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Hope – The Church in 10,000 years

clockIn the Winter 2000 issue of the Whole Earth Magazine I came across an article about Long Now Foundation’s work to create a 10,000 year clock.

The following comment in the article caught my eye. “Danny Hillis’s idea was that by slowing down the usual speedy movements of a clock, he hoped to slow us down and have us think about the long term. The purpose of a clock that runs for 10,000 years is to encourage us to create things that require 10,000 years to measure. A great civilization for instance.”
This intrigued me because it stands in stark contrast to the pessimism for the future of civilization found in the pop-culture church today. Apocalypticism has been a popular theme throughout history, as showcased through Christian History Magazine’s excellent issue on the topic. Thus the appeal of such books as “Left Behind” should be no surprise.

But it is my contention that such hopelessness about the future is not only unbiblical, but does great harm to the ministry of the church. Yes, Jesus will return, as is told in the scripture. And yes, he judges and will judge individuals and governments for their complicity in sin. But you cannot find one text in the Bible that will say He is coming today, or tomorrow, or in a decade, or a century or a millenia. Only that He will return soon, for which we have no calendar to measure. So, our calling is readiness, rather then speculation.

The unfortunate by-product of apocalyptic thinking is a lack of hope for what the Holy Spirit will do through the Church today. In his book “Learned Optimism,” Martin Seligman documented his research that both animals and humans responded in the same manner to helpless situations. They gave up trying to change their environment. I believe that the same happens to congregations when they believe that they are helpless to change the world around them.

By contrast, I believe that we are called to live hopeful of the work that the Holy Spirit wants to do through us as believers and through our congregations.

Also, the following two short and excellent articles, Cultural Pessimism and Cultural Optimism are excellent reading to further grasp both what destruction is done through this hopeless thinking, and a further understanding of what the Holy Spirit can do through the Church.

And so, rather then limiting ourselves to the end-times apocalypticism prevelent today, I call upon the Church to wonder at what a culture could come if we were to live expecting His soon return, while simultaneously wondering at what the Holy Spirit could do through us through 10,000 years.

Originally published in 2009

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Checks cashed here! Payday loans! Title loans. You keep the car.

Check CashingAll around us, we are seeing signs that the economy is going south. The dollar is weak. Gas is nearly $4 a gallon here in Idaho. People are losing their homes and those who are selling theirs are having a hard time.
I’ve spotted another sign: checking cashing and high interest loan businesses. My wife and I both work full time jobs. And we have the added income of student loan money. But still times are tough for us. Because I had to take a job living away from the family we have an additional rent cost. And I drive over 30 miles to work every morning. So we have troubles making ends meet. When we find our selves with more month then money, I often find myself noticing all the check cashing places on the boulevard and thinking “there but the grace of God go I,” and worry that God’s grace is going to run out and there I’ll be.

Recently I noticed that there seemed to be an awful lot of these places. So yesterday I drove down the boulevard and counted. I discovered there is a whopping 13 of these businesses in just two miles.

I think that this is a sign of the economy we live in. The cost of my yogurt, milk and gas have gone up, but my earning power has not.

A couple months ago I was with my wife at a debate contest. We sat down at the judges lounge with an acquaintance of hers who travels with the team. I sat uncomfortably through his demeaning talk about the poor clients in his social work and how they take advantage of the system. But then he decided to minimize the pain of the recession by comparing it to the depression. I blew up. People who are comfortable don’t understand the pain lower income people are in as the economy turns south. They don’t understand that the working poor are becoming trapped by the cycle of credit at these predatory lending businesses. 13 of them!

There but by the grace of God go I. These institutions are preying on the working poor. We need to show more compassion for those who are working hard but having trouble making ends meet. I know I’m talking about myself here. But I have also fallen prey to the lure of judging the poor, thinking they are getting a free ride by the system. That they have control of their situation if they would only work hard. It’s not as easy as that. Poverty is a complicated problem. And part of the equation now are these yellow buildings with red trim offering temporary relief at a high interest rate.

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Memory

This morning while sipping a latte at Moxie Java in Twin Falls, I decided to listen to an old concert of Vida Blue. Suddenly I was catapulted back to 9 months ago when I first discovered the band, headlined by Phish keyboardist Page McConnell. Why did this music throw me back in time? Because at the time I was living by myself in Twin Falls, waiting the sale of our home in Soap Lake so that my family could move to live with me. I was experiencing many things rather intensely as a result of the time apart from my family. I can sense the same emotional memories will be conjured up when Mariner’s baseball season begins. One of the ways that I whiled the time away was to listen to the Mariner’s on the internet.

I’ve been experiencing other emotional memories as well, of events that happened many years ago. It has been remarkable the intensity of these things, as I remember feelings that happened a while ago. Why are some memories stronger? Where does the attachment of emotions to memories come from?

Ashok Hegde, assistant professor at WFU Baptist Medical Center i Winston-Salem, North Carolina points out in this Psychology today article that

One of the hallmarks of memories that last is a close association with emotion. Norepinephrine, a brain chemical similar to adrenaline, is released in the brain during such emotional situations. Norepinephrine lowers the gate so that information can go into permanent storage.

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8 core convictions

Many years ago, I began the process of developing my core convictions. This went through many edits on its way to becoming the form you find here. I find it inspiring and a reminder of what I want to commit my life to. I hope this is valuable to in some form or other.

8 Core Convictions

I believe in a sovereign, loving, holy God. I believe it is more true to the scripture and healthier to live with God as He is and has described Himself in the Bible then to attempt to craft a theology that safely answers the paradoxes His omnipotence creates. He is in charge of life.

The best source of knowledge, wisdom and understanding is the Gospels, the Bible and the Spirit of Christ in me.

I believe that we are called to live abundant lives. The entrance of Jesus into the world 2000 years ago established the Kingdom of God on Earth and provided history and our personal lives with hopeful meaning in the midst of tribulation and trials as opposed to historicial and personal pessimism. Deuteronomy 30:19 to choose life, that you may live. I choose life!

Learning is a life-long pursuit with varied focuses that depend on the physical, emotional and spiritual stage of life we are in.

God has given each of us complete solidarity. The ethic that Jesus taught was for the influence of the Holy Spirit to transform the will of each individual so that they would be free to choose the Kingdom and to then take initiative to accomplish Kingdom good. This contrasts measuring spirituality on outward appearance and rewarding organizational service. It instead elevates initiative on individuals and gifts.

God has made us mutual branches of one vine, and reconcilers of people separated from God and others. Our relationships are to be characterized by love, acceptance and forgiveness. It is important that we gather as the Church, the Body of Christ, seek team solutions to social and spiritual needs, to reach out to people in need, and to reconcile and strengthen relationships both in the church and outside the church.

The seed and nest of abundant life is the family. It should be prioritized so that we are providing for the full needs of our families without sacrificing their well being to pursue material wealth, organizational recognition, religious obligations, or personal passions.

I believe that we are called to change people’s lives by inviting them to follow Jesus. I believe that we are called to change the world. By leveraging the previous seven points, the individual, family and church can “salt the earth,” providing healing and adding flavor. This is the mission of the Kingdom, that God’s will would be done here as it is in heaven, that the blind see, that we be the father to the orphan, and friend to the stranger.

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