Thursday, November 30, 2006

my God questions tougher than your God question

Update: Unfortunately, due to spam, I am having to close this blog post. I am planning a panel to discuss each question once the New Year has been properly celebrated.

So what is the toughest God question you’ve ever been asked. A mate and I started discussing this today. Not the nice, easy, switch and bait Alpha questions, but the real tough ones ..

Why do kids suffer?
Why did God invent cancer?
What about Buhddists, they seem ok to me?
Why do you priests fiddle with kids?
Does God have an ego problem?
Why do Christians fight each other?
Would God forgive Hitler?
What about all the killing in the Old Testament

Update:
In the same sense that a heroin addict only has an illusion of choice over taking some heroin that is in front of him, does a child born to Fundamentalist Muslims in Saudi Arabia ever really have a choice to follow Jesus?
If we really have free will, how come it’s impossible for us to choose to not sin at all tomorrow?
If a devout Christian gets true amnesia and forgets who they are and stop being a Christian, then was he ever saved? And which begs the question of, if our soul is clearly not attached to memory, for memory is an aspect of the brain, what knowledge will we take to Heaven?
Does a Christian still go to heaven if he/she commits suicide?
If a Christian converts to another religion, are they still saved?
What happened to people before Jesus? Did they all go to hell? If not, where did they go?
Did God create life in the universe outside of earth (i.e. aliens)?
Who made God?
Why does God chose to condem some people to hell?
When Jesus died for your sins, so that your sins were removed, when you backslid away from God, did Jesus “undie” for you sins?

Comment away … just for fun, I’ll give a book prize to the question I deem the toughest.

Update: Hey folks, these are great questions. Keep them coming. A few comments have drifted into answer mode. I think the questions are too good to try and answer quickly.

What I would like to propose is
a) That we hold fire on answering the questions.
b) That I delete the comments of those of you who have provided answers, in order to keep this blogpost focused on questions. Deleting should in no way be seen as my thinking the comments are not helpful. Quite the contrary, I will be saving the coments for …
c) Doing separate blogposts for each question- inviting 2-3 panelists to provide an answer.
b) This should help ensure good discussion occurs for every question and thus each question would get the reflection it deserves.

How does that sound? Drop me a line at steve at emergentkiwi dot org dot nz if you want to be a “panelist.”

Posted by steve at 10:23 PM

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

radio land

I have friend who in a former life, did a stint as DJ on student radio.

He then left to become a student at Bible College. After a year or so of faithful study, learning all manner of vital theological information about the Bible, he returned to student radio, filling in for a week or two of breakfast radio. The breakfast show included a daily surf report. Vital information for students I guess :)

The DJ put through the regulation call, live, to the local surf reporter. Down the line came the local surf reporter; So Mr radio DJ, who made the dinosaurs?

How would you answer that, on the spot, live, on radio? It’s almost as funny as “So, Mr Pastor, what do you do with a dog who scoffs the communion bread?

All this to say that you can ask me any question you want, live, on radio, this Sunday, 3 December. Between 9-11 pm, I am on the Green Room at Life FM. You can listen on the internet here.

My host is Frank Ritchie,
frank.jpg who blogs here. The show will include giveway copies of my Out of Bounds Church? book, kindly supplied by my publisher, Zondervan. Give me a during the show on 0508 LIFE FM. Or why not a few email questions from some of my overseas readers?

Posted by steve at 09:07 PM

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

the dog just scoffed the communion bread

It’s Sunday night and the people of God are gathered around the communion table. The youngest is Sam, all of 10 months. The oldest is Gavin, all of 60. A visitor wanders in late and takes a seat on a empty couch. Complete with dog on a leash. Rotwieler cross pup.

The people of God stir. Two teenagers quiz the minister. “What’s he doing here?” Same as you, replies the minister, “Being part of church.”

“Why a dog in church?” the 6 year old quizzes her mother. Delicately the mother picks her way toward an answer. All strangers are welcome. Yes. But are all animals? You see, the 6 year old is a bright one. The 6 year old has a rabbit! If the dog is welcome, then is this a precedent. Mother pictures rabbits lopping up aisle and fish bowls balanced delicately on child laps.

