Thursday, August 31, 2006

Fill the Earth

Christians need to be clear on which side they stand in the battle between Rugged Individualism and Blessing. Our tendency to praise the Bill of Rights / Informed-Consent / Army of One / Choice breaks any possibility of their being real community in the Body of Christ, and any possibility of restoration of the soul.

The—Washington Post article for Thursday:

Medical practices blend health and faith
Doctors, patients shun care they consider immoral

The article focuses on the Tepeyac Family Center, a doctor's office in Fairfax, Virginia [just five hours from MSNBC TV on a good day]. The center news is deemed news-worthy because of their mission statement:

The restoration of the integration of the human person by combining the best of modern medicine with the healing presence of Jesus Christ. All people are welcome here.
"Surprisingly" the staff prays each day before the first appointments, they shun birth-control, and promote natural family planning. Essentially they are a group of doctors and staff that practice medicine and their Roman Catholic beliefs. But you can't do that in America, because in America individual choice and its cohort informed-consent rule. Any alternative is damaging to the economy. The article puts the choice / consent issue this way:

"It's not enough for someone to advertise 'We provide natural family planning' or have a sign up in the waiting room that says 'Only natural family planning available here,' " said Jeffrey L. Ecker, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Harvard Medical School."The assumption shouldn't be that patients understand exactly what that means. The doctor has an obligation to fully explain all options to their patients."

"Welcome to the era of balkanized medicine," said R. Alta Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "We've had this for years with religious hospitals. What's happening now is it's drifting down to the level of individual practitioners and small group practices. It essentially creates a parallel world of medicine."
To be fair MSNBC does a fair and I think balanced view of the issues. They do get to the heart of the matter with this one quote:

"I've encountered a lot of resistance to how I practice over the years," said Lorna L. Cvetkovich, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Ann Arbor, Mich. "For one thing, contraception and sterilizations bring in a lot of revenue. But I finally found partners who feel the way I do, and we're scraping by."
The issue is money. The issue is not that people are operating in "a parallel world of medicine." Oriental medical practices, Homeopathic practices, and even Scientology (until recently) have been accepted for years.
The issue is money. The issue is not informed consent or that "the doctor has an obligation to fully explain all options to their patients", or it is not as Elizabeth Dotts, 25, of Birmingham puts it in the article:

"It caught me completely off guard, ...I felt like he was judging me and putting pressure on me... I am the patient. I am the client. It should have been about me‚ What I needed. Not what he needed or believed."
In America judging and pressure are only good when they purchase TV time, radio spots and newspaper ads. The US Government has spent $1.4 billion on its anti-drug advertising campaign over the last 8 years. But this does not appear to have helped reduce drug use and instead might have convinced some youths that taking illegal drugs is normal. (USAToday)Do doctors really believe that every patient, given enough information, will be able to choose the right medicines, understand the correct course of treatment, and make the appropriate lifestyle changes? Have we all become little-experts on ourselves? John Calvin, 55, of Geneva would say, "uh... no." Calvin, on Genesis 1

Since the image of God had been destroyed in us by the fall, we may judge from its restoration what it originally had been. Paul says that we are transformed into the image of God by the gospel. And, according to him, spiritual regeneration is nothing else than the restoration of the same image. (Colossians 3:10, and Ephesians 4:23.) ...But now, although some obscure lineaments of that image are found remaining in us; yet are they so vitiated and maimed, that they may truly be said to be destroyed. For besides the deformity which everywhere appears unsightly, this evil also is added, that no part is free from the infection of sin.
I am not a Credit Card, Social Security Number, or individual in a system. I am maimed and vitiated, yes, but am being transformed into the image of God by the gospel. God blesses humanity in community, "male and female he blessed them." Then God commands the community to take God's image and "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over... every living thing that moves on the earth."
This is good news. God sends Abraham's community into the world to be a blessing, "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed... And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan." (Genesis 12). This is good news. And the Church is sent into the world to be a blessing,

"The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,... has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing... and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,... far above all rule and authority and power and dominion... and he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all." Ephesians 1. I know the Ephesians quote leaves out quite a bit in the middle, but it is one, long, run-on sentence in the Greek. The blessings of God, Ephesians 1:3-6, are linked very closely with the "filling" ministry of the Church, Ephesians 1:22-23.
The practices of the Church, continue the filling, multiplying, dominion-ing activity of created humanity. Breaking the human community in to a loose-leaf binder of individuals shatters any possibility of blessing.

