Visalia, CA, where we are staying for a few days to get P--- married off. I've finally met my future sister-in-law, and she's really sweet. We've spent a lot of time in the air and on the car. Four hours + from O'Hare to LAX and then 4 1/2 hours in the car out of LA up the valley to just an hour south of Fresno. The valley is about as flat as good ol' central Illinois, and the smog's so thick that we can't see the mountains that supposedly frame us to the east and west. This is a cool first trip to California. We might get to see the Sequoia Nat'l Park if all goes well. Unfortunately, we won't get to see the Pacific Ocean - which I've never seen before.

All in all, it's a good trip so far. Wedding's Thursday.

:: Matt 3/25/2003 11:25:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Monday, March 24, 2003 ::
Well, it's only a few hours 'til I fly out of here for my li'l bro's wedding... Pro'ly won't be postin' here much 'til Saturday. But, you never know...

:: Matt 3/24/2003 01:12:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Saturday, March 22, 2003 ::
Part 2 of 2:

What's the connection? If we have in fact been crucified with Christ so that it is no longer we who live but Christ living in us, then Christ is our very life. We have no other life outside of him. Thus, for the disciple, this passage in Mark could speak to our lives in Christ! Thus, our life is our salvation.

Perhaps "believing in Jesus so that we can go to heaven when we die" is a good starting point for a life of Christian discipleship, but it is not fully the way of the cross. It still operates in the "self-protection" mode. It is risk-averse discipleship. It is also self-centered. Instead, the Christlike love of God and others in the discipleship of the cross lives in a way that is willing to forego communion with God so that someone else can.

Perhaps one of the reasons my evangelism has been so ineffective is because I am not willing to risk my own salvation for the sake of those in my community. Due to the perspective of the Christian subculture, many kinds of evangelism are not even tried because they might risk our perceived "saved" status within the Christian community.

But the words of Brother Lawrence echo in my head... "whatever becomes of me, whether I be lost or saved, I will always continue to act purely for the love of God." (Second Conversation, 2nd paragraph. Spire Ed., p. 18)

So now, tell me, what do you think?

:: Matt 3/22/2003 11:30:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Part 1 of 2:

I promised that I would start to post some talking points for ministry. I have a list of 90 on a paper I just turned in. Obviously, no one would read all 90 at once in a blog format, and I don't have the webspace to put it up whole right now.

So here's your deep thought for the evening: (this one is number 72) -

We should be willing to risk our own salvation for God’s sake and for the sake of the Gospel.

Let me re-word that: we should be willing to give up our own salvation for God's sake and for the sake of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Let me explain. I see this as the ultimate way of the cross. I'll walk you through my journey to this statement.

"I am speaking the truth in Christ - I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit - I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people..." (Romans 9:1 - 3, NRSV)

Paul, who argues that he is the example of Christlikeness to both the Corinthians and the Philippians, prefers his own demise to the loss of his people.

Next, there is Philippians 2:5 - 8. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in apperance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" (NIV)

We who are Christians all would acknowledge that Christ gave up his glory to become human - somehow still remaining fully God, and in so doing provided salvation for the world. Yet we rarely connect this with our own call. It seems that perhaps Paul connects these two ideas in his statement in Romans. Paul conformed to the likeness of Christ so closely that he was willing to give up what was his in Christ to save the people he loved.

Some might argue, "Of course - he's Paul! He can do this. That's not for us. He's one of those really super Christians." In so doing, such people argue that Paul is somehow more than the rest of us - more than human.

We are all called to have Paul's attitude. "If any want to become my followers," Jesus said, "let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." (Mark 8:34 - 35, NRSV)

:: Matt 3/22/2003 11:30:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
A funny thing happened on the way to the forum -

Or actually, when I was in an athletic shoe store this afternoon buying a new pair of shoes for daily use. The salesman that helped me asked me if I wanted to enter a contest to be a model for their company. Ha! Sure, why not? I have to write a 250 word essay on how I live a sport lifestyle. I guess I really don't. But it was kinda funny to be asked, no?

Maybe I'll sign up anyway...

:: Matt 3/22/2003 10:02:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Well, the Illini are out of the tournament. This wasn't supposed to happen this early! Good job, guys... Next year, Final Four!!!

:: Matt 3/22/2003 10:00:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Friday, March 21, 2003 ::
Winter Quarter 2003 is now complete.

Thanks be to God.

