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Vol. 1 Issue # 12
APRIL 2002 ISSUE
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*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** The Jesus Scandal
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your
ears will hear a voice behind you saying,
"THIS IS THE WAY; WALK IN IT. Isa. 30: 21
Some readers of this e-magazine
may wonder why we run so many historical stories. We think that the following article shows that the Church at the present
time. Is in a position not unlike that of the early Church. It is in closed by a world conditioned to resist the gospel of
Jesus Christ. And we must return to teaching A CHRIST CENTERED gospel.
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The church has a long history of discomfort
By James R. Edwards | posted 02/19/2002
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that
which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
The church has become uncertain of Jesus, even uncomfortable with him. In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) the issue has
surfaced whether Jesus is Savior, or whether God alone is Savior. Is Jesus the means of salvation for all humanity,
Christians or otherwise? Or is he simply an expression of salvation, one among other possible expressions? The Christian
gospel differs most radically from all other religions in the doctrine of the Incarnation. Yet it also seems true that the
church is scandalized by the Incarnation no less than the world is.
Believers inevitably experience anguish whenever the church reopens the question of the significance of Jesus Christ. We
instinctually sense that the foundation of salvation is in trouble. And it is. If the history of the church teaches us anything,
however, it teaches that the foundation of salvation is endangered in every generation.
A History of Embarrassment
Church history is sadly replete with a tendency to forsake Christoften with subtle theological
sophistication. I am not thinking only of the great Christological heresies of the second through fourth centuries, in which
every conceivable option to the dogma of the full humanity and full deity of Jesus Christ was advanced and entertained. Those
controversies exposed a tendency in the early church that has remained to the present, even if subsequent expressions of it
are less dramatic than Athanasiuss battle with the Arians.
Many medieval theologians replaced Christ with the church and its alliance with Western culture known as "Christendom."
During the Reformation, Luther and Calvin sought to emancipate the gospel of the saving efficacy of Jesus Christ from its
captivity to an ecclesiastical system and a corrupt papacy that substituted relics and works for Christ and the gospel. The
radical reformers, in turn, accused these "magisterial" Reformers of subordinating Christ and the gospel to other cultural
Think of the experiments to prove Gods existence and derive knowledge of God via philosophical argumentation, including
the ontological, cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments. Not one of the traditional arguments for the existence of
God mentions Jesus Christ. Think of the hardening of Protestant orthodoxies in the centuries following the Reformation: many
seemed to believe that Sabbath observance or abstaining from alcoholic beverages was more important than what one knew, believed,
and proclaimed about Jesus Christ.
Think of the debate over evolution that has pitted science and Christianity against one another for nearly two centuries
now. Is it not remarkable that nearly all disputants in this debate neglect the existence of Jesus Christ?
Think of the modern dialogue between Christianity and other religions. The first article of the gospel compromised or surrendered
is inevitably the Incarnation, in order to make Christianity appear more compatible with other faiths. Think of the mantra
of 19th-century liberalism"the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man"and its conspicuous omission of Jesus Christ from
the saving equation. Think of the historical research on Jesus extending from the Enlightenment to the Jesus Seminar: its
philosophical presuppositions render Jesus a mere mortal like one of us. Think of issues like prayer in public schools or
abortion. The church has attempted to engage secular culture with arguments of natural law or freedom of religion or divine
command theory, but with little or no reflection on the significance of the Incarnation for such issues.
I mention these few examples as a reminder that our crisis is not unique. The church has a long history of discomfort with
Christ. Jesus may have been rejected by Jews and crucified by Romans, but according to all four Gospels, he was first denied
and abandoned by his own disciplesall of them. History requires a sad admission: Nowhere is Jesus more scandalous than among
believers and in the church.
A Shifting Center
If this is so, what is the particular face or expression of our Christological crisis today? I suggest
that we are witnessing a shift in the theological center from a theology of redemption to a theology of creation. We are shifting
away from a theology of Gods redemptive acts and promises in history to a theology of the state of things in their natural
order as being the rightful and final expression of Gods will. The final word of the new theology is not what God can do and
wills to do in the gospel, but what God has done in creation.
