Monday, November 30, 2009

Waiting on Tables for Kingdom Expansion....

There is a lot of talk these days about how to "reach" those who do not know Jesus Christ as savior. Churches spend countless hours and bucks on figuring out the mysteries of the cultural lock on peoples hearts and minds. We print and publish reams and reams of literature and net ink on the topics and yet, the chasing after the wind seems to continue.

The "trick" is elusive...the latest and greatest strategy is often yesterday's ministry failures, repackaged for the newest potential pastoral consumers. In the end...our churches are often full of disillusioned Christians; that have been jacked up on emotional and false prophetic hopes...or wearied out by task master like pastors that drive the sheep from one project to the next. These people are always being offered that golden carrot of revival, or renewal or bigger an better this or that...and for many Drained Disciples, this hamster-wheel version of religion, is abandoned.

In the end, I truly think that living out the gospel as Jesus lived the simple pattern.

Pick some with life and mission...teach them, through training them with hands on work. Weave prayer and study of God's word in your community; and practice love, among one another and in the places God has determined you to live. this among the least of those, among us.
"In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." -Acts 6:1-7
I am blessed to be surrounded by men and women who are "full of the Spirit and wisdom" and as we see the life of Mission and the Life of attending to Spirit...kiss....we are sure to witness, "the word of God spreading and disciples increasing rapidly and people becoming obedient to the faith".

This dance of mission to people and ministry to the unfolding among us, because the Lord is big in...little people. I stand amazed at the glory of God being found among the hands and hearts of those I am called to pastor. They amaze me, convict me, inspire me and often out perspire me...they are my co-laborers who allow me to work at fulfilling the vision of God unfolding in us and through us and...among us.

They are good people...doing small things...with great love.

The God of Festival....

Our church hosted our annual Thanksgiving Dinner, this year it was to over 200 people. It's in moments like these that you can see and hear the joy of community, neighborliness, laughter, conversation, friendships being born and authentic care being shared.
Jesus is most present at the Love Feast...the table of the welcoming, indeed.

There is a fulfillment of the Old Testament year of Jubilee that is often tasted in the Kingdom of God expressed in the church assembled on mission. You can sense the freedom, the liberation and restoration emerging.

The poor have the gospel preached to them for sure...but its not a gospel of words only. If you stand in the midst of such a gathering and have eyes and ears to can see and hear the gospel being lived. Love...God's love, being shared and experienced through hospitality, humble service, sacrifice, labor, serving, associating with the lowly, taking the lowest place, gift giving, listening, modeling, disciple making, evangelism, prayerful presence, Spirit infused, empowered and anointed people being and loving Christ.

The gospel is among us...the Kingdom of God is here and unfolding within us. His kingdom is dawning...for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. It's often heard in the gathered festival throwing people of God. Believers who know joy and celebration. They know how to party...because they were taught the party plan through the Ancient Festivals:

"Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish.

Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands." -Deuteronomy 14:22-29

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dinners, Suicide, Mission and Worship that matters....

"I can't wait to serve the good Lord."

That's what Roger kept telling me as we neared the time when we would open for Thanksgiving dinner. A week ago, I had asked Roger if he would be willing to help serve food at the meal. At first he said no and gave me some reason why he thought he couldn't. But I asked him to think about it...and later that week, he told me he wanted to do it, if I helped him figure out what he was supposed to do. Sunday, he got up and prayed about the dinner and as it approached his excitement grew as well.

I told him he had to clean his bachelor hands, trim his nails really good, wear some clean clothes and come prepared to serve. The next day he showed up at the coffee house with freshly trimmed nails and clean hands. Tonight he showed up early, dressed in a nice white jacket and ready to work. He had invited all his family that week and they were hesitant...but tonight he said they all were coming. Above is a shot of Roger working alongside Lisa, TJ and Andrea...gloved up and smiling from ear to ear. His family came, took pictures of him serving and enjoyed a meal with us. Roger was so really was quite a precious moment.
Roger is a good friend, a polite man, a hard worker and always friendly. Roger represents the many people in our community that have various mental or physical disabilities that often have a hard time finding their place among others. I was reminded of this today as Dave, a fellow pastor friend, told me that Daniel, his friend, a young man in his 20's, who also had a mental disability; killed himself in the local jail....he suffocated himself with toilet paper in his cell.