:: Matt 3/21/2003 03:10:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Thursday, March 20, 2003 ::
I've been working hard on something I really want to post here or to its own webpage... it's a proposal for approaching ministry to college students and a list of 90 (so far) discussion points relating to ministry in that context. Pray that it gets done by 4:30 tomorrow with my internship self-evaluation... I've got to put it in some form for a class.

:: Matt 3/20/2003 11:39:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Illinois just made it through the first round of the NCAA tournament, beating Western Kentucky 60 - 65. Now they're off to play either the Irish or U-Wisc.-Milwaukee. Go Illini!!!

:: Matt 3/20/2003 08:31:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
The theology take-home's done... just two more days and it's all over for a week... then Spring Quarter starts... Woo hoo... (I think)

:: Matt 3/20/2003 12:44:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Well, I just went out and blew my birthday money from Mom & Dad & Grandma & Grandpa...

I got 3 CDs and a portable CD player (I've never actually had one of those before)...

Some really cool stuff - some of which is cooler than I thought it would be:

The All-American Rejects
The Daredevil Movie Soundtrack
Third Day's Offerings II

Rock on!

:: Matt 3/20/2003 12:32:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Wednesday, March 19, 2003 ::
Template additions seem to be screwed up... i just tried to add Off The Map to the recommended list and it wouldn't take...

:: Matt 3/19/2003 01:40:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Tuesday, March 18, 2003 ::
I think these off-the-map folks are on to something. If we are wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus, to the point where he is setting our agenda, then we can merely present ourselves - because we are becoming so much like Christ.

Perhaps this is the meaning behind "imitate me as I imitate Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1)...

:: Matt 3/18/2003 11:06:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
I stumbled across another good website today: Off the Map (http://www.off-the-map.org/). There's some great resources there for evangelism. I like their approach - I think I will use it in my approach to the U of I campus this fall.

I highly recommend this site - I'll probably pick up their videos as funds become available...

:: Matt 3/18/2003 10:46:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Monday, March 17, 2003 ::
I thought that I would have felt some relief after Bush's speech tonight. After all, we're finally done piddling around and getting down to business, right? We're finally bringing justice to an unjust situation, right?

But that's not where I'm at tonight. To the contrary, I feel a bit helpless. World events are spinning out of control. War seems inevitable. I don't like how this is turning out. I don't know how I feel about this war - or even about war in general. Except that I'm disappointed that we're actually going now.

We have not had peace for a long time. Peace is not merely the absence of armed conflict. Neither is disagreement necessarily not peaceful. All sides in this particular conflict have piled accusation upon accusation; people have manipulated and been manipulated; bribes have been offered and taken; self-interest has been promoted; we curse each other - which puts us "in danger of the fire of hell."

I'm not sure I can even say what true justice and peace would look like in this situation or how we would go about getting there. What would Jesus do? I'm not sure if we even know anymore.

:: Matt 3/17/2003 11:07:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
The President has spoken. Forty-eight hours.

Dear Father always near us,
may your name be treasured and loved,
may your rule be completed in us -
may your will be done here on earth
in just the way it is done in heaven.
Give us today the things we need today,
and forgive us our sins and impositions on you
as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us.
Please don't put us through trials,
but deliver us from everything bad.
Because you are in charge,
and you have all the power,
and the glory is yours - forever -
which is just the way we want it!

(Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999), 269.)

Almighty God:
It is our desire to honor you in all that we do, say, and think. You are far beyond our comprehension. This is your world. Throughout the history of your creation you have called your people to serve you in radical ways. We praise you that you became human to bring us to yourself.

Now, God, we are faced with great uncertainty. For all we know, there is a strong possibility that our nation is going to war. We do not know if this is justifiable from your perspective. We want what you want - but we are uncertain as to what that is.

We know that your desire is for peace: and peace not being just a lack of violence - but true peace, where we have set aside all hatred, manipulation, and carelessness toward other people and toward you. We do not know what means you desire to employ in this situation to further your purposes in the world. We are willing to do what you desire - even if it goes against our own "national interest."

We confess that we cannot see. We cannot see our way out of the situation we are in. We feel powerless to change the course of world events. We invite you to come down and set things right. And insofar as we know that you desire to work through people, work through us, your people, to do your will.

Have mercy on us, Father, have mercy on us. Grant us your peace. Guide us in the paths of righteousness for your name's sake. Forgive us for our continued sinful attitudes and behaviors toward others. Wash us and make us clean. We do not want war. Grant us your peace.