Along with the shift from Christology to creation is a shift away from the doctrines of sin and repentance, which according
to the preaching of the Cross are indispensable for receiving new life in Christ. The new theology often assumes that what
is is essentially good. The paradigm shift changes the theological proclamation of the church from a call to transformation
according to the image of Jesus Christ to one of affirmation of who I am as I am. The proclamation of the saving grace
of the gospel has usually been expressed in transitive verbs of changebelieve, turn, repent, follow. The new theology is couched
in intransitive verbs of affirmationbeing and becoming.
We are, in short, witnessing a shift from a theology of transcendence to a theology of immanence. Statements that are putatively
about God are said to be statements about humanity, human community, and creation. The high theology "from above" is being
replaced by a reductionist theology "from below" that has strong affinities in Deism and Unitarianism. The new theology is
essentially one of solipsism, which believes that the one thing worth living and dying for is the self.
We Western Christians are undergoing an unavoidable and uncertain passage. For the first time since the pre-Constantinian
era, Western Christians are no longer speaking from the center of the culture but from its margins. And we are speaking to
a culture that in many respects has been inoculated against the gospel. Such changes are making new demandsand promise to
make many moreon the way we conceive of the relationship between the gospel and our culture. Our new circumstances are making
us aware that the proclamation and defense of the gospel rest upon the shoulders of each generation.
We are now in the season of Epiphany. According to the church calendar, Epiphany celebrates the appearance of God in the
person of Jesus Christ. It is a time to reflect in new ways on the meaning of Jesus Christ for us and our desperate world.
The maneuvering of Christ to the margins of our cultureand to the margins of many of our churchesmay diminish the status
of Christianity. At the same time, it also puts believers in a position to experience the transforming power of the gospel
in new ways, for the gospel is most empowered when it is least encumbered.
The gospel entered the world in such circumstances, in the appearance of a baby in a feed trough on the eastern fringe
of the Roman Empire. In this respect, we stand closer to the first Christians than to many generations before us. May we,
like them, experience in the gospel of Christ crucified, the wisdom and power of God, and may we, also like them, be enabled
to proclaim it to the rulers of this age who are perishing.
James R. Edwards, professor of religion at Whitworth College, is author of The Gospel According to Mark (Eerdmans, 2002).
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I know He is the beginning, so why do I worry about the end?
I know He is the creator, so why do I wonder who will destroy?
I know He has forgiven me, so why can't I forgive myself?
I know He is a healer, so why do I speak of sickness?
I know He can do all things, so why do I say I can't?
I know He will protect me, so why do I fear?
I know He will supply all my needs, so why can't I wait?
I know He is my strength and my salvation, so why do I feel weak?
I know that everything and everyone has a season, so why when someone's
season is over why do I weep instead of rejoice?
I know He is the right way, so why do I go the wrong way?
I know He is the light, so why do I choose to walk in darkness?
I know that whatever I ask in God's Will, GOD will give me, so why am I scared
I know tomorrow is not promised, so why do I put off for tomorrow what I can do
I know that the Truth shall make me free, so why do I continue to lie?
I know He gives us revelation, knowledge and understanding, so why do I lean on
my own understanding?
I know I should live in the spirit as well as walk in the spirit, so why do I choose
to live in the spirit but walk in the flesh?
I know that when praises go up, blessings come down, so why do I refuse to praise
I know I am saved, so why do I refuse the Word He has given me?
Take a few moments and thank God for the things that we know...and ask Him for the
grace to understand more of Him, His will and His ways.
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We thought the following article was relevant,
a great way to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a real and living manner. We hope this will inspire you to start a group
in your neighborhood and help those around who are troubled and feeling alone. Even though we are Christians we also experience
pain and grief and many other hardships. Lets start in our own neighborhood to change the world one place at a time. God Bless.
Doing Life Together
Looking for the spiritual growth and emotional support a circle of friends provides?
It may be as near as your neighborhood.
by Jane Johnson Struck;
It was September 1999, and Beth Shadid, then 39, had recently given birth to her fifth baby, Caleb, after losing both her
fourth child, Micah, at birth, and her brother, Jim, to lung cancer in 1998.
