Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Snow removal....

Ok, today we are expecting more snow on top of the almost 60 inches we have received. So we needed to get up on the flat roof part of the church and clear the massive amounts of snow. You can see in the first picture between the two buildings, that the snow pile is almost to the top of the roof!For some reason some smart builder thought it would be cool to put the real flat part of the roof between two other parts so all the snow would accumulate and not be able to drain off...last year the middle part of the roof caved in...hopefully this year it won't do that again.I was so thankful to get help from Jim and Josh and a crew of Karen refugees led by Moon Light. They all helped us remove a ton of snow...I'm not sure if I will be able to move tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The cult of spiritual ecstasies...

"All the stages Israel’s march to Canaan are distinctly noticed, but no particular journal is kept of Jacob’s expedition further than Beth-el; no, he had no more such happy nights as he had at Beth-el, no more such visions of the Almighty. That was intended for a feast; he must not expect it to be his daily bread. But, we are here told how cheerfully he proceeded in his journey after the sweet communion he had with God at Beth-el: Then Jacob lifted up his feet; so the margin reads it in verse 1. Then he went on with cheerfulness and alacrity, not burdened with his cares, nor cramped with his fears, being assured of God’s gracious presence with him. Note, After the visions we have had of God, and the vows we have made to him in solemn ordinances, we should run the way of his commandments with enlarged hearts."

I was reading this in Matthew Henry's commentary on Genesis 29 and found it to be so true...feast vs daily bread. We so often get this truth mixed up. Hyper Charismatic Christianity is guilty of perpetuating this idea in my experience. Too many Christians get confused on the purpose of the Spiritual Sun they have discovered. In an overzealous mesmerization with the glory of the heavenly light they end up blinded by that which was given to light their paths ahead. They long to eat from the hands of angels, like Elijah did as he fled from Jezebel to Mt. Horeb; but they do not want to go on a 40 day journey in the strength of that food, as Elijah was commanded, they would rather camp out and have Angel's cater to their lust for spiritual highs.

As a young man, I was led to believe that a life in the Spirit was something akin to a perpetual ripple of spiritual orgasms. Could anyone be really of any use if that were the case? If the idea is completely ludicrous in the natural, why do we insinuate or push the idea spiritually? In a healthy sexual life, there are moments of extreme enraptures of bliss that ignite, bond, meld, savoring pleasures that produce life and electrify every nerve in ones physical body. But these are not meant to be experienced moment to moment...to expect that would be insane and more a hint of neurosis than godly indulgence.

Unfortunately common sense does not often prevail among Christians. Next Sunday I enter the portion of 1 Corinthians that discusses spiritual gifts...I look forward to demystifying, life in the Spirt, without naturalizing it...a delicate balance. We can't reduce eternal realities into physical explanations that remove the mystical from our spiritual life but we can't allow ourselves to get so nutty that we end up looking and sounding like groveling addicts for the next spiritual fix.

C.S. Lewis on Hell...

I was reading about hell in chapter 8, in my copy of C.S. Lewis' "The Problem of Pain", it also reminded me of his book on heaven and hell called "The Great Divorce", which I also highly recommend. Below are a few selections from chapter 8, that I found good. The whole chapter is worth reading, I think it would be extremely helpful for anyone wrestling with the whole subject. Many people, both Christian or non-Christian, have an honest aversion to the doctrine of hell and have never truly heard much scriptural or philosophical discussion on the subject, Lewis is a great place to start.

"Some will not be redeemed. There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and specifically, of our Lord's own words; it has always been held by Christendom, and it has the support of reason."

"Our Lord speaks of Hell under three symbols: first, that of punishment ('everlasting punishment' Matthew 25:46); second, that of destruction ('fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell' Matthew 10:28); and thirdly, that of privation, exclusion, or banishment into 'the darkness outside', as in the parables of the man without a wedding garment or of the wise and foolish virgins. The prevalent image of fire is significant because it combines the ideas of torment and destruction. Now it is quite certain that all these expressions are intended to suggest something unspeakably horrible, and any interpretation which does not face that fact is , I am afraid, out of the court from the beginning. But it is not necessary to concentrate on the images of torture to the exclusion of of those suggesting destruction and privation. What can that be whereof all three images are equally proper symbols? Destruction, we should naturally assume, means the unmaking , or cessation, of the destroyed. And people often talk as if the 'annihilation' of a soul were intrinsically possible. In all our experience, however, the destruction of one thing means the emergence of something else. Burn a log, and you have gases, heat and ash. To 'have been' a log means now being those three things. if souls can be destroyed, must there not be a state of 'having been' a human soul? And is not that, perhaps, the state which is equally well described as torment, destruction and privation? You will remember that in the parable, the saved go to a place prepared for them, while the damned go to a place never made for men at all. (Matt. 25:34,41).

"The demand that God should forgive such a man while he remains what he is, is based on a confusion between condoning and forgiving. to condone an evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete; and a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness."

From "The Problem of Pain"" chapter 8
You can also read his treatment of the subject of heaven and hell in his great little book, "The Great Divorce".

Monday, December 29, 2008

KaRen New Years Celebration...

The KaRen community of Spokane hosted a KaRen New Years Celebration at the East Central Community Center in our neighborhood this last Saturday. There was around 200 people, tons of traditional food, music, singing, dance, formal presentations, speeches and gift giving as well as teen competitions in singing.This dance number was about 10 minutes and they had been practicing at the church for about 3 months. It was beautiful. I was moved by the elegance, the passion, the joy and the experience of being able to see it all and witness a new chapter in their peoples lives. I had the privilege of speaking at the event and I shared some of the history of the gospel coming to Burma. The gospel came to Burma through the ministry of American missionary, Adoriam Judson; it was through the seed of prayer, sacrifice, sadness, leaving friends and family and even death (three wives) that Jesus became Lord of these people. That small seed was planted and this weekend we had the honor of still seeing the fruit of that seed over a 100 years later. I was inspired.