All this we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has promised us peace that is unlike the peace of the world; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

:: Matt 3/17/2003 07:58:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Well, I just realized I've been at this a month... So I've switched the archives to "monthly" from "weekly". I guess I'll be doing this for awhile longer...

:: Matt 3/17/2003 04:42:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Sunday, March 16, 2003 ::
The presentation on the Xtreme Team went very well. It was a bit more informal than the ones I've done in the past. It was a smaller group, and I was able to interact with them more directly.

I was delighted to hear that someone finally tried an idea we'd kicked around a few years ago... Koin and Strat handed out free hot dogs to people coming back from the bars at 1:00AM in an attempt at evangelism. Building relationships with fellow students is key to effective ministry on a campus. I think it's really cool that this first step is being taken. I hope to hear more good news in the future!

Keep it up, folks!

:: Matt 3/16/2003 10:48:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Back to school... back to broadband...

Well, those Illini have won themselves a Big 10 conference championship - the first one! Good games against IN and OH-State. Now it's off to the NCAA tournament - 4th seed in the Western bracket.

Go Illini!!!

:: Matt 3/16/2003 10:42:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Friday, March 14, 2003 ::
Yeah, I've got a dialup connection... so no deep thoughts until I get back Sunday (probably)...

:: Matt 3/14/2003 11:10:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
I'm staying at home with the fam for a few days. Great get-together tonight with everybody.

:: Matt 3/14/2003 11:05:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Isn't it funny how much we all struggle against "hierarchy" in the church, when that word was originally coined to describe church leadership?

Greek: hieros - pertaining to the temple
archia - leadership


:: Matt 3/14/2003 10:25:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Todd Hunter's got some really great reflections vis-à-vis Willard today. I'll probably post something tomorrow on it...

Sleep is calling for now...

:: Matt 3/14/2003 01:11:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
You know, Mike Bishop made a really good point about "spiritual pimping." I've had some similar reflections.

I think about stuff in terms of campus ministry. We strategize about various ways to contact students all the time. One of these is to go into "secular" space (if "secular" even exists) and we start conversations with people we hope to meet. But this often begins to look like some guy trying to pick up chicks at the bar. We spend a lot of time coming up with our "pick-up lines" (excuse me, "conversation starters"). We try to place ourselves in situations where we can meet new people whom we can form meaningful relationships with. Oftentimes, we do this in ways that send all the wrong signals. Imagine a random person coming up to you in a park or in a bar and trying to talk to you. They're either trying to sell something or they're trying to pick you up. Either way, we send all the wrong signals.

I think it is possible to find ways of reaching new people whom we do not know without being so socially awkward. I just haven't found it yet. Ideas, anyone?

Sometimes churches act like some of those dating services: they help people develop their "profile," and then they hook them up with a group of people that have similar interests. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Spiritual pimping's an interesting way to look at it.

It seems that Christians are going to have to play the role of amateur sociologists for awhile until we get the hang of what it means to share the good news of Jesus with people in a way that is recognizable as good news.

Lord have mercy! We want to follow! And I, for one, am at a loss. Open our eyes to what you are doing and how we can be involved!

:: Matt 3/14/2003 12:43:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Here's a challenge:

I challenge anyone who considers themself to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus - a "disciple" - to go down to MTV's Spring Break in Miami this week and live like Jesus there - WITHOUT HANDING OUT A SINGLE TRACT.

I firmly believe it can be done.

Any takers?

:: Matt 3/14/2003 12:18:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
The paper's done. All 14 pages.

Thanks be to God.

:: Matt 3/14/2003 12:14:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Thursday, March 13, 2003 ::
i don't want to write my paper
i don't want to write my paper
i don't want to write my paper

i will do it anyway
i will do it anyway
i will do it anyway

Arright... enough of this... I'm gonna do it.

+Kyrie Eleison

:: Matt 3/13/2003 11:52:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Wednesday, March 12, 2003 ::
By the way, if anyone is wondering, the presentation is on the Xtreme Team trip I took to Latvia this last summer. There's a whole bunch of pictures and journal entries from the trip on the Xtreme Team site that say a lot about what happened. It's a great experience that I would recommend to anyone who has the desire to be challenged and stretched to their absolute limits in an overseas environment. What did I learn? In a nutshell, God protects, God provides, and Latvia is one of the coolest places in the world!