Back at the communion table, religion continues. The words of invitation are offered. This is the table of God. All are invited.

The loaf of bread is broken. Gifts of God. And the broken body of Jesus is passed down the table. For the people of God. People tear a hunk of God’s body. Crumbs shower on carpet.

Out of the corner of the eye, a blurr of movement. In a flash, the body of Christ is gone, woofed down by hungry jaws. Teenagers stare. The 6 year old is agog. Eagerly the dog looks up, licking the crumbs of Christ off salivating jaws.

Gifts of God for the people of God. A moment of hospitality? Or a moment of heresy?

Posted by steve at 12:22 PM

Monday, November 27, 2006

hello hello it’s a beautiful day: U2 in new zealand

It’s difficult to find the words to describe our U2 concert experience. Thanks to friends (who we will owe until Kingdom come!), we managed to score a backstage tour, complete with walk on stage.

u2crowd250.jpg

We then got dropped in the elipse at about 7 pm. A bit of focused movement and we ended up about 4 rows from the front. Quite close really.

u2close250.jpg

Some highlights would include:
: Unexpectedly meeting friends as we sheltered from the rain under the stand – Andrew, Danielle, Steve, Kate, Bron …
: “Aotearoa right in front of you;” the lyrics of Beautiful Day personalised for a New Zealand crowd.
: The koru designs during One Tree Hill. Again that sense that this band are willing to work to make this concert unique for this audience.

u2korudesigns250.jpg

: Bono taking off his sunglasses when singing One Tree Hill. He normally takes them off for his father on Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own. So Greg Carroll is honoured and again, this sense that for this rock star, people matter.
: The balloons. Many in the elipse had been given green, orange, white balloons with instructions to release them when the house lights go up during Where the Streets Have no Name. Being part of a rain of balloons being thrown toward the front was magic.

Nothing’s perfect, so lowlights would be
: Watching Bono trying to get rid of his limpet-like fan as soon as the spotlight went off them during Mysterious Ways. The point of Mysterious Ways is to dance, dance, dance, not cling, cling, cling!
: The punch in the back. OK, I was moving toward the front, but a punch! It put a whole new spin on Love and peace or else.

Thanks Tony and Jan and U2 for creating lifelong memories.

Posted by steve at 05:21 PM

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

update: canadian perspectives on out of bounds church

Update: I mentioned a few days ago that Pernell Goodyear, in Canada, is spending a whole week blogging on my Out of Bounds Church? book. There is now Pernell’s revew of my book, an interview with me, including some really interesting discussion in the comments and a Kiwi/Canadian quiz with book giveways.

Over the next few days there is a podcast discussion about the Out of Bounds Church? book between Jordon and Pernell. Plus there will be Canadian perspectives from the likes of Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Mike Todd, David Fitch , Len Hjalmarson and others. It is great to be amongst a group of Canadians talking mission. I just wish it was real and over a cafe table, rather than virtual.

out_of_boundsexploration.jpg

Posted by steve at 04:24 PM

Will they sing One Tree Hill?

Kiwis feel an extraordinary sense of affinity with U2 because they wrote a song about us. One Tree Hill is a real place in New Zealand. So U2 are singing about a real place in our country. The song is dedicated in memory of Kiwi Greg Carroll, who worked with U2 and died tragically in a motor bike accident. U2 brought his body back to New Zealand and participated in his tangi (Maori funeral).

Will U2 sing “our song”? It is rumoured to have been heard at soundchecks.

And if they play it, how will they change the lyrics? U2 have an extraordinary ability to change context and add layers to songs.

A few years ago, the tree on One Tree Hill was cut down in an act of political process. Many Kiwis now call the tree “No tree Hill.” So, if U2 sing “our” song, what, if any, changes will they make?

Posted by steve at 07:38 AM

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

U2 and my lifescape

Play my U2 album catalogue and you replay my life.

