Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Last Word and the Word after That

Coming in March from Brian McLaren, the final installment of the New Kind of Christian Trilogy - "The Last Word and the Word after That : A Tale of Faith, Doubt, and a New Kind of Christianity"

More Info

Thursday, December 23, 2004

You could learn alot from a blog...

From Foreign Policy Magazine:

"Every day, millions of online diarists, or 'bloggers', share their opinions with a global audience. Drawing upon the content of the international media and the World Wide Web, they weave together an elaborate network with agenda-setting power on issues ranging from human rights in China to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. What began as a hobby is evolving into a new medium that is changing the landscape for journalists and policymakers alike."
Read More

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

From Bruderhof - The way of Peace in Chiapas Mexico.

There is so much that we hear so little of in the mainstream media:

"December 22, 1997. People wrap up their Christmas shopping and soak up the holiday glow. In Mexico, a paramilitary death squad armed with machine guns and machetes slaughters forty-five defenseless Mayan Indians, mostly women and children, as they pray for peace in a makeshift chapel near their refugee camp in the village of Acteal, Chiapas."

Want an education? Read more

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Have an Empty Christmas

Christmas makes me nervous. The Infinite who came in a feeding trough is not the kind of God I want. He is too powerless for my liking. Such a God is an embarrassment, not just to the Herods of this world, but to all who are enamored with themselves and their own potency. I don’t want this God. I have an inn to offer, decorated for Christmas, not a stinking stall.

God exists in weakness and comes to those who reach up to him with empty hands. He is neither useful nor helpful. He came and still comes, not to solve our problems or answer our questions or fulfill our needs or bless our endeavors, but to expose our problems, to question our answers, to be our need, and to point us to his kingdom. In Christ, God enters time and space to turn our world upside down and inside out. “Valleys are made high, mountains are laid low.” We are left bewildered, undone.

Read More

Friday, December 17, 2004

My most favorite poem ever...really.

I've been searching for the text of this poem by Peter Meinke for the past few years. I read it in college and have always loved it. So here it is...

by: Peter Meinke

The man who invented the plastic rose is dead.
Behold his mark: his undying flawless blossoms never close but guard his grave unbending through the dark.
He understood neither beauty nor flowers, which catch our hearts in nets as soft as sky and bind us with a thread of fragile hours: flowers are beautiful because they die.
Beauty without the perishable pulse is dry and sterile, an abandoned stage with false forests.
But the results support this man's invention; he knew his age:
A vision of our tearless time discloses artificial men sniffing plastic roses.

Snapshots of post-Christendom

Taken from Stuart Murray's book Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange New World

"In a London school a teenager with no church connections hears the Christmas story for the first time. His teacher tells it well and he is fascinated by this amazing story. Risking his friends' mockery, after the lesson he thanks her for the story. One thing had disturbed him, so he asks: 'Why did they give the baby a swear-word for his name?'

One Sunday in Oxford a man visits a church building to collect something for his partner who works during the week in a creative-arts project the church runs. He arrives as the morning congregation is leaving and recognises the minister, whom he knows. Surprised, he asks: 'What are all these people doing here? I didn't know churches were open on Sundays!'

Two snapshots of 'post-Christendom' - a culture in which central features of the Christian story are unknown and churches are alien institutions whose rhythms do not normally impinge on most members of society. Only a few years ago, neither would have been credible, but today there are numerous signs that the 'Christendom' era in western culture is fading."

Read More

Bono on the crisis in Africa

"We are the first generation that can look extreme and stupid poverty in the eye, look across the water to Africa and elsewhere and say this and mean it: we have the cash, we have the drugs, we have the science -- but do we have the will? Do we have the will to make poverty history? Some say we can't afford to. I say we can't afford not to."

Read the whole speech

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Want some good reading...

Nextreformation.com puts it all in one spot. Enjoy.



I've just finshed reading Lifesigns by Henri Nouwen. I'd blog the text of the entire book if I could. It's a beautiful book that calls us to move from the "house of fear" (where we run our lives) to the "house of love" (where we live in surrender to Jesus). Here's one excerpt:

"The way of God is the way of weakness. The great news of the Gospel is precisely that God has become small and vulnerable, and hence bore fruit among us. The most fruitful life ever lived is the life of Jesus, who did not cling to His divine power but became as we are.(see Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus brought us new life in ultimate vulnerability. He came to us as a small child, dependent on the care and protection of others. He lived for us as a poor preacher, without any political, economic, or military power. He died for us on a cross as a useless criminal. It is in this extreme vulnerability that our salvation was won. The fruit of this poor and failing existence is eternal life for all who believe in him. (p.53,54)

This rings with the echo of truth. Jesus, weakness, vulnerability. We are called to follow Jesus in the path that He walked. "As the Father sent me, I am sending you." Why is it then, that we seek to be the most successful? Aren't we missing the point?

Giving Up Lives of Comfort for a Chance to Serve

"They feed the hungry, comfort the grieving and denounce violence, not out of a sense of noblesse oblige but a stripped-down commitment to living alongside the poor. 'I had a choice, but I believe we all came here because we had to,' said Amanda Daloisio, who has lived with her husband at the Third Street residence known as Maryhouse for two years. 'Some need a place to sleep or food to eat. I needed to be here in order to live a life that I thought was meaningful and to discover how life can be lived rooted in the gospel.'"

Read More

Thanks to Jordon for the link

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Caption says...

What does God's house look like?

Thanks to Rudy Carrasco for this picture from Altavista. Sure, they're using it to market Altavista's searching abilities, but once again the world seems to sense the truth about what church is and should be better than the church does. I just finished preaching about God using three Gentile magicians to tell Jerusalem that the new Jewish King had been born. Often those on the outside see most clearly. Now that's food for thought!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Narnia on the Big Screen!!!

It's still a year away and I'm already excited. Will Samson shared a link to a behind the scenes peek at what is to come. It's a big download, but worth the wait.

Seeing the Spirit beneath it all...

Here's a great quote from an even greater article in The Christian Century. Hat tip to Bob Carlton for the link.

"There are all kinds of things wrong with the way we celebrate Christmas. We eat too much, we spend too much, we sentimentalize too much, we worry too much. Those excesses cannot douse the holy instincts that underlie them. We really are hungry. We really do want to give and receive. We really do want to feel deeply, live peaceably, sleep soundly and rise renewed. As the season moves toward its apogee, those of us who believe we know where the instincts lead may do more good by wading into the culture than by separating ourselves from it. God is in the midst of it, after all, still hunting new flesh in which to be born."

Read the whole article by Barbara Brown Taylor:

Friday, December 10, 2004

Just where He seems most helpless

I had lunch today with a friend of mine. He's a different kind of guy, actually. Mentally he's not all there. He probably hasn't had a shower in a few years. He can never look you in the eye, and is not usually interested in much more than what he's going to have for his next meal.

But as we talked over lunch today he asked some pretty amazing questions. He wanted to know about what it'll be like when Jesus returns. He thought it would be pretty weird if he was watching a hockey game and Jesus just knocked on his door and said, "Let's go". I talked to him about what it meant to follow Jesus, to ask for His forgiveness and leadership. My friend had prayed that prayer years ago. He just thought it was interesting to talk about.

The more time I spend with my friend the more I feel like when he's around I need to take off my shoes. In the midst of his mental difficulties, his hygienic forgetfulness, and his paranoia about who is out to get him, there is a small piece of holy ground. Jesus loves this guy and when I'm with Him I feel almost like I'm in the presence of Jesus. It's pretty amazing. God chose the weak things to shame the strong, the foolish to shame the wise. I think my lunch partner reminds me of that. It's definitely a Christmas type of message. Think about it. The stable didn't smell too good. And Joseph was probably wondering where their next meal was coming from. Mary was exhausted from travel and labor. And yet God shows up. Frederick Buechner wrote about this. He said,

"Those who believe in God can never, in a way, be sure of Him again. Once they have seen Him in a stable, they can never be sure where He will appear or to what lengths He will go, to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation He will descend in His wild pursuit of man. If holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly or earthbound but that holiness can be present there too. And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place that we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from His power to break in two and recreate the human heart because it is just where He seems most helpless that He is most strong, and just where we least expect Him that comes most fully."

