Friday, April 29, 2005

This just in...

You gotta like this...

Epic Church saw a need within the community -- a need to help people dissatisfied with religion but hungry for a spiritual journey full of danger, mystery and untamed faith. So they are launching "Join the Rebellion," a series of services and events to correspond with the opening of the third Star Wars movie. Join the Rebellion will highlight the book of Acts and how this band of rebels changed the world.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

What does it mean to be Missional?

Conrad Gempf writes...

"The early Christians' idea of being missional wasn't about shaping the gospel in a way that made sense to everyone and conformed to their culture and expectations. The early Christians' gospel conformed to Jesus. And Jesus was about provoking a decision: are you for him or against him?"

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"The will of the Almighty shall prevail in our own time..."

Ron Sider's EPistle starts with a good quote today.

Every individual who seeks the truth faces a struggle. Each of us has some sort of devil raging within, wanting to deaden and destroy something in us. We are all in danger of thinking we are doing God a service, when in fact we are just following our own will. That is why, over and again, we must tell ourselves: “Keep a tight rein on yourself! Stand by the truth when it dawns on you, even if it hurts, even when it denies everything the world has accepted as true until now!” God’s kingdom comes through struggle and tribulation, the defiant challenging of the whole age. It is advancing, and people have no taste for it. But in the end Jesus Christ — the Truth, the Life, and the Way — will win. So let us be comforted; for the will of the Almighty shall prevail in our own time, as surely as in the time of the apostles.- C. F. Blumhardt

I am constantly aware of how easily we are misled by our own agendas. As I grow spiritually I see an increasing need for humility and repentance. We can do things for good reasons that are not in line with where God is leading. The struggle for the Kingdom of God begins in the very deepest corner of my heart. And while it hurts to revisit areas that I thought were laid to rest, it's a sweet pain that brings with it the joy of knowing that the Spirit is alive and well and at work in my life. Joyful pain. Dying to live. It's all part of following Jesus.

Monday, April 25, 2005

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

I'll be at my denomination's "convention" for most of this week. I should be back to blog by Friday.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Present Future

I've been reading The Present Future by Reggie McNeal. It's blowing me away. Jordon and Len have been telling us all that McNeal has alot to say. I just never realized how effective he would be at expressing the things that I've been trying to put into words over the past few years. Here's a sample.

"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.

Take the time to get this book. It's that important.

To will one thing...

It was Sören Kierkegaard who wrote the book Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. I've always believed that. My prayer has been, "God, give me an undivided heart..." But in the past year or two I have become overwhelmed with the need of the world. I know that the answer to the need is God's job. But I also see that as a follower of Jesus I have to be concerned about the things that He is concerned about. he told His folllowers that they were to "make disciples...teaching them to obey whatever I have commanded you." And what I currently see in the world is a list of about 200 things that I could give my life to as an expression of my desire to follow Jesus. But I don't have that much life to give. Sometimes I long for the blessed days of ignorance when I didn't know about the amount of spousal abuse in Canada, that 50,000 people die every day of starvation, that genocide is a fact of life for many people in Africa, that the mentally ill have feelings just like the rest of us.

How do I be faithful to Jesus in the midst of all of this? How do I sit at His feet like Mary instead of running off to save the world like Martha? And how do I keep from becoming an apathetic follower and disguising it as "waiting on the Lord"? How does it all fit together?

I want to "will one thing" - love for Jesus. But the expression of that love seems to pull me in so many directions. Anybody else share this struggle? I'd love to hear what your thoughts are.

A great story

Helen Roseveare, a famous missionary doctor from England to Zaire (Congo), tells a story that moves me everytime that I read it. I share it with you here to remind you of a God who works in ways that we can't even comprehend.

"One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do she died leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator. (We had no electricity to run an incubator.) We also had no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. "And it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed.

As in the West it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. "All right," I said, "Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. "Your job is to keep the baby warm."

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. "Please, God," she prayed, "send us a water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon."

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of a corollary, "And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love her?" As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, "Amen?" I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the verandah, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend.

Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the ... could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out - yes, a brand-new, rubber hot water bottle! I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, "If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!" Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted.

Looking up at me, she asked: "Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?"

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months. Packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child - five months before - in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it "that afternoon."

"Before they call, I will answer!" (Isaiah 65:24)

A good idea from Rick Warren...

Interesting ideas from Saddleback that need to trickle down to all North American churches...

"The Scripture shows us that Jesus shared the Good News, trained leaders, helped the poor, cared for the sick, and taught the children," Warren said. "Our P.E.A.C.E. Plan will just do the five things Jesus did while he was here on earth."

P.E.A.C.E. is an acronym that stands for "Plant churches, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation," Warren said. The emphasis calls for church-based small groups to adopt villages where spiritual emptiness, selfish leadership, poverty, disease, and ignorance keep people from experiencing the kind of life God wants them to have, he said."

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Email destroys the mind faster than marijuana

This just in, via my email using brother-in-law, Reid Nickerson.

"Modern technology depletes human cognitive abilities more rapidly than drugs, according to a psychiatric study conducted at King's College, London. And the curse of 'messaging' is to blame. Email users suffered a 10 per cent drop in IQ scores, more than twice the fall recorded by marijuana users, in a clinical trial of over a thousand participants. Doziness, lethargy and an inability to focus are classic characteristics of a spliffhead, but email users exhibited these particular symptoms to a 'startling' degree, according to Dr Glenn Wilson."

An idea that has been very fascinating to me as of late is the fact that our technology shapes us. We adopt new technologies without realizing how they bring with them inherent changes to the dynamics of society and inter-personal relationships. Maybe we need some sort of screening time for new technologies like we have for new medicines. Interesting, eh?

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

The path to unity

Words from the new Pope, via Bruderhof -

"The church must renounce worldly principles and standards in order to accept the truth, and the way it must go will always lead to some form of martyrdom. It is important for us to realize that we cannot bring about unity by diplomatic maneuvers. The result would be a diplomatic structure based on human principles. Instead, we must open ourselves more and more to God. The unity that he brings about is the only true unity. Anything else is a political construction, and it will be as transitory as all such constructions are. This is the more difficult way, for in political maneuvering, people themselves are active and believe they can achieve something. But we must wait on God, and we must go to meet him by cleansing our hearts."

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Homeless by choice...and making a difference.

"I go to live on the streets to expand my perspective and understanding of home-lessness and homeless people," says Keith. "I want to have my reservoir of compassion replenished."

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Friday, April 15, 2005

A surer path to God...

"Humble knowledge of self is a surer path to God than the ardent pursuit of learning. Not that learning is to be considered evil, or knowledge, which is good in itself and so ordained by God; but a clean conscience and virtuous life ought always to be preferred. Many often err and accomplish little or nothing because they try to become learned rather than to live well." (Thomas A'Kempis, The Imitation of Christ)

Just Listen.

The power of a listening ear is something amazing. I have had several conversations with people this week that have made me realize this fact anew. Many of the conversations were with people who love Jesus deeply and have been walking with Him for many years. Yet as I reflect on the time we spent talking I am painfully aware of the fact that they weren’t listening. They came to the conversation with an agenda and then filtered my thoughts through their own perspective. I am guilty of the same thing, don’t get me wrong, but it hurts to be on the side of the practically ignored.

One of the issues that I think we struggle with as “the church” is that of listening. In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey challenged us to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” We struggle with this as Christians because we feel such passion about what we believe to be true. Yet maybe in our hurry to convince the world of our message, we have not taken time to understand their perspective and let it shape the way we share our message. A gospel that rolls over people instead of caring about where they are is not good news at all. Maybe part of dying to self is dropping what we want to communicate until we have really heard AND understood where another is coming from. My thoughts were further stirred by Henri Nouwen who writes…

“Today I imagined my inner self as a place crowded with pins and needles. How could I receive anyone in my prayer when there is no real place for them to be free and relaxed? When I am so full of preoccupations, jealousies, angry feelings, anyone who enters will get hurt. I had a very vivid realization that I must create some free space in my innermost self so that I may invite others to enter…to pray for others means to offer others a hospitable place where I can really listen to their needs and pains. Compassion, therefore, calls for a self-scrutiny that can lead to inner gentleness…" (The Genesee Diary, p.145)

