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February 2004
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::.. Day 36 ..:: Prayers of Biblical Hope

blind1.jpgOooo! Today's prayer doesn't pull any punches. It's so good, in fact, that I'd like to share it in its entirety:

"We like to think of ourselves as people without enemies. But in fact, we lose sight of those we've wronged and we avoid the ones we fear. When pressed we have argued our case and defended our turf. We've only created more hostility, and You have not been pleased. Train us in Your ways. Reform our attitudes. Sweeten our spirits. Forgive us where we have sinned. And let forgiveness flow. We want to be pleasing to You, and not merely polite with people. If you are pleased with our dealings with others, heaven's peace cannot be far behind (p. 54)."

This one sure hits a lot of areas, doesn't it? Praying "from the inside-out" is painful for many people -- but then many people aren't very interested in personal transformation, I guess. Lord, help us.

::EC Reflections:: Dallas Willard, part 4 - "Business is Business"

DallasWillard1.JPGTwo weeks have have gone by since Emergent '04 - San Diego, and I'm still unpacking from the two-day Critical Concerns Course with Dallas Willard. In particular, I've been thinking about how Dallas put his finger on the problem of contempt in our culture.

“'Contempt' is a big problem -- discounting people; saying that they don’t matter, etc.' Much of today’s conversations are filled with contemptuous words. Jesus endeavored to 'remove contempt' between people – this was HUGE to him. Even the very notion of “unclean” is a type of contempt..."' It's common in our culture to act contemptously. For example: “Business is Business' – what does such a person have in mind when they say this to us?" [answer:] “I’m about to do something that’s not entirely (or morally) “right”. We need to teach people that business cannot just be business.

So I'm wondering... what are some other common sayings that may reveal dubious motives in how we relate to one another? And what should we do about it? Well, Dallas answered this from one angle in particular:

"People’s character needs to change. This cannot be reduced to a series of steps (which has “action” as it’s orientation). This is also a process that unfolds in time. We must be very patient with people. [And] in order to successfully teach, we must move to the level of who we are.”

The work of reproducing "disciples" (Dallas favors the word 'apprentice') is a LONG process. This runs contrary to the "disciple strategies" which characterize much of evangelical Christianity. We've been enculturated into pursuing more immediate results. And so lives haven't been transformed at the depth that they should. But what the heck! Business is business, right?

::.. Day 34 ..:: Prayers of Biblical Hope

From today's prayer:

"Teach our sons and daughters Your ways. We can only show them broken lives, healed to some extent by Christ. Even the best parents have in some way failed their children...Our marriages have soured and shattered, leaving our kids to learn a warped and broken way. So we turn to You heavenly Father (p. 52)."

Our children have perhaps been the greatest casualty of our damnable individualism and the lie that our personal lives and choices affect no one but ourselves.

::.. Day 33 ..:: Prayers of Biblical Hope

Diversity1.jpgHere's how today's prayer began:

"From the very first You intended a marvelous destiny for every people group. When Your ancient purpose is fulfilled there will be tangible blessing in every language and lineage of humankind. Your blessing means that the story of every people will culminate with the righteousness, peace and joy of Your kingdom (p. 51)."

The reason this seemed to especially resonate with me this morning is because of people I continue to meet (including church leaders) who choose not to believe in or commit themselves to communities of faith which are multiethnic. This grieves me deeply -- especially here in Southern California which is SO ethnically diverse), and so I pray this morning's prayer with extra fervor.

John Wesley and Individualism

john_wesley_1.gifJohn Wesley made my day. Again.

Actually, it was Thomas C. Oden writing in John Wesley's Scriptural Christianity: A Plain Exposition of His Teaching on Christian Doctrine -- a great book that Benjy and I are going through together each Thursday at lunch. In fact, it was Benjy that commented on how the following excerpt jumped out at him:

"The premise of the sociality of sin is a deeply held hebraic assumption. It goes directly against teh stream of naive individualism, which assumes that I am responsible only for my private, individual actions, not for others or for how my behavior touches others.

