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Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Too Many Friends Evangelism

Ok I get it, friendship evangelism is better than the crusades.
But how many friends can you really have? One new friend per month? per year?
How exactly does a family man maintain all these friendships?
Honestly, with a wife and 4 kids, I struggle to neglect more than 3 or 4 friendships.
Those friends are already Christians so, Im not sure they count.

So lets say I add just one "friend" per year. Within 4 years, Ill be divorced.

So I say if we are gonna go this route,
we change it to "friendly evangelism". It requires less friendship attention.
We can hire several pastors to facilitate some "friendly events".
At these events we can be "friendly" without all the inconveniences of a full blown friendship.
The afore mentioned pastors can hire an evangelist to come present the good news to the be-friendlied crowd.
Eventually we build a large building to facilitate permanent "friendly events".
We could even build a gymnasium for athletic "friendly events".

Tuesday, April 27, 2004
A Gospel Reading
With A Personal Addendum
When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to those in need, and everything will be clean for you.

"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tithe of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice for the poor and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

"Woe to you Pharisees, because you're so full of youself...you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.

"Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over by accident. Making themselves unclean without even knowing it just by coming into contact with you."

One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, don't you know that when you say these things, you insult us also."

Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry--burdens of your rules and interpretations of the law, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

"Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering by claiming you hold the key."

When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.

Addendum:Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were deeply troubled by this. "Doesn't Jesus know how influential he is?" they said. They decided to tell the other disciples how upset they were that Jesus would talk in such generalities. "Look," Nicodemus said plainly, "I'm a Pharisee. I know that a lot of people look down on us already...I think all Jesus has done is make us look even worse. He's made us a laughing stock! We're not all like that."

"Exactly," replied Joseph, "I felt very uncomfortable. My friends were giving me those smart-looking smiles while he was talking...like, "he's talking about you". I felt like everyone was looking at me. I myself have done a lot for those in poverty...both on a personal level and in terms of our city. I think the real issue is that Jesus doesn't understand what it means to be a Pharisee and a leader of the people these days. I mean, I provided the funding for several of the prophets' tombs...Should we not honor those great men? What am I supposed to do as a leader of the people? Should we not have parks and memorials? Should we not attend meetings with influential people? How else do things get done? I think he's really gone too far. What has he really done for the people anyway?"

"Does it seem like all Jesus does is point out the problems with the people who are really trying to do what's right and follow God? Why doesn't he rail against those people who are screwing around and drinking all the time?" Nicodemus paused and thought quietly for a moment, then said, "I understand what he's trying to do...I just think he's wrong to lump us all together like that. I'm not like what he said."

John said, "You're making too big of thing out of this."

"No we're not!" retorted Joseph. Then he said to John, "You know he was talking about you, too, don't you? Your whole family is full of the kinds of people Jesus is criticizing. Doesn't that bother you?"

"So, go talk to Jesus about it." Peter said with a smile.

But Joseph and Nicodemus didn't say anything to Jesus. They thought in their hearts, "He wouldn't understand. "

The Bible and Poverty: Part 2
The Poor in the Old Testament cont.
In the Old Testament God identifies himself with the poor several times. Indeed, caring for the poor is equated with knowing God in Jeremiah 22:16. According to Proverbs the person who lends to the poor lends to God Himself (Prov. 19:17; 14:21; 22:9; 28:7; 31:20). It should come as no suprise, then, that God's coming Messianic Kingdom was viewed as the hope of the poor. In that coming Kingdom the poor looked forward to a period of blessing, justice, and equality (Is. 11:4; cf 29:19; 41:17; Ps. 132:15).

We can see God's concern for the poor in the establishment of the nation of Israel. With Israel God desired that there be no poor in the land (Dt. 15:4), although he was aware that their would always be poverty due (by implication) to the nation's sinfulness (Dt. 15:11). From this passage it is clear that to do anything less than help the poor in land was considered a sin (v. 7-11). In the Torah God set up a system in which the poor would be fairly treated and assisted. Whatever was left in the corners of fields and whatever grew in the Sabbatical year belongs to the poor (Lev. 9:10; 23:22; Dt. 24:19; Ex. 23:11). No interest was to be charged to the poor (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:36). Food could not be sold for a profit to the poor (Lev. 25:37). The poor were to be paid the day they labored (Dt. 24:14f).

The picture of the tithe in the Old Testament, contrary to the modern American Church™ teachings, was primarily about taking care of the poor in the community. The tithe in the Old Testament was actually meant for those who had no inheritance in Israel: orphans and widows, foreigners, and the Levites (Dt. 14:22-29). The tithe was meant to be enjoyed by the family and the Levites for 2 years at a meal, and then in the 3rd year the tithe was to be stored and given to the poor. God specifically tells the Israelites in this passage that he will bless them if they use the tithe to take care of those in need. This passage along with God's identification with the poor makes the often quoted Malachi 3:6-12 make more sense. When Israel was "robbing" God by not giving their tithes, it was because they were not bringing food to the local storehouses for the poor. The only other tithes were to be consumed by the families or the Levites...only the tithe for the poor was stored.