I will be presenting at University Baptist Church at 12:30 on Sunday. The church building is located at 4th and Daniel in Champaign, IL. Feel free to come check it out. I'll also speak very briefly in the 11:00 service. Come one, come all.

:: Matt 3/12/2003 10:48:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Still no leads on video projectors or other electronic gadgets. Doh!

I've spent nearly the entire day working on a paper that is to be 10 - 15 double-spaced pages with citations from at least ten different sources. I have twelve pages, and I haven't finished what I want to say, and I haven't quoted a single source other than the Bible. I've got to have this done by Friday around noon so I can go make my presentation this weekend.

But one of the passages I am working with is speaking to me now: Do not fear what they fear. Fear God. (Isaiah 8:13) Sometimes I can get in the "freak-out" mode on this stuff. This passage warns that this sort of attitude is not just unhealthy, it is unfaithful to God who promises to be present always.

I believe, help my unbelief!!!

:: Matt 3/12/2003 10:45:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
This is crazy. I've been trying to track down a video projector for a presentation this weekend, and I can only find one place that does it, and it'll end up costing a significant part of what it costs to buy one. Most people don't rent them at all. I can't afford to buy one. A lot of churches seem to have one, but they're pretty protective of their investment. I suppose that I would be too. Those things are small and expensive enough to either walk away or get busted.

So I'm trying another route - a widget that attaches a VGA output on a computer to a VIDEO IN on a VCR or TV. Those run about $125. Stinky price, even still, but what's a man in a hurry to do?

To make things worse, I'm really needing to type this paper for class... and I'm messing with this junk.

This is probably more than y'all wanted to know.

:: Matt 3/12/2003 10:06:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Tuesday, March 11, 2003 ::
We had a very difficult discussion in class tonight over the definition of the terms "heresy" and "heretic." It's not a pleasant term; most people avoid using it these days (even in theological discussion) because it has such a sordid history.

It seems that we have a few things going on at once. First, we find that we need a definition or a threshold between "Christian" and "non-Christian." I don't think that too many people would deny that there is a point of distinction - a horizon - that defines the inclusion of certain people, tradtions, beliefs, and practices and the exclusion of others from the term "Christian".

Second, not too many of us, (at least in our class) were all that comfortable with our own default positions on defining the content of what could be termed heresy. We all realized that, to one extent or another, we defined "heresy" within ourselves. Most people in our class were uncomfortable with the idea that they individually determined who was heretical and who was not. But no one wanted to really give it up for some authority truly external to themself, with the exception of God's authority: which is, of course, almost invariably carried out through human beings (as far as we know).

Third, there was general consensus that differences of opinion on certain subjects and to certain extents was not heresy. We found certain views to be disagreeable and unfortunate from our point of view, but not heretical. Other ideas and practices are, however.

Fourth, we found ourselves in a catch-22 if we wanted to make the community the arbiter of deliberations on heresy. We are all protestants of some type, whose forbearers were all at one time expelled or separated from one church structure or another. Furthermore, if it were majority rule, even (especially?) Jesus would be a heretic, as judged by his community.

So we ended up putting ourselves over a barrel. We want to retain the individual right to determine the boundaries of the Christian faith. At the same time, our definition of what is truly Christian is based off of the faith and practice of communities that have held to some vaguely-defined boundary that is challenged from time to time.

Where should we go from here?

:: Matt 3/11/2003 11:54:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Today's reading from Hebrews 2:11 - 18 has a lot to say. Some of the most powerful Christological statements of all of scripture are here. Some thoughts contained in this passage:

1. Jesus shared in our flesh and blood. If he did not, then we are not saved.
2. Jesus really died; his death destroyed the devil and the devil's power of death.
3. This saved all of us who were enslaved by the fear of death.
4. Since he suffered, he can help us in our sufferings.

In this season of Lent, as we focus on the cross, with all of its suffering, we discover that even in that suffering there is Good News. Jesus' suffering was redeemed - made beneficial, not destructive. In his death he destroyed the control that death has over each human being from the moment of conception. Elsewhere Paul states that all are slaves to sin. Perhaps, then, we are slaves to sin, which leads to death, because we all fear death. Our mortality is the condition common to all human beings that puts each one of us in the need of Christ's saving work.

Our mortality drives so much of what we do. The American obsession with youth seems to be a particular manifestation of this. A lot of our sinful behavior stems from some level of self-preservation - whatever it may be. Perhaps the fear of death is not the primary reason behind every wrongful act or thought; but it does drive much of what we do.

