Flip-Flop Friday!

Hey TDers! It’s October 31.  Happy Reformation Day!  Hope you’re all having a great time celebrating a movement that changed the world: the Reformation!  Here’s a message from Robert about TD tomorrow. – Arthur

I’m excited to uncover the riches of God’s Word with you in Luke 3:15-22. The message is entitled, “A Greater Man, A Greater Baptism,” and in the message we will see our friend John the Baptist humbly point to One infinitely greater than himself. Jesus said of John the Baptist: “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” (Luke 7:28). Come and learn from Luke’s gospel about the One who was greater than the greatest man born up until that point in time.

We’ve had a few special Friday nights, and this coming Friday is no exception! This Friday is Flip-Flop Friday… so please wear your flip flops to TD!! If your school’s dress code allows it, try to wear your flip flops the whole day (without washing your feet). Read Luke 3:15-22 before this Friday to find out why…

See you this Friday! – Robert

Consuming Christ

image

Hey TD’ers!  Please read through this perceptive, honest, and insightful confession and critique by our friend, Margaret Manning of RZIM.  I believe you will see yourself in it – I know I did!  And I need to do something about it! – Arthur

It can happen to any of us since it begins innocently enough. We need to get a new camera, or a new outfit, and we begin an online search. We begin comparing prices and online reviews hoping to find the best value. Before we know it, we’ve spent an entire afternoon shopping for whatever is the latest and greatest product.

Perhaps we feel great about scoring the best deal, but I know that for me, I am overcome with a sense of disgust that an entire afternoon was lost to shopping. I feel sheepish about how I’ve used what little precious time I have to satisfy my latest consumer craving. Furthermore, the more I indulge my desire to satisfy my purchasing power the more my identity becomes that of a purchaser. As Annie Leonard notes in The Story of Stuff, “Our primary identity has become that of being consumers—not mothers, teachers, or farmers, but of consumers. We shop and shop and shop.”(1)

For the United States in particular, what began as a period of unparalleled optimism and prosperity in following World War II has become a national obsession. Retailing analyst, Victor Lebow, expressed the solution for converting a war-time prosperity into a peace-time economy of growth and abundance: “Our enormously productive economy…demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption….[W]e need things consumed, burned up, replaced, and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”(2) In addition, the chairman of President Eisenhower’s council of economic advisors stated: “The American economy’s ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods.”(3)

This seems a very reductive purpose statement when looking at something as complex as economic systems. But this was the basic thinking of the time. I wonder about the success of this strategy. On the one hand, I did just spend hours of my day shopping. On the other hand, there are the perennial issues of health care, education, citizens, communities, housing, transportation, recreation, or less poverty and hunger to consider as well. Should the ultimate goal for any economy be to simply create a mass culture of consumption? Or is it to create a better society?

It doesn’t take an expert to see the impact of this ‘solution’ in our lives today. We live in a throw-away society, where what we currently have today is passé tomorrow. More insidious, of course, is the way in which a consumptive-economy works to make us feel inadequate if we do not have the latest and greatest shoes, clothes, cars, tools, technology, or gadgets.

Of course, no one is immune from this entrenched influence. A consumer-driven mentality impacts the way in which Christians view and participate in church community. Casual language about “church shopping” belies one of the more subtle impacts. It becomes more and more difficult to see the church as the present day representation of Jesus Christ; we are members of this organic body entrusted with mission and witness in the larger society. Instead, consumerism tempts Christians to see ourselves as “shoppers” examining who offers the best product for our needs. Following Jesus looks more like a marketing strategy for a better life, marriage, kids…and on and on the shopping goes.

If belonging to a church is judged as a product to be consumed, the church must appeal to the consumer to “buy into” the product. As a result, the message sounds more and more like self-help messages of Jesus as the answer to our every need, our every discomfort, and our every trial. Indeed, Jesus becomes the ultimate product to provide us with the life we’ve always wanted—comfort, convenience, and efficiency. As the church reduces Jesus to a commodity, there is more and more pressure to “sell” the benefits of following Jesus. As a result, the counter-consumer messages of the gospel are ignored or altered. But what did Jesus say?

Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth. No one can serve two masters. If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does life consist of possessions. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves….for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.(4)

Indeed, in response to this last teaching of Jesus, John’s gospel reports that many of the disciples said, “‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’….[And] as a result of this many of his disciples withdrew, and were not walking with him anymore” (John 6:60, 66).

Who can hear the message of the gospel in a world that makes consumer confidence the measure of strength or weakness, success or failure? Who can listen to it when our chief desire is for a packaged Jesus, not too challenging and certainly comforting, ready and able to meet every need? Indeed, who can listen to the challenging words of Christ when we are about the business of converting “the buying and use of goods into rituals,” and seeking “our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption?”(5) Are we rightly consuming Christ or simply shopping for another product?

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Anne Leonard, http://www.storyofstuff.com. (2) As cited in “Consumer Culture is no Accident” by David Suzuki, http://www.eartheasy.com/article_consumer_culture.htm, accessed Sept 13, 2013. (3) Ibid. (4) See Matthew 5:44, 6:19, 24, 7:1; Mark 2:17, 8:34; Luke 12:15; John 6:53-68. (5) Victor Lebow as cited in “Consumer Culture is no Accident” by David Suzuki.

Wait on Love

As part of my message on Friday, Nathaniel shared his newest song, “Wait on Love.” I’ve been singing it all week 🙂  It’s an encouraging reminder that God is a God who is near, has given His best to us, and is worth the wait.  And that’s True Love!  Enjoy! – Arthur

WAIT ON LOVE

By Nathaniel Hsieh

Verse 1:

Oh my friend you’re not alone

Listen to these breaking hearts just dying to be known

This timeless human anthem that we’ve all learned to sing

Through sleepless nights, sunless days, and the whisper of a King saying

Chorus:

Wait on love just little bit longer

 Hold on tight ‘cuz your time will come

Keep pressing on ‘cuz this road makes you stronger

And one day soon you will hear

Love has won

Verse 2:

Oh my friend you’re good enough

Only eyes of worthy hearts see diamonds in the rough

The blind will stop at beauty, thinking they’ve found sight

And miss the depth of shadows free that cast a truer light

Telling you to

Bridge:

I see you there awake and alone, wondering if you’ll make it home

I see your fears, I see your tears and I know

I know the way rejection tastes, I carried Calvary’s cross one day

I know the pain, I know the shame, oh I know

Still I say to

TD This Friday – Keep it Real!!!

Hey TD’ers!  We’ve got a great night in store for us this Friday!  But we need your help! 

  • First, we need you to come real, as you really are – no pretense, no plastic faces, no hiding, no projections.  We just want … you!
  • Second, please listen to the podcast below, our last of our first TD message of the year, “John the Baptist: Paving the Way,” Pt. 3.  It also includes Jenny’s honest sharing about her journey towards becoming real.  We really want this year to be a breakthrough year for you.  Do you?  A sure way is to be letting more of God’s word and truth to be flowing through you all during your week.  This is a great way to do that!

  • Lastly, please bring a fruit with you to share with someone in your small group.  Got it?  And if you want to bring more than one – like for, say, a fruit eating counselor – feel free! 🙂
  • We’ve got a great opportunity for you to grow in the Lord as I’ll be sharing a message entitled, “The Fruit of Your Root,” taken from Luke 3:7-14 (please read ahead).  Together, we’ll learn how to bear bigger, jucier, more nourishing fruit in our lives.
  • We’ll also have time to sharpen each other in our small groups … AND …
  • Nathaniel will be sharing his newest song, “Wait on Love” for our encouragement!

So, please make plans to come, and feel free to invite your friends!  Let’s keep growing together as a TD family! – Arthur

Life in Compartments

Life in compartments – spiritual cancer that at first goes undetected and is seemingly harmless.  Yet, if left untreated, will leave life disintegrated, anchor-less, and impotent.  This may well be the practical malady of the 21st century Christian.  And it is certainly the catastrophe that awaits the TD’er … unless we take proactive steps to live life in order, rather than in compartments.  That’s what we want to help you with in TD – to begin the development of integrated, potent, authentic lives of Christian wholeness and power. 