God comes fully when I sit with my friend. May He burn that lesson into my mind so that I don't pass Him by as He sits on the street.

Back in the saddle again...

Sorry for my infrequent postings. I'm back. Term papers are all turned in. I have a part of my life back again. At least until January.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Uh..Yeah..I think so.

Another winner from The Holy Observer

This was an amazing run.

Goodbye Ken, we'll miss you.

I'm working on a poem...

...and that doesn't happen too often. I'll share it here when I'm done, but I wanted to share the inspiration for it. I was driving down Highway 1 the other day on my way to a class. The radio was on and almost without noticing it, I found myself singing along. As I became a little more self-aware, I had to laugh. The song playing was "Gloria", sung by Laura Branigan. You remember that one don't you? Sing it with me now...

You really don't remember, was it something that he said?
all the voices in your head calling, Gloria?
Gloria, don't you think you're fallin'?
If everybody wants you, why isn't anybody callin'?
You don't have to answer
Leave them hangin' on the line, oh-oh-oh, calling Gloria
Gloria (Gloria), I think they got your number (Gloria)
I think they got the alias (Gloria) that you've been living under (Gloria)
But you really don't remember, was it something that they said?
all the voices in your head calling, Gloria?

What I noticed was that I knew about 90% of the lyrics. I was beltin' them out in a way that would've made Laura proud. But the funny thing is that after the song was over I realized that I didn't have a clue what it was about. I still don't. And that was when it hit me. Far too often my faith is like that song. I know the words, I sing them out loud for everyone to hear, but I don't know the story that's being told. It's only words. Later during class a phrase passed through my mind that has become my prayer and hopefully one day, the heart of this poem.

"Immerse me in your story God."

That's what I want to be. Even if I mess up the words sometimes I want to know the story. I want to feel the heartbeat of God as He continues to tell His story. I want to anticipate the climax, cry when the hero gives His life, smile when the characters take themselves to seriously. I want to be so immersed in the story that it becomes my story - that it shapes not only what I do, but also who I am.

So here's the first bit of the poem. Consider it a teaser.

Immerse me in your story God.
From tempting fruit and serpent’s lies.
To Abraham with knife held high
And heart that longs to die.

Fill me with the joy he knew
When ram was laid upon the stone
Isaac journeyed with Him home
To Sarah’s laughing smile.

Some of my greatest teachers are dead Catholics

"Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it. As busy, active, relevant ministers, we want to earn our bread by making a real contribution. This means first and foremost doing something to show that our presence makes a difference. And so we ignore our greatest gift, which is our ablity to enter into solidarity with those who suffer." (from The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen)

Nouwen also wrote what I consider to be the best book on Christian Leadership that I've ever read (and I've read a few) called In the Name of Jesus

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Thinkers from Carl Sandburg.

I've come to appreciate the poetry of Carl Sandburg lately. Not that he communicates things of great spiritual depth, but that he correctly identifies what it means to be human. Or at least he's honest about what humanity looks like without Christ.

Here are two of his poems I've found very thought provoking.


I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he answers: “Omaha.”


I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life
to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work
of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile
as though I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out
along the Desplaines River
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees
with their women and children and a keg of beer
and an accordion.

Way to go Globe and Mail...

My great friend Andrew Lakin passed this on to me. And I was amazed. I'm going to print it here because you have to subscribe to view it online. I hope that's legal.

Soul hunger, always a strong suit

Are we really so different from Americans when it comes to our spiritual yearning?

Saturday, November 6, 2004 – Page A25

Here's a question that an educated Globe reader like you should be able to answer. What was the top-selling non-fiction book in North America last year (and likely this one, too)?

No, it's not Dude, Where's My Country? It's something called The Purpose Driven Life. It has sold 19 million copies so far, including 600,000 in Canada (which is more books than anything else except maybe Harry Potter). And it was written by pastor Rick Warren, who founded the Saddleback Church in California.

Never heard of it? Well, neither have most otherwise well-informed members of the media -- you know, the ones who are supposed to be on top of social trends. They've been too busy interviewing Michael Moore. And yet the people who've been gobbling up The Purpose Driven Life are the same people who re-elected George W. Bush. Not all of them live in the shotgun 'n' pickup zip codes. Most of them are middle-class professionals who live in the sprawling new American exurbs.

The Purpose Driven Life is a sort of anti-self-help book. Instead of showing how you can claw your way to the top, lose 30 pounds on the South Beach diet or become the millionaire next door, it promises to connect you with life's larger meaning. "It's not about you," it begins. "The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfilment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness."

The Purpose Driven Life (or PDL, as it's known in the book trade) directly addresses the spiritual void at the heart of our materialistic, consumer-driven, sex-saturated, celebrity-mad, culturally trashy age. Liberal social critics, rightly, have identified this as the central existential challenge of our time. But their answers haven't been all that satisfying. Madonna finds solace in the Kabbalah, and Richard Gere in Buddhism. For the rest of us, there's yoga and recycling.

PDL offers a more old-fashioned approach: Jesus. "If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God," it says. It goes on from there for 40 chapters (a meaningful biblical number, if you remember Noah's flood and Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness), and deals with the timeless matter of how to find inner meaning and affiliation in a community of good persons. It doesn't say a single word about abortion or gay marriage or moral crusades or voting for Republicans. Instead, it stresses tolerance and conciliation. "If you want God's blessing on your life you must learn to be a peacemaker," it says.

The people who devour PDL have created an entirely new religious movement, one that has abandoned the old-line mainstream churches and promises a direct, personal and unabashed connection to God. Its unsensational (some might say banal) message does not make for good headlines. Instead, when the mainstream media tackle the religious revival in North America, they bring us stuff such as the CBC's sensational documentary the other night on faith-healing peddler Benny Hinn. Or they haul out Jerry Falwell to rant about abortion.

Oh, yes, the religious revival contains plenty of zealots and hard-liners you'd go nine miles out of your way to avoid. But presenting Benny Hinn and Jerry Falwell as typical of the movement is like saying that Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky are typical liberals.

The secular media have a curious double standard when depicting people of faith. We're sensitive and respectful toward practising Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and aboriginal people performing smudge ceremonies. This demonstrates our pluralism and tolerance. We're even comfortable with liberal-minded United Church types. But show us a bunch of born-agains and we'll automatically assume they're an intolerant bunch of knee-jerk know-nothings. News organizations that strive for diversity in their ranks will embrace somebody who's a gay Asian Wiccan. But don't be caught reading the Bible, because your colleagues will think you're some kind of nut.

If you're curious about my religious bent, I will disclose it.

I had a brief love affair with God when I was 12; but, by the time I was confirmed at 13, it was all over. I like to think there's a Great Earth Mother who probably hides out on the Queen Charlotte Islands. I think most religions provide similar templates for living the good life and sometimes become dangerously perverted in practice. I think the longing for God -- call it soul hunger -- is universal, and hard-wired into our genes. I like the evangelicals I've met, who strike me as decent, modest, unpretentious people who feel totally shut out by the mainstream media. I also believe strongly in gay marriage, and I have gay friends who tell me that escaping from their religious families was the happiest day of their life.

As for the so-called God gap between Canada and the United States, it's not as big as you think. A recent Ipsos-Reid poll found that 19 per cent of Canadians now describe themselves as evangelical Christians. (In the U.S., it's about one-third.) The gap between the two countries is not so much in beliefs as in the grip that "moral values" now have on the public agenda. In the U.S., they are front and centre, and that is not a good thing; in Canada, they are almost invisible.

