Wednesday, October 04, 2006

James: Full-Contact Faith

Our Thursday night small group is delving into the depths of the Letter from James. I have always enjoyed this little letter. And this time through is no exception.

First James dealt with our desires in his discussion of tempation. Our physical desires lead us away from God if satisfied outside his boundaries.

Then he pokes us in the eyes, or their perspective, when dealing with favoritism. We often judge by appearance rather than reality. The men attending the meeting (synagogue) had the external trappings of poverty and riches, yet the only way to know if someone is rich or poor is to check bank accounts.

This week he touches the tongue. You know the "little flame from hell?!?!?" I certainly am to0 "quick to speak" and too "slow to listen." This condition is just the opposite of someone whose religion has worth.

I think I'll name my notes from this experience with James "Full-Contact Faith" since it keeps punching different parts of me. I feel like I'm on the bad end of a Three Stooges routine.

And maybe that was James' point. For spiritually motivated people, we sure are very physically motivated. God keeps calling us to live by the Spirit and according to the spirit not the flesh, to walk by faith and not by sight. Thanks James for slapping me back to reality.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's In a Name?

Ol' Willie Shakespeare asked this question through Romeo as he approached Juliet at the balcony. Romeo was musing that calling something by another name does not necessarily change the essence of the thing renamed. He was, you'll remember, struggling with the fact that his love had the WRONG last name--that of his family's rival family in the struggle to control a city.

Well, the sense of struggle, self-doubt and reevaluation are no less intense for this pastor as he contemplates the renaming of the church at 614 Florida Street. As two congregations have merged, it has become clear that continuing either former church's name will bring an unintended dampening of the excitement for the whole process. Yet, what will our new identity be?

Many cultures have a tradition of not naming babies until they have been observed for a while and their character becomes clear. Then a name befitting the behavior is attached. While this was the philosophy first adopted by our leadership team, it has become clear you cannot adequitely promote an organization without an identity.

So a label must be attached.

I love the name Touchstone. It reflects the connection to Jesus our cornerstone (Touching the Stone.) Touchstones are used by jewelers to identify the amount of gold in a metalic object. When we come into contact with Jesus, we see ourselves in a true light. This name projects the DNA of a Christ-centered, truth-telling community of faith.

I love the name Hope. For people struggling to survive, this is a perfect name for a community of faith. We offer hope. To be without Jesus is to be "without God and without hope in this world."

But a new label must be attached.

This label will in some measure predict the nature of this new church. All labels do. Naming in the Bible is often a prophetic act, setting the course of destiny for people and groups. Many people were renamed by God in the Bible at a point of life change. (i.e. You were Abram, now you are Abraham; You were Jacob, now you are Israel.)

What's in a name? A lot more than starry-eyed Romeo could have imagined.