Tuesday, December 04, 2007
i'll be participating in a kind-of theologue with some african pastors and len sweet, traveling to an orphanage in durban, and visiting some denom. pastors in cape town.
it's a spectacular opportunity, but i'm feeling truly nervous about being so far away from my kids and my wife [especially right before her birthday, especially right before christmas].
i can't remember ever having so many jitters about a trip before. i've long prayed for this sense of nervous anxiety, so that my natural strengths are stripped back a bit and i'm forced to rely on god for safety, focus, and peace of mind. yet, now that i feel like i'm ill-equipped for this sort of thing [and, concordantly, that he will have to support me in this adventure] i'm no longer enamoured with wanting to feel that way.
oh well...i'm just rambling here.
i just wanted to take a minute and get some thoughts out before i go.
so, in summary.....
1. i'm nervous, excited, anxious, and enthused.
2. i love my children very, very much and could not possibly regret going more except for my conviction that these experiences will alter me in such a way as to directly benefit them and make their world [and their understanding of it] more comprehensive, more spiritual, and more pleasing to god.
3. i love my wife more than i have words to articulate. in marriage, you often feel compelled to demonstrate and articulate grand guestures of affection and undying love. all of these are insufficient to truly capture what it's like to share the hidden parts of yourself with someone you trust. there are no words for long-lasting love that sound true...they all ring hollow because our understanding of love is diminished by its brevity in our modern world. but i love carmel and will forever in ways that no other person could understand.
4. if it sounds like i'm writing an obituary, then i'll stop now - with the exception of thanking my few wonderful friends and close family for their support in my adventures.
...and for thanking mark luhmann who's paid for me to go :)
Still, it's hard to leave carmel, jake, and anna - my separation from them will undoubtedly be the hardest part.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
it's a fine book and i recommend it to anyone curious about the latent attitudes of american christians in the early 21st century; but my real interest in the book was more in his sidebar commentary on those within the church, than those outside of it
in one section [pp.56f] he talks about the hallmarks of authenticity, noting especially that "even transparent people have boundaries"
here are my cliff notes on his opinion:
1. there are situations in which caution makes sense
being transparent and authentic requires real balance
authenticity is not synonymous with graphic detail
2. the basis of authenticity is scripture's clear teaching that we do not attain perfection in this life
the adage 'christians aren't perfect, just forgive' is a cop out
we can never prove our worth, we are deeply fractured
our gratitude to god ought to produce the effort to please him
3. the motivation of transparency is important
it's not about being candid or blunt [this is just self-centeredness]
it's not about shock value or personal entitlement to express your true
our candidness should be motivated by a desire to please god
4. the outcome of our transparency should be restoration
it should produce more of what god wants in our lives
kinnaman does a great job of laying this stuff out in ways that make sense, and it leaves us all with some questions:
when, and with whom, is it appropriate to share my deepest and darkest secrets? could those ever be hurtful to someone?
am i using my brokenness as permission to disregard the commands of scripture to live well?
am i being truly persuing authenticity? or just looking to out-do the others around me with a glorification of my flaws?
am i being transparent because it feels good? or because i'm hoping that sharing my own pain and experiences will bring comfort and act as a conduit for the spirit of god to other people?
what i love about this word is the accompanying recognition that we're all flawed
all on a spiritual journey of discovery, healing, and progressive wholeness
but i hate that the word has often been diminished into a license to do/say whatever we want
instead of being a word that ascribes values to transparency and honesty
it's become a word that allows people to be thoughtless and unkind
selfish and ignorant
all in the name of being 'true to themselves'
the word 'authenticity' actually has the same root ['aut'] as the word 'autumn'
autumn means to bring to harvest the earth’s increase: the ripening of crops, the ripening of identity.
the “autumn” of life should mark the coming to maturity of sun-ripened character and being.
“authentic” literally means “by one’s hand:” something not copied, but created as an original
in fact, every relic is supposed to carry with it what are known as “authentics:” little handwritten slips of parchment that identify the origin of and establish as genuine these holy relics.
we're being authentic, truly, when we offer our energies to one another
for mutual enjoyment and benefit
aware of their limitations
but not parading their flaws as a badge of honor
we're being authentic when we share our hurts openly with one another
it's the fragility here that makes it 'real'
not the accompanying bitterness we often enjoy spewing
we're being authentic when we critique the varied manifestations of christianity
in love, with the intent to be greater formed into the image of god
and recognize that we're also - somehow - critiquing our own flaws
not when we ruthlessly scrutinize churches to point out how irrelevant, hypocritical, out-of-date, unexcellent, and inconsistent they can be
authenticity is about the subtle and frail truths of who we are struggling to become
and what often prohibits us from becoming
it is a value that honors the development of each person
and draws attention to the struggle and formation of each soul
but it does not glorify the struggle beyond the desire
nor elevate the heartache above the spirit
whenever we romanticize the negative things of ourselves and our world
we only further alienate the beauty that god is trying to grow within us
you can only be in love with one thing
and you can only serve one thing
will it be Him?
or the counterfeit safety of struggling to find Him?
Friday, November 02, 2007
the weakness is the difference between my actual self and my mental self
you see, mentally i'm a much better person than i actually am in real life
i imagine myself living better
i always hold my tongue [in my mind]
i rarely hurt others [again, in my mind]
and i'm totally committed to the way of love [once again, IMM]
but in real life
i'm nowhere close to these nobilities.
i think my problem is that i find it easier to love certain types of people when i can think about them safely from a distance, instead of actually being forced to talk with them.
i think i'm more generous with people of other faiths, other sexual orientations, other belief systems in my mind than i ever am in real life.
when i think of these types of people
i'm really only thinking of hypothetical examples
not real circumstances
in my hypothetical mind
i love everyone and genuinely cherish they individuality and perspective on life
i listen well
and try to find common ground
now, to be fair, i really do want to do these things
i even think they're the things christ wants us all to do and do my best to teach and advocate
but in real life
i typically just ignore people that bother me
i'm more likely to just walk away than pick a fight
but i find myself walking away more and more and more
instead of fighting
or even arguing
or even disagreeing
or even having an opinion
or even talking
which scares me
if i'm totally honest,
i know i'm actually retreating from encounters with real people [versus types and hypothetical people] more frequently because i'm exhausted, discouraged, and trying desperately hard to protect the world from my irritability.
but i think i'm learning that even though i'm not at my best
or even close
there is still an obligation on me to try and love the world more comprehensively
if i'm serious about following jesus.
everyone grew up with superman
knows who he and is what he stands for
feels a sense of iconic connection to him
wants to see more of him
but also knows that superman - in the way he's always been viewed - seems oddly out of place in our modern world
the perceived need on the part of filmmakers to try and reinvent superman
[or batman, or spiderman, etc...]
which they often do poorly
but - if one of them ever does superman well - it is a crowning achievement
this is like theology
we all know and love jesus
we understand what it means to be saved
we know that our spiritual lives are in constant evolution as we increasingly try and give ourselves over to the spirit
but we need new ways to articulate these things in order for them to stay fresh in our minds, in our ambitions, etc...
so, when you [as a pastor, theologian, etc...] finally find a way to say some of these things that is new, original, fresh, etc... it feels like a major achievement
particularly, if you're someone like me
you know, unfamous, unwealthy, unknown
it's like giving birth
you labor and labor to come up with meaningful ways to say meaningful things
striking out more than making it to first [feeling comfortable with mixing metaphors along the way]
but finally having some kind of theological brain child that you can be proud of
you might work for years before you came up with one thought that really felt like it was yours and yours alone and that it actually helped someone
imagine my sense of hurt and confusion when [twice in the last month] i've seen two of my children being touted around by their theological foster parents.
once on a blog
and once in a transcription from a pastor's conference
[and one, lesser, time where i read an article that looked disturbingly similar to the materials i presented in doxa]
i found my children being claimed by someone else
i won't bore you with the details
because they're likely to seem small to you
and this isn't really the place to "make my argument" for copyright or license etc...
this is just the place for me to air my grievance
[is it festivus already?]
i'm not typically concerned with getting credit for things
i'm more concerned with things simply being done for the kingdom
but it feels very different when someone takes your work and the credit for your work
and passes it off as their own
it's just plain dirty.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
LOVESIGN: love [the love of the brothers]
1.3, 3.6, 3.12, 4.9, 5.8, 5.13
I’ve often spoken of the love I experienced in college among my rugby teammates. Our sense of camaraderie was brotherly love in its truest form.