And yet are we really so different? If gay marriage were put to a popular vote in Canada, do you think it would pass? I think not. I do not believe this would be a sign of rampant homophobia. I think it means that many people are willing to endorse civil unions and civil rights for gays, but still stick at the M-word. I think that most people in both countries don't want judges to decide this matter for them, and I think that's a reasonable position.

I've always suspected that history was just lying in wait to take its exquisite revenge on us boomers who sought meaning in sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and the entire menu of Eastern mysticism. And so it has. The people who buy books such as The Purpose Driven Life have an average age of 38. They think our generation debased the culture, and they're right.

After every period of personal and cultural excess, the pendulum inevitably swings back. After the Regency came the Victorians, and so it goes for us, too. Meantime, until somebody else can come up with as good an answer to soul hunger as Rick Warren has, maybe we shouldn't sneer. The '60s are finally over, folks. Time to move on.


Friday, November 26, 2004

My thoughts, His words...

Have you ever had someone say what you are thinking. It's a pretty amazing moment. Max Lucado recently did an interview about post-election America that said exactly what I've been thinking but just couldn't find the words to communicate.

Take a look

Emerging, the Priesthood and Harmony with God

I love the way Will Samson puts togeter thoughts. He writes...

I know that I spend a lot of time in the Gospels, but consider the kingdom parables of Matthew 13. Read through those and you understand that God is at work whether we acknolwedge it or not. It is not our job to gin up God’s activity; that is a given. Instead it is up to us to open our eyes and see what God is up to, see what God is doing, and to ask how we might be a part of that.

Read More

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Holy Observer: Local Man Gives Thanks in Most Circumstances

Sunday School Teacher Fails to Give Thanks for Stubbed Toe, Canadian Change

CHARLOTTE, NC - Darryl Gowin had high hopes for his Thanksgiving Sunday school lesson this year. But Gowin, who teaches 3rd grade Sunday school at Charlotte Church of the Nazarene, had his hopes dashed by a stubbed toe and an overlooked Canadian quarter. 'I've always had a real hard time with 1 Thessalonians 5:18,' Gowan told THO. 'I told myself I wouldn't teach that lesson to my 3rd graders until I could go a whole year, giving thanks in all circumstances. That was 15 years ago.' Gowin says he almost reached his goal this year, until October 3rd at around 3 AM. "

Read More


I've been thinking a lot about progress. I found this at Jay Vorhees blog -

It's a picture of a what the Rand Company of the 1950's thought home computers would look in 2004.

So I guess it's true, we've come a long way baby. But progress isn't always linear. Just because our technology is progressing doesn't mean that everything is moving forward. Take, for example, this quote from Owen Hanson, "After thousands of years, western civilization has advanced to where we bolt our doors and windows at night while jungle natives sleep in open huts."

Often our progress in one area brings about regress in other areas. I'm not very happy with our vision of progress in North America today. Often we've progressed to the point where we are able to see things from our viewpoint without the "hindrance" of seeing things from a larger perspective. We can live fat and happy in our consumer oriented society without thinking that we are ignoring the cries of the poor and oppressed from other parts of the world. Have we really made progress? That's a huge question and one that we need to wrestle with.

Paul wanted Timothy to make progress. But it was a different kind of progress. He wrote - "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (I Timothy 4:7-16)

How do we progress in our faith? How do we take one step closer to Jesus Christ? In regards to a church, progress is often seen as higher attendance, more professional services, a new or updated building. But spiritual progress often looks different than the world's progress. It often appears as weakness or brokenness. Sometimes it looks to the world as if we are moving backward. Kind of like the cross looked like a failure from the world's point of view.

We're called to make progress, but let's be sure that we don't misunderstand how that looks.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Friday, November 19, 2004

Here's a thought...

Introducing Buy Nothing Christmas

This Christmas we'll be swamped with offers, ads and invitations to buy more stuff. But now there's a way to say enough and join a movement dedicated to reviving the original meaning of Christmas giving.

Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites but open to everyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action.

Buy Nothing Christmas is a stress-reliever, and more people need to hear about it. You can change your world by simply putting up one of the posters (or make your own) in your church, place of worship, home or work. Be sneaky about it if you have to. The point is to get people thinking. It's an idea whose time has come, so get out there and make a difference!

Read More

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Fascinating Trivia

Thanks to my nephew Matt for these facts -


Many years ago, in Scotland, a new game was invented. It was ruled
"Gentlemen Only...Ladies Forbidden"...and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the US Treasury.

Men can read smaller print than women can; women can hear better.

Coca-Cola was originally green.

It is impossible to lick your elbow.

The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work: Alaska

The percentage of Africa that is wilderness: 28% (now get this...) The percentage of North America that is wilderness: 38%

The cost of raising a medium-size dog to the age of eleven: $6,400

The average number of people airborne over the US any given hour: 61,000

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.

The San Francisco Cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:
Spades - King David
Hearts - Charlemagne
Clubs -Alexander, the Great
Diamonds - Julius Caesar

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.

Q. Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of what?
A. Their birthplace

Q. Most boat owners name their boats. What is the most popular boat name requested?
A. Obsession

Q. If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go until you would find the letter "A"?
A. One thousand

Q. What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers all have in common?
A. All invented by women.

Q. What is the only food that doesn't spoil?
A. Honey

Q. Which day are there more collect calls than any other day of the year?
A. Father's Day

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase......... "goodnight, sleep tight."

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month ... which we know today as the honeymoon.

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts... So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them "Mind your pints and quarts, and settle down." It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's"

Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim, or handle, of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.


At least 75% of people who read this will try to lick their elbow!

Jesus, Bread and Power

Great post from Will Samson:

"Perhaps so much of our efforts have been focused on things that Jesus didn't even take time to mention that we have no time left to do the things that he explicitly asked us to do? "

Read more

Friday, November 05, 2004

An uneasiness about America

I have been unsettled about this whole election. Part of it has to do that I wasn't thrilled with either candidate. I realized on election night that if I had to choose a president based on what was best for America that I could have made a choice. But trying to choose a candidate that was best for the Kingdom of God seemed impossible. I think I'm disillusioned with what America is coming to stand for. Brennan Manning seemed to echo my thoughts when he wrote -

"A critique of our culture in the light of the gospel is imperative if the church of Jesus Christ is to preserve a coherent sense of itself in a world that is torn and tearing. To criticize the system of Western technological capitalism is neither unpatriotic nor un-American, for as Walter Wink, professor of biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, noted, "We cannot minister to the soul of America unless we love its soul." A chastened patriotism is indispensable for the survival of the nation as well as of the church. National attitudes and policies change only because people love their country.

I see three areas where the American Dream is counter-evangelical - that is, in direct opposition to the message of Jesus and a life endorsed with the signature of Jesus. Our culture, as John Kavanaugh observed, 'fosters and sustains a functional trinitarian god of consumerism, hedonism, and nationalism. Made in the image and likeness of such a god, we are committed to lives of possessiveness, pleasure, and domination.'

Unless the church of the Lord Jesus creates a counter-current to the drift of materialism, self-indulgence, and nationalism, Christians will merely adapt to the secular environment in a tragic distortion of the gospel, in which the words of Jesus are reinterpreted to mean anything, everything, and nothing."
(Read more)

I want to be a good American. I love my country. I love what it has given to me throughout the years. But I am troubled that it is building a foundation on sand. The preservation of what we have has taken precedence over the call of Jesus. And I can't settle for less that what Jesus wants. If that is what it means to be American then I am not interested.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Great quote

Here's a great quote from Lesslie Newbigin's The Gospel in a Pluralist Society .