"The past year had been extremely hard for our family, with two deaths back to back," says Beth, who has three other sons
now ages eight and under. "So when fall came, we were celebrating Caleb, our surprise gift of new life."
Throughout those difficult times, Beth had grown close to her neighbor Dina, a mom of three. "Dina attended both our son's
funeral and my brother's memorial service," Beth says. "She was so kind and sympathetic. Our friendship really deepened, and
I felt comfortable opening up to her a bit about my faith in Christ. She'd seen the strength I'd drawn from it."
Dina, who'd never attended a Bible study before, knew Beth had been involved in various women's Bible studies throughout
the five years they'd lived across the street from each other. So Dina asked Beth if she was planning to join a women's Bible
study that fall. "I didn't think I could possibly pack up my newborn, plus my three other active little boys, and attend a
weekly study," Beth admits. "I recommended a women's Bible study at a local church in case Dina was interested in attending
one on her own. Then I said, 'But I'd love it if someone got something started in our neighborhood!'"Surprisingly,
that "someone who got something started in the neighborhood" turned out to be busy mom Bethwith the able assistance of Dina.
Right off the bat, Dina was so excited about the idea of bonding with other women in the neighborhood that she suggested she
and Beth start their own group. Before long, Beth, who'd never envisioned herself a facilitator of a neighborhood group with
her busy, growing family, became exactly that. "I'm not a teacher or leader," she admits. "I've been in church a long time
and have a strong faith, and I love the idea of being able to share that with others. Yet I don't see myself as articulate,
so I wouldn't naturally put myself in this position. But there's something about having come out of pain, as I had, that makes
you say even more, 'Okay, God, if this is what you want me to do, there's nothing more important in life than being available
to you.' As I prayed about starting a group, it felt like the right thing to do."
So Beth and Dina brainstormed ways to make a group convenient both for them and the other neighbors they hoped might join.
"We decided we'd take turns meeting at each other's home every other week. We thought we could at least handle that,"
explains Beth. "We also decided to be casual about the whole thing and let moms bring their kids. I volunteered to check out
hiring babysitters from a local Christian college so we could keep the kids in a play area in the same house."
But there was also the question of study materials. Realizing some of her neighbors, such as Dina, may never have studied
the Bible before, Beth asked a few mature, trusted Christian women what might constitute an appropriate study to kick off
the fledgling group. One suggestion that struck a chord: a workbook called Living in Jesus' Name, one in a series of study
guides from well-known author John Ortberg.
"Basically Dina and I decided, 'Let's ask some neighbors if they'd like to get together and have coffee.' We'll tell them,
'Here's a book idea. What do you think?'" says Beth. Then Dina and Beth called around the neighborhood to see who might be
interested in participating. Fourincluding a couple committed Christiansresponded positively.
"Everybody was easygoing about what to study," Beth says, "so when the six of us met for the first time that October, we
started working through Ortberg's study book, which clearly walks you through what it means to be a Christian. It's filled
with lots of practical teaching and spiritual exercises."A little more than two years since its launch, the group's still
going strong. In fact, that initial circle of 6 has grown through word of mouth to 18 members, with 12 regular attendees.
"We'll have someone come who's been absent several weeks, and she'll say, 'I've missed this so much!'" says Lisa Barry,
a fellow believer and one of the charter members who frequently opens her home to the group.
What do the women do when they get together every other Friday morning from 9:30 to 11:15 A.M? "We chit-chat for the first
30 minutes," says Beth. "Then we sit down, open our lesson, and talk about whatever jumped out at us that week. Sometimes
I don't have the time to prepare for the lesson beforehand as I'd like. That's when I throw my hands up and say, 'Okay, God,
this has to be from you. It can't be from me, because I don't feel ready.'"