My favorite memory was of one of our guys being repeatedly punched in the head by an ugly, troglodyte grimlock with a neck like a stack of manhole covers behind the referee’s back. When I ran over to pull this monster off of my friend, he turned his cruel affections on me…at which point my friend went quickly from ‘turning the other cheek’ [as per the twin instructions of Christ and our Coach] to defending both of mine.
I’ve never felt loved and safe like when I was surrounded by a group of guys whom I knew had my best interests at heart no matter what.
This kind of love, brotherly love [or phileo love, as it’s outlined in the mindmaps] is the kind of love for which the church in Thessalonica had become renowned. Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonian church is to ‘just keep loving.’ He claims they’re God-taught in these matters, which – of course – begs the question as to whether or not our contemporary western churches have been taught the same lessons.
The notion of loving one another as brothers and sisters probably had more significance in the ancient world than it does today. In that world, the family was the center of society – each member of each family holding high their obligation to one another. For Christians to have superseded the order of the family, welcoming one another into a new “family”, would have created quite a stir. It was odd to see people taking on responsibilities and commitments to people from different families. To have entire communities adopt one another and join themselves with other, similar, communities in other cities would have been unheard of.
But this is the result of being filled with the love of Christ. That love, the unconditional/agape love of God, takes over us and invades our base selves with nobility. It causes us to see people differently – it transforms us into lovers. Once we’ve been transformed by that unconditional love, we see our commonality with other people and recognize them as fellow image-bearers of God; as such, we recognize our true familial nature as being branches from the same vine, so to speak. Thus, in addition to the self-denying love of Christ, we can’t help but find ourselves nurturing the ‘love of the brothers.’
We take care of our relationships, recognizing them as the most spiritual thing about our earthly existence. Or, as Joe Myers has said, we recognize that ‘our true possessions are not our belongings, but our relationships.’
And, really, what does this look like? According to church growth expert Win Arn, “love is intentionally doing something caring or helpful for another person, in Jesus' name, regardless of the cost or consequence to oneself.”
What if we really began to practice loving one another in our churches? What would it be like for us to be so committed to loving our city and our world that we could not possibly stomach the fragmentation and hurt that lays upon our friends like wet carpets?
Paul’s instructions remind us to cultivate this ethic of love.
1.6, 2.19-20, 3.9
Some people make the mistake of confusing joy with happiness.
Happiness, after all, is fairly easy to achieve…and quick to fade.
Happiness is trendy. We have Happy Meals, and watch Happy Feet or Happy Gilmore. “Happy Birthday” is the most-sung chorus on the planet. These things make us feel light and exuberant for about 90 minutes. But after the Happy Meal comes the confused look on your child’s face that precedes an unpleasant season of digestion; after the fun singing and dancing of the first part of Happy Feet comes the guilt-ridden eco-ssault; after Happy Gilmore unfortunately came Bulletproof with Damon Wayans; and after Happy Birthday comes 364 ¼ days of waiting.
Perhaps that's why scripture never concerns itself with happiness as we know it. The scriptures do not have any interest in happiness because happiness CAN be bought. McDonald's got it right in its kid-oriented package called a Happy Meal. Happiness is a cheap, momentary, easily purchased and easily discarded feeling rooted in the fulfillment of selfish desires.
But joy is something more than happiness, something that is deep rooted within us – that is not subject to whims or moods, but is a spiritual quality intentionally cultivated by a person submitted to the Spirit. Joy refuses to be squelched, submersed, or sublimated. Joy isn't dependent upon personal strength, personal ability, or personal achievement. Joy is rooted in God, nourished by faith, sustained by grace.
Here is a great mission statement. It's the mission statement of The Ringling Brothers Circus, first penned in 1899 and called "Mission of Amusement”
"To be good, mankind must be happy. To wreathe the face of humanity in
smiles for a time, to loosen the chains that hold man captive to his
duties and return him to them better fitted for his obligations, is
the mission of amusement and the one great desire of moralists is, and
ought to be, that it be pure and wholesome.
"Amusement unfetters the mind from its environs and changes the dreary
monotony of the factory's spindles to the joyous song of the
meadowlark. It gives flight to the caged soul to treat in airy places.
It softens the wrinkles of sorrow, makes smiles of frowns.
"This is the mission of amusement – and the circus, with its innocent
sights of joy for the children and its power to make all men and women
children again for at least one day, comes the nearest of any form of
amusement to fulfilling its mission."
When Paul talks about the Thessalonian church being his joy, he’s referring to the spiritual quality and testimony of their resilience. Joy is a command he’s both obeying and repeating; it is not an emotion, but a spiritual project. Somehow, despite being robbed of their leaders and apostles, that church has thrived and grown in the grace of God. That they have done so is evidence of their obedience to God, which is a joy that outweighs his own crummy circumstances.
Happiness comes and goes, but joy holds on like a childhood star to his last ounce of celebrity.
Happiness comes from the flotsam and jetsam leftovers of the glitter of our world; joy comes from Christ.
“Our joy,” says Herbert McCabe, “is the joy that culminates in our thanksgiving, our Eucharist, is joy in the cross. Our Eucharist is 'the sign of the cross.' Sure, our joy is expressed in the ordinary symbols of human celebration: in a meal together, a party, a love-feast. But it's only an authentic love-feast if it expresses the love that wants to be one with, to suffer with, the suffering of all the world. It's an authentic love-feast only if it expresses our solidarity with the cross, our solidarity, not only with our companions and comrades, but with the victim who represents all the victims of the world. It's only
if we die with Christ on the cross that we can share his life, his Spirit, which is the Joy of God."
Thursday, October 18, 2007
ben sent me this link about the larger 'advent conspiracy' that churches are being involved in, and i thought it was so cool i'd pass it on.
What is the Advent Conspiracy?
The Advent Conspiracy is a catalyst to help churches and organizations equip their people to engage in the Christmas story in a way that will transform their people and as a result bring transformation to the world through their people as they worship Christ at Christmas.
The Five Themes:
The central theme of the Advent Conspiracy is that Jesus is worshipped in such a way that His followers experience the power of Christ coming into the world. This powerful story brings with it the promise of transformation in his followers as they celebrate His birth with faithfulness and integrity. People being led in this journey will not be competing with the consumerist impulses of our culture but instead be aligning themselves with Christ, thereby worshipping Him in a holistic way.
2. Resisting the Empire
When Christ was born the empire was threatened, and as a result Herod, who was one of the more powerful kings of the day, ordered the killing of all the children two years old and under who were in Bethlehem. The reason for this was that he hoped to take out the child-King that posed a threat to his kingdom.
While we are not living under Herod's reign, there is another empire of consumerism and materialism that threatens our faithfulness to Jesus. Jesus brought with him an extraordinary Kingdom that is counter-culture to the kingdoms of this world.
A part of saying "yes" to Jesus means that we say "no" to over-spending. We say "no" to over-consumption. We say "no" to these things so we can create space to say "yes" to Jesus and His reign in our lives. The National Retail Federation was forecasting that Americans would spend approximately $457.4 billion at Christmas in 2006.1 The American Research group estimated an average of $907.00 per family to be spent at Christmas in 2006.2 After the Holiday we work for months to get out of debt, only to find that the presents we bought in the name of Christ furthered a consumerist mentality in our children and us and took our focus off of the greatness of Jesus. As Christ-followers, the Advent Conspiracy starts with us resisting a culture that tells us what to buy, wear, and spend with no regard to bringing glory to Jesus.
3. Relational Giving
In saying "no" to over-spending we are then invited to say "yes" to give in relational ways. We do this because we worship a God who gave us a relational gift. God gave us His son. This is an incredible opportunity to reclaim the heart of what matters most as we learn together to give gifts of meaning instead of simple material gifts. Pictures, poems, pieces of art, a baseball bat and a trip with dad to the ballpark all become relational alternatives that foster what matters most in life. In thinking in a new way about what it means to give ourselves to each other, we are transformed by the story of Advent, knowing that we give relationally because God gave relationally.
Some organizations have done do-it-yourself workshops to help their people learn the art of relational giving. Whatever you decide to do, the key is that you spend less and give relationally of yourself.
Christ, though he was rich, became poor to make many rich. It was in the Advent that Jesus entered our poverty so we would no longer be poor. With the money we save by giving relationally and resisting the empire we, in turn, re-distribute the money we saved to the least of these in our communities and world.