Baby rocker: Under a Blood Red Sky was one of the first albums I ever brought. I was 15 and discovering rock music. I dreamed of playing 3 chords and the truth with Edge and climbing stadium speakers to plant white flags with Bono. The fact I have no rythm and no singing voice meant that my adolescent dreams remained dreams. But the passion and drive of U2 awoke something in me.

Early Christianity: One of the first sermons I preached was a reflection on I still haven’t found what I’ve looking for. It was 1989 and books on U2 sermons were still 14 years away. But I was stuck in a charismatic moment and the lyrics of the song whispered to me, of not-yet seen dreams of the Kingdom come.

Early love: Too poor to buy tickets, my wife to be and I parked outside what was then Lancaster Park, Christchurch for the November 4, 1989 concert. We parked in her parents Hillman Avenger and managed to sneak a view through a wire mesh fence.

The digitising of life: I sort of lost touch with U2 during their ZooTV phase. I was listening to the Zooropa album last night and was struck by the flatness of the drums. It makes me wonder if the U2 ZooTV era was best appreciated visually rather than aurally. I was also at seminary. The big influence was Karl Barth, screaming “Nien” (No) to natural theology. While U2 were going visual, I was needing to find God not in the mysterious ways of Karl Barth, but as the slow dance of the Spirit in the world that God loves.

All that you can’t leave behind: I travel to Auckland tomorrow. Together with my wife, family and friends, I’ll listen to a group that have been the soundtrack for much of my life to-date; adolescence, faith, love, career. I am not sure what the future holds for me or for U2. Here are a few lines from a sermon I preached a few weeks ago:

Every now and again, when I listen to Bono, I just want to pack my bags and head off to undertake community development in Africa.

Posted by steve at 01:57 PM

Church for U2 fans

bonoicon.jpg (Saint Bono hat tip to Josh)

Church for U2 fans
preaching, communion and worship to 11 U2 soundtracks, (including songs like: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, The Saints are coming, Crumbs from your table, One Tree Hill, 40, One, Pride, Scarlet, All I want is you, Elevation, Sometimes you can’t make it on your own). An offering will be taken for aid in Africa.

7 -8:15 pm, Sunday 26 November
Opawa Baptist, Cnr Hastings St and Wilsons Road

Posted by steve at 01:42 PM

Monday, November 20, 2006

hello hello i’m learning Gaelic

vertigoU2.jpg

Hello hello. It’s the U2 concert this week. So this week the blog will be U2 focused. For a start, here is an ancient post: back in April 2003.

From dawn to dusk: compilation CD of U2 spirituality
13 U2 songs intrinsic to my spirituality. With some Biblical interfaces I find provocative. No room for anything off Boy or Zooropa. It’s a reader-response compilation, ie what I the listener think of, not necessarily what the author might intend lyrically.

Streets have no name, Joshua Tree
- Genesis 1:1

Gloria, Under a Blood Red Sky
- Genesis 1:27

When you look at the world, All that you can’t leave behind
- www.nzherald.co.nz

October, October
- Isaiah

Wake up Dead man, Pop
- Lamentations

One, Achtung Baby
- Jeremiah 31:31-34

Grace, All that you can’t leave behind
- John 1:14

Promenade, Unforgettable fire
- Colossians 1:20 (Message)

Still haven’t found, Joshua Tree
- Philippians 3:7

40, War
- Romans 8:19

Pride (In the name of Love), Rattle and Hum
- Matthew 22:39

Sunday Bloody Sunday, Under a Blood Red Sky
- Isaiah 65:17

Yahweh, Vertigo
- Revelation 21:1

Posted by steve at 10:56 AM

saint thomas

st thomaswithphone250.jpg This is Saint Thomas and I’ve given him a cellphone. I like Saint Thomas because he stood against his peer group. The 10 disciples were keen on Jesus. Thomas was brave enough to raise his doubts and voice his questions. I like people that are honest and ask the tough questions no matter how enthusiastic their mates are.

A few weeks ago I gave out blank pieces of paper and invited our Digestion congregation to write down anonymously any questions they had about God, life, meaning. We got back 20 excellent questions.

