Thursday, December 3, 2009


I am being formed. It is a process which started at birth and, well, I am not convinced it will ever end. I was born in the church—not literally—but I have known nothing else. I cut my teeth on the Biblical stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, and Joseph. I studied at the feet of Fundamentalism. Evangelicalism courted me with its song. Liturgy has befriended me. I have played in the playground of the various theological schools. In each I found new toys and equipment to dissect God and faith. And in each playground, I found festering landfills hidden in the shadows. I have been enticed by the counter American Christian culture which mimics the world and slaps Jesus on it—making it better. I have fallen into the rut that the conversion experience is a must and is the apex of our Christianity. These are some of the things which have shaped me—for good and for bad. I do not seek answers like, “why does the church create divisions” or “why is the church which is to be a place for people to experience the healing and redemptive love of God instead often a place where we wound and destroy each other?” I do wish to remember my past, well—forgiving where forgiveness is needed, speaking the truth as I have experienced it at all times, and blessing it all. If I believe God is in the redemption business, I need to believe that he redeems all of my past. Those things which I have wrongly done or left undone and those things which have been done to me wrongly—I need to believe all can be redeemed and something glorious can come from it.
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If you were to ask me what Christianity is about, I would probably go Merton and Mulholland on you. Dr. Mulholland read Thomas Merton as devotionals before his classes when I attended seminary. We were created in God’s Image. All of Creation was formed to be God-centered. When we chose to go our own way, we became self-centered. Christianity is the story of God rescuing us from our imploding, false-self. Christianity is the journey to let our self-centered false self die and be restored to the God-centered self we were created to be. Christianity is more about being than about doing. If our being is being transformed into the image of Christ, then our doing will flow from the being. When Paul states that all things are permissible, but not all things are profitable—we realize that it is not the action which is the key to this verse. It is about my being and other’s beings. If someone will be hurt or will stumble, the action is not profitable. Christian being is to center on God for the peace of all people.
For a long time, I focused on doing Christian things—not drinking, not swearing, reading the Bible, praying. As a Christian doing, I became frustrated. I was busy trying to change me. As a Christian being, I have found peace. Yes, I still have a part to play in my transformation into a God-centered being. I need to submit to God—place myself on the center of the Potter’s wheel. But there is a freedom in letting my actions flow from my being instead of trying to live up to the standard of Christ. If my being is going to be changed from a self centered being to a God-centered being, I need the grace of God. But that is the point, our being and centered-ness is what needs to be changed, not just our actions. When we narrow down Christianity to our actions, we limit the transformation. We are able to justify ourselves by what we do and do not do while remaining selfish. But it is hard to measure “our being”. It is much easier to measure our actions and habits. And so we struggle in the Romans 7 narrative—I do what I do not want to do and I do not do what I want….without ever experiencing Romans 8.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Scripture and rough draft of sermonettes and sermon

Isaiah 25:6-9
Isaiah 25:6-9 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."

One chapter before this, Isaiah states how the earth is cursed, the vine languishes, the wine mourns, the inhabitants of the earth and the earth are scorched. The picture Isaiah 24 paints is one of desolation and anguish. There is no music. There is no joy. Almost exactly one chapter later, Isaiah paints the opposite picture. There is abundance and wine, the tears of God’s people will be wiped away. Death no longer lingers over the earth, over shadowing and over powering her inhabitants. No, death is swallowed up forever. The Lord will save.

We could say Isaiah 24 is the picture of fallen humanity. Israel represents this so well in their sin and their exile. Despairing, lamenting, dying, crying—this would be Israel’s existence in exile. This is humanity’s existence in exile. Yes, we have been in exile. We were created for the Garden, for the Presence of God and as Genesis 3 narrates we were cast out of the Garden, out of God’s presence—death entered our world with it despair and tears.

Isaiah 25 is the picture of God’s Kingdom come. More than a fool’s hope, more than a dream…it is God’s reality breaking into our brokenness. God will dwell with his people again just like he did in Eden. We will feast and celebrate again and our tears will be wiped away. As God’s people are faced with exile and hardship, the promise of God is restoration—not being restored to David’s Kingdom but being restored to Eden. God dwelling with humanity, humanity living in the place created for them and being in harmony with God and all of Creation.