"If the gospel is to challenge the public life of our society, if Christians are to occupy the “high ground” which they vacated in the noon-time of “modernity,” it will not be by forming a Christian political party, or by aggressive propaganda campaigns. ... It will only be by movements that begin with the local congregation in which the reality of the new creation is present, known, and experienced, and from which men and women will go into every sector of public life to claim it for Christ, to unmask the illusions which have remained hidden and to expose all areas of public life to the illumination of the gospel. But that will only happen when local congregations renounce an introverted concern for their own life, and recognize that they exist for the sake of those who are not members, as sign, instrument, and foretaste of God’s redeeming grace for the whole life of society."

Thanks to subvergence.org for the link.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


One of the habits that Jesus had that often escapes our notice is the habit of joy. He celebrated during His time on earth. His first miracle was at a wedding feast, and it actually served to prolong the party! Why is it that so often Christians lack joy? Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was a member of the U.S. Supreme Court for 30 years. His mind, wit and work earned him the unofficial title of "the greatest justice since John Marshall." At one point in his life, Justice Holmes explained his choice of a career by saying: "I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers." What a sad commentary. Jesus, however, was full of joy. I believe that is one of the reasons people were so drawn to Him.

Perhaps one of the reasons that our joy seems to be so fleeting is that we search for it in the wrong places. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

As Halloween has just passed I find myself raiding my kids candy stash. There is nothing like a Reese's Cup to bring a smile to my face. Yet I find that if I eat too much, the smile slips away. The "good feeling" ends and I end up feeling lethargic. I've tried to fuel my body with junk food. While it initially felt great, there was no real substance to the fuel. In the same way, I often settle for fueling my spirit with spiritual junk food. Playing with things that make me feel good for the moment, but that provide no energy for the long haul.

I need to take a look at myself. Am I joyful? Am I seeking God's offer of a "...holiday at the sea" or am I just sitting around making mud pies?

A very important question...

What Muppet are you?

Here is my result:

You are Kermit the Frog.
You are reliable, responsible and caring. And you
have a habit of waving your arms about

"Hi ho!" "Yaaay!" and
"How Green Was My Mother"

"Surfin' the Webfoot: A Frog's Guide to the

Sitting in the swamp playing banjo.

"Hmm, my banjo is wet."

What Muppet are you?

I just couldn't resist.

Shine on Harvest Moon

Did Falwell really say this?

"But you've got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I'm for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord. "

Apparently he did.

Check it out here

A New Confession of Christ...

From Sojourners Magazine - Well worth the read.

Confessing Christ in a World of Violence

Our world is wracked with violence and war. But Jesus said: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God' (Matt. 5:9). Innocent people, at home and abroad, are increasingly threatened by terrorist attacks. But Jesus said: 'Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you' (Matt. 5:44). These words, which have never been easy, seem all the more difficult today.
Nevertheless, a time comes when silence is betrayal. How many churches have heard sermons on these texts since the terrorist atrocities of September 11? Where is the serious debate about what it means to confess Christ in a world of violence? Does Christian 'realism' mean resigning ourselves to an endless future of 'pre-emptive wars'? Does it mean turning a blind eye to torture and massive civilian casualties? Does it mean acting out of fear and resentment rather than intelligence and restraint?
Faithfully confessing Christ is the church's task, and never more so than when its confession is co-opted by militarism and nationalism.
- A 'theology of war,' emanating from the highest circles of American government, is seeping into our churches as well.
- The language of 'righteous empire' is employed with growing frequency.
- The roles of God, church, and nation are confused by talk of an American 'mission' and 'divine appointment' to 'rid the world of evil.'
The security issues before our nation allow no easy solutions. No one has a monopoly on the truth. But a policy that rejects the wisdom of international consultation should not be baptized by religiosity. The danger today is political idolatry exacerbated by the politics of fear.

In this time of crisis, we need a new confession of Christ

Read the full statement

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Just Letters

This is pretty incredible.

Just Letters

I'm away from the phone right now...

For those of you who read this blog regularly, I'm sorry that I haven't posted anything this week. I'm up to my eyeballs in a class that I'm taking and probably won't have much to say until next week. Check back then. Thanks for your patience.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Emergent Mystique - Christianity Today

Christianity Today weighs in on the "emerging church":

"Gentlemen, start your hair dryers-not since the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s has a Christian phenomenon been so closely entangled with the self-conscious cutting edge of U.S. culture. Frequently urban, disproportionately young, overwhelmingly white, and very new-few have been in existence for more than five years-a growing number of churches are joining the ranks of the 'emerging church.'

Like all labels, this one conceals as much as it reveals. But the phrase 'emerging church' captures several important features of a new generation of churches. They are works in progress, often startlingly improvisational in their approach to everything from worship to leadership to preaching to prayer. Like their own members, they live in the half-future tense of the young, oriented toward their promise rather than their past. But if their own focus is on what they are 'emerging' toward, perhaps most surprising are the places they are emerging from."

Read More

Who is Church for?

Jordon Cooper quotes from The Present Future by Reggie McNeal

...You can build the perfect church--and they still won't come. People are not looking for a great church. They do not wake up every day wondering what church they can make successful. The age in which institutional religion holds appeal is passing away--and in a hurry.... Church leaders seem unable to grasp this simple implication of the new world--people outside the church think church is for church people, not for them.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

The futility of one metaphor...

I've been thinking a lot lately about the incomprehensibility of God. He is a God who is "light", who reveals Himself to us, but who also is mysterious and sometimes hidden. So I've been wondering what I know and what I do not know. How many of my thoughts about God are just assumptions or ideas that I've picked up from some other place? What started this line of thinking was Jesus constant use of the phrase, "The Kingdom of God is like...". It seems that everytime He used it he referred to some radically different analogy.

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.
The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.
The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.
The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.
The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.

Why did he use so many analogies? I tend to like people to say what they mean. Clarity please, and the less words the better. But I'm coming to realize that Jesus had to teach about the Kingdom this way. That's because it is so different from anything we have ever known. It's a radically counter-cultural, other-worldly way of life. It's almost as if the truth of the Kingdom of God is a multi-faceted gemstone. There is no way that you can take it all in at once. So as Jesus teaches, he focuses our attention on one aspect of the Kingdom, calling us to be captivated by its beauty. Then He backs us up and takes us for a run at the other side, allowing us to see a different aspect of the same beauty. The Kingdom is something that we can't put into words. So Jesus gives us picture after picture of what it looks like.

If this is true of the Kingdom, how much more is it true of the King Himself. God is "wholly other". We can't know all of Him. That would be beyond our human capability. So God gives us snapshots. Pictures of aspects of who He is. And as we see them we get a better understanding. That's why Jesus is so important. He is the ultimate picture, the one in whom lived "all the fullness of deity in bodily form". (Col. 2:9) Even with Jesus, though, it's hard for us to take the whole picture in at once. God, although knowable, is shrouded in mystery. We see him in little bits, as He chooses to reveal Himself to us. If we believe this to be true then it should shape the way we communicate God to others. Any talk of God should be done with the realization that there is much we do not know. Alvin Toffler said,

"No single world view can ever capture the whole truth. Only by applying mutliple and temporary metaphors can we gain a rounded (if still incomplete) picture of the world...I mistrust those who already think they have the answers when we are still trying to formulate the questions."

Our task is to humbly show people what we have seen to be true, and help them to begin to look for glimpses of God in the context of their own lives. We need to help them ask good questions. The focus is always on Jesus, but often the clarity comes as Jesus interacts with people in the context of their everyday life. I have often said of preaching that many times I am trying to get people to see and experience something that I haven't fully seen or experienced myself. I need the Holy Spirit to come and take people where they need to go. As we share the truths about Jesus with those around us, let's not limit ourselves to one or two metaphors. Let's not take our experience and determine that the way to growing in relationship with God is exactly the way we have seen it happen in our own life. I'm not saying that we need to throw out orthodoxy, just to be honest about how much we really know (and how much we really don't). Let's begin to allow God to show us all sides of Himself. In whatever way He chooses.

Interested in learning more about Brian McLaren?

Here's a good place to wrestle with some of the ideas that Brian is contributing to the discussion...