We recommend that, before Christmas, each organization take an offering made up of the money that was saved through relational giving and resisting the empire. With these funds each church and organization decides how to re-distribute the money. It is an amazing picture when you see how much money is collected and how much good it can do in the world. In 2006 only five churches participated and they collected just under half of a million dollars. Through this kind of radical giving we are transformed by the Advent story as we worship Jesus more faithfully.
The Advent Conspiracy exists to be a catalyst for the church to help us worship Jesus more fully at Christmas and therefore be transformed by the God of Advent. We believe that we are better together than we are apart and that each year the Advent of Christ should be an opportunity to declare to the world that God has given us the greatest gift.
We are asking that each church and organization that participates designate at least 25% of the offering for clean water projects around the world. The vision is that in the next decade Christ-followers, acting as one people, can blot out the water crisis in the world. The estimated cost to solve the water problem is 10 billion dollars. This is doable given the number of churches and the amount of money that is spent on Christmas each year.
According to the World Water Council, 1.1 billion people live without clean drinking water; 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation. 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhea diseases, and 3,900 children die every day from water-borne diseases.3
It is truly a declaration to the world that Jesus cares and that is why He came and created the church to act on His behalf. How you go about spending the money for clean water is up to how God leads you. We will let him be in the CEO on this and just faithfully respond to him.
To Get Involved
We ask that you sign up at our website: AdventConspiracy.org. Through the site we will provide you with great stories, helpful resources, recommended agencies that you can work through, and all the facts you will need. You will be able to use our blog to meet other people participating in the event. We only ask that you come back after the holiday and share your story with the rest of us, including how much money was re-distributed, in what ways it was distributed, and what creative ways you discovered Christ's transformation in your community. We will send out a monthly e-mail newsletter called the Co-Conspirator, with helpful information that can inspire your group as Advent approaches. For more information, visit AdventConspiracy.org or email Jeanne McKinley, Director of The Advent Conspiracy, at Jeans@imagodeicommunity.com.
Taken from The Catalyst GroupZine Volume 3: Courageous in Calling
Sunday, October 14, 2007
1.7-9, 2.9, 3.13, 5.8
The Christians in Thessalonica were carving out new ground. In their world at that time it was unheard of to oppose worshipping idols – idols were, after all, commonplace in the ancient world, not the primitive oddity they are today. N.T. Wright described it this way:
At every turn in the road the gods were there – unpredictable, possible malevolent, sometimes at war among themselves, so that you could never do too much in the way of placating them
Furthermore, there was a new god in town – Caesar. After Augustine defeated his enemies and unified the Empire he declared his father, Julius Caesar, a god [for an intelligent narrative of these events, see the HBO series ROME, season 2; be careful, though, because the series is extremely violent, sexual and course]. When Augustine died, his successor declared him a god, and so-on and so-forth, until the Emperors were understood to have joined the pantheon after their deaths.
Paul gives props to the Thessalonians for forsaking god-worship, including the worship of Caesar, and instead being examples to other believers all over the Empire of what it means to find true identity as lovers and followers of Jesus Christ. He calls them God’s saints and reminds them that they are children of the daylight and should not ever be tempted into moral or spiritual darkness.
Sometimes we read these words and mistake them as bland admonishments to lead a good life; but this misses the context of the letter completely. Paul’s lovesign is a call to subvert the dominant power structures of the world. He is reminding the Thessalonians that the world is not as it should be, and that they – as Christ-followers – are mandated to turn the world right side up again with the life-changing gospel of God.
1.7, 1.10, 2.2, 2.15, 4.16,
As with any of the New Testament epistles, the notion of warring kingdoms comes into prominence early on in the letter. In each case, it is the idea that the Kingdoms of this world are ultimately inferior to the Kingdom of God/Heaven, which then infers that King Jesus is Lord over Caesar of Rome [a highly unpopular affirmation in the mind of the Roman Empire, akin to saying that the Ayatollah is a useless despot despite being the Supreme Leader of Iran].
Paul contrasts these two kingdoms by outlining the effects of being a citizen in the Roman Empire [and what little good that did him in Philippi] with the hope and joy that Christians can have via their citizenship in Heaven.
Caesar's kingdom required absolute loyalty from its subjects and Paul knew quite well that the proclamation of the gospel and the true Kingdom would sit poorly with the Empire. Just as Caesar’s authority stretched throughout the whole Empire, the authority of Jesus Christ must extend throughout our whole lives – not because God is sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong, but because we are made in his image, designed to reflect his glory with every facet of our personhood. Properly understood, Christian Spirituality is not a matter of following rules made by a heavenly policeman – it is a matter of bearing out the imago dei more fully.
Every time we focus ourselves on God, on his increase within our spirits, we experience a little more of the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. See, we can experience snippets of the kingdom here and now [cf. Romans 14.17], but the full measure of the kingdom cannot be attained until the End of the Age [cf. 2 Thessalonians 1.5]. Every moment we welcome the spirit of God into our reality, every time we submit our own will to the will of God, every time we check our base desires we are making a choice to live in another kingdom by virtue of serving our True King.
Whenever we experience the Presence of God, we recognize our citizenship in the Kingdom of God.
This is because the kingdom is essentially dynamic; it is something that happens, not a static reality. It is perhaps best understood as God’s righteous rule operating within and over people, such that – whenever we walk in the will of God, whenever we feel his pleasure – we get foreshocks of the kingdom.
Paul holds this kingdom future out as an incentive for the Thessalonians to live worthily here and now. They’ve been saved, they’ve been brought into the kingdom of God, and they face a glorious future – so they ought to live with that reality in mind despite the present unpleasant circumstances of persecution and isolation within the Empire.
The gospel message had an instant effect upon the Thessalonian people.
Perhaps it took hold because they were fed up with pagan debauchery, perhaps it was because many of them were Gentile god-fearers who felt isolated within the synagogues, or perhaps it was because it was new. According to Paul, though, the reason the gospel message had an instant effect was because of its power.
The gospel has power to change lives through divine connection.
The people in the city found that something happened to them when they listened to Paul’s message – a power gripped them, which Paul would later tell them was the Holy Spirit. When this happened, they’d suddenly understand what he was talking about; they’d get electrified by the possibilities of intersection with their creator. Their enthusiasm was contagious, spreading back to Paul and his companions and growing quickly through – and past! – the city, making sense to others, and continuously reshaping their lives.
This message – that the God of the universe was pursuing them with great affection, longing reconciliation with his people – had not come to them by accident, nor did these people stumble into faith. God wanted them as a kind of beachhead into that region of the world. Thessalonica was a strategic center – as was Jerusalem, Philippi, Collosse, Antioch, and many others – and the thrust of the gospel into Europe began with these early converts to the Way of following Jesus.
As a result of their newfound faith and exuberance, the Thessalonian church became famous everywhere – not just for their beliefs, but for the remarkable way in which the church had come into being [Paul’s persecution in Thessalonica, his departure from the city, the infant church struggling up into legitimacy, the abandonment of idol worship and the inclusion of both Jew and Gentile, rich and poor].
Faith, in Paul’s mind, was not merely trust in a personal savior, but alteration of every facet of life resulting in completely remade people. These Christians were peculiar – even expropriating common words such as ‘brother’ or ‘gathering’ and reallocating them spiritual significance. They called each other brothers and sisters, thereby elevating the status of the poor and disenfranchised to be equal with the wealthy and powerful who were themselves transformed from prominence to service and loving-kindness.
A powerful lovesign indeed!
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
the new postsecret book comes out today - and, i've gotta be honest - these things are terrifyingly fascinating.
what is wrong with the church that people can't come in and be open and honest with their confessions...conversely, what is it that is so right about postsecret.blogspot.com that gives people the freedom to do so.
but he also makes a lot of people laugh
and i think he's pretty genuinely invested in the healthy development of pastors
so check out the links [see above] for his 'death by ministry' posts
which i've found really quite helpful
Monday, October 08, 2007
- Erwin McManus
a: if you've never prayer so hard you threw up
or pleaded with god so long you thought he left his post
if you've never felt like a struck match
or like the best and only option was to just walk away
it's gonna get worse
the worse it gets
the more real he becomes
he is the fire in your belly that keeps you fed and lit
and most of us have to starve and go blind
before we're ready to know it
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Cf. 1.10, 2.16, 5.9
I can already hear some of you saying “Are you serious? In what world is ‘wrath’ a lovesign?” [p.s. "lovesigns" are the term we're using to reference major themes in the book]
It’s true that it is unpopular, even unwise, to speak openly about God’s wrath in our world culture today; but we must be very careful not to sanitize the scriptures and force them to fit our 21st century American molds. God’s wrath is a delicate and complicated subject – not easily understood well or grasped fully – and we must be cautious about assigning additional attributes and characteristics to this emotion if we are to better seize what the scriptures are saying about this lovesign [because, yes, I do maintain that his wrath is a manifestation of his love].
