Archive for October, 2008

Saving Paradise

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , on October 31, 2008 by seguewm

Authors Rita Nakashima & Rebecca Ann Parker challenge our conventional notions of church.  They make a careful examination of church art through the centuries demonstrating how the center of church life – in its most treasured spiritual values – has been hijacked and systematically replaced with purely expedient earthly values.

Nakashima and Parker describe how the early church mentored new believers in a holistic, life-transformational world view.  This counter-cultural way of seeing all things about life translated into a novel and empowering discipleship approach focusing the believer on the real and living God – rather than the institution of church.  As a result, daily life was perceived from the cosmic perspective rather than the all-too-common, self-centered perspective of fallen man. 

What changed?  As the authors unfold history through a journey of the arts the story becomes clear.  As Christian leaders placed more value on earthly power and prestige, the new foundation for discipleship became fear, rather than love.  The wonder of God got exchanged for the terror of God.  The paradise of God – the life of Christ within us – was extinguished.  God became a weapon to coerce souls into submission to the empire building demands of institutional leaders.

This book encouraged me, enlightened me, but even more importantly it inspired me to re-evaluate thoroughly my whole world view – to see if it truly was of Christ and decidedly in Christ.

Home Page for Saving Paradise:  http://savingparadise.net/

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Fields of the Fatherless, by Tom Davis (2008)

Posted in Book Review with tags , , on October 7, 2008 by seguewm

fields-of-the-fatherless1Ever felt cheated by not having been raised in the ‘ideal’ family? What if the ideal family, though, was something measurably divergent from your expectations? Tom Davis challenges his readers to not only rethink ‘family’, but to reconsider how we will live in response.

Society in general and the church in particular have unwittingly fueled a sense of injustice by proclaiming as ideal the ‘one man and one woman, living blissfully in life-long matrimony, and always being available to train up their 2 ½ children to replicate their parent’s legacies’ picture as the norm.  In reality, very few people throughout history have had one father, one mother and supportive siblings.  Sin has left most people in our world in agonizingly dysfunctional human relationships – beginning with the very first human family – Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel.

Tom Davis presents the truth of the gospel – that if we focus on the need to have a healthy earthly family, as presented above, in order to be spiritually healthy people, we will leave the great majority of folks in hopelessness – never able to re-create on earth what they have been told they should have had and really can never be whole without. On the other hand, if the ideal we focus on arose from the scriptures – which are ever so pragmatic – we would discover that adoption has always been God’s norm. When we understand that the best model for family arises from the spiritual – i.e. being adopted into the family of God with three parents (Father, Son & Spirit) and an unnumbered household of diverse siblings – we will have a far healthier perspective in which to ‘see’ and to ‘act’ within our sinful temporal world. 

There is a familiar refrain in scripture that most of us filter out of consciousness.  It is our heavenly father’s plea for believers to be compassionate towards the orphan, the widow, the poor and for the stranger.  The needs are far greater than we like to acknowledge.  Today, in our world, one in every 13 people are orphans.  Every 5 seconds another child dies from poverty related hunger.  Over a million children are trafficked every year – as sex slaves.   It has been reported that 70 percent of the young men in our prison systems were raised in fatherless homes.  As of 2006, 2.3 million children had HIV.  Curiously, only 3 percent of evangelicals give to AIDS related causes while 8 percent of non-churched folks make this a priority in their ‘charitable’ giving.  Additionally there are more than a half million foreigners (strangers) living in student housing on US campuses each year and many more in other capacities all around us.

Real life is messy.  But, what can we do about it here – in this world?   We can follow God’s lead, His model, and provide homes for orphans, food for the hungry, assistance to the widow and friendship to the many strangers among us.  When we sacrifice for the ‘least of these’…heaven acknowledges it as if done to Jesus himself.  Davis reminds us that adoption is the gospel made visible. The question is, how well do we really understand the gospel?

Someone once said that, ‘doing nothing is a sure way to deprive others of justice.’ As God has done for us (cosmic orphans), we must do for others – teaching them to pay it forward as well.