June 29, 2012

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Is God Going to Let the World Burn One Day? There are fires raging in Colorado. Smoke is covering the sky and ash is falling. Beauty is burning and we feel helpless. Brave men and women are running to the flames, doing all they can to contain the fires. Generous citizens are donating resources and time to help each other out. But there is a nagging suspicion that some Christians have that this is what is going to happen to the world one day. Citing 2 Peter 3, they wonder if "it's all gonna burn anyway." Some folks have taken this one step further, suggesting that maybe these fires are an early form of divine judgment. Even those who dare not say this still tend to think that as long as lives aren't being lost, the burning of forests is not all that tragic. After all, "this world is not our home," right? Aren't we just "a-passing through"? Though this line of thinking has been dominant in Protestant and Evangelical circles for the past two hundred years or so (especially in the West), Christians did not always think this way. In fact, for many centuries, Christians saw themselves as custodians of this world, prophets who were to "proclaim the gospel to all creation" (as St. Francis famously did), and priests who would teach creation to praise the Creator. The Eastern Orthodox Church describes our attitude toward the world as "eucharistic": we receive the world as a gift and offer it back to God in thanksgiving. (Contrast this with the Evangelical assumption that "dominion" means using and exploiting the world to our consumeristic delight.) Here are four things to consider from the Scripture: 1. God had the chance to destroy the world...and He didn't. Often missed in the analytical and quasi-scientific conversations about Noah's ark and the Great Flood ("Did he...
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Popular Sermons and Juvenile Christianity Christianity Today's recent cover story on the "Juvenilization of Christianity" has created a bit of a stir. The premise of the piece is basically that churches have become "youth group for adults," with entertaining services, upbeat worship, and simplistic sermons that all perpetuate our state of prolonged adolescence. In light of the article, I've been thinking about the sermons in so many churches, conferences and even books of popular Christian culture-- in America and in affluent countries around the world (See: Singapore, Australia, etc.) There are basically five sermons. None of them are untrue; some are misguided, others are simplistic. All are a bit, well, juvenile: good messages for adolecents, but not great sermons for mature believers, nor do they help in a believer's maturation. Without the richness of the whole sweep of Scripture or the texture that other theological themes add, these sermons become like white bread: enrich it all you want but it's never going to be meat. The Five Most Popular Sermons are: [WARNING: The following content contains satire. It is not a personal attack on anyone. It uses overstatement to make us laugh, and think, and then laugh some more.] 1. God is Super Huge. This usually features a quasi-scientific tour of the cosmos or some aspect of creation, a la the Discovery Channel, meant to leave you reeling in God's vastness. Mix in a few popular phrases like, "It's not about you!" and "God is SO great," alternating words on which to place the emphasis, and you've got this sermon down. Mind you, nothing is ever said of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in loving communion with each other, forming the basis for our understanding of personhood and love and community. (But alas, the people can only grasp so much, right?) 2. God...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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