While group members bring their Bibles to the meetings and talk about spiritual topics (currently they're working through
another workbook entitled Gifted to Serve, which discusses spiritual gifts), Beth and the other core members work hard to
ensure no one feels uncomfortable or offended during the meetings, since the women attending vary in their level of interest
in matters of faith. The first year, says Beth, they didn't even pray together. "Just this last year, we've started closing
in prayer, and usually Lisa Barry does that for us," explains Beth.
The group's slowly evolved into part Bible study, part book club, part cross-cultural awareness, part old-fashioned support
group for the women who attend. During the summers, which pose a challenge to regular attendance because of kids' schedules
and family vacations, the group opts to read condensed versions of classics such as Les Miserables or Cry, The Beloved Country
instead of Bible-related materials. Beth, who has a heart for cross-cultural ministry, occasionally invites some of the women
she encounters through other international organizations to speak at meetings. Last year, Beth, Dina, Lisa, and the others
helped a Sudanese refugee and her two daughters adjust to their new life in the United States by assembling and delivering
a "Welcome Pack" of basic household necessitiessheets, towels, plates, canned goods, and personal care items. And last December,
Beth and the group organized a holiday gathering that included husbandsa first!to help two orphaned Sudanese boys celebrate
their first Christmas in America.
"This group meets many different needs," says Beth. "On one level, I sincerely believe we all want to learn more about
the Bible, to explore what life is really about. But it's also about women doing life together in a safe environment. Just
getting together as women helps you realize you're not alone in your situation, that we all have struggles with disciplining
our kids or challenges in our marriage. It's wonderful to be able to share not only the pain in life, but the great joys as
well. It's just such a fun group of unique women! Our sense of community has been one of its biggest blessings.
"When my husband, Hythem, and I learned at 22 weeks that our baby Micah wouldn't survive after birth, we didn't know how
to pray. So we simply said, 'God, do something great through this.' As we prayed that prayer, we sensed 'something great'
could be others coming to know Christ through our experience.
"While I don't know if this group's a direct answer to that prayer, I've had many opportunities to share my faith, to let
others know how great God is," adds Beth. "As we've grown together, I've seen other women become more open about how God's
revealing himself to them. I know that for Dina and a few others in our group, their faith has become personal over the past
two years. And I've been encouraged to walk with God daily, to keep looking for his presence in my life every step of the
way. There's this exciting sense of God at workall I did was jump aboard!"
How to Start a Group . Even if You Think You Can't!
- Don't sell yourself short. As a busy mom of four boys who didn't feel she had the necessary leadership skills, Beth had
every excuse to nix the idea of helping start a neighborhood group. But she's glad she responded to God's nudging. So if you
feel this is something God wants you to try, go for itand watch yourself grow!
- The power of two. Do you know a neighbor who also may be yearning for a group? While you can go solo, Beth suggests finding
a like-minded friend with whom to join forces. Partner together. And don't forget to pray!
- Size it up. What works best for your schedules? Once-a-week meetings? Every other week? Babysitting provided? Figure out
the needs of your potential group, then try to meet them. For example, if most women interested in attending your group are
moms of small children, arrange for babysittingthat will make it easier for them to show up! Remember, keep it casual.
- Banish your inner Martha Stewart. "Every woman likes her place to look nice," admits Beth, "but I think I've set the example
there." Meaning: Beth doesn't sweat not having a sparkling home when it's her turn to host a meeting. "My home's a little
messy, but come on in anyway," she says.
And what about serving fancy goodies to your crowd? "Usually someone volunteers
to bring something, but we try not to worry about that!" says Beth. All you really need to do is perk a mean cup of coffee,
and you're in business.
- Have a plan. Beth's flexible about how she leads the group; when an interesting opportunity crops up, such as hearing
the life story of a visitor from another country, she'll seize it and deviate from the group's planned study. But make sure
you have some kind of study material that's grounded in the Bible. If you don't have a clue how to start, ask a trusted Christian
friend, your pastor, or your local Christian bookstore owner.
- Be real. Life isn't always easy, happy, or tidy. Christians cry, hurt, and get lonely, just like everyone else. So don't
be afraid to show your real face to your friends, when appropriate. It's the key to helping others show theirs, too.
