What is the Gospel?

I have had a splinter in my mind about the idea that Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus. I didn't really realize it was there until recently.

You know that skit that pretty much every evangelical has seen ad nauseum about Jesus coming to live in your home. You go out, forget about Jesus, let him clean your house except for that one room, yada yada yada...its a great trip, if you are into guilt.

You have maybe encountered someone who talks about Jesus like he is their best friend, maybe even 'Best Friend ForEVER'. After you talk to this person, you wonder why you don't get it. Why is it so difficult for you to be best friends with someone who left this earth 2000 years ago? Maybe you need to spend more time with Jesus (remember the skit? It's still working its magic).

So you start 'listening' for God. There are some really 'spiritual' people who seem to hear from God all the time. 'God told me this or that...(usually about you and how unspiritual you are)' or 'Maybe God is trying to tell you something'...so they say. (BTW, with God, there is no 'try' there is only 'do' ... if God is really God). Funny thing is, you can never hear anything. Maybe you don't have that close a relationship with God...maybe you don't really love God...?

You get the picture.

What if this 'relationship' idea has been taken too far? Maybe our concern now is to be properly related 'to' God and the relationship 'with' God comes in heaven?

The book of Acts is a pretty important source of information on how the early church formed and it shows a distinct pattern in how the Gospel was framed and communicated in the first century. The apostles used phrases and ideas like forgiveness of sin, guilt, Jesus bringing either judgment or forgiveness, the crucifixion, the nature of God, righteousness and self-control.

There is not one mention in the book of Acts of either the love of God or a personal relationship with him. Interesting.

What are the implications of reducing our emphasis on having a personal relationship with Jesus?

-God becomes transcendent again. If God is like our good buddy down the street, then He is not God. If I can kick the crap out of God, like I can my good buddy down the street, then there is something wrong.

-We can rightly fear God. I don't fear my good buddy down the street. I like him, but I can kick the crap out of him. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.

-Worship becomes more than the sappy sentimentality of a 'simple song of love...'. Worship is awe, fear, trembling, relief...

-Maybe we realize that in the middle of our crappy lives (if our lives are crappy), that there is no use in complaining because it's not about US!

-Maybe when we realize that it's not about us, we will quit this church-hopping garbage and plug into a community of believers that actually gives a rat's patootie about engaging our culture rather than hiding from it or capitulating to it.

I'm still kickin' the tires on this idea...input would be sweet.

For further reading...

**Note: I am quite proud of myself for making it through this whole post without using the word 'ass'. It would have fit so nicely in a couple places, but I didn't want to offend anyone's sensibilities, or have L-A tell on me again.


For the Cyclist who has everything...

Thanks to my Dad for this one...

Fall Colours


Rubber side down

There are some things that I neglected to mention about cycling in Japan.

The first has to do with the fact that pretty much everything that goes into a garbage here eventually gets burned. If you live in the inaka (countryside) like we kinda do, you are doubly blessed with the smoke from the garbage fires plus all the smoke from the fires in farmers fields. They burn their fields after the rice harvest, they burn anything that may be considered leftover.

The net result is that the air quality around here is absolutely brutal. I often find that my eyes sting and its hard to breathe on my drive home. After a good dump of rain, we will be able to see the mountains again for a day or two, but they disappear in short order. I find it somewhat ironic that so many Canadians are griping about the Kyoto Protocol when it is clear that Japan is doing very little to curb the release of carbon here.

It does make for some spectacular sunsets though.

The other hazard here is what is known as a 'gaijin trap'. Many foreigners ride bikes for transportation. Most of us are here for a short stint before heading back home and it doesn't make sense to buy a car.

The roads here often have no shoulders. They are almost wide enough for two cars to pass each other and then they drop down a metre or so to the rice field. Sometimes they drop down that metre or so into a narrow water-filled canal.

These canals have become known as gaijin traps. They have claimed countless unsuspecting victims and they are not pleasant. Here are a couple pictures...

In this first one you can see the burned rice field, the drop to the rice field on the right side of the road and the drop to the canal on the left side of the road.

This would not be a pleasant endo.


Three levels of faith

When someone says they believe something, what do they mean? The way I see it, it can mean one of three things.

It could mean that they know something about God. At this level of faith, one simply needs to know about something. There is no commitment to the veracity of the statement.

It could also mean that they assent to the truth of the idea that God exists. At this level of faith, someone might say, "I believe that God is real."

The third level is the level of trust. At this level, one has trusted God for his or her salvation.

The way I see it, there are a great many people whose faith has taken them to the second level. They can give intellectual assent to everything that they know about God. Churches are too full of these types. There are too few who have actually trusted God to the point that God makes a difference in their lives a la James 2.

Some in the Emergent crowd have noticed this and complained about it. I think they are right. But then, instead of taking people to the next level of faith where they actually trust God, they undermine the first two levels of faith by saying that we really can't know anything for sure.