I think Jesus really listened. In fact, at times he heard what people were saying when they didn’t even really know themselves. In the process of listening to them Jesus helped them to see what was hidden deeply in their hearts. "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out." (Prov. 20:5) And because He knew where they were coming from He was able to speak into the core of who they were. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) As we surrender to the Holy Spirit and listen to people, our own hearts are purified and we are better able to speak in line with the Spirit of God.

Listening needs to become a way of life for those who dare to follow Jesus.

Kierkegaard stretches us a bit.

Here's a Kierkegaard quote via Bruderhof. While I don't agree with the whole article this quote certainly has some merit.

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

-- Kierkegaard, “Kill the Commentators,” in PROVOCATIONS

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Jesus Creed

I found a new blog that I am really appreciating. Jesus Creed has challenged me to think in new ways. I am going to give you a few quotes below, but you really should check it out. Try this on for size...

For most Christians, when they enter the public fray, often called the Public Forum, the definition of "justice" is determined by the US Constitution. And the US Constitution, even if only hazily read or understood, is understood in terms of John Stuart Mill. And this means this: justice is what enables me and others to have freedom, and that means enables me to have rights, and when I get freedom and rights, I will be happy because I will be able to do whatever I want as long as I do not hurt another. In other words, justice is defined as freedom to do what I want (with very few restrictions).Is this, however, what a Christian means by a biblical sense of justice? Far from it. Justice, as defined by the Bible, is determined not by what I want, or by my own freedom and rights, but by the will of God. What is "just" is what conforms to the will of God. Anything less is morally deficient and anything else is not Christian. Now, let us suggest, as I do in my new book, The Jesus Creed, that the ultimate and final will of God is that humans love God and that humans love others.

Or this...

To love a person is to listen to them, and to let their voice speak. To listen to a person is to let that person's world enter into our world. When the latter happens we choose either to enhance our own life with the other person or, as Cain did to Abel, we destroy that other person to make them what we want ourselves. To treat them with love and trust is to let them be the Eikons God made them to be; to refuse to trust them and love them is to make them a golden calf which we can hammer down into our own image.

Take some time to check it out. And if anyone has read his book, The Jesus Creed, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A great Eugene Peterson Quote

I'm excited because I just got the new Eugene Peterson book called Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. I can't wait to dig into it. Here's a quote that jumped out at me from the Preface -

"Writing about the Christian life (formulated here as "spiritual theology") is like trying to paint a picture of a bird in flight. The very nature of a subject in which everything is always in motion - the rhythm of wings, sun-tinted feathers, drift of clouds (and much more) - precludes precision. Which is why definitions and explanations for the most part miss the very thing that we are interested in. Stories and metaphors, poetry adn prayer, and leisurely conversation are more congenial to the subject, a conversation that necessarily also includs the Other."

Our need for the body.

As a pastor I always have people tell me that they are spiritual, but that they find the church to be unnecessary or irrelevant. They seem to believe that they can work out faith on their own. In some ways that would be great. Nobody would come along and pop my spiritual bubble with a dose of reality. I wouldn't have to work out the implications of my faith in the relationships that I find myself in from day to day. But that's not the way that spirituality works. Spirituality is all about life. It's how the truth of God plays out in the (what some would call) trivial details of living. A relationship with Jesus is a living, breathing entity and as such needs to be worked out in relationships. That's the reason that the church - the community of Christ followers - is vitally important. It is by seeing the Word of God in Scripture in the midst of the community that we are called to "incarnate" that Word in our lives. We need people around us to do that. People who challenge us. People who disagree with us. People who irritate us.

I've been reading The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen. He reflects on the doubting of Thomas when He writes,

"...Although Thomas did not believe in the resurrection of the Lord, he kept faithful to the community of the Apostles. In that community the Lord appeared to him and strengthened his faith. I find this a very profound and consoling thought. In times of doubt or unbelief, the community can 'carry you along' so to speak; it can even offer on your behalf what you yourself overlook and can be the context in which you may recognize the Lord again."