What to do next and how to honour these questions? On Sunday I chose 5 of the questions and invited a panel of 3 to respond by preparing short soundbites – a relevant Bible text, a good quote, a prayer or story.

1: Why do non-Christians get a lot and yet faithful Christians miss out on their desires?
2: Why cats? Why did God create cats?
3: If God has a plan for us – and he knows what’s going to happen into our future – why do we need to pray?
4: Is is OK for Christians to be nudists?
5: 1 John – God first love us so we should show love to others. So why? Why does God love us?

digestionpanel250.jpg

I asked the panel the questions and kept the discussion bouncing around between them. I concluded by giving out wee cards with Saint Thomas printed on them and inviting people to name 1 thing they’d learnt. These were stuck to the cross.

Glancing at what people wrote, many had got the idea – that Saint Thomas inspires Christians to be honest and ask questions.

Posted by steve at 09:56 AM

Sunday, November 19, 2006

a Canadian eye for a Kiwi book buy

out_of_boundsexploration.jpg

Pernell Goodyear, planter and pastor of The Freeway in Hamilton, Canada, is spending a whole week blogging on my Out of Bounds Church? book. The week will include

: A full review of The Out Of Bounds Church?… what I think is one of the best books written on the emerging church to date.
: An interview with the book’s author, Steve Taylor.
: Additional musings and exploration ["two cents worth"] of what it means to be Out Of Bounds, by myself and other Canadian voices.
: Amazing insights and questions… that’s where you and the comments section come in.

So for a Canadian eye on a Kiwi book buy, head on over.

Posted by steve at 03:52 PM

Thursday, November 16, 2006

consumerism or discipleship?

I am just about to head out the door to engage with a group of local ministers around consumerism, discipleship and church. I am taking my Fair Trade T-shirt, my copy of Tom Beaudoin’s consumingfaith.jpg Consuming faith and a range of breakfast cereals. If the discussion goes anywhere I might blog my notes.

Update: OK, it certainly seemed to generate lots of discussion. So here are the 5 questions I asked;

1. Aren’t we all consumers?
2. Do we need fair trade church?
3. What do we do with church hopers?
4. Are we selling Christianity Lite or Discipleship Extreme?
5. Do seekers respond to Extreme discipleship?

(more…)

Posted by steve at 12:11 PM

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

prayer of gladness for nuture

We are surrounded by people who have shaped us, nurtured us, taught us to read and write, warned us, pushed us, inspired us, blessed us.

God of growth
You have shaped us
Through the love and devotion of your saints
Inspire us to follow their example
Through the true vine that is Jesus our Christ, Amen.

If you want to make this prayer your own, you could leave the initials of people you are thankful for.

For a prayer of patience, go here.
For a prayer for those walking with grief, go here.

Posted by steve at 10:33 PM

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

talking about money, money

The Bible text for Sunday was Matthew 6:19-21: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. We humans do seem to struggle with stuff.

overloaded13.jpg

Sunday morning I offered the following equation: 3597 divided by (86 times 1321) = 3.2%

3597. This is our church’s weekly church offerings over this year. (Which, by the way, is a 12% increase on last year, building on a 15% increase on the year before.)

86. Well, Opawa has 140 church members. Some members live alone, some members live in families. So our 140 members live in 86 households.

1321 is the average income for a household in New Zealand. This is based on Statistics New Zealand figures for June 06.

So, if our church is anywhere close to average, then currently our giving (3597), equals just over 3% of an average New Zealand household income.

I stressed that this was a fact and not a value judgement. I simply wanted to place the fact alongside the words of Jesus as a way of asking the question: Are we, as a church, storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven?

It certainly produced some chat over coffee after the service. I suspect that our church is probably about normal. I suspect stuff is a problem for the entire Western church. What do you think? Do you think the number has any relevance?

(By the way, this was only part of the sermon. I also talked about fasting from TV; committing acts of economic repentance etc. The full text of the sermon is here).

Posted by steve at 12:23 PM