Saturday, October 16, 2004

A Conversation with Brian McLaren

"Right at the heart of Jesus' teaching is this radical idea that the kingdom of God doesn't come through human force. We're always tempted to use human force. In order to see the kingdom of God come without human force, we have to be willing to suffer. But with force we have to see others suffer.
It's taking a long time for followers of Jesus to believe he's right about the kingdom of God. I'm not saying there's no place for armies and weapons, I suppose there is in our world. I think I might have said in the book, Psalm 20 says that some trust in horses, some trust in chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. But when you have a lot of horses and chariots as we do, it's easy to trust in them. "

Read More:

Friday, October 15, 2004

A new Confession of Christ in an election year.

Okay, I admit it. I'm struggling with the my thoughts surrounding the upcoming election. I don't appreciate the confusing of issues offered by either party. Jim Wallis gives voice to many of my concerns in an article from Sojourners Magazine:

"In a world wracked with violence and war, the words of Jesus, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,' are not only challenging, they are daunting. The hardest saying of Jesus and perhaps the most controversial in our post 9-11 world must be: 'Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.' Let's be honest: how many churches in the United States have heard sermons preached from either of these Jesus texts in the years since America was viciously attacked on the world-changing morning of Sept. 11, 2001? Shouldn't we at least have a debate about what the words of Jesus mean in the new world of terrorist threats and pre-emptive wars?

The most important thing for the church in this time, or any time, is the confession of Christ. We see the confession of Christ itself under attack from three very dangerous developments. First, we see an emerging 'theology of war,' emanating from the highest circles of the U.S. government. Second, we hear, with growing frequency, the language 'righteous empire' being employed by those same political leaders. Third, we observe a presidential talk of 'mission' and even 'divine appointment' of the United States and its leaders to lead 'the war on terrorism' and 'rid the world of evil,' in ways that confuse the roles of God, church, and nation.
The issue here is not partisan politics, and there are no easy political solutions. The governing party has increasingly struck a religious tone in an aggressive foreign policy that is much more nationalist than Christian, while the opposition party has offered more confusion than clarity.

The issue here is the danger of political idolatry. The other issue is the use of the politics of fear, which is a dangerous basis for foreign policy. Such political idolatry at the highest levels of American political power, combined with effective campaigns of fear that too easily co-opt anxious people—believers and unbelievers alike—could together lead our nation and our world to decades of pre-emptive, unilateral, and virtually endless war, despite the clear warnings of Christian ethics. A biblical theology is being replaced by a nationalist religion. Presidential speeches are even misusing both scripture and hymnology by changing their meaning for the purposes of American power. Biblical references such as "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it," are changed from referring to the "light of Christ," from the gospel of John, to the "ideal of America" in the war on terrorism.

We need a new confession of Christ. For such a confession, there should be at least these affirmations:

1. Christ knows no national boundaries nor national preferences. The body of Christ in an international one, and the allegiance of Christians to the church must always supercede their national identities. Christianity has always been uneasy with empire, and American empire is no exception.

2. Christ pronounces, at least, a presumption against war. The words of Jesus stand as a virtual roadblock to any nation’s pretension to easily rationalize and religiously sanctify the preference for war. Jesus’ instruction to be "peacemakers" leads either to nonviolent alternatives to war or, at least, a rigorous application of the church principles of "just war." The threat of terrorism does not overturn Christian ethics.

3. Christ commands us to not only see the splinter in our adversary’s eye but also the beams in our own. To name the face of evil in the brutality of terrorist attacks is good theology, but to say "they are evil and we are good" is bad theology which can lead to dangerous foreign policy. Self-reflection should provide no excuses for terrorist violence, but it is crucial to defeating the terrorists’ agenda.

4. Christ instructs us to love our enemies, which does not mean a submission to their hostile agendas or domination, but does mean treating them as human beings also created in the image of God and respecting their human rights as adversaries and even as prisoners.

5. Christ calls us to confession and humility, which does not allow us to say that if persons and nations are not in support of all of our policies, they must be "with the evil-doers."

The words of Jesus are either authoritative for us, or they are not. They are not set aside by the very real threats of terrorism. They do not easily lend themselves to the missions of nation states that would usurp the prerogatives of God.

In an election year, Christians must assert their faith in ways that confess Christ as Lord, and confront any and every political idolatry. I believe the theology of war, the mission of righteous empire, and the divine appointment of the American nation in a "war on terrorism" are modern political idolatries that the churches must resist, in the name of both faithful discipleship and responsible citizenship.

In any election we choose between very imperfect choices. Yet it is always important to prayerfully and theologically examine what is at stake. And then, as best we can, we seek to confess Christ—even in our political lives. In this election, there is a great deal at stake and Christians, divided by political loyalties, are all responsible for asking the question, "What does it mean to confess Christ in the election of 2004?"

These are good thoughts. And ones that we must consider.

Read the entire article:

Re-defining Fruit

“We have been called to be fruitful--not successful, not productive, not accomplished. Success comes from strength, stress, and human effort. Fruitfulness comes from vulnerability and the admission of our own weakness.” (Henri Nouwen)

I have a great fear that we have missed the definition of fruit. We look to the mega-churches for models and definitions of a healthy successful church. (Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for the Willow Creeks and the Saddlebacks. They are expanding the Kingdom in their respective contexts.) But what about the little guys? The churches that will probably never grow over 125 people. The missionary who is slugging out in a context that is at best unreceptive and at worst hostile to the message of Jesus? What does fruit look like there?

As a pastor this is a question that I wrestle with all the time. Our church's mission is "...helping people take one step closer to Jesus Christ." But how does this look? How do we know that it is happening?

I would love to hear some feedback from anyone out there as to what they think "fruit" looks like in the 21st century. Obviously it will line up with the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians, but what are some of the more concrete ways that we can tell that we are being fruitful?

Quit complaining about your job!

Thanks to my friend Mark Friesen who sent me the following pictures. He titled them, "Quit complaining about your job!"

It's not just a job, it's an adventure.

Momma never told me there'd be days like these.

Cubicle buddies

Thursday, October 14, 2004

God explodes!

I'm working on a text for a sermon this week that includes the following section.

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it. (Mark 11:12-14)

Why would Jesus curse a fig tree for not bearing figs. It wasn't even the season for figs. That's not very fair; not very "Christ-like". What were the thoughts of the disciples as they walked away from this scene? Was Jesus' behavior as shocking to them as it seems to us?

The reality is that God often acts in ways that we don't expect. Sometimes He moves in ways that we think are completely out of character for who He is. And yet that's the problem. Our conception of who He is can often be far from the truth. He wants to blow away our perceptions so that when the smoke clears we get to see the real Him. Buechner said it so well when he wrote,

"God doesn’t explain. He explodes. He asks Job who he thinks he is anyway. He says that to try to explain the kind of things Job wants explained would be like trying to explain Einstein to a little-neck clam...God doesn’t reveal his grand design. He reveals himself." (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p. 46)

God please explode for us. Break apart our boxes lined with pre-conceived notions. Wash away the "thoughts of men" and give us the "thoughts of God". Give us You - for that is all we really need.

“For the first two or three years after my conversion, I used to ask for specific things. Now I ask for God. Supposing there is a tree full of fruits -- you will have to go and buy or beg the fruits from the owner of the tree. Every day you would have to go for one or two fruits. But if you can make the tree your own property, then all the fruits will be your own. In the same way, if God is your own, then all things in Heaven and on earth will be your own, because He is your Father and is everything to you; otherwise you will have to go and ask like a beggar for certain things. When they are used up, you will have to ask again. So ask not for gifts but for the Giver of Gifts: not for life but for the Giver of Life -- then life and the things needed for life will be added unto you.” (Sadhu Sundar Singh)

P.S. Just so you know, the fig tree makes alot more sense when you read about what Jesus did next.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Habits of a Child's Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines

New Book alert - Habits of a Child's Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines

I haven't read this but I think I want to. If anyone has then let me know what you think.


