Wednesday, December 26, 2007

19 Great Dane Puppies? Insanity!!

Saw this in the paper and had to laugh. This families dog had 21 great dane pups (19 lived, 2 still born). This is crazy!! We have a great dane... she's around 165 pounds... seriously, its like having a circus animal in your house... like a small show horse, or a baby hippo... having a large dog is not normal. Most people see my dog (Madison) and say something dorky like... "that's a horse!... you can get a saddle and ride it!"

Then they look at you like you've never heard that before (note: dane owners know what I'm talking about cuz we hear it all the time)... you give a smile and walk away thinking "hhhmmm, I've never heard that one... moron!" One time I was walking my dane and become so annoyed at people saying the dorky-"is that a horse?"-line that I said to one lady who asked me what kind of dog I had... "its a chihuahua, we just had a bad breeder!" At which she quietly turned to her friend and gullibly said "its a chihuahua... they had a bad breeder". I think she was drinking... but it's now my standard come-back to moron questions.

Some people tell me they want to seriously get a dane... my advice is that you rent a drooling goat for two weeks and let it live in your house, then make your decision. People who want danes without doing their research wind up giving their dogs away, because they have not counted the cost in raising, feeding, and picking up massive mounds of poop!

(note to parents when your kids use the line "we'll clean up after it... we promise!" Answer them by saying... "well Johnny, do you have a Utility Bobcat with a backhoe?... no?... then no great dane!!")

Trust me... this answer will save you.

For Christmas, one of my daughters gave Madison a peanutbutter flavored bone that was the size of a average mans femur bone... which she consumed in two hours. It was scary and wrong on multiple levels... one, watching my dog gnaw down a bone the size of my thigh, and two... who the heck makes peanutbutter-flavored bones? The worst was the canine-gas-immissions (aka, "doggy-farts") which followed. Think about this... peanutbutter-bone-smelling-dog-farts for Christmas. I tried to mask the smell with some Illuminations Holiday-scented candles... not a chance! Now I have peanutbutter-bone-dog-farts... with a hint of christmasy-pine. As I'm evacuating the house I'm wondering what poisonous-warfare-gasses were banned after WWI that are listed in the articles of the Geneva Convention. I think will we have a new submission to add.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Common Grace v. Intentional Incarnational Compassion

by Jon Talbert

Each and every day thousands of needy and marginalized people around the world are served and cared for with little to no participation from the church. With the growing tide of social activism and volunteerism that reaches both local and global issues, the church has struggled to find its groove[1] that is, defining the theology of compassion and justice, and the equally important implementation of it. While emerging service oriented non-profits rise to new levels of local and global impact, many churches are either replicating social services or neglecting this issue all together.

With these growing services it becomes increasingly important to better understand what’s happening in popular culture and how the work of common grace is different from that of the work of the church.

-Pop Culture, the Image of God, and the work of Common Grace
Popular Culture has found its moral high ground in what theologians call Justitia Civilis,[2] that is, doing that which is right in civil or natural affairs. We see Angelina Jolie is the UN Ambassador and mother of three 3rd world adoptions, Starbucks led all fundraising efforts in the Santa Clara County Walk for AIDS, Condoleessa Rice lends support for the Human Trafficking “Not For Sale” Campaign, and Bono who continues to lead the fight against extreme poverty, debt relief, and AIDS, just to name a few. Yet, this recent wave of Justitia Civilis is merely a current echo of the ancient scriptures resounding the common grace characteristic found in the image of God. "The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made....The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing."[3]
While there may be historical nuances or variables that contribute to this fresh trend of compassion and justice in western culture, the imputed DNA of God-like characteristics upon mankind remains the same, in that we are made in the image of God, and God is inherently good. Francis Schaffer writes, “Since God has made man in his own image… that he can influence history for himself and for others, for this life and the life to come.”[4]
Strangely enough, with this rise in social services and volunteerism some would argue that the growing trend of compassion in a consumerism culture requires the endorsement power of celebrities connected to a cause to rouse the deadened common grace that has grown callous within western society. As one writer puts is "The fact that it takes movie stars to make people care about pressing human rights struggles reflects a self-absorbed culture where compassion and empathy is awakened through glamour rather than human conscience and duty."[5] The strong influence of pop culture on the expression of common grace only lends to the argument of fads and trends. This influence also illustrates the growing need of a clear theological basis for compassion and justice in a church that has a tendency to lean towards cultural trends. Reggie McNeal writes that “consultants, parachurch ministries, denominational headquarters, and publishing houses prod and push the church towards whatever the current fad is. A spate of program fixes have consistently overpromised and underdelivered.”[6] The growing awareness of compassion and justice in the church cannot afford to fade away like the latest hairstyle or fashion statement in Hollywood, it must have clear theological motivations that ensure its survival.