Being a refugee is not an easy adventure, I have the most respect for my Karen friends. They have suffered and do suffer greatly, but press on, often singing. I would never had dreamed where planting a church would take us...and as I stood on the platform and looked out over all those wonderful Karen people...I found a deep gratitude to the Lord for the privilege to serve them.

Here are a few pictures from the event.

Atheist Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller...talks about evangelism

nuff, said.

Do you think your wife is a Calvinist...?

Now...I wouldn't call my wife a Calvinist, but I know a few who might fit this song....John Piper tattoo's in greek...LOL!!! Now if it was a song about a husband...maybe I would fit. ;)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Kids Christmas Program

The Jacob's Well kids ministry put on a wonderful music program last
Sunday. A number of the KaRen refugee children had speaking parts. It
was such a blessing to see and hear them take part; This year they
spoke much better English. All of our kids were so cute, we have some
beautiful children and amazing workers too.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Out of the Silent Planet....

I got a Barnes & Noble gift card that enabled me to finally pick up C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy that I have been wanting to read. I'm over half way through "Out of the Silent Planet" and I found this paragraph interesting. The main charachter, "Ransom" is talking to a "Sorn" a martian being and they are discussing the angelic beings known as "Eldil". The Sorn is attempting to explain why they "appear" to be ghost like but in reality are simply living and moving at a faster speed than we live at. I find this type of mental conjecture very stimulating from Lewis. It's discussions like these that I am sure were first spoken amongst his Kindling friends over pipes, brews and books at the local pup.

"The swiftest thing that touches our senses is light. We do not truly see light, we only see slower things lit by it, so that for us light is on the edge---the last thing we know before things become to swift for us. But the body of an eldil is a movement swift as light, you may say its body is made of light, but not of that which is light for the eldil. His "light" is swifter movement which for us is nothing at all; and what we call light is for him a thing like water, a visible thing, a thing he can tough and bathe in--even a dark thing when not illumined by the swifter. And what we call firm things---flesh and earth---seem to him thinner, and harder to see, than our light, and more like clouds, and nearly nothing. To us the eldil is a thin, half-real body that can go through walls and rocks; to himself he goes through them because he is solid and firm and they are like cloud."


Oh my that is yummy.

Longing for Aslan...

Yesterday I spent about 4 hours raking and shoveling snow off the roofs of my house and garage. As I stood there on top of a ladder with an avalanche of snow descending over my head and onto my son below who was holding the ladder...I found myself getting tired of the cold and heavy grip of the White Witch of winter.

Today as I was preparing for Sunday in 1 Corinthians 11:26, I read this verse: "...You proclaim (preach) the Lord’s death until He comes."...I was moved by the part: "Until He comes". What hope is packed up in that verse. Like a flower in bud, yet to unfold, but in the right season it opens up all its beauty for the waiting world. I too am waiting for the return of Jesus.

Waiting, remembering, longing...for the return of Lion of the tribe of Judah...to end this very long winter.

Covered....

"Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool." -Isaiah 1:18

This is a picture of a lot in my neighborhood. It used to be covered in junk, some run down houses and was basically an eye sore. I passed it a couple days ago; just as the sunlight was breaking through some trees onto the fresh fallen snow. It almost caught my breath away, because it looked so beautiful, especially compared to the way it used to be.

I was thinking about how snow reminds me of the way grace covers our sins. This lot was cleared by the demolition crew but it was scarred by the process. Sinful man has a uncanny way of leaving a wasteland behind his selfish living. Garbage, broken down vehicles, boarded up houses that look hunched over and about to crumble under the weight of disrepair.

But the land isn't what morns the loudest around here...You can see the same curse of sin weakening the very countenances and bodies of my neighbors. Meth addiction looks like an internal black hole that is sucking faces within themselves...the teeth have already been swallowed and the smile is next...leaving only a marred face that's far older than it ever was supposed to be.

I saw the slow despair as I was standing in line at the local convenience store on Christmas eve. I was buying butter for LeeElla because she was making carmel corn for our neighbors; but the other people surrounding the counter were all purchasing lottery tickets....lots of them. I stood there fully conscious of the desire to revel in the holiday moment versus the gnawing hopless hope of trying to gamble your way out of the present. I was sad as I watched them spend money on a pipe dream, when the real treasures were probably at home, getting less because the money was foolishly spent.

I left longing for a snowstorm of God's love and grace to descend and cover all the land and people of my little Nazareth. Because grace beautifies the sin worn face and soul and it's a source for an unfolding restoration that eventually even renews the earth (Ez 47). Peter summed up the work of the Holy Spirit and repentance as a "wiping away" and that results in "times of refreshing" in Acts 3:19. Oh how we need that work of grace in this hour.

"...O the happiness of him whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered" -Psalms 32"1

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas at Jacob's Well

Here is the front entrance to our meeting room. A humble stable that
we pray is fit for a King.

Our winter urban homestead

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Pioneer Woman...

I forgot to mention yesterday that LeeElla, was also tackling the blizzard load of snow...in fact she cleared the Police Substation parking lot for the men there...of course they didn't say thank you, but she did it nonetheless. I tried to tell her it was hard work pushing that machine through the ice and snow...but she was undeterred. But if you really know LeeElla she's a beautiful mix of qualities that would of made her the perfect Pioneer woman; a fact that she herself frequently mentions. I think we were both supposed to be born in the Wild West...but somehow ended up in this era.

So I perused some pics that represent the women of the West and these three capture perfectly that combination of:

Caring, industrious, godly, noble mother:Wild, tough as nails, take no guff, boot to the crotch, mountain mammaand the soft as silk, sultry, monogamous madam of my dreams.We make the perfect pair of urban church planters..,called by Jesus to raze some Hell...while being gentle as doves and shrewd as serpents. Couldn't do this without you babe.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Answers to prayer....