And if you want to see my wish list of books here it is.

Did Paul really mean it when he said...

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:14-21)

I took the time to read over this slowly and let the words sink in. It occured to me that if we really lived out what Paul is calling us to that we would have trouble living in society. We would be seen as strange. Radicals. Did Paul really mean it? And what does that mean for us?

An excellent article, worth the read...

Jordon Cooper, via Jonny Baker, led me to this article by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. I've just been reading their book, "The Shaping of Things to Come" and the article does a great job of summarizing some of their main ideas.

"The Christendom-era church has these three flaws in its DNA; it is attractional, dualistic and hierarchical."

Read More

What's in my cup?

When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. (Luke 11:37-41)

I've read this passage so many times, but until today I've never really seen the last verse. Jesus calls the Pharisees to deal with the filth inside their "dish", but His remedy is not what we might think. Instead of a sinner's prayer he calls them to give who they are ("what is inside the dish") to the poor. Far too often we make salvation and conversion out to be such personal, me-centered acts. But Jesus says that conversion comes as you give yourself away to the poor. No, I'm not saying we aren't saved "by grace, through faith". But I am saying that our conversion/salvation has to do with more than just us. It's not a cognitive act that is somehow separated from who we are and the context we live in. It's a matter of looking at what's inside, asking for it to be transformed and then giving ourselves away. Jesus gave Himself away, even to the point of death. And if I'm not mistaken He did say, "As the Father has sent me, so send I you."

These ideas remind me of something I linked to a few days ago - Todd Hunter's Theory of learning. Todd says that "A person's experience should always be greater than their education." As I have been reflecting on this I have been reminded that we don't tend to utliize this principle in the church. We over-educate. We pump people so full of Biblical knowledge that they are often too bloated to go and work our what they know. That's why churches have to make sure that they build themselves around mission. Doctrine is very important, but taken as an academic study, it will destroy our spiritual life. As we live out the mission of Jesus, giving away what is in our dish, we will become hungry for doctrine. Our experience will motivate our education.

Knowing Jesus is not something that we do in a classroom. He's not a laboratory specimen that we examine under a microscope. We meet Him as we interact with others in His mission. And from that we gain a knowing that is relational. That's why He said things like,

"If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." (Jn 7:17)


"You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40)

and that's why Paul wrote

"I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." (Philemon 6)

Jesus calls us to live out our faith as we work with Him in His mission. As we do that we are transformed, and we gain a deeper knowledge of who He is. As you "give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you."

Friday, October 08, 2004

Do you ever wonder?

Do you ever wonder what God is up to? I've had two conversations today with people who are in some of the most difficult and discouraging situations that I have ever encountered. What's unique about both of the situations is that these are people who are spiritually hungry. They are ready for some response from God to their hunger. They're not expecting fireworks, no over-night resolution to their problems, just a sense that there is some meaning in the midst of their misery. If I was God I think I'd try to give them the encouragement that they are thirsting for. But He seems to be "away from the office". Meanwhile, on the "other side of town" where I live, I encounter people with no spiritual hunger who have a life that others would give their right arm to have. I'm not talking about wealth and ease, just a "normal" life. What is God up to? I'm getting tired of saying, "I don't know".

Thursday, October 07, 2004

That mean Canadian Government is at it again...

"A flying squirrel named Sabrina is at the center of a fight between Canada, which wants to deport the rodent, and its owner who says the creature is harmless and has bonded to him. Ottawa wants to send the animal back to the United States, citing a 2003 ban on importing rodents into the country after a monkeypox outbreak south of the border last year. Naturalist Steve Patterson, who brought the squirrel across the border last June after filling out the necessary papers, said the government is simply being stubborn. 'The good the squirrel can do far outweighs the bad,' he said on Wednesday. 'If we could apply for refugee status, I would certainly put an application in for her, but I don't think the laws cover small, baby squirrels.' "

Read More

Todd Hunter's Theory of Learning...

Let me tell you, this makes so much sense. And it has radical implications for the way that we help people learn to follow Jesus.

“Hunter’s Theory of Learning:" A person’s experience should always be greater than their education.

Read More

An analogy that is making more sense to me everyday.

“When Jesus announced the kingdom, the stories he told functioned like dramatic plays in search of actors. His hearers were invited to audition for parts in the kingdom. They had been eager for God’s drama to be staged and were waiting to find out what they would have to do when he did so. Now they were to discover. They were to become kingdom-people themselves.” - N.T. Wright

Detoxing From Church

I have unsettling thoughts in my head. I'm wrestling with an overload of ideas and am not sure where to put all of them in order to bring some type of coherence to my thought life. My constant struggle is to differentiate between what I have grown accustomed to as church and what church really is. It's my desire to live as a part of a Christ-following community - surrendered to His leadership and allowing that to impact the culture all around me. However what I far too often find myself doing is living in a community shaped more by cultural baggage than by Christ. Maybe that's why the following words from The Off Ramp resonated so deeply with me.

"Imagine what you would have left after you remove from your life everything connected with the organizational church. I mean everything. I've discovered the hard way that living most of my adult life in cultural Christianity has formed my entire identity as a Christian. And when everything in my life connected with the church is gone, including sixteen years of professional ministry, I'm confronted with the true raw status my personal faith.
Now I'm going to say something harsh: In order to BE the Church, we need to leave the church. In other words, in order to truly become God's people as he intended, we must abandon our cultural version of organizational church. The application of this statement might vary, but it must happen. And as we abandon the church to become the Church, we will go through a detox period. Why such drastic measures? Involvement in an organizational consumer-driven church blinds us to the real state of our lives."

Read More

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Why we are used...

I've been seeing my own faults a lot lately. It's frustrating to have to acknowledge that you are not the you that you want to be. But the amazing thing is that with our acknowledgement of weakness and inability comes hope. Hope because God is not limited to how good we are. He is not limited to our abilities. In fact, when we are most useless, he often uses us the most. It reminds me of a story that Haddon Robinson once told,

“On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played University of California in the Rose Bowl. In that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California. Somehow, he became confused and started running 65 yards in the wrong direction. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, outdistanced him and downed him just before he scored for the opposing team. When California attempted to punt, Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety which was the ultimate margin of victory.
That strange play came in the first half, and everyone who was watching the game was asking the same question: “What will Coach Nibbs Price do with Roy Riegels in the second half?” The men filed off the field and went into the dressing room. They sat down on the benches and on the floor, all but Riegels. He put his blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, put his face in his hands, and cried like a baby.
If you have played football, you know that a coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during half time. That day Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels. Then the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time. Coach Price looked at the team and said simply, “Men the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He did not budge. the coach looked back and called to him again; still he didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.” Then Roy Riegels looked up and his cheeks were wet with a strong man’s tears.
“Coach,” he said, “I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined the University of California, I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”
Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegel’s shoulder and said to him: “Roy, get up and go on back; the game is only half over.” And Roy Riegels went back, and those Tech men will tell you that they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.”

Because of who we are we live with failure everyday. Yet the reality is that Jesus says to you and I, “…get up and go on back; the game is only half over.” We are used because we are His, not because we are good. That gives me hope.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the emerging church?

Dan Kimball says... (via ginkworld)

I think the biggest overall and subtle challenge right now that comes to my mind is consumerism. For those who have grown up in the church, we really have taught them to view church like they would if they were on the panel of 'American Idol'. The expectation of performance, the mindset of 'what does this church have to offer me?' the way they judge church by how good is the preacher, how good is the music etc. I think we would admit that this is the mentality of most Christians in evangelical churches if we were honest.