He was homeless, lived in a car with his buddy in West Central Spokane. I met him about a week ago when I was having coffee with Dave. He was quiet but polite too. He evidently got arrested for something again...they were often breaking some law and getting in minor trouble...and for some reason...that time....he decided living was harder than dying.

When I heard this young man, I had just met a week ago...had taken his life...I was heart broken...and even now tears well up, as I think of the many men and women who get shuffled around our cities. They are in and out of jail...half way houses, shelters and programs. They fall through the cracks...often smart enough to make it on their own...or at least survive...but not always able to thrive. It's hard living in a culture that exalts education, appearances, money making potential, gifting, world shaking destinies, social power, charisma, talent and the ever bowed too altar of potential.

I thought of Daniel...when I watched Roger tonight.

I think of Jesus, when He said:

"Blessed are the poor...for theirs is the kingdom.
Blessed are the gentle...for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are the pure in heart...for they shall see God."

I think of how many other forgotten and overlooked saints are out there in the dark...thinking about killing themselves.
It's in moments like these that I am eternally grateful to be where I am, with the people I am with, doing what we are doing. I truly believe that Jesus is among us...and I see Him shining so very bright in the least of these among us....and in serving them...we truly do...serve the "good Lord".

And really, in the end, we end up truly seeing our own poverty and discover that we were the ones who were really the least...and together, by God's grace...we end up worshiping Jesus in a manner that matters...for Rogers and for Daniels.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
-Micah 6:8

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rebirthing Sacred Traditions....

"He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." -Jesus (Matthew 13:5)

One of the gifts of leading and serving an emerging, non-denominational church; is the freedom and ability to explore the ancient doctrines and practices of the historic Christian faith. We have been shaping a community of faith, that holds to a solid center with soft edges or as Saint Augustine put it:

"In Essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, love"        
(354-430 AD)

Or as the early church proclaimed in the Nicene Creed:

"We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
the only Son of God, 
eternally begotten of the Father, 
God from God, light from light, 
true God from true God, 
begotten, not made, 
of one Being with the Father; 
through him all things were made. 
For us and for our salvation 
he came down from heaven, 
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary 
and became truly human. 
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; 
he suffered death and was buried. 
On the third day he rose again 
in accordance with the Scriptures; 
he ascended into heaven 
and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, 
and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, 
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], 
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, 
who has spoken through the prophets. 
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. 
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. 
We look for the resurrection of the dead, 
and the life of the world to come. Amen."

Or as the Protestant Reformers put it:

Sola Scriptura/Scripture alone
Sola Fide/ Faith alone
Sola Gratia/Grace alone
Solus Christus/Christ alone
Soli Deo Gloria/God’s Glory alone

Or as C.S. Lewis summarized it, we believe in:

“The faith preached by the Apostles,
attested by the Martyrs,
embodied in the Creeds,
expounded by the Fathers.”
-C.S. Lewis

Within this broad garden of edenic truth...we are free to eat from a host of beautiful and good fruits of embodied practice; that various Christians have worked out to express, celebrate, remember, enter into, taste and proclaim "The Faith". We feel no need to let 'labels' determine or deny, who gets to find voice or visibility within the culture of Jacob's Well.

We believe that there is:
"One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all and in all." (Eph 4:5-7)

That means that we aim to incorporate, re-imagining and rebirth many elements of faith expression found through out the tree of Biblical they eastern or western...high church or low church. That means you might find bits and pieces from many different groups of Christians. We love the mosaic of expression that is the church of Jesus.