We can't run away from the church to make life easier. Spiritual growth isn't easy. And it doesn't happen outside of a community.

Monday, April 11, 2005

For where your treasure is...

Jordon shares some information that makes you wonder what we, as a society, are thinking...

Team and individual salaries for professional baseball:

(Team payroll average first and average player salary next).

N.Y. Yankees $205,938,439 $7,920,709
Boston 121,311,945 4,332,569
New York Mets 104,770,139 3,880,376
Philadelphia 95,337,908 3,666,843
Los Angeles Angels 95,017,822 3,276,477
St. Louis 93,319,842 3,589,225
San Francisco 89,487,426 3,441,824
Chicago Cubs 87,210,933 3,114,676
Seattle 85,883,333 2,683,854
Atlanta 85,148,582 3,405,943
Los Angeles Dodgers 81,029,500 2,700,983
Houston 76,779,022 2,953,039
Chicago White Sox 75,228,000 2,786,222
Baltimore 74,570,539 2,663,234
Detroit 68,998,183 2,464,221
Arizona 63,015,834 2,333,920
San Diego 62,888,192 2,246,007
Florida 60,375,961 2,236,147
Cincinnati 59,658,275 1,988,609
Minnesota 56,615,000 2,096,852
Oakland 55,869,262 2,148,818
Texas 55,307,258 1,843,575
Washington 48,581,500 1,619,383
Colorado 47,789,000 1,647,897
Toronto 45,366,500 1,744,865
Cleveland 41,830,400 1,442,428
Milwaukee 40,234,833 1,609,393
Pittsburgh 38,133,000 1,361,893
Kansas City 36,881,000 1,365,963
Tampa Bay 29,893,567 1,067,627

And 50,000 people die every day from starvation.


Friday, April 08, 2005

Encouragement for would be writers...

Sometimes we just need to realize that some people write way worse than we do. Maybe it's a twisted kind of encouragement, but here are some of the attention-grabbing analogies found in high school papers:

"He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it."

"She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again."

"The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't."

"McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty Bag filled with vegetable soup."

"From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and "Jeopardy" comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30."

"Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center."

"Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever."

"He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree."

"The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease."

"Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie this guy would be buried in the credits as something like 'Second Tall Man.'"

"Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph."

"The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the period after the Dr. on a Dr Pepper can."

"John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met."

"The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play."

"The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon."

Thanks to my Office Manager, Debby Flynn, for finding these. Where does she come up with stuff like that?

Sometimes I feel like Bubba...

Emily Sue was going into labor, and her husband, Bubba, called 911. The operator told Bubba she would send someone out right away. "Where do you live?" asked the operator.

Bubba replied, "Eucalyptus Drive."

The operator asked, "Can you spell that for me?"

There was a pause, and then Bubba said, "How about I take her over to Oak Street, and you pick her up there?"

Let Go!

Once again, Bruderhof makes me think...

"Let go, and respond to the immediate needs around you. Don't get caught in some false perception of yourself. There will always be another person more gifted than you. And don't perceive your position as important, but be ready to serve at any moment. If you can let go of who you think you are, you will become free - ready to love others. If you learn to see your impermanence, you will be able to live for the moment and not miss opportunities to love by pushing things into the future." (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Man's best friend...

Just thought I'd share a picture of our dog. She's pretty easy on the eye.

Miko - yet another female in our family...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

One man's journey.

I came across this article in Next Wave and found that much of what this man has gone through mirrors my own experience. It's an interesting journey. He writes it so much better than I, so let me let you hear his words -

"While most of my seminary experience was overwhelmingly positive, there was one current (often underneath the surface) that disturbed me once I identified what it was. I was being trained to be professional clergy, but even more, I felt like I was actually being trained to be a CEO of a corporation called "church." I got lost in the supreme importance (I'm being a little sarcastic here) of "vision casting" (only problem is it was my vision and I called it God's) and building "church growth" structures. Though it may not have been stated in these terms, the prevailing pressure was to grow 'em (churches) as large and as fast as we can. It just felt to me like something was getting lost somewhere.