Revelation 21:1-6

Revelation 21:1-6 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever." 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making all things new!" And then he said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true." 6 And he also said, "It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega-- the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge!

Have you ever read a book series? The one that comes to my mind is the Harry Potter series. From the first book, a conflict arises which you know will have to culminate and be resolved. The story is working towards this one event—the fight between good and evil—which if good wins, will lead to peace and a new hope. In Harry Potter’s case, the story through each book is leading to the final battle between Voldemorte and Harry Potter. If Harry Potter wins, lives will be saved and peace restored for all. In Scripture, the Cross is the epic battle between good and evil. Thanks be to God, Christ is victorious. Now Revelation 21 is the picture of what Christ’s victory has secured for all of Creation. Eden is restored. Well, the picture the author uses is that of the City of New Jerusalem—in the New Testament—cities are the picture of peace and prosperity not gardens. Nature and wilderness are places where people wrestle with evil and where demons live. So Eden transforms into the New Jerusalem. But the picture doesn’t change the truth—God dwells with his people for ever. Evil is vanquished. The brokenness of the world is washed away. God and humanity dwell together, harmony is restored.

John 11:32-44

John 11:32-44 32 When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell down at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, he was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled. 34 "Where have you put him?" he asked them. They told him, "Lord, come and see." 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, "See how much he loved him." 37 But some said, "This man healed a blind man. Why couldn't he keep Lazarus from dying?" 38 And again Jesus was deeply troubled. Then they came to the grave. It was a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 "Roll the stone aside," Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man's sister, said, "Lord, by now the smell will be terrible because he has been dead for four days." 40 Jesus responded, "Didn't I tell you that you will see God's glory if you believe?" 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, "Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so they will believe you sent me." 43 Then Jesus shouted, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 And Lazarus came out, bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, "Unwrap him and let him go!"

When I go to the movies, I love watching the previews before the featured movie begins. Those teasers give us a glimpse of the movies coming out in the next year. They give just enough information to whet your appetite for the movie without giving away too much of the story. Sometimes I see the preview of a movie I know is expected out soon which creates more anticipation in me to see it. Sometimes I am surprised by the trailer—I didn’t know they were making that book into a movie which leads to excitement and anticipation. In a way, Jesus is the ultimate trailer. But the story he is telling is not a fictional story, it is God’s reality. He is the Kingdom of God come to earth. He is the window giving us a glimpse at God. In John it states that when we see Jesus we see the Father. He is the window into the Kingdom of God, Jesus only does what the Father does. His work is the Father’s work. And what does God look like? Sacrificial love—Jesus is the Father pouring out his heart, his love for humanity and sacrificing himself for our sake. What does the Kingdom of God look like? It looks like the demon possessed being set free. It looks like the blind being given sight. It looks like the lame walking. It looks like the outcasts finding a home. It looks like sins being forgiven. It looks like the dead raising to life. The trailer of the Kingdom—Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection—looks like humanity being loosed from our brokenness, loosed from sin and death’s cold grip and being resurrected as new creations-the old earth and old heaven being passed away and the new earth and new heaven coming clearly into focus.

Today we remember those who have passed from this broken world into the Presence of God. They are seeing clearly what we see dimly through a glass. We celebrate that the death which they have experienced is not permanent. It is a doorway leading to a fuller experience of God’s Kingdom which we experience in a broken, disjointed way in this life. They are on the other side of the window. Meanwhile, we live in the now and not yet—the time between the great battle—the Cross—and the New Jerusalem of Revelation. We await the resurrection of our bodies, the mortal putting on immortality, the full reign of Christ when death will be silenced and our tears wiped away.

In many stories, there are in-between times. In Harry Potter, the in between time is presented in the words “19 years later”. In the Lord of the Rings, Aragorn the promised king states now is the time to rebuild in peace. In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the story states that the new kings and queens spent the early part of their reign driving out the last remnants of the White Witches army and bringing peace to Narnia. The in between time is when the destruction wrought by the great evil and the great battle is repaired. It is the time when the new order or the new king begins. Slowly things are rebuilt. Slowly new policies and procedures are put in place. Slowly, peace trickles into the world.