"But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing. -Ezekiel 16:15

I've been to Holland and particularly Amsterdam 6 different times. God laid this city on my heart when I was a teenager serving in a youth ministry under my youth pastor. I've spent thousands of dollars, a stream of tears, a lot of prayer walking shoe leather, countless hours of conversations, teaching and praying for this city. I've always had a spiritual connection to the redemptive purposes of God for this place. I can't explain why, or even point to a lot of stories that could prove it...but when I read this article about shutting down up to maybe half of the prostitution spots in the Red-light District...I was reminded of the effective and powerful prayers of righteous people. Prayers that have added to the impact of the life and witness of those godly bleleivers hammering out the saving works of God in Amsterdam. This piece of art is in the Red light district and really represents the spirit of that spot. I remember talking to a pastor friend there who had been arrested after taking a sledge hammer to this piece...you can kind of see the dents still there. I never took a Hammer to the wickedness there; but I experienced and witnessed mighty blows of the Spirit; Jesus was a visible Savior to some, others were impacted through teaching the word and ministered life via Spirit infused conversations and worship. God is faithful to His word...and if he calls you to go...just go. I did...all by myself, when others thought I was crazy, but God is sometimes crazy....learn that and you just might end up places that you never believed you would be and see things that you never dreamed.

Just trying to be a good neighbor...

Without sounding like a goody goody, or like I'm trying to pat myself on the back...I share this story to inspire all of us to seek out the simple ways to be good people. So much is written about the Christian life, and building churches that is just a waste of time. If we would embrace the simple path of Jesus; we would see greater and greater things take place.

Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us daily. -Sally Koch

The church has a pretty good snowblower and I utilize it to help out our neighbors and businesses around our church. It's a great way to lend a hand and get to know people that live around us. I am praying that I can get a hold of one of those plows that hook on the front on the truck; so I can really help out around here. There are numerous elderly, shut in, single moms, sick and disabled that can not dig themselves out. It's tough work even with a snow blower...so if you know of someone who wants to invest in a tool that will truly serve the needy, let me know.

After today's work...I decided I needed to move my wife's car into the driveway so the snowplows don't completely bury it. But the dilemma was that her car was partly buried already and the roads are unplowed and beastly. Now her car stinks when it comes to driving in the snow...and sure enough, I tried to drive around the block to park in the back parking area and I got stuck on the other side of the block. So I tried and tried to get myself out of the middle of the street but to no avail....I was to exhausted. So I got out and walked home and got her and the kids. I then pushed the snow blower through the deep snow to the stuck car. Thankfully 4 neighbors came to assist and we all were able to finally get the care unstuck.

Now after doing all the snowblowing before...I was already exhausted...and to get stuck after all that...really ticked me off. But as I watched everyone coming to assist, I found myself yet again, blessed to be living and working in this area. There is a great feeling that comes when you shake someone's hand and they ask your name....it's an invitation to step one step closer to each other. Simply the result of living a life that seeks to do unto others as you would want them to do to you. Nothing complex, just loving our neighbors, not with a track in one hand and a hand out in the other...but instead, just seeking to make these blocks better places to live.

Around 20 inches in one day and still falling...

What a day...this is by far the most snow I've seen fall around here in one day...it's been crazy.

Snow Poop...

Poor Kona...she just isn't sure where to do the deed on days like these. In some parts of the yard, all you can see is her head.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Remembering....

“Something of God…flows into us from the blue of the sky, the taste of honey, the delicious embrace of water whether cold or hot, and even from sleep itself.”- C.S. Lewis



This little tour was deeply rich to me. I found myself breathing out tension in a way that reminds me of a walk in the warm summer woods. I was moved inside...to tears. I think it was the resonation that took place listening and looking at a personal reality that I cherish so much. Searching, truth, books, study, sharing with like-minded people on a similar journey, the restoration of important things and places. The intellectual pursuit of truth and ideas without losing the spiritual realities that illuminate the candle of thought.

I enjoyed it like a walk with a long lost friend, I suppose.

The idolatry of Fundamentalism...???

I'm not a follower of the Orthodox stream of Christianity in practice but I often dip into it's waters for tension to my protestant paradigm. You may or may not be aware that such mainstay theological truths such as hell are concepts that have many different perspectives and ideas associated with them in the various Christian denominations and branches of historic Christianity. You may or may not agree with this man's conclusions...but you have to be willing to admit that these concepts have been hotly debated and not everyone comes up on the same side of the conclusions. Some are not even willing to listen to the serious questions people have about Hell...like: Eternal torment or Eternal destruction??? As we engage our culture, we have to be prepared to answer questions; that to many, are the fleshy spot underneath our Smaug wing...waiting for the Brad's arrow of logic to sink into...It's sad how many Christians have not taken the time to read, listen or study any other perspective within the Christian tree of history and experience. Once you do, you will find treasures worth adding to your spiritual house.

"And Jesus said to them: "therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old." -Matthew 13:52

The more you study and are exposed to the diversity of thought within the fence of Christian Orthodoxy...you might discover that your hidden perplexities, hesitations, frustrations and gnawing questions have also been thought, wrestled with and dared to be spoken. Others more brave, less fearful than you, have come to terms or discovered a way to be faithful to truth and yet, work through doubt as well. Many have found paths through the deep dark theological woods that had you cowering at the entrance of your own private Mirkwood. “It pleases God a great deal if the soul never ceases to search; for the soul can do no more than seek, suffer, and trust…Seeking with faith, hope, and love pleases our Lord, and finding pleases the soul and fills it with joy....It is God’s wish that we should observe three things in our seeking: the first is that our search should be committed and diligent, with no laziness, as it may be through his grace, glad and cheerful without unreasonable depression and unprofitable misery. The second is that for his love we await him steadfastly, without grumbling or struggling against him, until our life’s end, for life only lasts a short while. The third is that we should trust him utterly with sure and certain faith, for that is what he wishes. -Julian of Norwich "Showings of Divine Love"

That search is a difficult one of sifting ideas, teaching, historical positions and fresh theological hobbie horses that run amok. Daring to reacquaint oneself with the Ancient Paths while at the same time cling to the truths that have been liberated from darkness of traditions, time and ignorance. Not and easy endeavor...but essential to be able to walk in the fulness of grace and truth.