- Make it a no-pressure zone. Do your friends feel uncomfortable praying out loud? Then don't make them. Does a member have
trouble keeping up with the lessons? Don't make it an issue. Your goal isn't to be rigid, but to build relationships that
point women to a loving God.
Building Deep Connections
Looking for a group that requires a higher commitment but builds deeper friendships? Then a "12 Women" group might
fit the bill. Based on the biblical model of Jesus' selection of 12 disciples, Barbara Jenkins, co-author of The New York
Times best-seller The Walk West, birthed the concept in 1997 during a time of personal turmoil.
"My husband had walked out on our family, and one of my children was caught up in alcohol and drugs. My world had turned
upside down," Barbara explains. She sensed a need for something beyond what her Christian counselor, church, and close friends
were providing. "I saw in the Bible how Jesus changed the world with 12 disciples. I realized I could benefit from having
a trusted circle of 11 other friends to help me carry these burdens."
Barbara wrestled with the idea of this biblically based group for six months. "Finally, I reached the point of saying,
'God, if this is of you, I'll do it. If not, just leave me alone,'" she says. When she shared the idea with a few women, they
recommended others who were searching for such a connection. Before long, a diverse mix of 11 women had accepted Barbara's
invitation to participate.
"I told them that if they were looking for deeper friendships, then '12 Women' was for them," says Barbara. "I laid out
the guidelines: We were to be grounded in biblical truth; we'd commit to meet once a week nine months out of the year; we'd
agree to be there for each other through thick and thin. And every week a different woman would be the facilitator."
Each "12 Women" meeting begins with a devotional, followed by a discussion time, then prayer. "We've had lively discussions
about everything from money management to the Ten Commandments," explains Barbara. "It's not a gossip session," she adds.
"It's a place where we see God working in our lives. Because of the level of commitment in our group, women lower their guard
and become real. If someone moves or has to leave, they're not replaced until the next 'session' begins. Only God could create
this family of sisters that's lasted so long!"
Today Barbara's initial group now meets quarterly. But other "12 Women" groups are springing up around the country or have
been spearheaded by original group members. And Barbara and two women from the pilot group recently completed a training session
in Brooklyn, New York, for "12 Women" groups. Barbara's also created the 12 Women Foundation and a guidebook, 12 Women, Sisters
for Your Journey, to help others form their own group.
"My '12 Women' group has helped me become more honest about who I am," says Barbara. "Women have a hunger for connection,
for seeing God at work in their lives. That's exactly what a '12 Women' group provides."
For more information on "12 Women" groups, e-mail Barbara at email@example.com, or phone her at 615-781-4965.
1 medium eggplant
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large tomato -- peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion -- finely chopped 1 clove garlic -- minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 400. Pierce eggplant in 2 or 3 places with the tip of a knife. Put eggplant in an ovenproof skillet or
baking dish and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until very soft. Let cool. Peel eggplant and discard skin. Place eggplant in a
medium bowl and mash to a puree. Add lemon juice, tomato, onion, garlic, parsley, and oil. Mix well. Season with salt and
pepper. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Serve as a dip or as an appetizer salad on letuce leaves.
Prayer request from some Missionaries in the west bank.... Linda
This is a Christian couple who are in a small Christian town in Zababdeh 30 min. north of Nablus in the West Bank-I was
there in 1998. This is their perspective for those who are interested in something other than what CNN is reporting. Pray
for God√Ę‚,¨‚"Ęs peace and will Seema
Running Away http://come.to/zababdeh April 3, 2002
Yesterday, school started a little late as we waited to see who would show up. About half our students came. Those from
Jenin and beyond of course couldn't come; many from other towns (and even a handful from Zababdeh) were too scared to come.
After an hour, word came that Israeli soldiers were on the road to Tubas. We loaded the Tubasi students on the bus and hurriedly
left school. The soldiers who were stopping cars on the road fortunately let us pass, allowing us to bring the boys and girls
home safely. Returning, we (the vice-principal, the two of us, and the bus driver) had to wait a long time as three tanks
changed their positions, driving in front of us and then across the road, heading north. As we waited, cold rain and wind
blew outside the antiquated bus. Through its muddy windows, we could see dozens of people fleeing Tubas through the hill-top
pine forest. Finally, we proceeded to Zababdeh after the tanks left. School limped along until half past noon, when we sent
the rest of the kids home and had a teachers' meeting. We tried to make plans about how to run a school at half its capacity.