JP Moreland is right, this treatment kills the patient.


Stuff I'm thinking about...

The following thoughts are exerpts from a speech given by JP Moreland called "Truth, Contemporary Philosophy and the Postmodern Turn"

-...if we are all trapped behind a framework such that simple, direct seeing is impossible, then no amount of recent thinking can help us see anything; all it could do would be to invite us to see something as such and such from within a conceptual framework. Given the self refuting nature of such claims, and given the fact that we all experience regularly the activity of comparing our conceptions of an entity with the entity itself as a way of adjusting those conceptions, it is hard to see why anyone, especially a Christian, would adopt the postmodern view. In any case, I have seldom seen the realist perspective seriously considered by postmodern thinkers, and until it is, statements like Grenz’ will be taken as mere mantras by many of us.

-For some time I have been convinced that postmodernism is rooted in pervasive confusions, and I have tried to point out what some of these are. I am also convinced that postmodernism is an irresponsible, cowardly abrogation of the duties that constitute a disciple’s calling to be a Christian intellectual and teacher.

-...postmodernism is a form of intellectual pacifism that, at the end of the day, recommends backgammon while the barbarians are at the gate. It is the easy, cowardly way out that removes the pressure to engage alternative conceptual schemes, to be different, to risk ridicule, to take a stand outside the gate. But it is precisely as disciples of Christ, even more, as officers in His army, that the pacifist way out is simply not an option. However comforting it may be, postmodernism is the cure that kills the patient, the military strategy that concedes defeat before the first shot is fired, the ideology that undermines its own claims to allegiance. And it is an immoral, coward’s way out that is not worthy of a movement born out of the martyrs’ blood.

From what I can see, Moreland is a pretty smart guy...he agrees with me on some other things, so maybe he is right about this too.

I need to kick these ideas around for a while, I'm sure I will get back to you.

Keep the rubber side down.



Lest We Forget

In Flanders Fields

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Tour d' Ogaki

Here are some pics of my ride in and around Ogaki yesterday.

The leaves on the north side of the canal have turned colour, but not those on the south side. I didn't notice that until I uploaded the pictures to my computer.

The leaves have only begun to change on a few of the trees around here. It has been rather warm. This is the first week that the forecast high will be below 20 degrees C.

I love the colours of this old Shinto shrine.

I decided to take a look around the Ogaki Cycle Stadium. It is free to come and watch. Notice that the seats are empty. That is because all the old men who come to watch are outside watching the monitors and placing their bets. Apparently horse racing is illegal in Japan...this is the next best thing.

I am rather pleased with how this shot turned out. The sculpture is called "Fortress of the Eye". It is installed outside the gymnasium where the kids had their tug o' war tournament last weekend.

The Fortress of the Eye.

Not sure what the kanji mean on the rock in the following pictures. Maybe something like "'Nothing' is what rocks dream about when they are sleeping."

This ride and these pictures were inspired by the Nov. 2, 2006 post at Oil is for Sissies.


綱引き 。。。Tsunahiki

Last Friday was a National Holiday, Culture Day. There are cultural festivals going on all over the place right now.

The kids were invited to be a part of the Tug o' War team for Kamijuku (our neighbourhood). Since we are now a part of Ogaki City, we were invited to the Ogaki Children's Association tsunahiki, or Tug o' War Tournament.

The kids had one practice last week where they were shown proper technique and given time to practice.

On Friday, we all met at the gymnasium where the meet was to be held at 11:30. The opening ceremony was at 12:30 (they have ceremonies for everything here).

**Geez, Blogger wont upload any pictures for me. I have posted the rest of the story here.

***Kelly's PS- and in case you are wondering, (Mom's out there), no we did not buy them uniforms for this competition. Our kids are wearing their school gym strip...which they change into everyday when they get to school, and out of before they leave. The pinnies belong to our neighbourhood. The kanji on them says, "Kamijuku". The last time we saw the pinnies was at the community sport's day, so they obviously get used for various functions throughout the year.


りんご ... Ringo...

...is the word that the Japanese use for the fruit that we know as an apple. I like apples, especially this time of year.

I often take an apple to school to munch on mid-morning so my blood sugar doesn`t crash and turn me into Mr. Grumpy-Pants.

One of the english teachers has told me that she very regularly gets updates from students on what I have been eating that day. They will come up to her and excitedly share the news that Colin-sensei is eating an apple in the staff room.

Then there is Miwa-sensei. He feels the need to comment (in mumbled Japanese) on pretty much everything I do or eat. He will often come point at my food, I wouldn`t be surprised if he takes it from my hand one day.

Back to apples...

As I mentioned, the word for apple here is `ringo`. For several days in a row now, Miwa-sensei has walked past my desk, asked me if I like apples (while I am eating one), asked me if it is sweet or sour and then gone off mumbling about Ringo Starr...all in Japanese.

My life here is so surreal sometimes.