Thus says the Lord, `Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls.' But they said, `We will not walk in it.'" Jeremiah 6:16

I fear too many...say the same thing.

I pray that we would not be cowards, who cannot peer into the mysteries of God's word without going mad in our interpretations and drive away all reasonable dialogue. Let us not become so barnacled in our hearts and minds that we knee jerk ourselves right out of the saddles of truth; when an honest seeker proposes sincere problems with our pondering's about God, His nature, His ways with humanity and with what we say He intends to do to us after we die...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Peace on Earth?...well, Yes and....not yet.

I was decorating the church in Holiday style on Saturday and outside the church were these three boys. They were sliding around in the street on a sled and on their chests. Throwing snowballs at cars...basically being boys. The boy on the right kept looking in the window observing me and finally with a frozen face and a really red nose...he peeked in the door and asked if he could help me. I said yes and for most of the rest of the 5 hours he hung out with me. The two other boys were more skittish but they came in and helped me do a few things...if I paid them, gave the doughnuts or candy canes. But this boy just helped for the sake of being helpful.

During one of our moments hanging lights and stuff...one of the boys said he was tired because he got up at 2:30 AM. I asked why and he said: "Because his parents had been fighting". I asked why and he said...he didnt know. Nobody else showed up that day to help out; this is a busy time of year for most people..but God sent me three little men to include in the festivities. I had bought doughnuts for potential helpers and these little guys got the man share of them, to their delight. I found myself grateful that because nobody-else was there to help; these guys probably felt more comfortable joining in. It's moments like these that being present in a neighborhood produce continual opportunity to build on relationships. Capturing moments that you might miss, unless God makes you sensitive to the present. Turning one situation from a disappointment to a work of grace. Of course later that day when I was by myself, finishing up the Christmas tree that sits by the windows facing the street; I saw the boy on the left across the street. He was on the side walk outside his house when a truck pulled up with a police car right on his tail. The cop jumped out and ordered the men to get out; at the same time telling the kid to get out of there. Then another cop car and another and another; until there was a total of six police cars jammed in the street. Cops were surrounding the truck with guns drawn. Here I was trying to put the star on the top of the tree...and there they were with guns drawn. The issue resolved itself after the men were taken out of the truck, spoken to and then released and everyone left.

I took a picture, because, I thought the irony of the moment was worth remembering and writing about. I was standing there pondering the dichotomy of my day. Kids, conversation, love, sharing, helpfulness, greed, egos, domestic strife, loneliness, work, frustration, questions, grace...guns, police....interesting moments to ponder.

Peace on Earth?...well, Yes and....not yet.

To be like Lucy...

A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken!
Who can but prophesy? -Amos 3:8We watched Prince Caspian on Saturday night for the first time. I thought it was much better than the first film; maybe because the themes in this one resonated with me on a deep level. I've been pondering many of them from the movie and I think the one that I was moved the most by, was the conversation Lucy had with Aslan shown below. The challenge of walking a life of faith, seeing what many don't see, of being led by God in ways that others choose to not follow; is a sometimes tough reality to life in the Spirit. The simplicity, devotion, faith and joy that was caught in Lucy in the film...ministered life to me.

The part of this clip where Lucy approached the bridge in the face of the oncoming army is a perfect picture of so many moments of ones faith journey. We who are able to see the unseen One; are able to do what only a vision of Him would inspire.
Faith in Aslan...is really at the heart of the story. Choosing to believe in Him, to follow Him, talk to Him, dream of Him, listen for Him, hear Him, search for Him, find Him....embrace Him and then go where He says to go...no matter what you face. That is a powerful truth to outwork in a film.Who after seeing and hearing Aslan...wouldn't also roar?
"The LORD roars from Zion And from Jerusalem He utters His voice; And the shepherds' pasture grounds mourn, And the summit of Carmel dries up."-Amos 1:2

Friday, December 12, 2008

Are men better...?

Well here we go, another chapter in our 1 Corinthians series that should be a firecracker! We will tackle all kinds of challenging issues surrounding the place, role, position, function of women and men in home, church and culture. If you are unaware of the debates that take place between Complementarians and Egalitarians than you might be surprised as we delve into this little nugget of church splitting drama.
Issues like:
1. Do men and women have different ways for being saved?
2. Are men and women designed to come before God in prayer in a different way?
3. Are there lists of spiritual gifts that are listed for only men or only women?
4. Do men and women inherit spiritual “sonship” in a different way?
5. Is the command to make disciples given only to one gender?

I think that if our positions on these subjects affect 50% of our community...it's an important issue to unpack. Trust me there is a load of baggage surrounding these issues and people get pretty weird, uptight, confrontational and quick to tie people to the stakes when these subject are discussed. So stay tuned it might get interesting around here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Clothed in His right mind....

"The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.” -Ezekiel 37:1-3

My kids and I came out of our house and saw LeeElla talking to a police officer by our gate....not a uncommon occurrence around here. She informed me after their talk that he had a hypodermic needle that was found on the sidewalk next to our house. In moments like that you are again reminded that Satan is ever at work on your block....while you sleep, he is destroying lives right outside you son's bedroom window. the same sidewalk your kids walk back and forth on...that's an ominous feeling.

Finding stuff around outside our house is always interesting... theres been condoms, beer cans, clothes, vomit, garbage and now...a hypodermic needle.

I'm pretty sure that it came from someone using at the apartment that is two houses away from mine...the one that this week was visited by the police. This is yet another reminder for me to continue to pray, preach and practice a spiritually offensive life, right here on my block. I pray the Lord would allow us to see His victory over demonic spirits and expand and displace the strongholds that exist here. That the Savior of men and women who are enslaved by meth and other powers would display His strength in ways that produce a ripple effect of praise and plundering.