I don't blame them, because since they were children we taught them to view church as the place to have 'fun' with hyper-kids games and videos, and for youth to view church as the place to get emotionally charged and hyped from songs and energetic rallies and camps which teach Jesus etc. We have brought them to the Christian concerts, fed them into the consumerism of Christian commercialism of T-Shirts, CD's etc. and in many ways have based their Christian experience primarily around these things, with an occasional missions trip to Mexico thrown in. I hyper-exaggerate here, but I have a sinking suspicion if we really think about this, we leaders may be the very ones who had a lot to do with what we are now fighting in our churches in regards to consumerism."

Read More:

Friday, October 01, 2004

Words of wisdom for the American Church

Thanks to Darren at Thin Spaces for this quote...

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt


It really is a Journey...

I've always wanted to do great things for God. As I look back on some of the great things that I've attempted I have to admit that they were usually great things for me, done in God's name. It's interesting how we lose focus, we miss the true intentions and motivations of our own heart.

That's why I'm glad that this life of following Jesus is a journey. Times of ease and times of difficulty. Times to learn new things and times to reflect on the things you thought you had already learned. And at some point you begin to realize that anyone who tells you that you take quantum spiritual leaps is probably selling you something. The journey isn't flashy. (Jesus used "taking up your cross" as a metaphor.) But it's a journey of joy. It's the journey I was created for. And it progresses one small step at a time. "He must become greater, I must become less", said that camel skin wearing, locust eating prophet. That's a life long process, one that happens a little at a time. My friend Matt Auten wrote a song a long time ago that said something like this -

"What the wind cannot lift it will wear away
What they waves can't break they will shape a new way.
All I am and all I will be are buried in who You will be to me.
Rather than lose me to my worthless loves You gain me grain by grain."

Grain by grain. A journey. Small steps. Reminds me of a quote that I love.

"To give my life for Christ appears glorious, to pour myself out for others. . . to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom - I'll do it. I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory. We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking $l,000 bill and laying it on the table - 'Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all'. But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $l,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, 'Get lost'. Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious. It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul." (Fred Craddock)

It really is a journey. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

One more plug for spiritual honesty...

The House Church Blog pointed me to Leighton Tebay who writes...

"Let us be honest, we don't know how to fix the church."

Read more

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Lost puppy...

I hope this doesn't offend anyone, but I couldn't stop laughing, so I finally gave in and posted it here.

You need to see this...

You probably need highspeed internet to see it properly, but it will affect you in a profound way.

Sarah McLachlan - World On Fire

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Here's to a dangerous Lover...

From Daily Dig, a quote by Kahlil Gibran

"When Love speaks to you, believe in him,
though his voice may shatter your dreams,
as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you, so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth, so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and
caresses the tender branches that quiver in the sun,
so shall he descend to your roots
and shake them in their clinging to the earth."

I don't long for the breaking - for the shattering of my dreams. A person would be crazy to want that. But I do long for Jesus. And if the way to Jesus entails a shattering of what I want - of what I think I need - then I want to go that way. Don't you?

I bought a CD...

...two actually. That may not sound like a big deal, but I don't buy a lot of music these days. In college I spent every penny I had on music, but not anymore. I did come across this CD by a guy named Derek Webb. He was formerly with Caedmon's Call. The CD is called "She must and shall go free." It's a CD written about the church. I like his style of music (acoustic with a contemporary bluegrass feel) but the lyrics have really impacted me. He writes in the liner notes,

"After ten years in a Christian band, backstage in the music industry and in the hallways of church buildings across America, my attention as a songwriter has turned to a fresh affection for the Church. It seems we know too little of who She is, how She should dress, or what She was made for. I have found that Scripture is provocative when it comes to these issues and so these songs are not for the faint of heart. ...She is both wretched and radiant...For the believer, truth is freedom, even truth that is hard to hear. May these sounds stir all of us to see, as if for the first time, that we have (still) a great need for a Savior, and a great Savior for our need."

Derek has a prophetic voice, but it's laced with honesty and humility. And underlying it all is a love for Jesus and His church. As you may have gathered from my previous postings, I am becoming more convinced of the central nature of honesty in our spiritual growth. We have to realize that the evil is not out there, but it is in us. The line that separates good from bad runs through the center of my heart. And only as I offer that weakness to Jesus can it be transformed. Maybe that's why Derek's lyric from his song called "Wedding Dress" hit so close to home. I share it with you as a window into my own heart, and as a longing for the day when I'll be the Bride that Jesus can make me to be.

Wedding Dress (words and music by derek webb)
Real Audio Sample Clip

if you could love me as a wife
and for my wedding gift, your life
should that be all i'll ever need
or is there more i'm looking for

and should i read between the lines
and look for blessings in disguise
to make me handsome, rich, and wise
is that really what you want

i am a whore i do confess
but i put you on just like a wedding dress
and i run down the aisle
i'm a prodigal with no way home
but i put you on just like a ring of gold
and i run down the aisle to you

so could you love this bastard child
though i don't trust you to provide
with one hand in a pot of gold
and with the other in your side
i am so easily satisfied
by the call of lovers less wild
that i would take a little cash
over your very flesh and blood


because money cannot buy
a husband's jealous eye
when you have knowingly deceived his wife

A big thank you to Derek, for his prophetic voice, for his transparency, for the love for Jesus he evokes in my heart as he sings.

Friday, September 24, 2004

"Honesty" by Johann Christoph Arnold

A while back I posted on the need for honesty on our spiritual journey. I found this article from Bruderhof which says better than I could what God seems to be teaching me.

"If someone asked me to pick the most fundamental requirement for inner peace, I would probably take honesty. Whether taken to mean truthfulness in a general sense, or knowledge of one’s condition, or the ability to call a spade a spade, or the willingness to admit failure in front of others, honesty is a basic premise for peace. We may strive and struggle for peace until our dying breath, but we will never find it as long as we are unwilling to place ourselves under the clear light of truth. Dishonesty is one of the greatest impediments along the path to peace, because it prevents us from finding a square footing on which to base our search...Peace can be lost in a moment – through stubbornness or deceit, pride, self-will, or the false comfort of an easy way out. Yet it is never too late to start looking for it again, even if it has eluded us for years. Whenever we are able to take an honest look at ourselves – who am I, not in the eyes of others, but in the sight of God? – it should not be hard to refocus on our need for Jesus. In his truth there is always peace."

Read More

Sacred Space - the prayer site run by the Irish Jesuits

One of the best sites I've found to help me focus and grow in my prayer life. Use it with discernment, but use it.


On a Rite of Passage...

Once again, Desert pastor writes things that stimulate thinking and are worth reading...

"Contemporary Western society has virtually eliminated the once prevelent rite-of-passage and its welcoming of children into adulthood. Surprisingly, few people today realize that the entire concept of “adolescence” is a modern construct – only appearing in the last century. Prior to then, in nearly all cultures in all places at all times we observe a two-stage development of humanity: children and adults. Rather than children anticipating and preparing for his or her journey into adulthood (e.g. Jewish bar/bat mitzvah, Amish Rumspringa), it seems that contemporary culture is sending a double-message: "you're teenagers now and won't be adults for quite awhile," AND "we want you to go ahead and act like adults though, endulging yourselves in anything and everything."

Read More

The Blog Addiction spreads...

Hey, my friend Brian Wiebe has just started a blog. Check it out in the coming days. He has alot to offer.


A Generous Orthodoxy

Here's a blog about Brian McLaren's new book, A Generous Orthodoxy. It's all pretty positive and doesn't seem to be really critiquing the book very much, but it's good info and gives links to a few chapters that are online.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

This is for all the lonely people

I've had an interesting week. I've been forced into the realization that there is huge group of people in the world who, for all practical purposes, are almost invisible.