This is our time. We are in the in between. The battle is over. The victory is won. We have acknowledged Jesus as the rightful King. We are now part of the reality of God’s Kingdom invading the brokenness of our world. We are partners with God in the Gospel, joint heirs with Christ, and ambassadors of God’s Kingdom. The change in our lives should begin to have a ripple effect on our world. We have passed from death unto life. We have been loosed from the power of sin and death. Our physical bodies just need time to catch up with the spiritual reality.

So what does it look like when the Kingdom of God comes to earth? It looks like Jesus—It looks like the oppressed being set free, the blind given sight, the lame walking, the outcasts finding a home, sinners who are forgiven, and the dead raising to life. Part of me shrinks back and wants to declare, this is all symbolic today right? Yet part of me longs for our brokenness to be repaired fully. I want the oppressed set free. Those who the tyrants in other nations oppress and those who the American big businesses and economy have oppressed---all set free. I want people transformed by a radical forgiveness. I want broken bodies mended. This is the Kingdom of God according to Jesus. The tension of living in the in between is overwhelming at times. I believe all which happened in Jesus and through Jesus still happens today. Yet I tremble at the same time with the thought. I cannot make those things happen. What I can do is live as one who is in the Kingdom of God.

What do the people who live in this Kingdom look like? Matthew 5—they are humble, meek, poor in spirit, thirsty for God, peacemakers. We are loosed from the grip of sin and death to live humbly, meekly, needy and thirsty for God, making peace with those we love, those we like, and those who turn our stomachs. But we get sidetracked by the materialism, the vengeful anger of our world and society. We lose sight of the Kingdom we are supposed to be bringing. Perhaps because we stop looking through the window and get stuck looking at the broken mess of a world we live in or at our own selves and desires. If we want to look like the Kingdom and live in the Kingdom, we need to look at the window again. Get a new glimpse of Jesus and remember we are loosed from the bondage of sin and death. Oh, that doesn’t mean it has no effect on us. We still are in a broken world. But John Wesley believed we are going on to perfection in love. Sin has no hold on us. And we know, death has no hold on us. It is simply walking through another door into a deeper experience of God. We celebrate the realization of God’s Kingdom today—All Saint’s Day.

Will we let God make us into windows of the Kingdom of God? So when people look at us, they can glimpse God’s Kingdom at work. Will we be a people who are humble, meek, thirsty and needy for God, and peace makers? Brothers and sisters, in the words of Jesus Christ, be unbound, unwrapped from the old nature of selfishness, sin and death. Come forth in Jesus’ name. You are loosed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


So I finished the Bible study on Genesis that I wrote. As I went through parts of Genesis, I realized the God we find in Genesis is very basic. We have no Trinitarian understanding. Oh, we get hints to the Trinity, hints to a coming redemption. We even get glimpses of God the Son being torn apart for us when we break covenant. But this is not spelled out completely. I wonder if I was Adam or Abraham or Joseph if I would have interpreted what Elohim was doing at that time as pointing to the Jesus of the New Testament. Yet as I read Genesis, God revealed himself more as the book went on. It was like an unfolding of who God is as the heroes of our faith experienced God. Our doctrines are statements of our faith's ancestors and how they experienced God. They experienced God as creator, as redeemer, as love. And Scripture as a whole gives us a bigger picture of who God is than who we meet in Genesis at first. Oh, I believe we encounter the same God throughout Scripture--the God of Genesis is the God in Revelation. Yet we see God approaching humanity in the language and customs of a specific culture. This God reveals enough of himself for human beings to have a relationship, a covenant with him.
I state all this because I think as Christians we have gotten lost in the doctrinal debates. Oh I am one who loves the doctrinal debates. Give me a good theological discussion any day. But I have found it a whole lot easier to debate our theologies and doctrines than it is to live out our theologies and doctrines. Perhaps the reason our theologies and doctrines have become divisive instead of unifying is because we debate them rather than live them. Perhaps like those who defined our doctrine did so because they experienced God in that way, we are suppose to experience theology more than debate it. Although, I am up for a good debate any day.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Is Jesus marketable?