"I want to practice my faith," said John T. Bruchalski, the obstetrician-gynecologist who started Tepeyac. "I'm not interested in pushing it on other people. But this allows me to practice medicine without having to do something that I wouldn't see as positive or healthy... We approach the person from a very holistic perspective—body, soul and spirit. We tell patients you have to take care of your body. You have to be able to communicate and develop a relationship. You have to meditate and pray to God or a higher power. We bring this to people of all backgrounds."
Fill the earth doctor. Fill the earth.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel?

If John Piper is to be believed then God is the Gospel. In our Sunday night bible study I have been exploring the question of what the gospel is, using Piper's book as a guide. Piper begins with God as the originator of the Gospel and then unites the ideas of Gospel and Kingdom of God. Simple but rich.

In uniting Gospel and Kingdom, Piper brings up Romans 10:9, which we looked at in more depth this evening. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Long a favorite proof of the power of the "sinners prayer" in many "gospel" tracts.

What is obvious from the rest of the passage is that Romans 10:9 is by no means a proof of anything but the powerful inbreaking of God's kingdom into the world. What I "discovered" is the beautiful way that Paul links the confession in Romans 10:9 with Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53:7a "How beautiful upon the mountains, are the feet of him who brings good news." Is quoted by Paul in Romans 10:15.

But the rest of Isaiah 53:7, "Who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'" Is most definitely alluded to when Paul says, "Jesus is Lord." Jesus is the Son of God who reigns over the kings of the earth, which Isaiah 53 states v. 10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God... v. 15 so shall he sprinkle (prosper) many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. (Again with allusions to Romans 10:14-18)

Not to put N.T. Wright and John Piper in the same blog post, but N.T. Wright explains that "when Paul talks about “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord,” one of the things he means, of course, is that means confessing that Caesar is not lord and that there are other lords which have ruled over you. And so the step of faith is also by the, necessarily a step of commitment, which is a commitment of life to live in a different way, to live by a different rule." Dick Staub: DS Interview - Bishop N.T. Wright: Gospel for Everyone!

The different way, different rule of the kingdom... shows up in the ministry of Jesus. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" We repent and live by the different way, because the kingdom has been brought near, because Jesus is Lord. Stepping into the Kingdom by faith implies a silencing of the other kings in our hearts, or to use other Pauline imagery, a "putting to death." Romans 8:13-17

Too often I believe in my heart that I enter the Kingdom of God by my repentance, by my confession that "Jesus is Lord." But by my repentance or by my mental assent to the position of Jesus as Lord will not gain me entrance into the Kingdom of God.

Entrance into the Kingdom of God is because Jesus is its Lord and I experience his love, healing, and grace. I love the Gaither's "He came to love, heal and forgive." And in experiencing divine love, divine healing and divine forgiveness, I repent, I turn away from the kingdom of this world and it becomes the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Leadership Emergence

Leadership Emergence Theory was developed by J. Robert Clinton after his studying of the biographies of 1,000s of Christians Leaders in various venues and times. Clinton's conlusions being that God works in similar ways in the developing of a Christian into Christian leader, most going through a process of Character formation, Skill formation and Strategic formation. L.E.T. involves a heavy dose of "life mapping" where clues and hints can be discovered about the ways in which God's workmanship has been shaped over the course of a lifetime. "Critical incidents" positive and negative become a prime focus during the life mapping process.

In a formula Leadership Emergence Theory reads like this:

Leadership = Function of (p,t,r)

Leadership is a function of p [process items], t [time], and r [our responses]. Are these really the components of leadership development / discipleship? Or is there something else?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Turner County Fair

The Four Best Days of Summer, or so the tagline goes for the Turner County fair. Kristl, Lincoln and I spent Five evenings at the fair this week, along with thousands of others. The fair draws us back night after night. I don't know if its the $4.00 indian tacos, the NC+ seed-corn booth, the open class produce entries, or the Alpacas at "Old McDonald's Farm."

I feel like I understand "on earth as it is in heaven." Not to say that a $4.00 indian taco is heaven but...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Job of Uz

What I find most amazing about the Job story is that its internal discussion is framed by the story of the Lord's action. Job's worldview is tied very closely to what God is doing in Job's world. The Lord gives. The Lord takes. The Lord allows the roaming accuser to influence his decisions. The Lord says "brace yourself!"

Who are we? We are God's people who are blessed and cursed by God.
Where do we live? We live in a world that is evil and random but where every event, for good or for ill, is overseen by the Lord.
So what's wrong? Even the most righteous man of all the east is given over to terrible tradgedy and pain.
What's the solution? We must trust that the God of heaven does see and hear us when we cry, even though we may never know, understand, or experience relief.
What time is it? We live inbetween when God has acted and will act again. We live in anticipation of the salvation that comes from no one else.