Enter Dallas Willard. Or his books rather. He made me completely rethink my concept of discipleship. And that was the first step towards my rethinking church. And I realized something. In all my years of pastoring and church work, I had not been making disciples. I had filled a few pews, but I had not been making disciples. In fact, I realized that much of the modern church was much better at filling pews and making 'converts' than making disciples. We were largely content to fill pews, build buildings, staff programs, stage events, and maintain the 'machine' we call church. Our energy was not focused on actually finding ways and structures that will transform people, which is what the Gospel, the Good News, is about. I began to realize that most of my time in church was spent just keeping the 'machine', the 'corporation' going, with no time to actually walk beside someone and actually maybe make a disciple.

Ok, so you've heard it before perhaps: The last command that our Lord gave us before his ascension was 'Go and make disciples.' Disciples. Followers. Learners. Apprentices. The church has been much better, at least in my lifetime, at making 'converts'. The early church would have scratched their heads. There was no such divide then. To 'convert' was to follow Jesus--that is, to become a disciple--and to follow Jesus (be a disciple) was with every part of your life. It was a path of transformation. It was a path of a cross. But today it is quite possible to be a convert without being a disciple. I know this because I lived that divide for most of my life as a Christian. For when I first began to realize that I had not been making disciples as a pastor, I also realized that I myself had lived--and ministered--for many years largely untransformed. I was not a disciple.

Maybe my experience of this feeling is unique, I don't know. I doubt it, but if it is, then...ok. When I first read these words from John Ortberg (former teaching pastor at Willow Creek) in 2001 (from his book The Life You've Always Wanted), I, a pastor, unfortunately resonated deeply with them:

"I am disappointed with myself. I am disappointed not so much with particular things I have done as with aspects of who I have become. I have a nagging sense that all is not as it should be.... I am disappointed that I still love God so little and sin so much. I always had the idea as a child that adults were pretty much the people they wanted to be. Yet the truth is, I am embarrassingly sinful. I am capable of dismaying amounts of jealousy if someone succeeds more visibly that I do. I am disappointed at my capacity to be small and petty...." And he goes on....

So I was a pastor who realized his spiritual bankruptcy and own lack of transformation, in a system that wasn't really transforming anyone much. If you don't believe me that our churches are far too full of converts who are not disciples, check out some of the research at The Barna Group. There appears to be no significant moral differences between those who call themselves "born again" or "evangelical" Christians, and those who list other or no religious affiliation at all.

I'll try to cut to the chase here. I was desperate for change, desperate to be a disciple. I started reading guys like Willard, and Richard Foster, and finding depth and blessing and richness in places I never dreamed of or knew about. From monks, from writings fifteen hundred years old, from Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, from silent retreats with the Franciscans at a place called Pacem in Terris, to name just a few. I began to practice spiritual disciplines (which are the true and only means to spiritual transformation)--many of them for the first time I am ashamed to say--and many in ways that were new (and much more effective) to me.

And during this same time I heard the first rumblings of something. People doing church a different way. A way where a community of people mutually committed to each other walked together in spiritual disciplines, and in a very intentional missionality to their friends, neighbors, and co-workers, not to build a "machine" or to grow a "corporation," but to advance the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is bigger than a church, a denomination, or a label over a door. The kingdom of God breaking into the lives of broken human beings is the only hope for the world. And as such, it is the most important thing. This "different" way of doing church went by many names: "simple church", "organic church," "missional community," whatever."

...Brian McLaren said something about needing to redefine the word success in terms that were not essentially "corporate" in nature. And it went something like this (my paraphrase): "If I love God more today than I did yesterday, and I love people more today than I did yesterday, and if each day I am loving God more and loving people more for the next 40 years, I am a success." And when he said that, something inside me said, "I can do that. I can't plant a freakin' church to save my life, but I can do that." And as I talked with people there that weekend of their experiences and what they were doing, I thought, "I can do this. I can't do church the way I've always done it. It's nearly killed me. I can't do it anymore. But I can do this."