Please read this insightful essay by our friend, Jill Carattini, at RZIM and then take advantage of the helps the TD blog has to offer! – Arthur

It is similar to the parent who defers the questioning child with the evocation to “go ask” the other parent.  Professors who have dedicated their lives to the study of a particular subject are not fond of venturing into unrelated territories. So the student who asks a theological question in economics class is told to ask his theology professor, and the student who asks an economic question in theology class is told to ask his economics professor. The admonishment is laced with the not-so subtle, though common and accepted, language of specialization, privatization, and compartmentalization—namely, stick to the subject at hand and keep these things properly separated.

Undergraduate professor of theology William Cavanaugh is aware of the academic phenomenon of deflecting such questions, the cultural milieu that encourages compartmentalization, and the natural tendency of students to rebel against it. He sees in students an authentic discomfort with the idea that we need to compartmentalize our lives, a bold awareness that our culturally growing drive to keep politics from theology or theology from finance and religion from law doesn’t actually work. “I think they have a very good and real sense,” notes Cavanaugh, “that in real life things are not separated: that the way you buy has a lot to do with the way you worship and who you worship and what you worship.”(1) Cavanaugh encourages this awareness by commending the kinds of questions that recognize compartmentalization as unlivable, and by doing the historical work that shows this notion of separable entities as a modern, credulous construction in the first place.

Compartmentalization of religion may well be a way of coping with a world that wants to keep the confusion of many religions out of the public square, but it is evident that it is not a very good coping mechanism. Each isolated discipline wants to discuss on some authentic level the good or benefit of all as it pertains to their subjects. And yet they somehow want to bracket any and all questions that might lean too closely toward things of a spiritual nature—purpose, meaning, human nature, morality. While such restrictions might successfully allow us to avoid stepping too closely to religion, in the fancy footwork it takes to do so, we end up sidestepping the actual subject at hand as well.

On the opposite side of these contemporary fences, spirituality is restricted to private realms, personal thoughts, or a single day in the week, and thus becomes far more like one of life’s many commodities than an all-encompassing rule of life. Separated from the world of bodies and societies, the world of hearts and souls is not seen as appropriate or even capable of informing our understanding of business or capitalism, the principles behind our daily choices, how we live, what we buy, or what we eat. The presuppositions here are equally destructive of the true identity of the thing we have compartmentalized.  Held tightly in such compartments, the Christian way ceases to be a way at all.

But what if our categories are wrong? If our compartments merely confuse and obscure, failing to be the coping mechanisms we think they are, will we remove them? And what does life look like without such divisions? What if Christianity is not a category of thought at all, a set of beliefs, or a religion that can be privatized without becoming something else entirely? What if the life of faith is not about what we think or what we do, but who we are? Such a way would exist over and above every category of thought, every compartment and realm.

In fact, long before theology was ushered out of the public square, out of politics, economics, and the sciences, it was considered to be the highest science, the study of the rational Mind behind our own rational minds. It was the discipline that made sense of every other discipline, the subject that united every subject. Such a perspective is inherently foreign to the contemporary mindset, the “history” of theology and science remembered quite differently. But it cannot be shooed away like a meddling religion or deferred like an unwanted question without dismissing some sense of cohesion—and without dismissing Christ himself. His very life is a refutation of compartmentalized thought, belief, and action. His cross was neither public nor private; it spanned both, and every century following its own.

In dire contrast to the harried and highfalutin rules of compartmentalization, Jesus’s rule of life was undivided and down-to-earth, pertaining indivisibly to hearts and souls, bodies and societies. He paid theologically-informed attention to every day and everyday lives, and the institutions, ideologies, and systems that shaped them. He went to his death showing the inseparable nature of the spiritual and the physical, in who we are, how we live, and what we believe. Those who follow him to the cross do so similarly.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.