There are certain reasons I advocate wrath-as-love within the context of 1 Thessalonians. First, I think it must be clear that God’s emotions have none of the taint upon them that ours do – such that we must understand that his love is love in its truest form, unmingled with lust or possessiveness or selfish pursuit. The same is true of his wrath – it is wrath in its truest form, untouched by pettiness or base anger or the corruption of mood and temper. God’s wrath is reserved for evildoers [that is, those who choose evil over good], and that wrath is not swift – he always gives opportunity for repentance because he is unwilling that anyone should suffer his wrath, desiring instead that everyone returns into right relationship with their creator and his creation.
In short, God’s wrath is diminished by his mercy.
When we behave in ways that undermine his wise and generous designs for us and for the world, he doesn’t instantly punish us – he allows space for reconciliation. If we choose never to reconcile, our wickedness builds, sin accumulates, until the point where God must say enough is enough.
But, sometimes we question why that wrath is necessary at all – isn’t it enough for God to be displeased with evil? Why does he have to punish those who do it?
In other words, we want to know how a loving God can also be wrathful.
In response, we might ask how a loving God can NOT be wrathful. For example, look at all the horrors of the 20th century – holocaust, genocide, regicide, war, greed, ecological irresponsibility to the point of famine, starvation, and the extinction of species – and ask whether or not it is just for God to absolve himself of his responsibility for divine justice.
He must do something about evil precisely because he is Goodness and Love.
Now, sometimes people try and dismiss the very notion of God’s wrath from the scriptures altogether – claiming that we have misinterpreted the Ancient Near Eastern mindset or context; but this cannot be so, for the development of God’s wrath passes through space and time and crosses both testaments and more than a dozen authors from differing parts of the ancient world.
Others say that “wrath” is better understood as “karma”, but which they mean that any disastrous side-effect of sin [such as venereal disease or environmental damage] is only the natural result of poor judgments by the human species or selfishness affected upon one person by another.
But this is silly – wrath and karma are not synonyms in any culture, lexicon, or etymological reference on the planet. If I steal your car and am arrested, the karma is the jail term, but wrath is your reaction. The only way to believe these things are true is if we ignore a great many scriptures – the prophets, for example, certainly understood God’s wrath as personal, seeing the hand of God in both the reward of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked; similarly, the apostles John and Paul write explicitly about God and his wrath being worked against the purposes of those who defy him [cf. John 3.36, Romans 1.18 + 9.22, Ephesians 5.6, Colossians 3.6, Revelation 11.18 + 14.10,19 + 19.15].
God’s wrath shows how actively opposed he is to evil – and, conversely, how committed he is to the good of those who love him and are his.
That’s why I think it’s a sign of his love – his twin decisions to stop evil and forestall judgment on the penitent are absolute demonstrations that he loves the world and is actively working towards the redemption of everyone on it.
Friday, October 05, 2007
if nothing else, these clips are a poignant window into the mind of the american agnostic.
- some amazing moments with my children
- new verve and fun with carmel
- a great visit from one of my great friends from van, ryan
- some cool stuff with navpress that may facilitate getting the message of christ out in meaningful ways to the church
but there are also some crummy things going on
and it seems like the crummy things are the things that - typically - give me the urge to blog
but i have a little problem
because most crummy things in life have to do with people
and the things that are really crummy have to do with people who are close to us
maybe even close people who hurt us, either purposefully or inadvertently
and i just don't feel right about airing my dirty laundry on those topics
which is weird, because that really does seem to be most of what the blogosphere is
it's a place where it's ok to publicly air your grievances
to talk bad about people you don't agree with
or to flame the ones you hate
loving jesus doesn't leave me open to the option of being publicly critical
even when others are critical of me
and this is hard for me - probably because i'm spiritually immature
but also because i tend to focus on the relational traps that these dynamics have laid for me in the past
at any rate
i thought if it's unethical for me to air my frustrations
maybe it'd at least be ok for me to air my frustrations about not being able to ethically air my frustrations
and i'm hoping this is an example to other christ-followers
to examine how they use this public venue
to be careful how we appraise one another's ministries
how we speak about other leaders and other followers
about the assumptions we make regarding the credibility of another's thoughts or passions
if we advocated for our beliefs as much as we deconstruct our opponents'
maybe we wouldn't have to be so embarrassed about our churches
Sunday, September 30, 2007
if truth never struggles with error,
if good never battles with evil...
then how can faith know its own power?
in my own pilgrimage,
if i have to choose between a faith that has stared doubt in the eye and made it blink,
or a naive faith that has never known the firing squad of doubt,
i will choose the former every time."
Monday, September 24, 2007
to be honest, i'm getting pretty bored of this rhetoric
while it's true that jesus was a great moral teacher
it's also true that he was and is more than simply a teacher or an example
so, if all we do is parrot his words and model his human example
we're missing out on the dimensionality of what it means to follow jesus
jesus, after all, wasn't just human
he made divine claims
he rose from the dead
he ascended into heaven
he manifested himself into a glorified body
he sits now at the right hand of the father
so, when we reduce jesus to just the living + poor carpenter without a dad, unable to find a suitable wife, and content to freeload off of his adherents then we're not getting the true, biblical, depiction of jesus
instead - we're getting a non-offensive, pussy cat jesus who only died prematurely because he o.d.ed on the catnip of selflessness
while it is true that jesus fought the religious establishment
and while it is true that jesus would be - at the very least! - critical of 21st C north american christianity
it's also true that the new testament encourages, directs, supports, and commands the followers of jesus to be together
and to love one another
and to serve one another
within the church
being critical of the church is different than being critical of institutionalized relgion
especially since a healthy understanding of the church is that it's the aggregate of christ's followers here on the earth
so, sometimes when people get on the 'abandon-ship--church-is-dumb--we've-screwed-up-the-gospel' bandwagon, and offer instead that we should just share our kfc with some homeless people and snuggle with our kids more
i feel like scripture is being totally neglected
which is tough
because i do actually think that the church is broken and needs attention
and i do actually think we ought to share our kfc with homeless folks
and - if it were at all possible - i'd certainly be snuggling my kids more
but there is great danger in reducing the gospel to simply acts of kindness, even though acts of kindness may be the most respected and visible manifestation of god's love on the earth
ironically, my frustration here may seem at odds with the talk i gave yesterday in fusion where i spoke openly about the need for christ-followers to be involved in justice & advocacy
but i hold both to be true
we must be involved in loving our world
but we must not think that loving and following jesus is only about what we do to be nice or to love our neighbors
at some point, scripture requires that we wrestle with the transcendence of god - not just his immanence; at some point, he has to be lord - not just friend; at some point the immortality of our souls has to factor into our understanding of spirituality - not just the pleasant and gentle emotions of doing good while we're here.
and this tension makes me feel like a ping pong ball
i hate knowing that some of my friends will consider me a heretic for allowing that the gospel is about more than just sin, that our behavior matters more than our doctrine, and that our propositional affronts to the culture are often obtuse
and i hate knowing that some of my other friends will consider me a fundamentalist for maintaining that the gospel is about the lordship of jesus christ, second person of the trinity, who alone grants life and access to god
my study of the scriptures forces me to believe that exactly such ping ponging is required
jesus shows us how to live
and paul teaches us what that meant and how it looks
once we throw in james, john, peter, a few others, and the old testament
we're looking at a fuller picture of christian spirtuality
i think a fairly significant problem with the current jesus-as-hippie monograph is that it ignores the full witness of scripture and chooses only to see jesus through the lens of the red letters and some old testament prophetic discources
if, however, we welcome paul and the other nt writers back into the conversation [along with the davidic monarthy, the partriarchs, eden, babel, exile, etc...] then we get a better idea of who god has always been to his people
this is the task of the theologian
to figure out what god is up to
and what he's been after all along
authors and teachers that advocate greater missional activity in our world are 100% right on that issue
but let's not confuse the desperate need for the church to be engaged in our world with bad theology about other bits
Friday, September 14, 2007
i prefer it that way
the dozen [or so] people who know me best know that i am melancholy by nature, prone to introspection and very susceptible to small spaces of depression.