Now there is an obvious answer to the question, is Jesus marketable? Obviously, on the market you will find t-shirts, music, books, etc. with Jesus as the main point not to mention all the festivals in the summer and conferences held throughout the year. Jesus and Christianity is not left unscathed by capitalism. I fear that Capitalism has influenced our churches more than simply getting us to make a buck off of Christ. Instead of making disciples, the church has made consumers. If they don't like the product or service at this church, just go to the one down the block. I have heard some Christians say we are in sales, we are selling the Gospel, Jesus Christ. Is Jesus really marketable?
As a product, Jesus stinks. If we were to be authentic, we would have a Jesus doll with a string in the back. Pull the string and Jesus says, "If anyone wants to follow me, you must take up your cross." or maybe, "you must lose your life to gain it." or "blessed are the poor, the meek, the persecuted." We could have set of dolls--add to it the Paul doll who tells us "everything is crap compared to Jesus" or "have the mind of Christ who obeyed to death."
I believe there is a marketable Jesus--the cheap grace Jesus--He forgives and loves but never mentions any of the lines above. But the love and forgiveness of Christ leads us to losing our life for his sake, taking up a cross, being peacemakers and meek. If his love doesn't lead us there, then perhaps we have not truly experienced his love.
How do we market a Jesus who calls us to be peacemakers, meek, to lay down our lives? Jesus as a product doesn't work. But as a Savior, Jesus rocks. As a Kingdom builder, Jesus is second to noone. As a God, Jesus is above all else.
I am not sure I am called to market Jesus. I am called to be conformed to his image. I am called to be His hands and feet, which if we remember correctly walked this earth, healed and touched people, and were nailed to the cross. He then rose again which is where all our hope lies. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps we are salespeople. I am finding enough challenge in just being like Jesus. I don't know when I will find the time to learn sales.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Starving for Authenticity

Working in the ministry, I realized I am starving--not spiritually, I have found places to be fed spiritually. But I am starving for authenticity. Now there is a difference between being wise in speech. I believe I have to be careful in how I word things so I am not accusing or saying something that is unbiblical. Yet there are times I want to just look at Scripture and say, "What in God's Name was God thinking when this was included int the canon?" There are times I look at Scripture and want to ask, "Is God really calling us to the extreme of this?" There are times I want to say, "I am tired. I don't feel like giving my best right now." or "I am struggling. I am struggling in my faith or struggling to exist right now." Yet there are not many avenues for this.

I am also struggling with the Church. As I have stated in my last post, there are churches which love their building more than people. I am starving for a congregation who says "this is who we are--no, we are not what we were in our glory days, no we are not perfect. We are on a journey to be more like Christ. We struggle with what that looks like." Right now that is not what I am finding. Our churches are defining success by how many people attend, how magnificent our building is, or how many people we have on staff. I am not sure these are Kingdom issues. So how do we as Christians recapture authentic lives, authentic churches?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Church is a Whore and She is my Mother...

This title is a quote from St. Augustine. A century or so later, I wonder what the Church was whoring herself out after in Augustine's time. But even more, I wonder when we will live into her identity as the pure Bride of Christ?
I have experienced churches which love their programs more than the lost. I have experienced a church which loves its building more than people--they actually admitted that they would rather cease to exist as a congregation than combine with another church so they can continue. We trade the amazing Love of God for temporary things. We trade the incredible opportunity to partner with Christ in sharing God's love and grace for politics. We trade an intimate relationship with Christ for shallow human acquaintances.
So, how do we open ourselves up to experience the Love of God? How do we fall in love with God instead of whoring ourselves out to these lesser gods?
And so I weep--like Christ wept for Jerusalem--for the churches and Christians who would trade the Kingdom for America, the Love of God for the love of buildings, relationship for tradition. Heaven has come, walked among us, and we would sit in our small cages instead of walking with Him.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2 Samuel 7:1-14