In other areas of the Scriptures, the person who is righteous knows the rights of the poor and works to make them a reality (Prov. 29:7; cf 13:19). Leaders who rule with justice toward the poor will be established forever (Prov. 29:14). Likewise, the righteousness of those who give to the poor will endure forever (Ps. 112:9; cf Dt. 24:13). The Anointed King will be found on the side of the poor...defending, judging with justice, crushing the oppressor, etc. (Ps. 72:2, 4, 12; cf 83:3f). Note Isaiah 58 where religious action does nothing towards improving a relationship with God, but "spending oneself" on behalf of the poor brings about God's revelation.

In contrast to the above paragraph, it is the wicked who primarily deprive the poor of rights. The Old Testament prophets regularly speak out about the oppression of the poor (Is. 3:14f; Jer. 2:34; Am 8:6; ct Am 2:7; 4:1; 5:11; 8:4; Zec. 7:8-14). Interestingly, in Ezekiel the reason for judgement against Sodom and Gomorah was in large part due to the way they treated the poor among them (Ez. 16:49....does this sound like any other nation we know?). Perhaps the city's refusal to welcome and protect the two wandering (seemingly homeless?) strangers said as much (or more) about them as their sexual sins. Notice that Job is righteous for trying to protect them in a sacrificial act of hospitality.

The Bible and Poverty: Part 1
In the Old Testament there are 5 different terms used to refer to those in poverty.

1. Ani or anav...generally refered to the oppressed poor, the humble. Typically those not deserving of their poverty. Often linked with meekness and being "poor in spirit". This is the word often used to denote how humble Moses was. However, that passage could also be interpreted: "Moses was more oppressed [in the sense of affliction] than any other man."References: Lev. 19:10; Dt. 15:11; Job 29:12; Ps 10:9; 74:19; Is. 3:14f

2. Ebyon - those "in want, needy, poor" This was sometimes linked with ani. Often refers to beggars, the very poor, the homeless. Interestingly, this is the term that the Jewish believers in Jerusalem took for themselves according to histories of the early church. The ebioniym or ebionites were later considered heretical, but it is interesting that the Jewish believers in Jerusalem called themselves "the poor" or "needy". References: Dt. 15:4-11; Job 31:19; Ps. 132:15; Prov. 14:21; Jer 2:34.

3. Dal - "weak, then, low, poor". Physical weakness in Genesis 41:19. More often those who are powerless due to low social status, for example, peasants. Ex. 23:3; Is. 2:8; Job 5:16; Ps. 113:7; Prov. 19:17; Am. 8:6

4. Rash - "poor, needy" Used in a purely economic sense. References: 2 Sam. 12:1; Prov. 3:18; 14:20; 18:23; 22:7.

5. Mishken - "dependent, socially inferior" From the Akkadian Mushkenu--a beggar. Related to the self designation sued by Arab beggars. Used only in Ecclesiastes 4:13; 9:15f.

Things Are Quiet...Too Quiet
Not sure why...I guess we haven't had much to say lately.
LOL--We Beat NYPD Blue To the Punch
Tonight's episode of NYPD Blue contained a story based around a church that takes pictures of license plates of those visiting strip clubs.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
A New Look at Evangelism:

A friend of mine asks "what if someone receives a Christian, that is,
embraces that person and that person's community relationally, has that
someone received Jesus?" Jesus said to his disciples when he sent them out
into the towns and villages, "whoever receives you receives me and whoever
receives me receive the One who sent me." Imagine that. People in towns all
over Galilee receiving Jesus and God as they receive the disciples. Now,
post-Pentecost with the Spirit residing in Christian community, would it not
be even more true that those who receive Christians receive Jesus? What does
it mean to be an "ambassador"? When interested people feel the touch of
authentic humanity and respond by wanting to be part of it, aren't they
receiving Jesus-the supreme authentic human? Isn't evangelism more
relational and communal, than it is propositional and verbal? Isn't the
church now "the letter of Christ" not written on tables of stone or paper
with ink, but with the Spirit on human lives? When people receive other
people who are living out, however haphazardly, God's story, aren't they
receiving the God story, too? Just wondering....

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

It just clicked with me. A big reason why I don't like the WWJD braclet thing. (ok. ok. ok. so you don't really see these braclet's anymore... I'm not that quick. )

Here it is.

I believe there are to many people in the world acting like Jesus. They need to stop. If you are acting like Jesus... or wondering what Jesus would DO... stop.