That the fear of God would invade these streets and replace the fear of darkness that creeps and mutters in moments like these. I pray and prophesy over these bones...and say: "Oh Lord, you know the answer..."

"People went out to see what had happened. They came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, clothed and in his right mind; and they were afraid." -Luke 8:35

God make it so...

Orphan Fundraiser...rewind.

But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help – how can God's love be in that person? -1 John 3:17

We have had a couple from our church serving in some Orphanages in Ethiopia, Africa; as well as adopting a couple teenagers. Since we have been exposed to the needs and situations of children in these circumstances; I felt it would be timely to focus our primary Holiday giving this years as a church, to help in some way. So I thought I would like to see if we can combat the frenetic commercialism by encouraging all of us to come together and offer gifts to raise money to give away to the poorest of the poor. Knowing that so many children who have no parents and no real chance to experience a season of giving, sharing, memories and joy like we all take for granted' motivated me to stir up the gifts among us...the bakers, craft people, the painters, photographers, wood workers, t-shirt makers, chefs and restaurant owners all pitched in and laid out a spread of holy offerings. In fact we were enjoyed a rotation of 3 amazing acoustic musicians during the main event (Destiny Blauer, Kristen Marlo, Evan Denlinger)We are still selling goods through the weekend but so far God has granted us the privilege of presenting $2,800 to some ministries doing solid work for these precious children. I anticipate being able to share a larger number after our multiple services this Sunday but even now, I'm astounded at God's love being expressed in such practical and sacrificial ways among us. The church gets such a bad rap these days, its awesome to be able to witness Jesus in and among us, doing good work in simple ways.One of the real fun parts of the evening was a concert after the main event with Raw Nerve, my son's metal band. After the most excellent Mr. Trevor opened up with some urban rythems and rhymes...Raw nerve shredded the room with some sonic screams of ear splitting, head banging, music for a cause...our neighborhood has not idea what is being unleashed upon them.

A huge thank you to all who made this event happen...together, we are all making a difference here and for eternity.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Shoppers acted like "savages"...

So I am sure you heard or read about the Walmart employee who was trampeld to death by rabid shoppers in Long Island, NY. It's a tragic picture of the spirit of mammon that has possessed, raped and pillaged our America culture all in the name of capitalism, keeping up with the Jones' and the good old American dream...well, it turned out to be a nightmare for this innocent person. I can't imagine what the parents will think about when little Johnny opens his latest mass produced, China manufactured, plastic piece of crap. Knowing that an innocent life was taken to get that $4 dollars off. God have mercy.

Since I am ranting...in the OT prophet proverbial sense...I also was made aware that one of the local Spokane golf courses clubs have a Clergy Rate for up to 8 ministers at the club and its only $2,200 per month and they have one opening!
Wow...$2,200 a month...that's more than many in my church make as families!

As I pondered this I wrestled with my own life and how I or we as a family choose to spend money, especially this Holiday season. For me it translates into drinking more of this cruddy coffee instead of $3 lattes. It means hosting an art event to raise money for the poorest of the poor and putting up my paintings for sale. It means saying "no" to the desire to put more under the tree than is needed or financially responsible. It means turning off lights, turning down the heat, cooking more at home, shopping at K-mart and Grocery Outlet, wearing out my clothes and shoes. It means saying "no" to trips, walking or riding my bike more, renting more and going to the theater less. It means praying that the spirit of mammon won't prevent me from serving God. It means shining the light on my own life and then choosing to do live differently, one choice at a time.

Just sitting and feeling like a loser or a schmuck won't change anything...but getting inspired to move beyond "savages" has got to be a motivation for all of us in light of these kind of tragedies.

Here is a helpful site to put things in perspective:

http://www.globalrichlist.com/

Thanksgiving Community Feast....

We hosted our 2nd Thanksgiving Community Feast on November 26th at the Jacob's Well Community Resource Center. Under General Shirley Reed (Aka Grandma) and the CRC directors Jim and Linda Carney as well as a bunch of volunteers; the event turned out to be a huge success. You can view picture of the dinner: Here.

Our goal as a church is to develop a regular shared meal schedule in the CRC. With the growing economic challenges, we are seeing an opportunity to recapture the simplicity of biblical community...in particular, sharing resources, in this case...eating together. Not feeding the homeless per say, but eating together. Choosing to create a table that many different people from any background can sit and share with one another in a meal, conversation, life, joys and pains. Setting a table not out of charity but out of community. We are working at caring for one another in this church and neighborhood. Finding practical ways to nurture relationships within and without the church community. Choosing to maintain the dignity of anyone who needs help be it economic, physical, relational, emotional or spiritual.

The joy of the Thanksgiving Feast for me as a pastor, was seeing a family eating together with strangers at the table...and my prayer is that in time, those strangers will become friends...and then brothers or sisters. But even if that doesn't take place...the church should be living this way, and the times we are in are pushing us towards a more Christian community.

Below is a quote that I think goes for the jugular but is needed to move us towards the reality of shared life vs just ministering to people in a clinical way:

"The vision of Jesus is not spread through organizational structures, but through touch, breath, shared life. It is spread through people who have discovered love… I believe that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor, but that they do not know the poor. Yet if we are called to live the new community for which Christ was crucified, we cannot remain strangers to one another. Jesus demands that we live in a very different way Charity… functions to keep the wealthy sane. Tithes, tax-exempt donations, and short-term mission trips, while they accomplish some good, also function as outlets that allow wealthy Christians to pay off their consciences while avoiding a revolution of lifestyle. People do their time in a social program or distribute food and clothes through organizations which take their excess. That way, they never actually have to face the poor and give their clothes, their food, their beds. Wealthy Christians never actually have to be with poor people, with Christ in disguise. Instead of living out this alternative vision, the church has been content to be a broker between the rich and the poor. Both those trapped in poverty and those trapped in riches view the church as a distribution center, a place where the poor come to get stuff and the rich come to dump stuff. No radical new community is formed… In that model, the power structure has not budged. The power has merely changed hands". -Shane Claiborne

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The world is beautiful because they lived....