The Good News that Jesus Christ proclaims to us is this: by his death we do not any longer have to fear death. It no longer has any power over us. In Jesus Christ we have been given "new and unending life." We will all still die; yet all of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ can now welcome death since it now permits God to raise us from the dead to the fullness of eternal life.

:: Matt 3/11/2003 12:02:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Monday, March 10, 2003 ::
Thanks to Andrew Jones, the Tall Skinny Kiwi for posting a link to The Last Christian Links List You'll Ever Need To Look At. Ever. These guys have done their homework. Boring design... but great information. I suppose that their design really reflects what you'd be doing if you read their site - it's like reading an index. Props, guys.

:: Matt 3/10/2003 05:02:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Another great Relevant Magazine article here. Anyone got a match?

:: Matt 3/10/2003 12:46:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Sunday, March 09, 2003 ::
It fascinates me how many people in the "emerging church" discussion are celebrating the Lenten part of the church calendar. It seems that we only really worry about Lent and Advent (which we do not use as a time of fasting and penance at all but instead gorge ourselves in our "Christmas (oh, excuse me,) Holiday Season"). We don't focus on Easter season, Pentecost, Epiphany, and the real "Christmas Season".

And then again, our views of Lent seem to tend to ignore the idea of grace and hope even in the midst of our times of discipline. Today's Gospel reading was on the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1:9 - 13. Baptism is death to our old life. It is death to sin. It is repentance. It is renunciation of all affiliation with evil.

But it is also new life. It is also the grace of God saying, "in Christ you are my Sons and Daughters, my beloved: I am absolutely delighted with you." Even in our discipline to put off the old self we must remember that we are also in the process of "putting on Christ." This is why we celebrate Lent. Discipline, yes. Repentance, always. Remembrance of our mortality, for sure. Solidarity with Christ in the journey of shadow of the Cross, all the way. Even so, we always approach discipline with an attitude of celebration that somehow, even though there is pain in discipline, we are putting on new life, life more vital than we have ever seen before.

Yes, this is why I celebrate Lent. I joyfully engage in disciplines that will help me to put Christ on more fully even while I put off the old nature with its practices.

Thanks be to God!

:: Matt 3/09/2003 09:58:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
I just returned from a very enjoyable youth group session with the St. Barnabas' high school youth. I really like being able to discover God's word with them. I always go prepared - I always have looked over the chapter(s) in Mark that we will be covering in our verse-by-verse study... and then they proceed to blow me away making connections that I never would have expected them to make.

I say that I am discovering Mark with them because oftentimes this is the first time I have really truly done some form of Lectio Divina or some similar discipline with the text. I've "read" it before. I've even studied it before - in a class on the Synoptic Gospels, no less. But it's amazing to be able to get lost in Mark's portrait of Jesus.

Today we were in Mark 9:2 - 41. It's got some really interesting scenes: Transfiguration, exorcism, and the "who's the greatest" discussion. Our discussion today focused on Jesus' perspective on greatness. It's always interesting to have this discussion with our group, where most of the youth are sorta on the outside socially (and self-identify as that openly). They aren't doing a lot of the social manouvering to "be popular." But they have made their own "social ladder" that counters the "popular" social ladder... putting themselves on the top, of course.

So we were able to discuss how Jesus also set up his own standards of greatness. He set the standard of "the cross before the glory" and death to self; but he was the only one whose standards God vindicated in the resurrection. Now that I look at it, it kinda sounds cliché, but it was all very deep when we said it.

I suppose you just had to be there. :)

:: Matt 3/09/2003 09:39:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
I must hand it to the Illini for another great game. Seniors, yeah, you rock! Kick some tail at the tournament!

Illinois 84, Minnesota 60.

:: Matt 3/09/2003 03:14:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Saturday, March 08, 2003 ::
It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon...

I've got a pinched nerve in my wrist from too much typing. So no real update tonight.

... Where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children... are above average.

:: Matt 3/08/2003 10:40:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
I've really been struck by the lyrics of Linkin Park's newest song, "Somewhere I belong." It speaks to something in me that I can't quite name... This song could be downright evangelistic if sung in the proper setting.

Here are the lyrics:

[Verse 1]

(When this began.)
I had nothing to say.
And I get lost in the nothingness inside of me.
(I was confused.)
And I live it all out to find, but I'm not the only person with these things in mind.
(Inside of me.)
But all that they can see the words revealed.
Is the only real thing that i got left to feel.
(Nothing to lose.)
Just stuck, hollow and alone.
And the fault is my own, and the fault is my own.