Your sin can affect me; my sin can affect my grandchildren; my grandfather's sin can affect affect me in ways dificult to understand exhaustively, yet to some degree subject to empirical analysis. These causual chains are not wholly mysterious, or beyond inquiry, yet there remains a stubborn element of the mystery of inquiry in all human freedom, since these causal chains are often hidden in the complex history of freedom's outcomes.
Sin's effects reverberate from person to person adn from generation to generation. Wesley rule dout an individual conception of sin populated only by two parties, me and God. The individualistic fantasy is that my foibles do not affect anybody else, or is so, surely not all that seriously, or if seriously, surely not eternally. Wrong. Wesley viewed the human predicament as radically bound together in social covenant (p. 172)."

I guess concerns over the deceptive and destructive nature of individualism are obviously NOT a contemporary development. Wesley nailed this one pretty good, don't you think? But if he (and others) clearly recognized the dangers of breaking away from a communal understanding of sin back in the mid-1700's, I wonder why the church (especially within developing evangelicalism) did not work harder to curb it's popularity?

I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts.

::.. Day 32 ..:: Prayers of Biblical Hope

Consider this from today's prayer...

"Visit us now with all the joy and the justice of Your leadership (p.49)."

My, my! Now that's a higher thought for lots of folks. Oh, I guess we profess wanting God's justice, but in our human-ness it's usually God's justice in someone else's life we want, not our own. I wonder how many of us will pray right past words like these without even thinking of our need for God's justice in OUR lives? I'm glad this is in today's prayer. I for one need to pray this more often.

::.. Day 31 ..:: Prayers of Biblical Hope

AddictionChains.gifHere's what seemed to stand out from today's prayer:

"People walk the streets of our city, smiling, working and seeming to be free, but many are trapped in dungeons of their own making... Hear their deserate cry, O God. Penetrate their prisons. Shatter the chains of habits that bind them (p. 31)."

My "hunch" is that there are FAR more addictions going on in people's lives that are unseen (by others), than are seen. But God sees all things.

::EC Reflections:: Connecting with Dave Avanzino


Recent readers of Paradoxology will recognize the above artwork immediately -- it was a prominent part of one of my postings from the Emergent Convention. But it was days after Emergent was over that I learned who the artist was behind this striking piece. In fact, it all started with an email I received last week:

Hey there,
A friend sent me to your site because had used one of my pieces of artwork on it from the EC in San Diego. I created the "Mercy" artwork. I was very flattered that you featured it on your webpage. I enjoyed the conference very much and enjoyed reading your insights. I'm amazed at how much time
you put into creating your site. Great work. If you're interested inseeing more of my work you can check out my website at

Thanks again,
Dave Avanzino

This was quite the surprize -- and a delightful one at that! So I immediately shot back an email to Dave, telling him how awesome I thought his "Mercy" piece was, and asking him if he'd be willing to share a little of how it came to be created. Here's an excerpt from his next email to me:

"I was very challenged by the call for social justice and I think that is something I want to work towards as a leader at our church. I have already been motivated to find an African Aids chraity that our Missions Core can support. I think that is partly what led me to create the artwork I did there. I have to confess, part of the reason is that I am an impatient listener and so I usually drifted over to those art stations during the main sessions. I did enjoy the speakers but it is easier for me to listen if my hands are occupied. I wanted to create the words "Justice, Mercy, Love" from the speakers points on the first day. As you can see from my website, I use text in my work a lot. I also like texture and depth within my artwork that creates the need to look further than the surface to discover all that is there. That led me to write the Micah 6:8 verse in the background first. Over that I wrote as many of the words I could think of that were things that we, as Christians, should have mercy on for others or that we need ourselves. The word "Mercy" over the top of it all expresses how God's mercy does cover over all these things if we allow it to."

DaveAvanzino.jpgWow. Well I'm certainly glad that Emergent provided those "art stations" in the back during the general stations -- it obviously was a great call. And Dave is certainly a talented artist. In fact, you may enjoy reading his bio here. Dave is part of a happening church in Fullerton, California, called University Praise (nice website!) -- but's that's another story...