Don't get me wrong. I'm borderline grace + works = the Kingdom of Heaven these days. I guess I'm saying I wish more people were doing the things Christ did... but bear with me.

the world we live in values facades. (no news here)
so do we. (be honest)
there are to many people striving to act like Jesus. (did I say they need to stop?)
what if we are called to BE like Jesus.
What if we spent a significant amount of time focusing on our being?
Doing the hard work of introspection. Checking our motives. Seeing that our strengths are also our weaknesses.
Seeing that our strength are likely where our greatest struggle with sin rests.
What if we were still? What if we we did the hard work of solitude? What if we actually lived lives from who we are, not who we wish we were. I'll say that again in a different way.

What if we had the freedom to live and ACT from who we really are. What if we were able to push aside the facade of a Jesus like person and we were actually Christ like.

What if we stopped believing the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves?
What if we followed Jesus from our brokenness and weakness rather than our aptitudes and appearaces.

Frankly, we can't be like jesus, because we won't do the hard work within ourselves.
No wonder we fail so often acting like Jesus. We aren't like him. Do we even know him? or have we lost contact with him, or lost our centeredness of being because we are so damn busy acting.

Just some thoughts in my head.

Monday, April 19, 2004
A Random Flow of Thoughts
  • The "m" key on my computer now takes extra pressure to make it work. I have a laptop...so this is a problem. If m's are missing from some of my posts from now on...please understand. My spelling was bad before...now it will be attrocious.

  • I don't get leadership in the Christian culture. I had a student tell me a while back that he wanted to make a difference in his youth group, so he volunteered for the leadership team and made it. Now he plans programs. We have a "leadership class" at the school where I teach, made up of student class officers and such. What do they do? Plan things. That's what it boils down to...leadership is planning things. Abraham Lincoln...that Civil War thing? Just one big event that he planned. Ghandi...apartheid in South Africa and British Imperialism? All it needed was a program, and he was the coordinator. Jesus...put in place the first discipleship program. He did pretty well...he only lost one in twelve. Of course, that guy betrayed him and committed suicide...but hey, nobody's perfect....uh...well...never mind. I asked the leadership class the other day, "Who are you leading?" They didn't know how to answer that question, so I put it in terms they could understand: "What do you do?" They were then able to answer enthusiastically. "Right now we're planning a pizza party for the 8th graders [this is a high school class] so that they know we're interested in them and are excited about them being in high-school next year." Do we really think these events have any such value? That a party is going to show someone such things? Here's a challenge to those of you in ministry or in charge of a group of "leaders", try to have them not do anything but spend time with people the next 6 months. Your "leaders" will probably be better people because of it and then they might actually be ready to lead.

  • I'll post more about where this came from later, but I would like to make something clear to all Christians who read this post. Don't do something stupid, cheesy, idiotic, etc and then call it persecution when people laugh at you or think you are stupid, cheesy, idiotic, etc. I know that makes you feel better to think that it's persecution, but it's not and that's okay. It doesn't mean you're a bad Christian because they're making fun of you and not Christ.

  • Christians...your title has something to do with Jesus. Remember that...something to do with Jesus.

  • I don't know what to do with things like "Turn the other cheek"; "Sell your possessions and give to the poor"; "I came not to bring peace but a sword"; and "Don't worry about tomorrow"? I don't think Jesus was kidding, so what the heck I'm I supposed to do with it all?

  • We are so quick to judge. Next time you're tempted to think a bad thought about someone, just remember you don't know what they are facing in life and you don't know what you might be like if you were in their situation. Take the time to know someone's story, then, when you might possibly have the right to judge you probably won't want to anyway.

  • What would it be like if the criteria for telling someone about Jesus was that you must be willing to die for them? What would that change? Paul said that if his being cut off from Christ meant that his Jewish brothers could find salvation, he would do it...can you imagine that?

    Favorite U2 Lyrics, Part 1
    Here's some of my favorite U2 lines:

    Took a drive in the dirty rain
    To a place where the wind calls your name
    Under the trees, the river laughing at you and me.
    Hallelujah! Heaven's white rose
    The doors you open I just can't close.
    --From "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses"

    So I try to be like you
    Try to feel it like you do
    But without you it's no use
    I can't see what you see
    When I look at the world

    I can't wait any longer
    I can't wait till I'm stronger
    Can't wait any longer
    To see what you see
    When I look at the world
    --From "When I Look At the World"

    You say you'll give me eyes in the moon of blindness
    A river in a time of dryness
    A harbour in the tempest.
    All the promises we make, from the cradle to the grave
    When all I need is you.
    --All I Want Is You

    Don't believe in forced entry
    Don't believe in rape
    But every time she passes by
    Wild thoughts escape.
    Don't believe in Death Row
    Skid row or the gangs.
    Don't believe in the Uzi
    It just went off in my hands.
    I, I believe in love.

