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Saturday, July 31, 2004
Frivolous Advice
Question #1: If you were shopping for such things, would you get a PDA (with wireless capabilities) or an MP3 player?

Question #2: What type of device (from the previous choice) would you recommend and why?

Question #3: Are such devices even worth the cost anyway?
Friday, July 23, 2004
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Why Can't I Be Mad?

As fashionable as it is in the "postmodern" crowd to be upset with the institutional church, it's becoming more fashionable to claim to be tired of being angry. "I've come to accept that my superchurch, Starbucks-sipping, suburban counterparts aren't wrong. The way they do things isn't 'good' or 'bad', just different." They aren't angry, but have come to accept that God uses that just as much as he uses the small, community church, the home church, or the free-lancer.

I propose a question: Where is the line? We talk about how little our old churches fostered community... how little they cared about social causes... how they ALMOST ignored economic justice, and how, when they didn't, it was with a project mentality or with the desire to plop more butts into their pews. But then we turn around and say we're not supposed to be angry.

Anger at the institution is a really good way to allow feelings of superiority and pride to come into play. People in that position (myself) very often have to remind themselves that we're all looking through a glass dimly, and that I have very little figured out, and have no right judging others for not having it all figured out. All this I can intellectually accept.

Yet, when my emotions start coming into play, I find it hard to accept that there are things that the institutions are doing that I'm NOT supposed to be mad about. What is our reaction when institutions hurt those around us? What if those issues are systemic? What if that pain goes beyond an individual person who maybe let their egos get the best of them, and the pain is actually caused by people's view of what "church" means?

So what is the role of anger? When is it righteous? When is it just destructive and vitriolic? No one wants to just be destructive. Many people who are honestly angry at the church are angry because they desire to see it for what it COULD and SHOULD be. I am constantly being called a cynic or told that I am jaded. I honestly don't think I am. I'm an idealist, to be sure. And I'm hurt. But I think my anger is caused by an abundance of optimism, not a lack of it... and certainly not just out of a desire to be negative.

Let's get it started. I want direction and thoughts on this, so please don't withhold them.
Monday, July 19, 2004
Mark's Article
Hey, Mark wrote an article that's in the current issue of Youthworker Journal. It's actually kind of an honor...he's the first person to have an article in the place where Mike Yaconelli's articles used to be. You can read the article and read responses at this forum at the YS site.

Friday, July 16, 2004
Salvation and the Witness
Who is it good for?

Okay, so for some reason I've recently gotten a bee in my bonnet to read the Bible more. For those of you that know me, you'll remember that this has been quite a chore for me... one that I have sometimes carried with shame and other times have looked on almost defiantly. That's another post, though, so go ahead and comment on how unhealthy it is for me as a Christian to have an urge to read Plato but not seem to be able to squeeze that all-important devotional reading into my schedule. Maybe I'll address it later.

My point is that I came across that all-too-well-known parable about the seed in the soil. The one that so confused the crap out of the disciples. The one that we drill into kids heads in Sunday school hoping we'll scare them into being "good soil."

Anyhow, I got to thinking about it in terms of my previous posts... that so much emphasis is put on "the message" and our belief systems that we forget that we're seeking a person, not a set of blueprints. And it dawned on me how little emphasis in that parable is put on how the seed reached the soil.

People honestly get worried sick about "witnessing" because they're afraid they're going to do it wrong. How much simpler things would be if witnessing were simply the process of telling people what God has done and is doing with me... and if we would accept the fact that the responsibility for a person's salvation is God's and not mine.

And a lot of people are saying, "Yeah, yeah, we know all this." But we DON'T. It's something else that we say we believe but we don't really believe. Because all of the emphasis within our congregations is put on one thing: COMMUNICATION OF THE MESSAGE. How effectively is it communicated? Is it understandable? Will it hold attention? Is it appealing to the 18-25 year olds? Was it timed correctly? It didn't come across as too harsh, did it?

I don't want to cynically write all of this off as the simple desire to appeal to more people in order to get their tithe money. I think that, for most people, they honestly and sincerely want the message to be communicated for good reasons. Unfortunately, it is misguided to put faith in a message or the transmission of a message. We are simply not perfect vessels.

On the flip side of this, I think this is also why Christians freak out so bad when people say things that they philosophically/theologically disagree with. Since so much stock is placed in the communication of and acceptance of messages, it logically follows that the results of these activities can either be cause for celebration or down-right disasterous. So our response is to avoid the danger by simply stamping out what we believe to be a flawed message (and usually the messenger gets their share also).