it has been a significant part of my spiritual discovery to manage and limit my melancholy and the accompanying dark-thoughts/moods
however, i find i am at my weakest after a big thing has come and gone. when i was a music pastor and we'd write/produce/publish/perform our own musicals, i'd always spiral downwards after the final performance. the productions were always met with highly positive remarks, but they'd never quite live up to my ridiculous expectations and i'd always find myself evaluating crazy things like 'the meaning of life' or 'who am i supposed to become' when everyone else had gone home.
those moments have sometimes been called juniper tree moments.
when elijah was running from the evil queen jezibel, an angelic presence shaded him beneath a juniper tree.
collapsing from exhaustion, elijah prayed "i've had enough, lord; take my life."
now, the cool part about the juniper tree experience is not the exhaustion-inspired plea for eternal rest. the cool part about the experience is that the angel of the lord gave elijah simple instructions for how to continue, telling him to
and then again
adding, "for the journey is too great for you."
from here elijah went to mt. horeb where god met him in a whisper.
when we're exhausted and - yet, somehow - god isn't finished with us
he comes to us with simple things: getting out of bed, getting something to eat
and then he leads us further down the long and winding road
down the road and up another mountain, pursued by the wicked
and once we've journeyed
-having not given up, having not stayed in bed, having not succumbed to depression-
he begins to whisper
i think i'm living for those whispers.
to be fair, they're not promised [as such]. elijah's experience is not proscriptive to life in the 21st century; but, also to be fair, elijah's experience does set some kind of precedent. it gives hope. it shows us what god is like. it demonstrates the reward for good and faithful service - a reward here and now before any kind of final, eschatalogical one.
i need one whisper to keep believing.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
we're trying to get everyone more comprehensively engaged with the movement of the spirit of god in their regular lives
in their souls
in their relationships
in their church
and in their world
it was a huge success!
over 100 additional people than what we first anticipated showed up
and the energy in the room was easy to feel and be invigorated by
we're praying desperately that god would teach us his priorities, his path, his affections, and overflow us with his love - and we're aware that he doesn't "need" something like causemology to help make that happen; but, beginning causemology is a very convenient way for us to more finely tune our hearing to him.
it comes around the same time as a massive redux of our kids ministry at westwinds
wherein lori tate and jvo have worked tremendously hard with their teams to create experiential learning environments where our kids can see/touch/play with the stories from scripture. it's a fantastic model that authenticates differing learning styles and multiple intelligences, while still prioritizing the story of god and the centrality of prayer.
while we're working hard doing our damnest to effectively disciple our church and our children [and be discipled ourselves], there are those who feel qualified to offer critique about our initiatives from their armchairs [particularly christian leaders and pastors not employed by ww].
i find this incredibly difficult.
i have devoted my short life to helping people more meaningfully engage jesus christ.
i want everyone - myself most especially - to know him better.
having experienced passionate moments of overwhelming grace and love
i can think of nothing better than endeavoring to honor god with my efforts and my ambitions, my thinking and speaking and blogging
and i try very hard not to publicly criticize people of other ilks, methodologies, denominations, or persuasions [case in point: have you, reader, even seen anything on guerillahost that names/questions/attacks any other ministry or leader by name...ever? have you ever seen or heard me speak about my reservations about what anyone else is doing in ministry - either locally or internationally?]
i feel like it is very easy to criticize
it is very easy to undercut
to poke holes
because everything everyone ever does is flawed
and cannot possibly bear the scrutiny of detached observation from a critical spirit
but it seems that my godly ambitions are sometimes the target of the same sins i furiously try to avoid committing
and sometimes i am criticized
from a distance
by those who feel that - since every approach is flawed - we ought not to bother trying; or, we ought not to waste our time trying to be more biblically honest or reflective of real life
so, in response [and partly in therapy]
i say 4 things:
1. just because something is imperfect doesn't mean it isn't helpful
2. just because i'm imperfect doesn't mean i'm impervious to backhanded comments or subversive actions
3. just because causemology and/or kids redux doesn't look like something another church would try or something another pastor would create doesn't mean they aren't exactly what westwinds needs right now [because they are EXACTLY what we need - we need to understand how we are formed spiritually and to be missionally engaged in our world; and we need to pay attention to the spiritual lives of our children]
4. just because i'm writing this post, doesn't mean i'm bitter or angry - it just means that, sometimes, you want to let those whose ignorance harms you know about it
Friday, September 07, 2007
there is still plenty of laughter and enthusiasm around the office, but everyone is working so hard and so long to make things happen that i can't help but feel like burn out is either already occurring or just around the corner.
they truly are a tremendous bunch of people - having lived through remarkable job-related stress, the upheavals of change, and a welcome turn to relational health, our staff have now been beset by significant financial woes and the effects those limitations have on their ministry areas and their personal lives.
sadly, the money has been so limited we had to let 5 of our staff members go.
this is something i've not previously spoken of, or blogged about.
to be honest, it's simply been too painful - they are my friends, have been my companions and my trusted peers. when we had to let them go i sobbed in every private moment.
i've never felt so horrible or so angry with god.
cognitively, i understand that his goodness has nothing to do with the impoverished circumstances of their departure; but it was hard to let them go after they had stuck by jvo, randy, and myself for the past two years - through an insane amount of mudslinging, half-truths, suspicion, and doubt [if those adjectives need explaining, be grateful to god. our recent history at westwinds has left something to be desired].
the church, now, is healthy in many ways - and is getting healthier by the second!
but the cost is so high - how can we possibly continue to do so much with so little? we're under-staffed by at least 2 full timers, and if there was any justice in the universe for vocational ministers we'd also have a few additional admin staff.
still, our struggle remains financial.
those who are new to faith or new to westwinds simply have not yet cultivated a sacrifical ethic of giving. this is to be expected, but given that almost half of our congregation fall into this category it makes us aware that the financial future will be one hard-fought and heavily labored.
here's a funny story, though - despite our financial dips we've remained faithful in giving 10% of our church budget to missions. some of that support goes to missionaries. well, i got a nasty note from a child of one of those missionaries complaining about how much we talk about money at westwinds [which, as a rule, is less than 3min per week].
isn't that bitter?
this kid complains that i talk 3min about money after years of giving money to his/her family.
that really shouldn't bother me - in fact, that it does bother me if proof that my concerns for the sustainability of my staff output should also be echoed for myself.
i am wonderfully proud of everyone who works at westwinds - they are champions all.
randy for courageously fighting a public battle with cancer
lori for tackling the single, most invested ministry initiative of her career
ben for leading our students on 2 life-changing missions in less than two years
angie for her incredible efficiency and warm devotion to jvo and i
norma for her wisdom, faithfulness, and goodness[she's a pro at overlooking my flaws]
and jvo - for being the best damn companion any hellfighter could ever wish for
cheers, folks - our reality hasn't caught up with us yet
but when it does, let's hope that our passion for jesus overwhelms our exhaustion
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
it was doubly-cool for me because i am a huge believer in the potential of cyber-spiritual and online interactions. i don't think the web has yet come into it's own, and i certainly don't think that the spiritual dimension of the web has been clearly articulated or participated in to even a 1/10 of it's potential.
in fact, the new westwinds' test site for the launch of our ann arbor campus is a beginner's foray into the realm of cyber-spirituality [www.echomediatest.com/WWAA], as is the open-source e-learning causemology site that we've been toodling [www.causemology.com].
echo media and jason archer have really been working hard to help us realize a vision here, but - to be perfectly honest - all these projects due is whet my appetite for more.
with the right budget we could create the right kinds of experiences.
prayground was great, but it's never scratched the itch for me
write here and now is pretty cool, but it barely gets past the surface
we've got to dig deeper and try harder to create unique moments of transcendence
- which we can! -
i think sony's "flow" is perhaps a good paradigm for what a prayer site might feel like
i think the personal fitness video games are good examples of how a site on spiritual disciplines might work well
an rpg could easily be tweaked into a virtual pilgrimmage
but enough with the christian facebook clones, already
let's go past the venues of online dating and romance
past the - other alternative - venues of christian violence or halo clones
and try to create something peculiar
wherein the user feels pulled beyond reality
without being virtually compelled to act against their real morality
i could go on,
but it would only get weirder
my story with the web 2.0 is definately not finished
that's a long time to have been incubating something, a long time to be sharing ideas with jvo and randy, our staff and elders, a long time to be making corrections and field-testing, listening and trying to be open to what god may want to do through our church and through our obedience.