    Don't believe in cocaine
    Got a speedball in my head
    I could cut and crack you open
    Did you hear what I said?
    Don't believe them when they tell me
    There ain't no cure.
    The rich stay healthy
    The sick stay poor.
    I, I believe in love.
    --God Part 2

    What once was hurt
    What once was friction
    What left a mark
    No longer stings
    Because Grace makes beauty
    Out of ugly things

    I try to sing this song
    I, I try to stand up
    But I can't find my feet.
    I, I try to speak up
    But only in you I'm complete.

    In te domine
    Oh, Lord, loosen my lips.

    I try to sing this song
    I, I try to get in
    But I can't find the door
    The door is open
    You're standing there, you let me in.

    In te domine
    Oh, Lord, if I had anything, anything at all
    I'd give it to you.

    In te domine

    Saturday, April 17, 2004

    Why Couldn't I Write This?
    Yet another great post by the Preacher.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2004
    Can't buy me Love... er. maybe
    Thinking out of the box for the sake of "the touch"

    Let's get corporate sponsorship for our churches. Seriously.
    Churches continue to struggle actually having people in their communities live lives of obedience, serving the poor, and loving friends without agendas. Let's get real. People don't really want to come to church. A life lived in faith, hope and love is not enough. They need "the touch." We must use any means neccesary to get people in our building to experience it.
    thus Corporate Sponsorships are the answer. They seem to have an endless supply of money. And they are great at sales. So let's sell God, or at least bribe them to get inside our doors to experience "the touch".. because if there is one thing we have learned in our lives...it is this... God cannot be seen, experienced or encountered outside our worship services.
    McDonalds is the second largest distributor of Toys in North America, they have baited and switched kids and families for years! Come get a toy, and a meal and you'll be happy!
    Come to our church we'll give you toys too! and candy! and the touch! and you'll be happy like us.
    Let's just be honest with ourselves. People need us to give them an extra incentive to follow God. Whether it's free dogfood, free money, blackmail via photographed license plates outside shady establishments.

    Let's have Viagra sponsor a few of the AG churches, it's sure to put smiles on some faces, and keep everybody up!

    Fed-ex can sponser the Catholic Churches who love excorsisms because they deliver quickly and on time inside our building...

    Burger King could sponser the Anglican church, because they live under a king, but worship the real king.

    IAMS Dogfood(I am's) could sponser the Christian Scientist church as they minister to animals in their congregations. A free doggie bone for the pet at home and other pet neccesities would be great in exchange for attendance.

    A Emerging could be sponsered by Starbucks for obvious reasons.

    For the small price of a occassional well placed logo we could get money. (and maybe renaming our building.. Say The First Staples Worship Center) Then we can give money, toys, gifts to anyone who might need the help to get in our buildings... for "the touch"... whatever it takes for "the touch" Then they might become infactuated with a feeling and live lives like our relationship with God. they might even be twice the sons of heaven we are.

    Monday, April 12, 2004
    Talking about Jesus
    David Hopkins over at the monkhouse blog captures well some of the things I feel about "Jesus conversations":

    Now keep in mind, I'm writing fairly stream-of-conscious here... but a part of me wishes we could discuss Akira Kurosawa or Douglas Coupland or Charles Schultz with the same type of intensity that we discuss Jesus Christ. I do not intend any disrespect to other Christians, but these discussions always carry some agenda (or purpose) which makes me uncomfortable. Of course, doesn't all language carry an agenda? However, if we were to talk about Kurosawa, it may be to appreciate his work, evaluate his theories and ideas, discuss his impact within cinema and storytelling-- but with Jesus, it's different. And geez, I guess reasonably so. But still. Talks about Jesus are never about Jesus... ultimately, they are about us. And maybe this makes me uncomfortable.

    For me, talking about Jesus is like watching the same movie every week for fifteen years and then having someone talk to you like you never got it. I think most people (including the un-Christian) "get Jesus". But then again, it's not even about "getting Jesus" anymore. It's about adopting a specific community's language about Jesus-- a desperate urgency for you to use their words when talking about him.

    If we could discuss Jesus with the same spirit that we discuss writers and filmmakers, I might be more likely (or maybe not?) to share my thoughts without fear of being wrong or being right, without worrying that my words may forever ruin me or taint me or lead others astray. Instead, I talk about Jesus as if it were one massive language game. It's fascinating game to be sure-- some people lay a lot on the table, some people fold, some bluff. But whenever we talk about Jesus, it's through anecdotes, aphorisms, and metaphors-- all which operate on a local level and all lose meaning if carried too far away from the origination.

    And truth be told? I think many Christians would rather not talk about Jesus. They'd rather talk about movies, books, or comic strips... but the language within these specific communities will not allow the luxury of "not talking". Must speak. Must voice these words. Or else what? Will the lexicon forever close on the Son of God, Son of Man? Logos. The Word made flesh. And now, the flesh ascending back to the Word.

    Does God speak the world into creation or does the speaking create God?