I am doing a funeral tomorrow for a 67 year old man who died when he was hit by a train. He suffered from Alzheimers and had wandered away from his family. He walked on the railroad tracks for 20 km. before being hit. However the thing that made the biggest impact on me wasn't the way he died, it was where he lived. He lived in a duplex right behind the church that I pastor. I walk or drive by his house every day. He'd lived there for almost two years and I didn't even know that he existed. What makes it even worse was that he was Mexican. One of the things I have lamented about living in Hope was that there is very little opportunity to practice my Spanish. Meanwhile, 50 meters from my office is a family who is speaking Spanish in their home. Yet in the midst of my "ministry", they had been invisible to me. When I asked them if there were people in town who would come to the funeral they said that they really didn't know anyone in town. They'd made efforts to get to know people, but no one seemed to connect with them. They had assumed that it was something wrong with them.

I've been trying to reflect on this experience with some sort of openness to the Spirit of God. I realize that I can't take responsibility for everyone in my town. There is no physical way that I can meet every individual and help them connect to a social/support network. But I have been challenged. Challenged to look for the invisible people. Challenged to slow down enough to say hello and see what happens. Challenged once again to get to know the people that Jesus called "...the least of these..."

Friend of Sinners

Food for thought from the House Church Blog...

I like this post from thedeepend:

A survey has been conducted in Newcastle, UK, about how practising Christians are viewed by their work colleagues. They were fairly much liked, actually, but their top three perceived characteristics were as follows:

1. They go to church

2. They don't have much time to socialise with work colleagues

3. They don't like drinking alcohol

When you consider that Jesus was known as a Sabbath-breaker, friend of sinners and drunkard, you have to conclude that something's gone badly wrong...


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Collapse of the Church Culture

Posted by Len over at Resonate. I found it via Jordon Cooper.

"The current church culture in North America is on life support. It is living off the work, money and energy of previous generations from a previous world order. The plug will be pulled when either the money runs out (80 percent of money given to congregations comes from people aged fifty-five and over) or when the remaining three-fourths of a generation who are institutional loyalists die off or both...

"The first Reformation was about freeing the church. The new Reformation is about freeing God's people from the church (the institution). The original Reformation decentralized the church. The new Reformation decentralizes ministry. The former Reformation occurred when clergy were no longer willing to take marching orders from the Pope. The current Reformation finds church members no longer willing for clergy to script their personal spiritual ministry journey. The last Reformation moved the church closer to home. The new Reformation is moving the church closer to the world. The historic Reformation distinguished Christians one from the other. The current Reformation is distinguishing followers of Jesus from religious people. The European Reformation assumed the church to be a part of the cultural-political order. The Reformation currently underway does not rely on the cultural-political order to prop up the church. The initial Reformation was about church. The new Reformation is about mission."
(Reggie McNeal, The Present Future, pp.1 and 43.)

We had an interesting talk last night with our "pot-luck group" regarding the changing face of missions today. This quote seemed to echo many of our feelings.


Monday, September 20, 2004

A personal note

I have been wanting to sit down and write some of my personal thoughts in this blog, but this past week has just not made it possible. It will be forthcoming.

When we get our spiritual house in order...

"When we get our spiritual house in order, we'll be dead. This goes on. You arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is making it in darkness. Don't expect faith to clear things up for you. It is trust, not certainty." - Flannery O'Connor

A great quote via Daily Dig.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

It's the little things that could make a difference...

Jordon Cooper led me to this one...

"Think about it. In America, people can afford $90.00 a month on the convince of espresso drinks. i'd bet the average suburban person drinks two or three espresso drinks a week. That is at least $30.00 a month depending on your drink. My friends spend an average of $30- 45 dollars a month. (i just overheard a barista say that one gentleman comes in three to four times a day.)
Just think of what a large group of us could do if we fasted one or two drinks a week and used that money to help the less fortunate."

Read more

Friday, September 17, 2004

Just one more proof of the importance of Hockey to Canadians

"WHITEHORSE, Yukon Territory - An exuberant dog left in a truck while the owner watched Canada win the World Cup of Hockey managed to throw the vehicle into gear and coast down a city hill.

A man out for a walk called police after seeing the vehicle coast by with a black Labrador retriever behind the wheel. Police arrived to find the truck in the middle of a road, blocking traffic, with the dog still at the wheel. No one was injured and there was no damage. Going door to door, police managed to track down the owner.
'Subsequent investigation indicates that the dog was celebrating the Canadian victory in the world hockey game and knocked the truck into gear, causing it to roll down the hill,' Whitehorse Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Wednesday in a firmly tongue-in-cheek news release.

'No word yet on how the dog is doing studying the rules for negotiating the new traffic circle.' "

Read More:

I'm not exactly sure if I'd brag about this or not...

Thursday, September 16, 2004

A Great Dream...

Len at NextReformation.com has a great dream...

"On another note, I have another dream. I dream of a non-profit foundation that would fund a downpayment for a duplex, and guarantee the mortgage. Each side of the duplex would then be gifted to single parent families, who have enough of an income to carry the mortgage. Too many single parents can never afford their own home, and they pour their meagre earnings into renting run down shacks with landlords who couldn't care less. By owning their own home they secure a better future, control of their environment, and some dignity. I think this is a good dream!"

Thanks for sharing that one, Len.

Great Analogy (and a little history too...)

From Jamie Hoskins over at BeChurch

I'm adding "Ana-" to my "Baptist"

After several years of thinking about it I've decided to come out of the closet. I am definitely more of an Anabaptist than a Baptist. I'm not that interested in denominational "names", but the more I see of the foundational ideas of the Anabaptists the more I am willing to identify with them. There are several reasons why:

First, Anabaptists stress the centrality of the teachings of Jesus. That may seem like a no-brainer, but what I mean is that they actually believe that we are called to follow Jesus and His teachings in our day to day lives. While most "Baptists" won't usually admit it, we have tended to look at teachings like the Sermon on the Mount as the ideal way to live, but not that practical. Often Jesus' teachings are seen more as ideals that make us realize that we don't measure up to God's standards than as characteristics of people seeking to live in God's Kingdom.

Second, Anabaptists see the meaning of Baptism as more important than the method. I think if hard-core Baptists are honest with our position of "total immersion only" we have to admit that we are bordering on sacramentalism. We may say that salvation is by grace alone, but in elevating the method above the heart commitment we often make immersion something that we do to earn God's favor.

Third, Anabaptists believe in the Kingdom as more than just something that will happen one day. It becomes their way of life. They seek to live in counter-cultural ways, as strangers and aliens here on earth. One thing that I'm learning about the Kingdom of God is that if you take it seriously it has far reaching implications, many of which will be viewed as strange or radical by outsiders.

Finally, Anabaptists aren't afraid to live at the margins of society. Brian McLaren says it well,

"Believing as I do that modernity is slowly but surely being replaced by a new postmodern ethos -- and believing that in the postmodern milieu Christians will have neither the dominating position that they had through the Middle Ages not the privileged position they had during much of modernity -- I believe we have a lot to learn at this juncture from the Anabaptists, who were willingly marginalized throughout modernity. Because they rejected the idea of the state church that the early Reformers accepted, they were welcome in neither Catholic not Protestant countries and for some years were bitterly persecuted...As outsiders they learned to function at the margins, and they learned that the gospel functions there just as well as or better than at the centers of power, prestige, wealth, and control. Rather than lamenting that 'Christendom' is over, Anabaptists have always felt 'Good Riddance!' Ever since Constantine, they believe, the church has been perverted by copulation with the Empire and its seductions." (A Generous Orthodoxy, p.206)

The current desire by many North American Christians to use the political process to legislate Christian values scares me. It appears to be causing many of those outside the faith to draw conclusions about Jesus (and Christianity) that I don't believe are accurate. The church seems to have lost it's prophetic voice in critiquing the current "Christian" administration. And finally, if it was so important to use the state as a vehicle for Kingdom growth doesn't it make sense that Jesus would have sought to do the same thing?

I should also say that I realize that there are no Anabaptists that live completely true to their convictions, but I believe that their convictions are more compelling (and more in line with the teachings of the New Testament) than the ones that I have held for years. So as far as I'm concerned, I'm adding "Ana-" to my "Baptist".