So if it's not our delivery of the message that saves people, what's the good of "witnessing." I don't know. Is there a "good", per se? The same way that there is a good in teaching a child not to cross the street against the lights? It doesn't look like it, especially if we really accept the fact that it isn't us, but God that handles the whole salvation thing.

But I'll tell you one thing... God has done some things with me that I honestly enjoy telling other people about when I have the chance. And I think it's good for me to do it, too, because it reminds me of how good God has been to me, or it reminds me of something important that he's taught me... or a host of other things. Maybe "witnessing" is of more benefit to the one doing the deed than the recipient. Maybe the good is more readily likened to the good that results in scratching an itch or eating when I'm hungry.
I'm coming to this understanding and realization that I'm a Pharisee.
I love to stand--not sit, mind you, but stand--in the back.  You know what I mean?  I stand in the back of worship services, chapels, youth events, training events.  You've seen me with my friends.  There we are standing in the back, talking.  People are worshipping, listening,  and we're talking about the lighting, the sound, the speaker/performer.  We've been in charge of such things and now for some reason we can't (or won't) partcipate in them like everyone else.   We hide by the soundboard or the video guys or whatever looks official.  By standing in the back we are in the middle...Not quite participating, not quite absent.  It's hard to pigeon-hole us Pharisees.  It keeps us from having to show our cards until the event is over and we can talk about it.   No...it's much easier to stand in the back like commentators for some sporting event.   Not to mention it makes us look official or important.
Once you start standing in the back, it becomes easy to be nothing but a critic.  Criticism and judgement is the cynic's version of participation.  Of course, I'm highly qualified to be a critic.  In some ways working in professional ministry trained me to be this way.  You know, you go to a Willow Creek/Saddle Back/Youth Specialties/Whatever Convention as a church staffer and you're really not participating so much as figuring out and learning what stuff is good enough to steal.    You're learning to be a critic.
I've learned to critique and now I've become a judge.  I can see myself 2,000 years ago.  Jesus (or Paul for that matter) is teaching and there I am...Standing in the back of the synagogue.   "Who does this guy think he is?"  Or if I'm not judging Him, I'm judging the people.  "These people just don't get it.
I've come to see this reality in me, but I don't know what I'm going to do.   I enjoy standing in the back.   And it's so safe back here.

Thursday, July 15, 2004
Personal Relationship Hype
A personal relationship with Jesus?
What exactly does that mean?  Is Jesus my buddy?
A common practice of mine while on staff as a youth pastor was to challenge students to see what a relationship with God really looks like.  Challenging them to see it as more than the sum of their efforts to do Christian tasks correctly.  I challenged students to recieve God's love for them and to develop a friendship with him.  My goal was to get them to fall in love with Christ rather than simply following a religious regiment.  I've pursued this to the nth degree in my own life and honestly I've found that I define a "relationship with Christ" more as a friendship than I believe the bible entends.
I think the term "relationship with Jesus" exaggerates what we actually experience on this earth.  I don't have coffee with Jesus every morning.  Honestly, I don't think he's my buddy.
Reiterating what C.S. Lewis has said, "he is not safe".  Given the power, my friends and loved ones  would never allow the things to happen to me and my family that He has allowed.  
Please don't misunderstand me.  I am not bringing accusations against God, only my definition of our "relationship".  I believe if Jesus was my friend as I define friendship things in my life would look much different.  Christ is my savior, my hope, he is all that I long for.  But today I cannot see his face.   He does not physically hold me.   He doesn't fit my definition of a buddy.
To elevate or lower a relationship with Jesus to friendship makes no sense to me and I believe it causes us to miss out on a very important  new testament truth.  We are His body.  I don't get to walk on the beach with Him as Peter did.  I hope to some day hold his hand and speak with him face to face.  Until then, the closest thing I have is you. 
Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Sunday, July 11, 2004
More on Salvation

From Exodus 33:

Then Moses said, "I pray You, show me Your glory!"
And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion."
But He said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!"
Then the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock;
and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.
"Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen."

This text always confused the crap out of me. I heard it a lot in Sunday School growing up and read it over and over again. I thought it was weird to think that someone saw God's backside. Here's how the Message puts it:

Moses said, "Please. Let me see your Glory."
GOD said, "I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I'll call out the name, GOD, right before you. I'll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I'll be kind to whomever I want to be kind."
GOD continued, "But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live."
GOD said, "Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I'll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I've passed by. Then I'll take my hand away and you'll see my back. But you won't see my face."