    David, if you happen to read this, I'm sorry I quoted your whole post. I tried to use the link for the post but it didn't work, and I didn't want our readers to miss the whole thing.
    Several Things
    I feel the desire to make some things clear in light of recent posts and the resulting comments.

    First, let me make it clear that despite all of our serious talk at times, we here at liquidthinking don't take ourselves too seriously. We feel okay to take shots at ourselves corporately and individually. As a matter of fact, I really enjoy making fun of Stephen both in front of him and behind his back. In light of this light hearted approach to ourselves, we also often feel free to not take other things too seriously either. Pretty much what that means is we like to make fun of everything else, too. You guys should relax, too. I liked the fact that when I made the PoMo trading cards, Doug Pagitt encouraged me to keep reminding people not to take things so seriously.

    Second, for the most part the four of us who blog here have all been deeply hurt by church™. It also hurts to see people we care for being affected adversely by Churches™, organizations, and people who in the Name of Jesus act in ways contrary to the values of God's Kingdom. And know also that our hands aren't clean in this...we are aware of that.

    Third, I personally think its okay to be angry. We've somehow confused social graciousness with grace. The two are not the same. The same Paul who rejoiced that Christ was preached out of impure motives also spoke plainly and strongly about those people who were preaching contrary to his understanding of the Gospel. In Galatians he declares "if anyone preaches a gospel to you other than what I preached, let him be eternally condemned...again I say to you, if anyone preaches a gospel to you other than what I preached to you, let him be eternally condemned." Basically, Paul was saying "if anyone jacks up your understanding of this gospel, I hope he goes to hell." Later he states that he hopes those preaching Christ and circumcision would go ahead and cut off their penises. So, in light of that example, I do rejoice that Christ is preached, but I'm going to also speak plainly about those things that I think go contrary to the gospel, his Church, and life in him.

    Fourth, there is no one set "idea" we're trying to present here. As you can see from the comments we frequently disagree with each other. This is just a public forum for us to post our "working out" of all these things because we've found that it often connects with what others are going through. We don't have a lot of answers. We don't offer models on how to make it better. We only share what we have seen and heard.
    "Until Sunday, he was known as the best player to have never won a major."
    I'm not a golf fan nor a golfer. I've never played anything beyond put-put in my life. Sure, I've enjoyed watching Tiger Woods do some amazing things with a golf ball...and I've admired his talent even without knowing how hard it really is to hit a little ball 100's of yards accurately. But I have to say, Phil Mickelson's win today was, well, riveting.

    From what I understand, Phil has been on the verge of winning the Master's 6 times and 6 times it has gone just beyond his reach...until today. Lucky number 7, I guess. For those of you who saw the end of it today, wasn't it a great scene? Here's excerpts from this article:

    Mickelson knows that feeling [of doing your best and losing] all too well. Of the half-dozen close calls he has had in the majors, nothing was more jarring than Payne Stewart holing a 15-foot par putt on the final hole at Pinehurst to win the '99 U.S. Open, or David Toms making par from 12 feet at the '01 PGA Championship to beat Mickelson by one shot.

    "I think Phil deserved this one," Els said. "Full credit to him."

    Mickelson couldn't help but hear it all. First came the cheers for him [at the beginning]-- "It's your year, Phil. Make it happen!" -- one man shouted. Then came the roars from all corners of the course.

    The last cheer was for him. That was a first.

    Before walking into the scoring hut to sign his card, Mickelson grabbed daughter Amanda and said, "Daddy won. Can you believe it?"

    Sunday, April 11, 2004
    This song by U2 always makes me think of my relation to church™ and such. I also thought of it as a part of the discussion going on about what we do with our feelings and views of things that bug us and break our hearts.

    Don't believe what you hear, don't believe what you see
    If you just close your eyes you can feel the enemy.
    When I first met you girl, you had fire in your soul.
    What happened t'your face of melting snow
    Now it looks like this!
    And you can swallow or you can spit
    You can throw it up, or choke on it
    And you can dream, so dream out loud
    You know that your time is coming round
    So don't let the bastards grind you down.

    No, nothing makes sense, nothing seems to fit.
    I know you'd hit out if you only knew who to hit.
    And I'd join the movement
    If there was one I could believe in
    Yeah, I'd break bread and wine
    If there was a church I could receive in.
    'Cause I need it now.
    To take the cup
    To fill it up, to drink it slow.
    I can't let you go.

    And I must be an acrobat
    To talk like this and act like that.
    And you can dream, so dream out loud
    And don't let the bastards grind you down.

    What are we going to do now it's all been said?
    No new ideas in the house, and every book's been read.

    And I must be an acrobat
    To talk like this and act like that.
    And you can dream, so dream out loudv And you can find your own way out.
    And you can build, and I can will
    And you can call, I can't wait until
    You can stash and you can seize
    In dreams begin responsibilities
    And I can love, and I can love
    And I know that the tide is turning 'round
    So don't let the bastards grind you down.