and now - less than a week before the launch - i get sick
since moving to michigan i get sick a lot,
roughly every 6-8 weeks
i even went to see my doctor and asked her if there was something wrong with me
she told me i had little kids and shook too many hands
so i began using "magic hand washer" [aka disinfectant] and that has staved off the sickness for almost 3 months
but obviously it's not been effective enough
i hate being sick
i hate the pity that people extend when you're sick
or their worry that you're somehow more sick than simply being common-house-cold sick
i hate it when my father-in-law refers to me as being "sickly"
or when randy tells me repeatedly that i get sick "all the time"
i hate it when someone suggests that i'm sick because my faith is weak
or because i don't trust in the healing power of god
i'm not even sure if i hate being sick as much as i hate all the bologne that goes along with being sick; i mean, if i got sick and instead of all this junk it was accompanied by plenty of time to read and watch movies then maybe i'd see it as a blessing.
but instead, the best thing that being sick has to offer is the slightly pharmaceutically-enhanced blog post
ok - back to work
i genuinely believe in what i'm doing at westwinds. i am a fierce and proud defender of the freedoms and expression of christian spirituality that we are living and playing in here. i'm pretty geeked about the opportunities that god has afforded my family and i am excited to see how they all play out.
even if it means i've got to blow my nose every 32 seconds and fall asleep in the middle of the day.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Let me put it this way:
if you invited me to live in your House, but I decline the invitation because I don’t want to be with you, or to live under your “roof and rules”, you can hardly be said to have send me away into the darkness outside; however, once I realize how special your house is, I may regret my decision [i.e. U2 is the house band, Rachael Ray makes all the meals, the Cirque deSoleil performs in between new Wachowski brothers films and demonstrations of the latest gadets from Sharper Image, etc…]. This regret [as well as the fact that there is gigantic fire outside, I’m being gang-raped by bikers, and am in constant threat of vampires hunting me for all eternity] is what makes up the Horrors of Hell.
I know I could have lived with you, but I chose not to and that knowledge torments me. In addition, the Devil and all his fallen angels have been sent to the same spot, and I am now forced to share space with them [hence the vampires and the bikers].
So, it’s not that God sends people to Hell, it’s that they choose to reject Him and once they realize their mistake they’ve entered Hell [both figuratively and, ultimately, literally].
C.S. Lewis hypothesized in The Great Divorce that many people would choose to continue living in Hell even if given many, many additional opportunities to come and live in Heaven because they could not bear the thought of giving up their selfish autonomy; after all, as Dante’s Devil said, “it is better to rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”
Sunday, August 12, 2007
mine are away right now, with carmel, visiting family and their absence makes me sick. my house feels too big, with too many rooms and not enough of a mess in the kitchen. every morning i wake up in fits and starts, scared because i don't hear the enthusiasm of my son's heavy footfalls accelerating into the master bedroom. every night i dream of the spastic glee of my daughter when i pull her out of her crib, her beaver's front teeth smiling at me like goalposts.
the house feels too cold with them gone, and when i laugh while looking at their pictures i imagine carmel laughing with me and it makes me quickly want to jump on a plane and surprise them.
[i forsee a terrible amount of money being spent spoiling my family when they return]
loving my kids this much makes me realize how loved i was [and am] by my parents. it forces me to relive every moment where i thought they were embarrased of me, or would have been better off without a third son. i realize now that nothing - nothing! - could ever separate my love from my children.
in this way i feel like god
though, it stuns me to think that what i'm feeling is only a splinter's worth of his great affection for us.
at any rate - i miss you 3
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
here are my results:
YOUR CURRENT SCENARIO: Willing and adaptable. Only at peace when closely attached to a person, group, or organization on a which reliance can be placed.
YOUR SOURCE OF STRESS: Wishes to be independent, unhampered, and free from any limitation or restriction, other than those which he imposes of himself or by his own choice and decision.
YOUR RESTRAINED CHARACTERISTICS: Willing to participate and to allow himself to become involved, but tries to fend off conflict and disturbance in order to reduce tension. Feels that he cannot do much about his existing problems and difficulties and that he must make the best of things as they are. Able to achieve satisfaction from sexual activity.
YOUR DESIRED OBJECTIVE: Takes easily and quickly to anything which provides stimulation. Preoccupied with things of an intensely exciting nature, whether erotically stimulating or otherwise. Wants to be regarded as an exciting and interesting personality with an altogether charming and impressive influence on others. Uses tactics cleverly so as to avoid endangering his chances of success or undermined others' confidence in himself.
YOUR ACTUAL PROBLEM: Seeks to avoid criticism and to prevent restriction of his freedom to act, and to decide for himself by the exercise of great personal charm in his dealings with others.
...looks like i picked the right week to stop seeing a therapist :)
Sunday, July 29, 2007
The underlying premise of Causemology is that we all need to be spiritually formed. This “formation” refers to the ways in which our engagement with God becomes more meaningful, our lifestyle and behaviors better reflecting His goodness.
Some people refer to this as ‘discipleship’, by which we mean that we are becoming better followers of Jesus Christ. Some people refer to this as developing ‘maturity’, by which we mean that we are becoming more ‘grown up’ in our spiritual selves.
Regardless of our terminology, we recognize that this development is a never-ending process – a journey towards God – that we will always be involved in. There are innumerable ways in which we are formed.
People experience god in many different ways. There are those who connect most with a careful study of the scriptures; there are those who connect most through musical worship [or even non-musical forms of worship]; there are those who connect through nature, through spiritual disciplines, through art, through movement, and through a host of other kinds of expression and interaction with their creator. [For a look at nine significant pathways of spiritual connection, see the section on “Sacred Pathways” in Know Yourself: a handbook on spiritual identity.]
Unfortunately, many of us really have no idea how we connect best with god. So we all need people to teach us how.
Humbling ourselves before God and asking for His help doesn’t exactly come easily for most of us. We’ve gotten quite comfortable being independent and doing things on our own. So, even that part is going to take a bit of adjustment.
That’s okay – you’ve got lots of opportunity to move into this new way of living with Causemology. The important thing is to start someplace. God is at work in you every day, so He’ll start dropping you hints throughout the week – invitations into his presence – and your job is to simply pay attention.
from p. 70
"god [blesses] everything he creates, making all creation the sign of his presence. if spirituality means the way we grow into the kind of being we are intended to be, then the starting point is not a striving after another world, but a deepening awareness of the true nature of this world and our place in it."
Friday, July 20, 2007
now, in my mind, the real tragedies of fear are the interpersonal consequences
the most destructive thing about fear in a work environment is that it makes you treat people differently
fear disrupts relationships
you can't speak openly or honestly with someone else if you're afraid, and neither can they speak openly and honestly with you if they sense that your fear has erected barriers of tension, irrationality, and bad memories of previous employers
fear has a nasty habit of awkwardly reprioritizing the wrong things
when we're afraid, we look for isolation - so that no one can "get us" or "get" our ideas
when we're afraid, we take solace in negative speech - so that others will know our opinion on the fear-makers
when we're afraid, we dismiss the open hearts and ready minds of willing helpers as the actions of credit-takers and dream-thieves
when, in fact, none of this may be true
in the church world - by which i mean the world of vocational [pastoral] ministry - we are often afraid of some very mundane things
words, for example, can be terribly frightening to pastors
words like "program", "prayer", "evangelism", "free-form", "criticism", "organic", "teamwork" and a variety of others from all over a variety of word-spectrums
we're afraid of these words because we think they're used as a means of control, by either complaining congregants or overbearing bosses
which, incidently, is another thing we're afraid of - authority
pastors are wired to be lone-rangers
and, to be fair, most pastors are one-man shows
so, particularly in this age of anti-denominational-involvement and local church autonomy, we shy away from authority
but i often miss authority
not because i want more rules
but because i require other, wiser, voices in my life to help me facilitate the work of god on earth
still, we're afraid of authority because we think authority means a lack of autonomy
and it does - and i think the most recent season of my life provides rich material for proving that lesser autonomy would be healthier for more pastors. we need accountability. we need counsel. we need boundaries and guidelines to which we submit as godly men and women under the authority of the body.