I wanna heal, I wanna feel, What I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I've felt so long
Erase all the pain til' it's gone
I wanna heal, I wanna feel, like I'm close to something real
I wanna find something I've wanted all along
Somewhere I belong

[Verse 2]

And I've got nothing to say. I can't believe I didn't fall right down on my face.
(I was confused.)
Look at everywhere only to find.
It is not the way I had imagined it all in my mind.
(So what am I.)
What do I have but negativity.
Cuz I can't justify the way everyone is looking at me.
(Nothing to lose.)
Nothing to gain, hollow and alone.
And the fault is my own, and the fault is my own.

I wanna heal, I wanna feel, What I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I've felt so long
Erase all the pain til' it's gone
I wanna heal, I wanna feel, like I'm close to something real
I wanna find something I've wanted all along
Somewhere I belong

:: Matt 3/08/2003 11:17:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
"The saving grace of God has appeared." (Titus 2:11)

The grace of God has appeared. Grace is the person of Jesus Christ, in that case. God's grace is himself, present among us. This is why the letter to Titus is so concerned with holy living: grace is not just an idea - an "unmerited favor." Grace is the presence of God himself, which pushes us to live differently than we did before we received grace.

Thus, along with the theme of Titus 2, and with Charles Wesley, I say:

"Finish then thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee;
Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise."

:: Matt 3/08/2003 01:43:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Friday, March 07, 2003 ::
The Gospel reading for the day after Ash Wednesday: John 1:29 - 34.

Public Lectio Divina for today:

The Holy Spirit came down and remained on Jesus. Remaining is an important concept in both the Gospel and the Epistles of John. Remaining here is an action of the Holy Spirit; later on it will become indicative of the relationship between Jesus and his disciples. "Remain in me, and I will remain in you." (John 15:4)

It seems that we can receive this verse as a promise of the presence of the Holy Spirit as we remain in Jesus and he in us. Being in fellowship with Jesus brings us into the presence of the Father; it also brings us into the presence of the Spirit. John knows that his mere water is not the be-all end-all; he looks forward to the one who will baptize in the Holy Spirit. And this, he says, is Jesus.

Holy Spirit, we welcome you and invite you to be with us. Immerse us in your presence. Guide us in the way of love. Give us the ability to remain in Christ. Amen.

:: Matt 3/07/2003 12:02:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Thursday, March 06, 2003 ::
Ok, so I have a question for all the liturgy nuts out there:

In the Western Liturgy, the Agnus Dei begins: "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world..." (Latin, "Agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi...")

In both the Vulgate ("Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollit peccatum mundi...") and the Greek (which will not show up well here, transliterated "Ide ho amnos tou theou ho airon ten hamartian tou kosmou..."), the verse in John 1:29 has "sin of the world" instead of "sins of the world." Why the change? Is there theological significance to the shift?

I think there's a theologically different statement by saying "sins" instead of "sin". What do you think? Feel free to comment here or by e-mail.

:: Matt 3/06/2003 11:33:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
I picked up one of those "ergonomic keyboards" because I'm feeling some wrist-related pain when I type alot. So I'm trying this out. It's already more comfortable. Softer touch, split center, raised from the back... it's all good.

:: Matt 3/06/2003 06:15:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Well, the Illini lost last night by one point to Wisconsin. Darn. They were doing so well!

:: Matt 3/06/2003 06:14:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Bricks and dark wood in the incandescent twilight

Making a path for the cross

Around and around
The muted tread of softened steps
The rustling of bending knees

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.
Remember that you are dust...


:: Matt 3/06/2003 01:13:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
From the Epistle read for Ash Wednesday:

"We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see - we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything." (2 Corinthians 6:8b - 10, NRSV)

Such is the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ. We are always going to be a bit misunderstood.

:: Matt 3/06/2003 12:49:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Wednesday, March 05, 2003 ::
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This is season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.

(Book of Common Prayer, 1979 ed., 264 - 265)

:: Matt 3/05/2003 07:46:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
(Resuming last post - got too long or something)

In the end, though, God usually calls most of us to pick our gifts back up and use them to love him more out among other people. This is why our discipline is only for a time. He has still given us the task of bringing his good news to the whole world.

:: Matt 3/05/2003 12:05:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Tuesday, March 04, 2003 ::
Services at St. B's tomorrow at 6:30 AM and 7:30 PM. I'll be at both.