    Written by U2
    Saturday, April 10, 2004
    And Yet Another

    This one goes beyond shameless desperation. This is just plain stupid. Can you say "oblivious"? I don't think this guy really understands that his actions will not have the desired effect.

    Pastor to sex-shop clients: You'll get mail

    By Robert Cadwallader

    KENNEDALE - A Kennedale church is hoping to undermine several nearby sexually oriented businesses by enticing their clientele to church.

    The Oakcrest Family Church, nestled in a low-income neighborhood near several sexually oriented businesses off Interstate 20, is planning to send postcards to people who frequent the clubs.

    Pastor Jim Norwood said the church spent $1,500 on five digital cameras with zoom lenses with the intention of photographing license plates of vehicles parked at the establishments.

    On the back of the postcards will be a map that shows the proximity of the adult businesses to the church along with an invitation that begins: "Observed you in the neighborhood. Didn't know if you were aware there is a church in the area."

    The card lists the schedule of services and the church's "counseling and classes on sexual addictions as well as drug and alcohol addictions."

    The license plate numbers will be used to obtain addresses of vehicle owners through the Internet, and the photos will appear on postcards.

    "Our plans are to take pictures at all hours of each day," said Norwood, a Tarrant County Jail chaplain and former Arlington City Council member. "If you're there at 4 o'clock in the morning or 4 o'clock in the afternoon, there is a good possibility we will take a photo and send you a postcard."

    Norwood said that he's not trying to embarrass or intimidate anyone and that his church certainly isn't one to look down its nose at people with a sexual addiction or other problems. Many in the congregation are former drug addicts, criminals and recovering alcoholics.

    "And they will tell you that for the most part, it isn't any different than a cocaine or another other type of addiction. We don't want [customers] thinking we're the enemy, because we're not."

    Try explaining that to the dirty bird whose wife is the one who happens to get the mail that day. "And YOU thought your husband was at a business meeting." Yeah, I'd go running to THAT church® for spiritual guidance.

    More Acts of Desperation

    This is a real church® in Sand Springs, OK

    Church to try pay for pray
      A Sand Springs congregation will bring new meaning Sunday to the idea that it pays to go to church.

    New Life Tabernacle, 13107 W. 41st St., will give a $10 bill to each visitor, ages 15 and older, who attends an Easter service.

    'It's pretty radical. Some of my friends think I'm crazy,' said the Rev. Dan Switzer, who has been the pastor of the United Pentecostal church for 16 years.
    'But we think we have a great church, and we want people to experience it.'

    'Hopefully the service will touch some lives and have a positive effect on some people.'

    'We realize we could get all kinds of people.'

    He has no idea. By the way, if you decide to go and collect on this rare-yet-lucrative opportunity, drop us a line here.

    Frankly... I'm thinking of showing up, myself. I could take my family out to eat with the $20 we'd get.

    Apparently, this isn't the first time this has been tried, but it is a first for Oklahoma. A church® in California had "great success" doing it (whatever THAT means), and a there was a "black church that offered money to white people to attend as a way to break down racial barriers" in Louisiana.

    But isn't this just symptomatic of the entire problem? Why not pay people to show up if the entirety of your church® experience is centered around "wow-ing" them with a fabulous service/show?

    Above photograph by Sherry Brown of the Tulsa World
    Thursday, April 08, 2004
    The Kingdom of God Does Exist
    In contrast to the Passion of the Easter Bunny (see Stephen's post below), Dawson McAllister's Insights (my post below), and the obvious failure of the church™ to even be aware of the values of the Kingdom anymore, it is present in small pockets and colonies in this world. This article in Christianity Today is both encouraging and a call to repentence for the Body of Christ in America. I'm so hungry for such a place...such a community...that I might just move to Texas. Here's an excerpt:

    "It's a humble bridge," Kucker says. "Today it's going to be sanctified."

    For Waco's homeless and hard-living people, there may be no safer place than this bridge on Sunday morning—as safe from street crime as from the glares of worshipers in other churches.

    The interdenominational Church Under the Bridge (CUB) began in 1992 when Baylor professor Jimmy Dorrell, 54, began a Bible study for homeless men who slept under this overpass. The group grew to include more homeless, poor, drug addicts, prostitutes, and bikers. They were later joined by others who had no church experience or felt they didn't fit into area congregations.

    Now the people who worship under the bridge are a demographic snapshot of this city of 100,000 people and 257 churches. Black, white, Asian, and Latino students from Baylor University, and others from the upper middle class, form the body of Christ with the down-and-out of all colors.

    CUB's calling is to be a church to the unchurched of all socioeconomic levels and races, and to serve the poor and marginalized. Ex-prisoners and food-stamp recipients worship with the well-heeled and educated. Along with breaking down class barriers, racial reconciliation is one of the church's main pillars. At one service, Dorrell had the assembled break into small groups to talk about any prejudice they harbored, and to pray for forgiveness.