And so I have moved into the parsonage. I have preached two Sundays, a nursing home service and served communion. Both of the churches I serve are beautiful and take good care of their building. One building is a little fancier than the other. Some at this church seem to be more interested in controlling and maintaining the church structure than with the people of the church. This weeks lectionary reading takes us to 2 Samuel--David wants to build a temple for God to dwell in. And God instead wants to build a people with whom He can dwell. I look at these amazing church buildings around me and how the people put their identity in the building....I wonder, what it would look like if we let God be the builder once again? I have a feeling church would look different.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A struggling peacemaker

Tonight I went to the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall which made a stop in a near by town. It was called "The Cost of Freedom" tour. It was an emotional experience. In front of the wall there were 8 large display cases with the dog tags of those who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The wall itself is in sections--sometimes the names on the section are those killed over a week, sometimes the names on the section are those killed in one day. As I stood in the rain and the echoing thunder, I heard the old saying, "freedom isn't free." And I began to wonder...when will we value human lives as much as we value freedom? When will we value the words of Jesus to love our enemies as much as we value our government's call to patriotism? I guess I am struggling with the call to be a peacemaker in a violent world. When Jesus said love your enemies and turn the other cheek, what were his boundaries for that? Did he realize that the world would call us weak? Or did he know that after time, a deeper change occurs in our enemies and in ourselves? I don't know. I just know it was very disturbing to see all those dog tags. It was very disturbing to see all those names on the wall and the memorials that people left behind in memory of a friend, a son, a lover, a father. I am not sure what makes my freedom more valuable than someone else's life. I am not sure what makes one life more valuable than another person's life. For each name on the wall and each dog tag of an American, how many Vietnamese and Iraqi names are being mourned? I don't have an answer or the right way to navigate this issue. I am just struggling to be a Christian in a violent world.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Philippians 3

Paul states in Philippians 3 that compared to Christ everything this world has to offer, everything he has accomplished is crap.
I want to be here. I want to be able to say that with Paul and mean it from the depth of my soul. But I am not. I have been shopping a lot lately. When you don't have anything to start a household, you need to shop. Right now the thing that I am struggling with is the kitchen garbage can. I want a stainless steel garbage can cuz I love the look of stainless steel. The cheapest one I have found is $60. A plastic one will do, right? I still haven't bought one because I really liked the stainless steel one. Really? I am going to put garbage in this thing! What does it matter what I put my garbage in? But isn't that what I am doing with my life? The selfishness, my attitude, my love for stuff, my satisfaction with my status quo, my ignorance of the poor around me--I dress it all up in a stainless steel can and it looks Christian cuz I slap a Jesus sticker on it all. But in reality compared to having Jesus Christ, it is garbage. It doesn't matter how I dress my selfish desires up. They are crap compared to Christ. It doesn't matter how I justify things, it is crap compared to Christ. And that master's degree that I just received and how about that commissioning coming in a couple of days? Can I say with Paul, compared to Christ nothing even comes close...
I wish I could. I am not there yet. And that makes me want to cry. I want to love Jesus in such a way that nothing else compares and pulls me away.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Change happens. If we do not change, we stagnate and ultimately die--spiritually, physically, emotionally. Death itself is change. Change is inevitable. So I am living right now in the season of change. Seminary ended almost a month ago. I begin my appointment July 1. I live in the midst of change. Changing locations, changing jobs, changing people in my life. So I am going to blog as best as possible during this time. Where am I struggling? Where am I feeling at home? Where am I finding God in the midst of the changes?
Currently, I am feeling a bit antsy. I want to get on with it all. Instead I feel like I am in a holding pattern. I am in the in between stage. I am in between jobs and in between homes. I am in between the time of preparation and the time of service. I have had to rethink my first Sunday and my first sermon as I have spoken with people from the churches. And yet somehow I am at peace too. That is a small oxymoron, isn't it? A peaceful antsy. But leaving Kentucky was sad yet it felt right. I had a peace about it. And living in this in between stage feels right. I have a peace about it. I am finding that God is here--in the in between, in the change. God is my peace.