May God be with you as we join our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the journey of the Cross.

"And calling the crowd and his disciples to him he said to them, 'If someone (anyone) wants to follow me, do the following: deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me. Why? Because whoever wants to save their life will utterly destroy it; on the other hand, whoever loses his or her life because of me and the good news (the good news and I are one and the same) will save it. Let me explain it by these two rhetorical questions: What benefit is there for a person to gain the whole universe and to cause the loss of their own life? Or what about this: what can a person give in exchange for their life?" (Mark 8:34 - 37)

"Deny yourself." Hmmm... sounds like this might hurt.

"Pick up your cross." Now, that sounds like it'll really hurt.

"Follow me." Could it be that "following" might hurt, too?

Denial has been abused. It really has been. It's been used to manipulate and control people. It's put a lot of people on a guilt trip about enjoying anything. It's taken perfectly good God-given gifts and shelved them.

Yes, denial hurts. That's why I don't want to do it. I fight against it. My whole self fights against it. But that doesn't make it bad.

It's important to deny ourselves the bad things. We need to be doing that all the time. No matter what. Every day. We are trying to rid ourselves of the bad and develop the good. We should even deny ourselves too much of a good thing. We rule our appetites, not the other way around. If hunger rules us (and is not merely a tool to tell us to give ourselves sustenance) we have a problem. We are living life at the least common denominator.

But self-denial probably ought to go even further. It is, often, a discipline, not carried out indefinately, but for a set time. In this kind of self-denial, we set aside something that is rightfully ours - a gift of God, even. We are called to love God for his own sake, and not for his gifts. (See Brother Lawrence and others for that quote - I didn't come up with it on my own). We enter into this playful lover's argument with God, saying, "thanks for the gift, the gifts, but I want you and you alone. Your gifts are wonderful - they come from you. They make my love for you deeper. But it's you I want, in the end." And God often rewards such attitudes and postures with more gifts, which we have to "lovingly reject" for the love of God.

:: Matt 3/04/2003 11:54:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Lent begins in 35 minutes. I still haven't come up with a comprehensive list of "disciplines" or even one discipline that I want to commit to for the next six and a half weeks.

God, work your discipline in me!!!

:: Matt 3/04/2003 11:23:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
What I didn't say in the last post, which I meant to say, is that I identify strongly with the feelings, experiences, and responses of these introverts... and others. Yeah... so maybe I am... what's it to you? :)

:: Matt 3/04/2003 11:21:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Andrew Careaga has some interesting posts on introversion... I test on the Extrovert side of the scale, but only barely. I really only test usefully in one category, but I question the results. It all depends on the situation, which cannot be answered easily by an either-or designation. Both-and and neither-nor would be useful additions to the test, IMO.

:: Matt 3/04/2003 11:19:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Oh, and on top of that, the word "useless" could also be translated "lazy."

So if you just believe something intellectually but it doesn't change what you do, you could be just lazy. And that's not cool.

:: Matt 3/04/2003 11:14:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
I really wish that people who translate Bibles would be less worried about offending people when the scriptures get raunchy.

They get raunchy? Yes, yes, they do. They get crude and rude, dude.

I can't read Hebrew; Greek is the only Biblical language I can read. My guess is that Song of Songs would be much more, well, (dare I say it) erotic if we translated the Hebrew straight.

The example for today is from James 2:20. "Do you want me to prove to you, you airhead, that faith apart from works is useless?" Yes, James calls his reader an airhead. The word means "empty".


:: Matt 3/04/2003 11:13:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Monday, March 03, 2003 ::
Check out this new, revised version of the Lord's Prayer. I like it. It's not just just the shorthand spelling that's so intriguing - it's the revised wording. Quality, eh?

:: Matt 3/03/2003 07:46:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
I really recommend today's issue of Relevant Magazine. The links to the news stories are kinda amazing. That whole preacher making the bucks thing is just sick and wrong. I agree with the posts about the band Switchfoot - it's really awesome to see a Christian band reaching out of the Christian subculture and trying to be real with people who aren't "churched." What's the big deal with Jesus and beer at the same time? Keep on rockin'!

:: Matt 3/03/2003 12:00:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Sunday, March 02, 2003 ::
I'm working on a series of discussion points for ministry in our time and place (early 21st c. America). If I haven't posted them in a few days, pester me.