    "Several times a year," Dorrell says, "we address the issue in a sermon, have a couple of different-race friends or marriage folks share their struggle and victories, and then pass out a list of questions for the racially mixed groups to discuss."

    The church's core values include a rejection of attractive "holy" buildings; 51 percent of offerings support outreach in Waco, Haiti, and India. Nothing goes to rent and utilities. Should prospective construction work to widen the highway or other events keep worshipers from their usual space, CUB has purchased another piece of land for $3,000.

    "It is a backup, next to another bridge where the homeless used to sleep, which we can use if we are ever run out from our current spot," Dorrell says. "Even at that vacant lot, we have no intentions of building a facility."

    Wednesday, April 07, 2004
    Signs of Desperation

    Our churches® must really be getting desperate. "Please! Pay attention to us! THIS IS WHAT WE THINK OF YOUR EASTER BUNNY!" It's almost funny in a "I have to laugh to keep from crying" sort of way. But can't you see it? Jesus, standing in front of a crowd of four-year-olds, whip in hand, flogging a woman in a bunny costume? Isn't THAT what Jesus would do?

    Actors Whip Easter Bunny at Church Show

    GLASSPORT, Pa. (AP) - A church trying to teach about the crucifixion of Jesus performed an Easter show with actors whipping the Easter bunny and breaking eggs, upsetting several parents and young children.

    People who attended Saturday's performance at Glassport's memorial stadium quoted performers as saying, ``There is no Easter bunny,'' and described the show as being a demonstration of how Jesus was crucified.

    Melissa Salzmann, who brought her 4-year-old son J.T., said the program was inappropriate for young children. ``He was crying and asking me why the bunny was being whipped,'' Salzmann said.

    Patty Bickerton, the youth minister at Glassport Assembly of God, said the performance wasn't meant to be offensive. Bickerton portrayed the Easter rabbit and said she tried to act with a tone of irreverence.

    ``The program was for all ages, not just the kids. We wanted to convey that Easter is not just about the Easter bunny, it is about Jesus Christ,'' Bickerton said.

    Performers broke eggs meant for an Easter egg hunt and also portrayed a drunken man and a self-mutilating woman, said Jennifer Norelli-Burke, another parent who saw the show in Glassport, a community about 10 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

    ``It was very disturbing,'' Norelli-Burke said. ``I could not believe what I saw. It wasn't anything I was expecting.''

    Information from: The Daily News, http://www.dailynewsmckeesport.com

    Pin this to the "Wall of Stupid", Jimmy.

    Dawson McAlister
    Check out the Sandman's encounter with Dawson.

    Here's an idea. Since Dawson is so into sharing advice on what makes a good minister, I'm sure he would appreciate some helpful insights from all of you, too. Here's a link to his website and here's a link to his email. Drop him a note of encouragement and advice if you get a chance.

    I'm thinking about something like, "Dawson, if you didn't look so much like the devil in your pictures..." but the better part of me would simply like to reference to the Sandman's post and say something like this: "Do not consider his appearance or his height. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment. In Christ we now regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. "

    If you do write to him, be sure to squint your eyes.

    Look!!! I learned how to post pics!

    ok so i'm editing myself. i had never seen that pic before..
    i thought is was funny..
    here's a new one.

    What Mark is realizing today:

    Great theology is temporary, communally based and it changes.

    thanks to Tony and Doug for finishing some thoughts for me.

    Tuesday, April 06, 2004

    Return of the Hobos
    My friend Chap Ambrose hopped a train in Savannah, Georgia with friends on Spring Break. They rode it for 4 hours into south Georgia and then jumped a train back. He's planning on catching a train through the Appalachian Mountains sometime in the future. He said it goes through places where there are no roads...basically he'll get a chance to see some "unseen" American landscapes.

    Here's a link to pictures of his trip to southern Georgia.
    Dreaming Tree

    The roots of my "dreaming tree" have grown under the foundation of my house.
    The hardwood floors in my kitchen are beginning to buckle over the large cracks in the foundation.

    The building will have to be carefully dismantled, to preserve the tree.

    The neighborhood home owner's association voted.
    They want me to cut down the tree.


    Very Strange...
    Found this article via Jamie at bechurch.net. Here's an excerpt:

    “Someone wrote to us saying the solution was to sacrifice a black goat and collect its blood. At some point, that’s going to start looking like a good idea.”

    Monday, April 05, 2004
    The Memo
    Lately, it seems that several people have been asking me what the situation was surrounding my resignation from professional youth ministry 4 years ago. It has caused me to look up "the Memo" that I wrote when I was on the verge of leaving.

    I have decided to make that memo public. It has been a long while since I left. I am a different person and (hopefully) the church where I was working is a different church. However, much of the memo presents values and questions that I still hold for myself and the Church in general. I also thought that some people might somehow be encouraged by it...if for no other reason than to know that they are not alone.