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A shameless act of self-promotion...

In a shameless act of self-promotion I'm going to give you a link to audio files of the sermons that I preach at my church. I have debated linking to them for quite some time and finally have decided to do so. Hopefully God will speak to you through them as He has to me as I've put them together.


Tarheels pull it off...

It always makes a North Carolina boy proud to see any NC team doing well. I'm a huge NC State fan, but hats off to UNC on winning the National Chanpionship.

Video highlights

You Could Win a Harley...

I'm not quite sure where to put this in my mental filing cabinet. I know it's important to bring people to church, but have we sunk so low as to offer "prizes"? Read what I found on the Crossroads Church Website (hat tip to Church Marketing Sucks for the link).

For the next month and half we will embark on a journey we are calling Adventures in Friendship. Reaching out to our friends and neighbors is incredibly important and a core priority at crossroads. So in order to help build bridges to people we are going to be giving away a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle. Here is how Adventures In Friendship works. If you are a first time guest at Crossroads over the next 8 weeks OR if you bring a first time guest during this time period, your name will be entered into the drawing to win the Harley. Then on May 22nd at our 6pm service we will draw the name of the winner. It could be you!"

I guess my biggest question is if the visitors who come will feel like they were nothing more than a chance to win a Harley. Sometimes the church uses the methods of our society to such a degree that it gets hard to tell the difference between the two.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Send My Friend to School

This is really worth a look. Especially for those of you who are trying to teach your children about world issues.

Check out "Send My Friend to School"

Who is the real thief...

My buddy Erv Klassen passed on this quote from Basil the Great.

“When someone steals a man’s clothes we call him a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”
Basil the Great (Bishop of Caesarea, 365)

In the words of Erv, "Ancient Christians really make us modern Christians look like a bunch of wankers."

What are we teaching our children?

Parents have a tremendous responsibility to communicate the truths of God clearly to their children. Deuteronomy 4:9-10 says, "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children." This is echoed in Deuteronomy 11:18-19 - "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

As we look at the way our children perceive God we can gain incredible insight into who we are communicating Him to be. No, I'm not saying that we can blame all the mistakes of the children on their parents. There is a big stretch between their perceptions of God and their reactions to God. But I am saying we can learn a lot about the fruit of our faith from the way they conceptualize God.

Maybe that's why a new book intrigues me. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers was written by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. It is a presentation of the findings of almost a years worth of research. I haven't read the book yet, but am planning on checking it out. The Revealer has an excellent review of it here.

Here is an excerpt.

In religious terms, according to teenagers, God cares that each teenager is happy and that each teenager has high self-esteem. Morality has nothing to do with authority, mutual obligations, or sacrifice. In a sense, God wants little more for us than to be good, happy capitalists. Smith and Denton elaborate: "Therapeutic individualism’s ethos perfectly serves the needs and interests of U.S. mass-consumer capitalist economy by constituting people as self-fulfillment-oriented consumers subject to advertising’s influence on their subjective feelings." And to be good, happy capitalists, we should be good, unless if being good prevents us from being happy.

These beliefs are killing American religion. The authors call it Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The creed is simple and, yes, conventional -- but, where the authors find that it matters, MTD is not traditional. Basically, God exists and watches over human life, which was created by God. God wants people to be nice, as it says in the bible and in most world religions. God does not have to be involved in our lives except to solve our problems and make us happy. Good people will be even happier in heaven after they die. The religious beliefs of American teens tend to be -- as a whole, across all traditions -- that simple. It’s something Jews and Catholics and Protestants of all stripes seem to have in common. It is instrumentalist. "This God is not demanding," say the authors. "He actually can't be, because his job is to solve our problems and make people feel good."

Fascinating thoughts. Could the problem with the world's conception of God be the fact that we've done a poor job presenting who He truly is to those around us?

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Franciscan Blessing

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them, and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

(author unknown)

Passed on to me by a friend, LaVern Klassen

A sobering reminder...

..from Make Poverty History. Check out the link below.