:: Matt 3/02/2003 11:40:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
I am amazed once again by the middle and high school students I work with.

The Middle School group discussed the topic of war this afternoon. I was impressed with the degree to which they had all thought it through carefully themselves. None were looking forward to war. They sense the ambiguity that these sorts of questions bring, and handled it very well.

The High School group was in Mark 8 tonight. The discussion ranged across several topics, but they all really got into the section about "take up your cross and follow." Several made some very brilliant and constructive comments that show their level of faith in God is increasing. They see that the life is one of discipleship, and that this is a constant putting off of the old self and putting on of the new.

This dovetailed nicely with the assignment I'm working on now, which is a booklet of basic orders of service for the key celebrations of the faith: baptism, communion, marriage, and funerals. I'm trying out a mixture of the standard Evangelical Protestant non-liturgy liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer and the liturgies of the Eastern Orthodox. We'll see how well it goes over when I get to class.

Baptism was my subject for tonight, and it is hard to decide how much I want to say and do in the service. In some ways, the whole purpose for baptism ought to be shared. But maybe that should take place elsewhere. It's not going to be set in stone. :)

:: Matt 3/02/2003 11:37:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
I've been going through the list of blogs I read normally (and a few that I don't read - just found them tonight), and I've come across some amazing stuff.

For starters, look at Jeremiah Smith's blog about blogging. Dead-on, man. It's great just to have a space to dump thoughts here and there and everywhere.

Second, check out Eric Keck's February 28 2003 entry. He's speaking my language. He's talking about the sort of stuff in the sort of ways that I'm looking at doing. Maybe I need to quit analyzing and just do it?

There's more, but geez, look at the time! I've gotta get up for church in 6.5 hours. It'll be great eventually to be doing a plant at a schedule conducive to the planters and the plantees. (is plantees even a word?) It is now...

:: Matt 3/02/2003 12:05:00 AM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
:: Saturday, March 01, 2003 ::
No, I did not post anything yesterday. Since I really have no idea how many people are reading this, what they're interested in, or even if another soul is reading it at all, I'm sometimes at a loss for words. I'd hoped that I could turn M Squared T into a discussion board sort of deal on theological topics, but I've not been as overtly theological as I'd intended either. Part of the deal is that I'm in the end of the quarter crunch before I go out to my brother's wedding. There's ever so much to do between now and then.

I sorta intended to write out a few things in my journal - so I could think them through myself before I put them out here. But I've been so busy that I haven't been journaling much at all in the last few days (except about stuff that I don't want to put up here anyway). Right now I don't have the luxury to think for myself. I have to use so much time thinking and reading and reflecting for the classes and for the church youth group that I haven't had time for myself to think about topics of personal interest. I suppose that means I need to create that time in my schedule, huh?

As you (singular you? plural you?) may have gathered, I think as I write. I think as I talk. So that's why I write in such a stream-of-consciousness style here and elsewhere.

So there you have it. A piece of my brain for this piece of the day.

Soli Deo Gloria

:: Matt 3/01/2003 11:41:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Of course, trying to watch or listen to the game today was impossible. ESPN+ (Regional) must be pretty darn local. None of the Chicago stations carried the game - TV or radio. That really stunk as far as following the game was concerned. I couldn't even get an internet feed of the game to work. :(

Well, that meant that I got quite a bit of work done on several papers that I needed to work on. Rah rah rah. Yeah. Whatever. :)

:: Matt 3/01/2003 11:33:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::
Illinois won 82 - 79 against Michigan in Ann Arbor.

:: Matt 3/01/2003 11:31:00 PM :: permalink :: comments (0) ::

:: What is the Curriculum? [>]
[::..Spirituality I..::]
:: Foundational ::
:: The Bible (of course!) [>]
:: The Divine Conspiracy [>]
:: Celebration of Discipline [>]
:: The Spirit of the Disciplines [>]
:: Primary Texts ::
:: The Practice of the Presence of God (Image/Doubleday Ed.) [>]
:: or ::
:: The Practice of the Presence of God (Spire Ed.) [>]
:: The Weight of Glory [>]
:: The Way of the Heart [>]
:: Lectio Divina [>]
:: Secondary Texts ::
:: The Study of Spirituality [>]
:: Listening Prayer [>]
:: Hearing God [>]
:: The Renovation of the Heart [>]
[::..Spirituality II..::]
:: Life Together [>]
:: In progress... check back later [>]
:: The Connecting Church [>]
Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem
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