we don't need to be controlled, but we do need to be accountable.
which is another thing we're afraid of - accountability
we're afraid of being held accountable [even by godly, intelligent, well-meaning people] because we're afraid of failure
we're in a prime vocation for success/failure to drive our worth and our self-image
so, the idea that our ministries may not "work" is a horribly vulnerable thought
because we feel like it means "we" don't work
but this is not true
furthermore, we've got to be willing to be appraised on our efforts
to discard those things that are ineffective, or too costly, or produce nothing of new testament spirituality
and we often need other people to help us evaluate those things in those ways
because we're too afraid of failure to do it honestly ourselves
but, we're also afraid of working with other people closely
we're afraid of teamwork because we might not always have the best answers or the best solutions
and not being able to be the best - even though we don't want to admit it - seriously undercuts the shadow beliefs most pastors secretly hold
by which i mean that we all think we ought to know better
because we all feel like everyone else expects us to be wiser than politicians, more creative than hollywood producers, and more entrepreneurial than businessmen
and we're afraid they'll find out we're really not that qualified in those kinds of ways
i think we're afraid of ideas
we're afraid of ideas that are bigger than us - because we can't make them real or understand their significance and we think we should
we're afraid of ideas that are newer than our new ideas - because we work so hard to stay fresh, it feels like an indictment that we're not the "fresh-est"
we're afraid of ideas that prove our hypotheses wrong - because we thought our 'bright ideas' would be the 'next big thing' and they so rarely - if ever - are
i think my job these days is to try and aleviate the fears of those around me
while speaking honestly with carmel or dad or jvo about my own fears
i try to put others' fears to rest
and i try and master my own
to try and advance this conversation a little further
let me put some fears to bed
we are cultivating a staff at westwinds that works around the following kinds of things:
innovation - we want everyone to dream big, to think outside the boxes they've just built [by virtue of thinking outside their previous boxes], and to feel like they're empowered to try things no one else has the freedom or the resources to try
credibility - we also want everyone to hold their ideas loosely; so, if the idea is tried, tested, given a reasonable amount of tweaking and, at the end, feels like it's not effective...then we want to go back to the drawing board and start fresh - without judgement, without complaint, without accusation
freedom - we want everyone to take the space they need to be creative, to get things done, to honor family, to honor god, and to become the best possible version of themselves; but, to paraphrase what ben parker has said so well "with great freedom, comes great responsibility"
worth - we want everyone to receive credit for their own work, value for their own contributions, and to recognize the part they play on a much larger team. we want them to know that we couldn't do anything [like what we're currently doing] without them, and that their brains, their fantasies, and their noble ambitions are welcomed and authenticated here.
i don't often write on leadership stuff on this blog
typically, leadership stuff doesn't trouble me in ways that blogging might address therapeutically
but our staff is going through a lot these days
and i wanted to be public about my love and my ambitions for them
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Any cursory reading of the scriptures seems replete with instructions about what we’re supposed to do as followers of Jesus Christ. We’re supposed to be truthful in prayer, ethical in our conduct towards others, compassionate towards the disenfranchised, giving to the poor, generous with those in need, merciful to the outcast, sincere in our worship, studious in our treatment of the scriptures, lavish with our sacrifices, loose with the charity of our money, and exclusivity committed to the service of Christ and his church [and this is all just for starters].
To be fair, Jesus himself makes it clear that we are not bound by a laundry list of rules and regulations; but, he also makes it clear that anyone who is sincere in their affections for him and his kingdom will allow these kinds of activities, habits, and practices to flow out of them because of their newfound spirit of joy.
We ought to be doing what Jesus wants, but that doesn’t mean we have to do them all at the same time, or do them all of the time without ever thinking of Jesus’ other commands like rest, watch, and wait [sometimes adding more “stuff” to our lives is hardly god-honoring]. As such, we must become reacquainted with the notion of seasons.
Our lives move in rhythms. Some are busier than others and some are more relaxed; some are seasons of incredible study, and some are seasons of tireless play; some are seasons of spiritual fervor and discipline, some are seasons of Sabbath and the love of our families. There is no command in the scriptures to be busy in all things at all times, thereby neglecting the primary relationships that god himself has placed into our care and of which he requires our utmost commitment.
Causemology is designed to honor these seasons, creating two-month-long waves of spiritual intersection. By intentionally limiting our initial commitments to just two months, we can protect ourselves against burn out and sidestep the danger of reducing these spiritual actions into rote and habit.
So, simply, what does God want?
He wants us to be active in the world around us, not merely “hearers..but doers of the Word” [cf. James 1.22-25]. We ought to be doing…
Something for our soul
We ought to focus specifically on our individual spiritual development.
Something for our relationships
We ought to focus specifically on our relationships and God’s participation in those relationships.
Something for our church
Participation in a local church is fundamental tenet of New Testament teaching and we ignore that participation to our own peril.
Something for our world
We ought to be intimately involved in helping the world become a better place through justice, compassion, and spiritual transformation.
This list is, of course, incomplete, flawed, and unsatisfying…but it is a beginning for how we ought to live.
It is a starting point.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Saturday, June 30, 2007
in an effort to help people study the bible for themselves, i've included some quick resources and suggestions both in my sermon and here online.
Q. what is the bible?
A. the bible is our ultimate authority in all manner of belief and behavior.
Q. how do we use the bible?
A. we use it for teaching, rebuking, correcting, & training in righteousness
Q. where do i start studying the bible?
A. in the old testament, i suggest you begin with 1 & 2 samuel which tells the story of king david; then i suggest you move on to isaiah, which is largely concerned with prophecies regarding jesus christ. in the new testament, i suggest you begin with the gospel of john - which many people find to be the easiest gospel to understand and digest - and then move on to paul's letters - first philippians, colossians and/or ephesians, then on to romans which is the hallmark of christian theology.
Q. what do i need to get started?
A. everyone needs a good bible. i suggest an NIV study bible for this kind of approach. in addition, you'll want to grab hold of a lexicon [i.e. a greek/hebrew/aramaic to english dictionary], a concordance [which lists all of the instances of each particular word in the bible], and a bible/theological dictionary [which helps you quickly remember all of the obscure words you'll learn in the course of your study]
Q. how do i go a little deeper in my studies?
A. the low-fi approach is through books and tapes. i recommend getting the following books to start you off:
how to read the bible for all its worth, by gordon fee and douglas stuart
how to read the bible book-by-book, by gordon fee and douglas stuart
the pocket dictionary of theological terms, by stan grenz
_____ [book of the bible, i.e. "John"] for everyone, by tom wright [a series of books]
manners and customs of bible times, by ralph gower
the hi-fi approach is through the web and through podcasts
if your a podcaster, i suggest the following two fellows in addition to the westwinds podcast
1. mark driscoll, at mars hill church in seattle
2. rob bell, at mars hill bible church in grand rapids
both are excellent bible teachers, focusing almost exlcusively on the bible and not on a bunch of other issues. mark is pretty agressive, rob is pretty emo.
you'll want to download e-sword, found at e-sword.net, and download all of the various versions, dictionaries, commentaries, and lexical works you can. most of these are free, some require an additional fee.
you'll also want to add the following websites to your favorite links
this, of course, is merely a beginner's list at studying the bible
but i think it's pretty accessible for most people and provides a great starting point for those who newly believe, or are newly interested
Friday, June 29, 2007
every two months we’ll be leading our church through a wave of spiritual experiences
we'll begin by getting together on a monday night
where we'll coach and guide you
through a series of spiritual competencies and habits, disicplines and activities
that will help you better experience god in your daily life
and train you to involve yourself in four key areas of christian spirituality
something for your soul [a.k.a. a spiritual disicpline]
something for your relationships [a.k.a. keeping you in community]
something for your church [a.k.a. serving at westwinds]
something for your world [a.k.a. outreach and service]
you’ll then meet with a personal coach to decide which of the many options
you’ll choose to participate in for this two-month "wave"
you’ll select one option in each of the four categories
knowing that you’re only commiting to these habits & pactices for the current wave
you’ll talk with your coach about the choices you’ve made
throughout the course of each wave
and what their impact is in your life
and then return to the next gathering at the beginning of the next wave
to select a new set of habits & pactices for the following two months
over the course of a year
you will have involved youself in a cross-section of brand new ways of exploring and investigating what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ in our ever-changing world
not bad, eh?