Playing For Change
Playing For Change

Click on the image and watch all the artists in this song...amazing.

The dreamers are the saviours of the world…. Humanity cannot forget its dreamers; it cannot let their ideals fade and die; it lives in them; it knows them as the realities which it shall one day see and know…. Composer, sculptor, painter, poet, prophet, sage; these are the makers of the after-world, the architects of heaven. The world is beautiful because they have lived….— James Allen

Ultimately any light we see in us or each other, is but a distant glimmer of the true light that enlightens every man (John 1:9). That doesn't take away from the beauty of what is...but it hints at the storehouse from which it comes.

I loved the musical piece above, it nourished my weary heart this morning. I have found myself in need of the soothing ministry of the artists of late...my spirit has been low, due to so many challenging conflicts, pressures, situations and colliding personal realities among the people I pastor and know. It's just life...happening, at an intensity that leaves me sometimes drained. After spending my morning in the works of poets, I saw this and thought it was a fitting piece to offer others who might be struggling to refuel the theologian, the counselor, the teacher within.

Examples like this song, are one of the reasons I am committed to figuring out how to nurture the arts, naturally among our community life at Jacob's Well. There is a place for spoken words...but the artists can take the ingredients of truth, ideas, thoughts, feelings, contradictions, paradoxes and doctrine and make a meal that savors each part.

Artists help me believe.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Beware the dogs....

Like Paul, I often find myself in the position that he expressed in 1 Corinthians 9:3:

"My defense to those who examine me is this..."

It's the nature of my path and the ongoing outworking of living out the radical grace scandalizing gospel; that I will step on peoples toes. As a result I’m usually involved on some level with ongoing discussions, debates and defenses of my attempts to live in the freedom of the gospel and reach those who do not yet have faith in Jesus or call Him Savior and Lord.

The best equipping I have found for living on the edge of mission is a deeper and more full understanding of the liberating truth of the Gospel, the life of Jesus and the methods of embracing people in a redemptive way that He fleshed out. But like Jesus and those he chose as disciples; that path always leads to persecution, controversy, insults, character attacks, gossip, confrontation etc. Now there’s also the beautiful hard work of reasoning from the scriptures, honest debate, rigorous study and heartfelt renewing of the mind that I get to engage with people as well. That’s the rewarding work of enlightenment, revelation and teaching that the gospel usher in.

But the crux in these parts of the world usually involve peoples personal paradigm's of religious practices and traditions both culturally and religious. These are the places where sparks often fly:

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” -2 Timothy 3:12

You see that little word in that sentence is the battleground: “godly”.

The difficulty I find, is in reorienting people to a gospel understanding of what God considers godly versus what traditionalists, legalists, religionists, fundamentalists and hyper conservative culturalists consider: “godly”.

You see the same conflict following Jesus wherever he preached, taught and ministered life. The same goes for that band of trouble makers that spread the gospel all over the NT world. The beatings, scourging, imprisonments, assassination attempts, traveling jewish re-educators that followed Paul's church planting endeavors, the false brethren that tore at the fabric of new faith communities...all were part of the wake of the gospel. Jesus and Paul both were accused of messing with the status quo or shaking thing up.

We've found this man (Paul) a real pest...stirs up dissension...and a ringleader of a sect...-Acts 24:5

Paul expected it, wrestled with it, prayed often for it to ease up or be removed...but it was simply part of what he called the “great revelations” that he received. In fact he often prayed other people would also receive the sprit of revelation and understanding. Well a revelation of what? Simply...Jesus. His work, His life, His death, His resurrection and all that it means to be in Him and for Him to be in You.

But trust me that revelation will jack up your world....good and bad!

Yes, the sublime beauty of all that a revelation of the gospel unfolds within you, liberates you from pursuing, sets you free from fighting will also unleash a hoard of nit pickers that will hound you like locusts on fresh dewed gardens. Paul retold it all this way:

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”. (2 Cor. 12: 7-10)

Notice what Paul describes as the thorns in his life. I know most people have been told God gave him a sickness or disease because of his glorious revelations of Jesus but I think his own testimony in the verse says differently. I also think the pages of the many letters he wrote retell the “torment” he endured the most often was from...people.

"Alexander the metalworker did me [the Apostle Paul] a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message." -1 Timothy 4:14-15

Defending the gospel as it relates to mission is a common reality for those who choose to step outside the church walls. Soon as you seek to leave the comfy bible studies, the countless consumeristic religious programs designed to massages, entertain, coddle, pacify and feed the over fed into obesity...you get a target on your back.

There are too many believers that are convinced that we Christians are still living in a Old Testament reality where sin and contamination is the preeminent power...and becoming “unclean” is the threat that all sincerely religious people must be constantly concerned about.

Few are those who have experienced and live out the power of the Gospel that sanctifies the sinner. Where are those who touch spiritual leprosy and see the power of grace triumph over the power of sin? Jesus walked in an authority that the navel gazing, germ phobic, ceremonially minded, gnat strainers are not yet aware of. They have a gospel that is trapped in continual self focused gospel of self improvement. It breeds judgmentalism and it's a measuring religion that produces self righteous people who spend hours of time gnawing on dead things instead of spreading truth, life and the love of God. In the name of being right...they bloody the butts of every passerby them deem to be a threat.

Paul called them dogs:

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. -Phil. 3:2-3

Why dogs?

Well, my guess is...they bark a lot. They are loud, annoying and distracting. They incessantly whine, whimper and beg.

They bite, nip, growl, chase and hound you....tirelessly.

They pee over everything...as they mark out their supposed personal territories that they protect at all costs.

They poop all over the place and never bury their messes...in fact, you can guarantee that if they have been around...the place is going to stink and you are going to have to constantly watch where you step.

In the end, I pray that I will have the grace to endure....and as I ponder that beauty of the cross, I am reminded that “My grace, is sufficient for you”.