    So...here it is in PDF format.

    Sunday, April 04, 2004
    What's Wrong With This Picture?
    I just saw Terry Bradshaw doing a commercial for SuperCuts...

    Saturday, April 03, 2004
    I had coffee with Jesus yesterday. For two hours He met with me and enouraged me.

    He just happened to use the bodies of Kyle, Steve, Dino, and Stephen. Thanks, guys. Let's get together again soon.

    The image for this post is "Sacred Moments" by Janeen Kobrinksy.
    Lessons from a Story

    The other night, my wife and I had the pleasure of the company of Mr. and Mrs. Doyle, as well as of Tom Mohn and his wife, Barbara. They told us their story, or at least a few snippets of it. I learned two things:

    1) Those who have learned to discern, listen to, and obey the voice of God do not live boring lives. Their lives are full of moments that people want to listen to when the story is retold and of times that, after telling the story, they can say, "That was a time when God showed us that he is faithful."

    This guy had so many adventures that I'm surprised he's not in history books. Some of them are great, exciting things. Some of them are tragic. They all got our blood flowing. His story is full of life.

    2) There is nothing that will smother the voice of God in a person's life faster than religion. Rules make the voice of God unnecessary, because I can now be obedient by ticking off boxes, assuring myself that I'm doing it right. It requires no relationship. It doesn't require me to know ANYONE. I only need to know the rules.

    And the terrible part is that rules are so much easier. They give me validation. I can know that I'm doing it right. Better yet, I control the situation, both when I follow the rules myself and when I impose them on other people.

    This is why so many of us desire to impose rules on those around us... especially young people. Not that I think our students and children shouldn't have rules. But we like to equate the rules with having a relationship with Christ. It's hard to trust God with the ones we care about. So we tell them to follow rules instead of following Christ.

    But following Christ makes the rules inconsequential. I no longer do what I do because there is a rule. I do it out of love. That's freedom.
    Coming to Terms with the "Dull Ache"

    I really shouldn't blog at 12:30 after I've already been asleep for an hour and a half.

    This is from Inside Out by Larry Crabb:
    "Modern Christianity, in dramatic reversal of its biblical form, promises to relieve the pain of living in a fallen world. The message, whether it's from fundamentalists requiring us to live by a favored set of rules or from charismatic urging a deeper surrender to the Spirit's power, is too often the same: The promise of bliss is for now! Complete satisfaction can be ours this side of heaven.

    We are told sometimes explicitly, but more often by example, that it's simply not necessary to feel the impact of family tensions, frightening possibilities, or discouraging news. An inexpressible joy is available which, rather than support us through hard times, can actually eliminate pressure, worry, and pain from our existence.

    The effect of such teaching is to blunt the painful reality of what it's like to live as a part of an imperfect, and sometimes evil community. We learn to pretend that we feel now what we cannot feel until heaven. But not all of us are good at playing that game.

    Beneath the surface of everyone's life, especially the more mature, is an ache that will not go away. It can be ignored, disguised, mislabeled, or submerged by a torrent of activity, but it will not disappear. And for good reason. We are designed to enjoy a better world than this. An aching soul is evidence not of neurosis or spiritual immaturity, but of realism.

    But, the notion that our present suffering is nothing in comparison with the glory ahead begins to make sense.

    How much of my life is just pain relief? I've spent the last couple of years in search of "Christian community" outside the institutional church. Many times, I find great joy in being with people. Other times, though, I use the company of other people as pain relief. Not that I think that's too terrible. I think it's something all people do. But it does highlight for me that, in this journey to lose myself in Christ, I'm nowhere near there yet.

    At the same time, I hear people use this as an excuse. "You know, Stephen, nothing's perfect." "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater." "There will be politics wherever you go." We take the cowards way out of not dealing with problems. We're too busy avoiding a family fight... too fearful of the conflict that might ensue... that we forget that knowing people intimately necessitates conflict, and a lack of conflict is not a sign of health, but a sign of a lack of intimacy and an inability to love.

    So I recognize this dull pain. I'm coming to grips with the fact that no amount of "community" will make it go away. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying contact and commonality with my brothers and sisters right now, and I look forward to the next time we get together.

    Note: The image for this post is "Ache" by Gary Willis. Here's an interesting article from his site.

    Friday, April 02, 2004
    Happy National Tell the Truth Day

    Do you want to change the world?
    Do you want to be a part of a counter cultural revolution?
    Do you want to be like Jesus?

    Stop seeking formulas and answers in personalities.
    Stop arguing about what truth is? Absolutes? Absolutely no Absolutes?
    I say, it doesn't matter.
    Maybe we just need to tell the truth. It's not really in vogue these days.
    Tell the truth today.

    confess lies you've told.
    confess lies you've lived.
    confess truth you misrepresented.

    don't lie.
    Tell the truth.

    You will change the world.

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