What a way to answer a guy's request! Moses says, "Let me see your glory!" and God launches into this thing about I'll have compassion on whom I'll have compassion.

In a lot of ways, I love Eugene Peterson's translation. Sometimes I don't so much, though. I think this might be one of those times. Knowing what little I know about formal "King's English," I'm pretty sure that to "proclaim someone's name" (especially in the sense of proclaiming one's OWN name) means more than just to say what your name is. It probably is more like telling someone what you're about. So what's God about? Well, when Moses says he wants to see him, God replies that he'll allow his GOODNESS to pass before him. Is God holding out on Moses? Or is God just all good?

How do we see God? If we were to look at God, would he be the big dazzling light that would short circuit our brains, causing us to die looked dead on at him? Would it be like staring into the sun? Or is "seeing God" something else?

I just find it odd that when Moses asks to see him, God immediately begins talking about compassion, goodness, and grace.

Notice, though, that what he DIDN'T say is "here are four spiritual laws that you must accept" or "here are four scriptures you must memorize." He didn't even say, "This is what you must think about me."

Salvation comes when we realize our own insufficiency, then begin to seek significance in God. But where is God to be found? In a belief system? Will acceptance of a pastor's teachings suffice? Is it enough to proclaim that Jesus died on the cross for my sins?

So our surgery-style salvation is ineffectual, because it's law. "You must first say you believe these things (and BE SINCERE about it!), then you must act this way. THEN you are a Christian." What deception.

Grace, goodness, and compassion are very appealing, especially to those who are in the most need of them. Where do people see these things? Because, I believe, those are the traits in which God can be seen. Those characteristics proclaim what God is about. Not a list of rules... not law. These traits give life. They set free. They make sure that people who are enslaved to their own weaknesses, insecurities, and hate can overcome them. And when people see them, they are willing to sacrifice a lot in order to get more of them. THEN change happens... Because now they desire God! They know what he's about, and they accept it on those terms. Not out of fear of hell or social control or emotional manipulation, but with a fully conscious knowledge and acceptance of the values of the kingdom. "These things are what God's about, and I want that."

more later...
Friday, July 09, 2004
Coming Around to Salvation
More thoughts on the movie "Saved!"

If you sneezed in the right place, you may have missed this part of the movie, but it's one of the more telling parts (there was definitely an insider helping to write this screenplay) and it makes one the more important criticisms of modern theology.

Warning... Spoiler Ahead!!!

I'm referring to the part in the mall, when the Jena Malone character is eating with her friends when the Mandy Moore character, accompanied by the handsome and level-headed son of the headmaster, stumbles on them. By this time it is clear that Jena Malone has a crush on the headmaster's son (as does Mandy Moore), and in an effort to buy her time with him, her friend (who is the "lost soul" at the Christian high school) tells Mandy Moore that she's done a lot of thinking and wants to get saved, then pleads with her to help her do the deed.

Mandy Moore's reaction is priceless... and unfortunately true. She treats the "procedure" as if it were surgery! "I don't have all my materials, but oh well!" She begins to lead her fellow student through a process to get her saved.

This is EXACTLY how I was taught to witness to people when I was young. Some refer to it as the "Roman Road" method (by which a person can lead others to salvation by memorizing four short scriptures out of the book of Romans)... in other circles it's the "Four Spiritual Laws" method. Unfortunately, the "product" of these processes are usually no more effectual at salvation than Constantine marching his armies through the Rubicon river and declaring them all baptized when they came out the other side.

This "method" of witnessing takes for granted that a "relationship with Jesus Christ" is dependent most of all on what I believe, propositionally, in my head. Everything else is either secondary or unnecessary altogether.

This is the type of Christian I was for 16 years. I had no more of a relationship with Jesus Christ than I did with Abraham Lincoln. I knew a lot about him, but I could hardly say I had met the man.

The consequences of this are damaging to the church, and we're bearing the fruit of this now. With salvation as an easy process dependent upon the acceptance of propositional knowledge, we can make Sunday morning services the focus of our time, effort, and money in our churches and completely neglect the duty of living out the values of the kingdom of God. If the point is to get as many people to listen to this truth as possible, why not hand out money to get butts in pews? Why not try to make Sunday school as fun and entertaining as you can make it, while remaining within the boundaries of "upright values"? Why not entice kids in with climbing walls, computers, and iPods loaded with Christian music? This "method" of salvation allows us to live "Christian lives" without ever having to desire or even agree with those values of the kingdom, making it much easier to conform to the world while still reaping the "benefits" of being in the Christian subculture in America. Jesus remains a convenient accessory to my life, rather than creating a change in me. This IF the person doesn't become disillusioned with the fact that all those things that Jesus seems to promise don't actually end up happening in their lives, leaving them to either accept a mundane church existence or dump the "program" altogether.