-Theological motivations of Compassion & Justice
A deeper understanding of the theological motivations of Compassion and Justice is intertwined and rooted in the missio Dei. The underpinnings of these motivations are inseparable from the work of God, through Jesus, and empowered through the Spirit of God. The clear picture of missio Dei has either been lacking in the church or reinterpreted in light of church viability, either way, its lack of clarity has left compassion and justice susceptible to the wash of trends that run through the church.

In the missio Dei, God chose to redeem all creation.[7] In Genesis 12, God choose Abraham to the channel of blessing “through you I will bless many nations”[8]. It is through this covenant that the eventual redemption blessing in the form of Christ would come to mankind. Through the incarnation of Jesus, the world would not only experience the ultimate redemption and reconciliation but also the concept of kingdom of God extended on earth. Through out the entire redemption narrative God manifests his character and the coming overture of Christ’s kingdom ministry which is rooted in compassion and justice.

Compassion, Justice, mercy, et al, are an irrefutable subset of the nature and quality of love found in the character of God. This love is whispered in common grace and screamed in redeeming grace. Love becomes the foundation of missio Dei featured in the attitude and action of Christ’s life, and set as the modeled mindset for his disciples, and the ministry of the church. As David Bosch writes, “The classical doctrine of the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit [is] expanded to include yet another “movement”: Father, Son, and Holy Sprit sending the church into the world.”[9]
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9

“I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in I delight” Jeremiah 9:24

The Spirit of the Lord is on me to… preach good news to the poor… freedom for the prisoners… sight for the blind… release for the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” John 20:21

“By this all men will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another”
John 13:35

The mode of love that is found in God, formed in Christ, and empowered through His Spirit, is the missio Dei that must be displayed in the church as an extension of the kingdom. This love expressed in compassion, justice, mercy, kindness, and becomes the foundational expression of our theology, or as one writer puts it, “everything in our Christian theology should be missional.”[10] Understanding the theological motivations sets the stage for the actions and attitudes of intentional incarnational compassion and justice that should be reflected in the church and may differ from that of culture.

-Actions and Attitudes of Intentional Incarnational Compassion
The earthly ministry of Jesus was so shockingly distinct from the religious system of the day that it set a mark for his disciples and the church to follow. Jesus even said that loving others the same way he loved would actually mark those as followers. “Love one another, just as I have loved you… by this all will know you are my disciples if you love one another.”[11] In his book Conformed to His Image Kenneth Boa writes that “our faith… and our hope… are demonstrated in the present through the choices and works of love.”[12]
Many of these “love” distinctions are found in the actions and attitudes of intentional incarnational compassion and justice that are distinctly different than the cultural “common grace” driven compassion seen in everyday life. Will and Lisa Samson highlight this difference in their book Justice in the Burbs, they write, “humankind seems to have some general sense of the need for mercy, compassion, being fair, and living by the golden rule. We see hopeful glimpses of this from time to time, such as scores of people reaching out to help victims of the 2004 tsunami or Hurricane Katrina. But apart from some future hope, these brief looks are merely distractions from the awful state we find ourselves in.”[13]
Intentional incarnational compassion finds identity with the fatherless, the oppressed, the widow, and the poor. While common grace initiates a great work in meeting needs for those in the margins, incarnational compassion is named among the margins it descends into. The main idea of “identity with” is to become the personification of Jesus, removed from the comforts of familiarity, and embracing what Scott Bessenecker, author of The New Friars would call “the messiness of community.”[14]
This idea of identity with those in the margins follows the model of God incarnate, who identifies with mankind in all things.

“Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.”[15]

“[Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

Intentional incarnational compassion finds intimacy in its connection with Jesus. While common grace meets a need and often times the general serving public find a deeper purpose, they are not looking for intimacy with Christ. Jesus binds himself alongside the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned by caring for “the least of these”[17] is caring for Jesus himself. This connection with the poor contains some mysterious intimate bond with Jesus that brings about fulfillment and purpose to the Christ follower. Mother Teresa, in all her work with the poorest of the poor would include that “in the poor we find Jesus in a distressing disguise”[18]. Bessenecker concurs with this transcendent connection and adds that and says “in serving the poor, they find a level of devotion and intimacy with Christ that is hard to obtain in any other way. And sometimes the most profound way to serve the poor is simply to walk alongside them.”[19]

The ancient scriptures speaks of a similar transcendent connection in its wisdom literature. “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.”[20]

Intentional incarnational compassion finds interdependency essential to community. While common grace extends service primarily in one direction, interdependency within community requires an exchange of compassion that blesses and is blessed. The early church illustrated forms of interdependency in its infancy as “all the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”[21] In the context of any community there are numerous variables that require collaborations of interdependency. The effects of individualism and consumerism has closed off people groups from one another and created classes that sub-divide into mini-cultures. Interdependency works differently, as Don Tapscott notes in his work Wikinomics. He writes that collaboration is “the creation of attributes, structures, and capabilities that are not inherent to any single node in the network.”[22] While interdependency does not require mutual blessing, it thrives in community where relationship are impacted through incarnational living.

Intentional incarnational compassion finds indiscriminate grace irresistible. While common grace embraces the unsuspecting, indiscriminate grace reaches compassion and justice even to its enemies. As Deiterich Bonhoffer describes it, “it is unreserved love for our enemies, for the unloving, and the unloved, love for our religious, political and personal adversaries. In every case it is the love which was fulfilled in the cross of Christ.”[23] Even modern psychology confirms the complications of tackling moral behavior outside the norm of a community. In a recent article in Time magazine entitled “What Makes Us Moral” it states that “we face our biggest challenges not when we’re called on to behave ourselves within out family, community or workplace but when we have to apply the same more care to people out side our tribe. The notion of the “other” is a tough one for Homo sapiens.”[24] The heart of indiscriminate grace makes incarnation difficult to ignore.
(This is an excerp from an article I wrote entitled "Fads & Trends"... if you want the entire article, email me and I will send it to you)

[1] “Groove” refers to the rhythmic feel.
[2] Berkhof, Louis. (1941). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich., W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. p. 443.
[3] Psalm 145:9, 15-16, NIV.
[4] Schaeffer, Francis. A. (1969). Death in the City. Chicago, Inter-Varsity Press. P. 80.
[5] Washington “Hollywood Stars Find an Audience For Social Causes” Sunday, June 10, 2007.
[6] McNeal, Reggie. (2003). The Present Future : Six Tough Questions for the Church, Jossey-Bass. p. 11.
[7] “For God so loved the world” John 3:16, NIV.
[8] Genesis 12:1-2, NIV.
[9] Bosch, David. J. (1991). Transforming Mission : Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, N.Y., Orbis Books. p. 390.
[10] Vestal, Joel. (2007). Dangerous Faith : Growing in God and Service to the World, NavPress. p. 60.
[11] John 13:34-35, NIV.
[12] Boa, Kenneth. (2001). Conformed to His Image : Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation, Zondervan. p. 43.
[13] Samson, Will, Lisa. (2007). Justice in the Burbs : Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live, Baker Books. p. 29.
[14] Bessenecker, Scott. (2006). The New Friars : The Emerging Movement Serving the World's Poor, IVP Books. p. 105.
[15] Exodus 29:45, NIV.
[16] Philippians 2:7, NIV.
[17] Matthew 25:40, NIV.
[18] Bessenecker, p. 89.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Proverbs 19:17, NIV.
[21] Acts 2:44-45, NIV.
[22] Tapscott, Donald. (2006). Wikinomics : How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. New York, Portfolio. p. 44.
[23] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (1995). The Cost of Discipleship. Touchstone. p. 170.
[24] Jeffery Kluger, Time, December 3, 2007. “What Makes Us Moral” p. 60.