Then we learned that Zababdeh had its first shaheed, or "martyr". A young man was killed as he shot at a military outpost
near Jenin. Teachers were somber as they reflected on the waste of a young life and pondered the possibility of the Israeli
army's retribution within the town.
We returned home heavy-hearted to face the terrible news on the television. CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and many more blared
developments - constantly changing, constantly repeated, blurring together in our minds as the hours passed. We were chilled
by the prospect that the horrifying scenes in Ramallah and Bethlehem might be repeated in villages throughout Palestine, including
Zababdeh. People trapped in their homes without enough food, water, medicine, fuel. People shot on sight for venturing out.
Journalists expelled so the world can't see what's happening. Ambulances attacked and medical help denied. People buried in
a mass grave in a parking lot. Soldiers going house-to-house rounding up all men, and tearing up homes as they searched them.
Executions. Our email was overflowing with messages sharing the latest developments and desperately calling for intervention:
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel <../032902/03phr.html> , Gush Shalom <../032902/13gush.html> , LAW <http://www.lawsociety.org>
, Independent Media Centre <../032902/20ism.html> , and many more.
Around suppertime, after the mosque's loudspeaker announced the closure of schools, we discovered that telephone service
had been cut outside of Zababdeh; we could call within the village, but nowhere else. The only link to the outside was cellphones,
and we wondered how much longer they would have service. Late that night, the Israeli army began re-entering Jenin. The sounds
of scores of tanks and shooting resonated across Zababdeh.
This morning, after much prayer and heartache, we made the difficult decision to leave. We left because we feared for our
lives and well-being in the face of the Israeli military offensive perched on our doorstep.
We might have felt called to stay in spite of (or even because of) this threat if we still had email or even telephone
access. Like those internationals staying in Ramallah, Bethlehem, and other places, we might have done so to offer support
and to share on-the-ground news with the outside world. We might have. As it is, we have left our dear friends behind, and
we feel awful for doing so. We are terribly sad and worried about them. Since we left, we have spoken to as many of our friends
in the West Bank as we could, including those we could reach in Zababdeh. As yet, the village is still quiet - starting tomorrow,
there will be no electricity except a few hours at night, because there is very little petrol left. People are afraid of what
is to come.
We are now staying with friends in largely-Palestinian Nazareth, Jesus' hometown now in the north of Israel. Although sad,
we also feel relief and calm to be in a safe place. However, we hope and pray to be able to return to Zababdeh soon. Our hearts
and our prayers (as well as all our stuff) remain there.
In the most urgent way we know how, we ask you to pray for peace. And we ask you to act for justice. Let your voices be
heard by your governments NOW; the international community cannot and must not sit on the sidelines. The Israeli military
is brutalizing whole cities, breaking international laws with impunity. Not only is it endangering thousands of people, it
is robbing millions in Israel and Palestine of a future together, finishing off hopes for a peaceful settlement in which co-existence
is still possible. Future generations will judge us by our actions now. May they be merciful.
In Hopes of Peace, Elizabeth and Marthame
P.S . With evacuation of internationals and media expulsions, there are few eyewitnesses watching and sharing what is now
taking place. We hope to stay in touch with as many people as possible throughout the West Bank so that we can update our
journal daily - not only with our news, but theirs. Please visit it regularly: http://www.fpc-wilmette.org/sanders/journal.html
P.P.S. We will also be updating a page with commentary and updates from "ground zero" hopefully every few hours: http://www.fpc-wilmette.org/sanders/032902.html
<http://www.fpc-wilmette.org/sanders/journal.html> P.P.P.S. We are available to talk to any interested media as well
- the more the world is made aware the more cause there is for hope. Please pass this message along as well as our email addresses:
Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders are American Presbyterians working in the Palestinian Christian village of Zababdeh.
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