we think it's gonna be a cool way to integrate the various expressions of christian spirituality with the fluctuations and rhythms of 21st century life.
basically - it'll be a great way to experience a bunch of cool new stuff
without getting so busy you forget what your friends look like.
moral failure of a senior leader
one *distinct reason [often overlooked]
is that churches need to feel connected to themselves
and the people in them often don't
any living system must be in complete connection with itself
every part must be connected to the whole
and - by proxy - to all the other parts
in a life-giving
kind of way
and if those parts are not connected
the overall system will shrink down to a size wherein they can be connected
this means that if the structure that allows all of the cells in a fern to remain connected
then the fern will die off/get smaller
until it is whole again from within
i know very little about cellular biology [and even less about ferns]
but i do know enough to understand the implications here for churches
if our people
are not connected meaningfully to one another
then our churches will continue to shrink down to a size
where they can feel connected
a church of 1000 disconnected people
will naturally shrink down into a church of 300 or 100 or 50
by virtue of the hidden intent of those same people
who inadvertantly distance themselves from newcomers
or withdraw from mere strangers at church
because they cannot cope with any more fragile or meaningless
if attendance and involvement are in any way
factors that we care about at all
then we must look to the health of our churches
and the connections of our people
people need other people to help them grow spiritually
to speak intelligently and with wisdom into their lives
to rebuke them when they're truant
to correct them when they're wrong
to encourage them when they're down
to cheer them on when they're winning
but these things don't ever happen in a weekend worship experience
they only happen in some other venue of connectedness
to be fair
the venue itself doesn't matter
whether that's old-school-sunday-school, cell groups, informal connections, or something else
all that matters is that people stay connected
for their individual health
for the health of the community
for the health of the church
intuitively all of our people know this
but we forget it
to our own peril
Friday, June 22, 2007
the more i realize it's like math
because i'm terrible at math
but love theology
i find myself growing quickly in my theological understanding
while - at the same time - recognizing how little "math" one genuinely needs to be a legitimate lover and follower of jesus christ
i've come to think of it like this
theology is like math
in that there are certain definate & true answers to certain questions
and that there are applications for theology/math well outside of the strict discipline of theology/math
and that theology/math affects our daily lives without most of us even noticing it
and - perhaps most 'sexily' - that theology/math contain much room for hypothesis, rumination, and speculation about meaning and significance in real life stuff
in order for someone to truly to be considered a lover and follower of jesus
i believe they ought to work hard at understanding basic math
they ought to know how to add and subtract
they ought to ascribe to something basic [like the nicene creed, even with its many theological pinholes that so much of evangelicalism is fond of fighting over]
and for many other pastors
we need to know more than addition and subtraction
we need to know - at least - calculus and algebra
so as to see the deeper levels of meaning and the use of numbers/texts
what concerns me is how many "famous" pastors seem only to have grasped
what looks like multiplication or, far too often, division
to be fair
we truly cannot judge their worth from a distance
and - even if we could - it would unethical for us to do so
without, at least, acknowledging their noble purpose and being in some manner of relationship [either professional or personal] with them
if we're honest
we do need to be clear that more is required of pastor/teachers than simply addition/subtraction, multiplication/division
i've humorously recognized that my particular bent is towards
applied mathematics is the field of study concerned with stuff that makes a visible difference in real life
with the analysis of the world around us
and positive suggestions for how it could be improved
or better utilized and/or enjoyed
i love to think through the hyper-complicated parts of faith [i.e. the real and complex numbers, number theory, etc...], but am only concerned with them insofar as they help us all connect more meaningfully with jesus and with the world around us.
perhaps this is a useful way to understand my contribution to the world around me
Sunday, June 10, 2007
it was originally coined in this way to refer to the autopoeitic emergence [i.e. self-creation] of healthy systems that reproduce other, similar healthy systems; also, it was a reference to denote how unhealthy systems will naturally become healthy if permitted to self-diagnose and sustain [though, that may include removal of certain agents/persons contributing to the unhealth of the overall system].
the term is often reduced to the functional opting out of managerial responsibility
wherein leaders don't lead or provide direction
because it's not "organic"
there is a great fascination with organic terminology
in part because of the obvious crossovers with jesus' teaching on spirituality
the term seems most applied in churches as a way to kind of sex-up whatever program
the church is promoting these days
all of thus bugs me
since blogs really do tend to be about stuff that bugs bloggers,
i thought i'd offer something a little more helpful in the way of understanding what it truly means to be organic
1. "organics" is truly about people
...and people don't "run" like machines. people cannot be controlled and be simultaneously passionate/creative. leadership in churches is organic because the people in our churches will do whatever they want, regardless of whether or not we want them to do it.
says mag wheately:
"it is important to recognize that people never behave like machines. when given directions, we insist on putting our own unique spin on them. when told to follow orders, we resist in obvious or subtle ways. when told to accept someone else's solution or to institute a program created elsewhere, we deny that it has sufficient value."
2. managing living systems/cultivating health/sustaining growth
... the only way forwards, then, is to look to the system-as-a-whole. we can influence the system towards health/growth/sustainability, which isn't "in-organic" just a recognition that we - as leaders - are also part of the larger system and, as such, our role in the system may be to influence the overall web towards things that are more true, more beautiful, and/or more good.
3. paying attention to what's naturally happening around you
...the best way to do this - at least, it seems this way in 12+ years of ministry - is to notice the good things around you and publicly laud and authenticate them, providing rationale/teaching for why, exactly, they are so beautiful/true/good; and, to notice the absence of critical things in the system and try and introduce them through the manifestation of growing concern about their absence in the other people involved [i.e. make everyone aware of how screwy it is that "compassion" - for example - is noticeably absent in our churches, and then help them realize what "compassion" might look like in their locale].
this is just a start
but i just can't simply be bothered by misuse of "organic"
in actual fact
this kind of orientation towards faith/leadership/systems truly is one of the greatest perspectival gifts of the 21st c.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
their claim is that paul somehow misrepresented jesus, thereby hijacking christianity and making it into something other than what jesus himself intended.
in their minds, the theology of jesus [and the kingdom] is very different from the theology of paul [and christianity]; and, if we're true christ-followers, we'll focus far, far less on paul than on jesus.
paul only quotes jesus once in all his letters
and only references the gospel stories 4-5 times
i think there are a couple of giant leaps made in this kind of thinking
first of all,
the great worth of jesus christ is not primarily his teaching
don't get me wrong - jesus' teachings are crucial
but he was more than just a good moral teacher
he is the resurrected
who superceded the messianic expectations of his friends and followers
and manifested divinity in a skin suit
he is god
when we take away these important
we're left with only a better ghandi
and a better ghandi in no way addresses the real metaphysical issue
of our separation from our creator
ghandi can't atone for sin
and we do need atonement
even though that's not a popular understanding these days
the second big flaw i see in this silly line of reasoning
is the arrogant assumption that a 21st century american
somehow beter understands the local context of a 1st century palestinian jew
than the apostle paul
who was, himself, a 1st century palestinian jew
how did we get so full of ourselves
that we think we would be able to magically understand something about jewish messianic expectation that paul would not have understood
or sacrificial atonement
or the nature of god
or the promise to abraham
if paul had totally screwed up the reality of christ
and all of the other disciples whom paul knew personally
would have set him straight
it was repeatedly paul who set the disciples straight
because they kept making the gospel smaller and smaller
focusing on just jews
focusing on just the legality of righteousness
i do understand that the gospels were all written after paul's missionary journeys were completed
and i do understand that john mark, who wrote the gospel of mark [aka peter's account of jesus' life] traveled with him
so there are some who say that maybe the gospels were a correction of paul's misunderstandings
but this is an argument from silence
...and a silly one at that
how do we best understand jesus?
is it by his teaching alone?
or is it also by the work of the new testament theologians who made his identity and significance clear?
i shouldn't even have asked the question.
Friday, May 25, 2007
meaning that the rocks will begin to praise god
if we don't
i've heard that interpretation before
but darlene gave it a cool twist
she cited songs like audioslave's "show me how to live"
and dishwalla's "counting blue cars"
and films like "the matrix"
or "the fountain"
as examples of rocks and stones crying out
it was just a cool spin
on how revelatory the art of the unfound
can truly be