Amen, to that....

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wall-e

What a fantastic movie! We watched this last night and really enjoyed it. Creative story, amazing animation/cgi whatever they use these days, simply stunning. A heart warming story with a wonderful use of limited language in a lot of the movie. One of my favorites for sure. I think what I enjoyed the most was hearing Micah laugh so much, he leaned over to me and said: "Dad, i'm laughing so much, I'm crying!" :)

Hummmmm....

Newly discovered planet....and the Eye of Sauron.

Defiance

Friday, November 28, 2008

Through a glass darkly...

"For now we see through a glass, darkly…” (1 Cor. 13:12)

The thoughts below come from an email to my father, concerning a discussion we were having on Martin Luther's " "Against the murderous and Rapacious Hordes of Peasants" that is often charged as Luther's highest literary crime in the sparking or fueling of so much bloodshed in "The Peasant War". After reading over the thoughts, I figured maybe the ideas or ramblings might resonate with other travelers. I offer these, in their rough hewn state, not a theological treatise; but as witness to the challenge of navigating our way through the many rough water streams of Christian thought that tumultuously rush together around the honest seeker of truth:

"Yes, some of the words in that treatise were horrible. Though, the historical events surrounding the writing of them, are subject to more misuse and revisionism than my mind can grasp or sort through. This site alone has such a mountain of answers and in depth treatment of the countless historical realities that should be honestly examined and the towers of anti-Martin Luther myths that abound:

http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/search/label/Martin%20Luther

As we read on the internet, we soon come to realize that it's plagued with "quote and misquote" disease...you find out that a lot of the sites posting various quotes and statements that are evil, derogatory, anti-Jewish, perverse or whatever from Luther are most often linked to Catholic apologists that are in varying degree either sure Luther was born of the devil (literally according to some) or was mislead, or mental, or just caught in a historically challenging time. The verdict is still out in my opinion on whether Luther was solely guilty of sparking the bloodshed of the P.W.

It appears to be that it was made up of various issues (economic, political, cultural, theological) that were ignited at the same time...maybe one led to deepening or igniting more of this or that in regards to for example the Peasant uprising. The whole subject is wrought with deep ravines that I'm not sure one can truly come to a complete conclusion upon. At least from my limited understanding...kind of like figuring ones way out of the labyrinth of predestination and free will; a subject that most would agree is essential and necessary in figuring out some key issues within ones understanding of God, salvation and the place of works.. But can we truly unweave the scriptures in a way that doesn't ruin the garment of Christian experience...I've not succeeded.

I'm growing more and more unable to stand on one bank of Christian tradition...I find myself wading and sometimes swimming in various incoming or undercurrents of christian histories streams of thought, belief, teaching or influence. At times, Ive gotten farther down the river pushed by this or that movement or voice. I've felt the Spirit including certain aspects or points from this vine or that, and found refreshed, revived or helped with some element that my spiritual constitution was lacking.

I'm growing more and more free to eat of all the trees of the garden. I find life in the eating from a mindset that seems to be easily followed by the Spirit I follow and am sustained by. Narrowness, selectivism, isolationism and all the other religiously bigoted means of lifting one fruit of one tree above the other seems in the end to be silly. Have you the life of God? Does love and compassion stream like heavenly juices from your dinning? Does light break in on your understanding of Christ and does a love for Him warm the furnace of your devotion from the fires you sit at? Or does the sparks of illumination spread a fire that consumes, destroys, smokes more than lights, clouds more than sheds light on the paths of those that journey?

Truth has turned into a treacherous mountain side that can only be ascended with the ropes, and tricks of the trade provided by the mountaineers of theology. Children of Jesus who simply desire to walk on the holy road are despondent by the books of the learned that have been stacked to impassable heights. The way of Christ that supposedly was going to be straightened, uncrooked, lifted up out of the depths of obscurity, and brought down low to once again be accessible to the ignorant, little and simple; is made more difficult and unpleasant than it should be.

It wearies me and worries me.

A serious spiritual reductionism is deeply needed today...coming back to love again. A love that maybe is more blind to the misty futures, the gloomy pasts and more wide eyed to what is right in the moment.

God knows, I need that more.

Song to listen to after this post: "The cure for the pain"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reconfiguring...

We are attempting to reconfigure our meeting space to facilitate more seating, better flow before and after services and to arrange for a more concise area for the music team. When you are working to maximize the use of the facilities...you got to get creative. We finally got our audio visual projector in and are working at placing that in the best way in a small space. We got our new signs up after two years and put in new carpet in the children's wing...the old carpet was so old, it was the kind that they stitched together when it was originally installed. Now I am working on trying to come up with a decorating plan for the meeting space that will resemble more of our cafe feel we had on the east end but facilitate the seating needed for Sundays....not an easy thing to do in this space.

Wed. Community Thanksgiving Feast...today at 5PM

Jacob's Well Community Resource Center is hosting our Thanksgiving Community Feast today. Here is a shot of the set up in the center...a lot of people have put in many hours, love, cooking, cleaning, decorating and preparations; to extend an invitation to our neighbors and anyone who desires to come and celebrate together...doors open at 5PM.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Feeding my weary spirit...

This worship song it's one of my favorites right now.

Does God sing...

"Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts." EPHESIANS 5:18-19

I found the part of this short interview (Bob Kauflin) that spoke of singing being the fruit of being filled with the Holy Spirit, to be a profound thought to meditate upon.

Some of our worship team returned from a recent worship conference and it's been evident that they were "filled up" by what is "spilling out". Good stuff taking place at our church among the musicians and the multiple teams that serve two services. We are seeing song, craft, excellence and a honest and humble offering of themselves to the Lord in singing, playing and writing. They are an amazing group of worshippers that are expanding, growing and stretching to become all that God deserves and yet reflect all that God is pleased with at this moment in time. It's good stuff and I am so proud to see two of my kids right in the middle of all the hard work and heartfelt ministry.