We begin looking for Jesus in the wrong places. For years, I was scared to death to "witness" to people for fear that I would say the wrong thing, or forget what to say altogether, because you've GOT TO GET IT ALL IN THERE!!! Salvation is like a recipe, and leaving any ingredient out can result in failure!!! What deception this was (incidentally, I hear that they now have programs designed to drill the "necessary formula" into the heads of attendees to the point that they don't have to be afraid anymore!). It never occurred to me that "witnessing" simply meant telling others what Christ was doing with me. This, however, would have been equally difficult, because in that reality, with Jesus so readily contained in a given set of "beliefs", he was not allowed to do a thing with me. I had him tamed in my acceptance of the propositions. It was not Jesus I had, but religion.

Salvation is not a 12 step program. It's not a checklist. Making it such makes it law, and law does not bring life. But Jesus brings life...

more later
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
I saw Fight Club again last night.
"We are a generation of men raised by women." - tyler durden (in fight club)

"We're consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don't concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy's name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra. "

"Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off. " Tyler Durden

"I can't get married - I'm a thirty-year-old boy. " Narrator in Fight Club

"When deep space exploration ramps up, it'll be the corporations that name everything, the IBM Stellar Sphere, the Microsoft Galaxy, Planet Starbucks. " Narrator

"Like everyone else, I had become a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct. If I saw something like clever coffee table sin the shape of a yin and yang, I had to have it. I would flip through catalogs and wonder, "What kind of dining set defines me as aperson?" We used to read pornography. Now it was the Horchow Collection. I had it all. Even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections, proof they were crafted by the honest,
simple, hard-working indigenous peoples of wherever."

"You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you." Narrator in the book Fight Club

"The gyms you go to are crowded with guys trying to look like men, as if being a man means looking the way a sculptor or an art director says." from the book

"For thousands of years, human beings had screwed up and trashed and crapped on this planet, and now history expected me to clean up after everyone. I have to wash out and flatten my soup cans. And account for every drop of used motor oil. And I have to foot the bill for nuclear waste and buried gasoline tanks and landfilled toxic sludge dumped a generation before I was born. " from the book

Monday, July 05, 2004
The Game of Rape

My brother sent me this link.

See post below about what manhood is in america.
How much free time does a guy have to have to play a game in which rape is an element of the game. I'm all for video games, but this is warped sick and wrong.
The Pussification of the American Man

One of my personal frustration within the church (and many times within myself)
deals specifically with manhood and it's relation to the church.

Aside from miscellaneous and odd attempts of the promise keepers the church is silent on manhood. Sure there is the occassional "men you are the spiritual head of your household" comment thrown from the pulpit, but what the hell does that really mean?
Our churches are absent in the lives of our teens in most cases.
The church seems to be growing an entire generation of young "men" who feel entitled, who are isolated from older men, who side-step responsibility and authority, and are completely uninformed on what their role is in society, families and churches in America.
I believe the church is the space in which we can talk about this.

I'm not talking about reviving some unhealthy understanding of men that degrades women, devalues others, or de-anything... but a view of man who encourages women in leadership, who listens carefully, creates space for the kingdom of God, and shapes the culture where they are live. When men are men, culture changes. when men are men, the world bends around them.
Where are the men? In what way's are our communities impowering men to be men.
I'm not talking about men who cry all the time or are in touch with their feminine side.
I'm not talking about men who sit in small groups a la fight club.
I'm not talking about men who should be more like women.
I'm not talking about men who are unfeeling.
I'm talking about men who are interested in building the kingdom of God more than their porn. I'm talking about men are interested in self sacrificing men who refuse to allow women to be objectified.

Where are the men?

I'm not talking about men's ministry.
I'm not talking about the next john eldridge book.
I'm talking about being more fully human... about men being what they were created to be.
not some androgenous christian guy emascualted by a shallow self centered gospel of self improvement in which jesus looks like a cross between fabio, Vin Diesil, tim the tool man taylor and will from will and grace.

just some thoughts....
now back to work.

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