I am excited to see it, experience it and watch it grow. People are touched, God is worshipped through instruments and singing and Lord willing, those who do not know the Father will be drawn to the celebration in His house, by the music spilling into the streets.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Expelled

What an awesome flick. The interview at the end with Richard Hawkins, going on and on about how he thought the origins of life came from visiting life-forms from another planet...was priceless. The visit to the Nazi compounds and the Nazi hospital where they killed handicapped people was the most chilling thing I have seen in a while. The link of Eugenics and Planned Parenthood gave me the creeps. I watched this with my eldest son Christian, and I found myself hoping the young men like him will devote themselves and their brains to science to be part of a new rebel alliance that will love God with all their minds, as well as their hearts. Such men and women are needed desperately as our educational systems are closing their minds to free thought. Well worth the rental fee.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

He made the Pleasures...

“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s [God’s] ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures” -The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis

Visiting prostitutes, men sleeping with their dad's wives, illicit affairs, homosexual sex, burning lust, sex starved marriage partners and biblical counsel to indulge in copious amounts of God glorifying, passionate sex...are all part of preaching through 1 Corinthians. It will stir things up for any pastor who dares to really teach through it...because it hits us where we live.

It's sad to me to think that the God of Solomon's steamy song; is often represented by a church that would ban the book if it was titled differently and included in some other book of literature other than the Holy Bible. In fact some of the greatest critiques of Christianity have leveled their attacks below the churches belt:

“The church fights passion by cutting it out, in every sense; its practice, its “therapy” is castration. It never asks, “How does one spiritualize, beautify, deify, desire?”—its discipline has always emphasized eradication (eradication of sensuality, pride, the ambition to rule, covetousness, vengefulness).—But ripping out the passions by the root means ripping life out by the root; the practice of the Church is an enemy of life…” 
-Twilight of the Idols ,Friedrich Nietzsche

But the church has brought a lot of this scathing rebuke on herself:

"In the second century, Clement of Alexandria allowed unenjoyed and procreative sex only during 12 hours out of the 24 (at night) but by the middle ages, preposterous as it now seems, the church forbade it forty days before the important festival of Christmas, forty days before and 8 days after the more important festival of Easter, 8 days after Pentecost, the eves of feast days, on Sundays in honor of the resurrection, on Wednesdays to call to mind the beginning of Lent, Fridays in memory of the crucifixion, during pregnancy and 30 days after birth (40 if the child was a female), during menstruation, and 5 days before communion. This adds up to 252 excluded days. Not counting feast days, if there were 30 of those (a guess which may in fact, be on the conservative side) there would then have been 83 remaining days in the year when (provided of course, that the woman did not happen to be menstruating or pregnant or in the postnatal period and provided that they intended procreation) couples could with the permission of the church have indulged in (but not enjoyed) sexual intercourse."

So much of this subject really is the fruit of a misunderstanding of the gospel. At the heart of this anti-body theology is a gnostic heresy that says, our bodies are not good...only are spirits are truly good. It's a lie...and this teaching pervades many Christians ideas of how to live in this world.

As we move into chapter 8 we will begin to see this idea as we deal with those who Paul calls the ones who have "weak faith". I imagine this discussion is going to rock some peoples world!

Should be fun....

Good change...

I just wanted to give God praise. This last year we went through some really tough challenges in our family. Situations that I have hinted at and asked prayer for at various times. I wanted to share and say a big thank you for those who prayed and helped us at various times as we navigated through the parenting challenges that were part of our journey. These last few months have been some of the best in our home due to a number of reasons. I just wanted to extend a word of encouragement to those parents that might be faced with challenges that go beyond your abilities to solve. God is faithful to bring help, grace, wisdom and strategies to help you and your family. Don't give up and don't give in to the sometimes overwhelming nature of some of these stressors. Have faith...God isn't deaf to your pain.

Power of the People or the State....?

"I'm wondering when those who pretend to be concerned about marriage start insisting that we repeal the no-fault divorce laws and that divorce be limited to infidelity ONLY; no exceptions for battery or psychological abuse, just as there are no exceptions in Scripture" -Commenter on the below article.

I found this comment sharp as a razor, cutting to an issue that I find fascinating...the tightrope of legislating morality. I am seriously concerned about the assault on the democratic process that is taking place in the attempts to yet again overturn the will of the California voters in regards to Prop. 8. But I also reel from the the often one-sided and hypocritical nature of much of the politicization of these moral issues. As the above poster said...how many of these opponents of gay marriage who base their positions on various scriptures; would feel as crusaderish if the issue was "no-fault divorce" laws? A position that could be based on very clear teaching of scriptures too?

Much of these debates are based on faulty logic in my opinion, on both sides too. But I did feel this article below, was one of the best (though a bit old) articles that states a clear, logical reason against State enforced recognition of gay marriage. here is a quote from the article:

"Moreover, it is not correct to argue that government recognition of two-sex marriages is unfair or oppressive. If proponents of same-sex “marriage” ask why the government should be allowed to require people to acknowledge traditional two-sex marriages, the answer is simple: It does not. The institutions of society acknowledge heterosexual marriages on the basis of historical and cultural preferences dating back millennia. The government didn’t decide this; society did. Government recognition of traditional marriage was not a change forced upon society, but rather a legal codification of what society had already established." Read the whole article at Salvomag

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ethiopia's Orphans...

Weekends movies...

LeeElla was away at a worship conference in Seattle this last weekend; so the kids and I watched three movies I've been wanting to see: Kung-Fu Panda, Get Smart and the new Journey to the Center of the Earth. We enjoyed all of them...but I thought Kung-Fu Panda was the best for sure. In fact I think its in my growing, favorite animated movies list, in no particular order: Robin Hood, Robots, Aladdin, RATATOUILLE, The incredibles, Shrek, Monster's Inc, ToyStory, Appleseed Ex-Machina, Titan AE, The Iron Giant, Ice Age 1&2, The Rescuers Down Under, An American tale, The Spirits Within...and more.