I believe that many of these embodied actions, traditions and liturgies often become "means of grace". I hold to the idea of "Sacred Mystery" as expressed by our Orthodox brothers and sisters...when it comes to the idea of "sacraments":

"The Orthodox communion's preferred term is Sacred Mystery. While the Catholic Church has attempted to dogmatically define the sacraments, and discover the precise moment when the act results in the manifestation of the grace of God, the Orthodox communion has refrained from attempting to determine absolutely the exact form, number and effect of the sacraments, accepting that simply that these elements are unknowable to all except God. According to Orthodox thinking God touches mankind through material means such as water, wine, bread, oil, incense, candles, altars, icons, etc. How God does this is a mystery. On a broad level, the mysteries are an affirmation of the goodness of created matter, and are an emphatic declaration of what that matter was originally created to be." (sacraments: wikipedia).

I revel in the beauty and freedom of God working through whatever He chooses to express or allow His grace to be experienced within. I do believe that The Lord's Table and Baptism rise to the top of the idea of "ordinances" He told the church to maintain. But I do not think that limits the means of grace available for the believer to taste the Lord and the "powers of the age to come" through.

All elements of our christian life can become dead and cold...even the Letter is dead unless the Spirit infuses His life through it. But this doesn't mean that we abandon elements within the tradition of the church simply because its been abused, drained of vitality or ignored. As a Charismatic I find many believer who have been taught out of deep and meaningful Biblical experiences that the Lord has for His children. And I also find that many Charismatic Christians have missed the blessings found within many mainline or evangelical expression of faith.

I know that many people cant seem to handle a "Heavenly City" that has many gates leading into it (Revelations 21:12-13) but I find that truth to be one that lets me relax and learn to enjoy my Christian brother's and sister's different Flavors and Colors, Smells & Bells...Sounds and Tongues. I think it makes for a more gracious group of believers and builds bridges instead of moats.

This discussion is primarily an in-house deals with those who are "WITHIN" the city....those who are born again, sons and daughters of God...when it comes to traditions and expression of The Faith.

I pray as a journeying group of believers, that we can find a way to live this their minds, hearts and hands.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No words...just tears.

HELL IN A HAND BASKET from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

The Money Pastor....

The Theology Of Stuff from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

"We serve the god who gives us stuff"

Your church is Jacked up....

The Walk from Recycle Your Faith on Vimeo.

As church we are gearing up for Advent season that starts on November 29th...a journey of four Sundays that will step into the Jesus story. His Arrivals...and what they invite us to remember, experience and hope for.

This Sunday I will lay some ground work for the days ahead and look at the Jubilee that Jesus inaugurated in His ministry (Lk 4:14-30) and how that became outlived in the emerging church in the book of Acts (Acts 2:41-47 & 4:32-35). Helping us connect the truth of the gospel with how to live the gospel. All within the context of a day to day journey with a group of broken and screwed up people; who are praying "Your Kingdom come...Your will be done...on Earth as it's done in Heaven."

Join us as we seek to learn how to become Covenantal Communities....people who have chosen to walk together in the spirit of family; accepting and caring for one another in such a way that those outside His family, will be drawn to the Father's house. Love is the message and it does reconcile people to God one another.

Grace allows for all us jacked up people to find hope, process, redemption, absolution, restitution and a chance to start over each transformation. As a continual testimony to that change...we come around the Communion Table, to acknowledge and confess through eating the bread and drinking the cup; that we are ever dependent on the mercy and grace of Jesus and His indwelling empowerment to walk out the new kingdom dawning.

All are welcome...sinners and saints...and those who know they are one and the same.

Entertainment vs. Worship

- Stanley Hauerwas

video via Mike Todd

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hey! Anonymous (C.L.H.) prophecy person....

Hey! Anonymous (C.L.H.) prophecy person....your "prophetic word" was a load of crap.

First and foremost because your description of me as a "Singularly Undefiled Person" shows me that you have not head the voice of God...because that surely isn't what God would say about me bozo.

And the subsequent word concerning the other person is so off base, I don't even know where to begin. If I had Samson's jawbone, Elijah's fire, Elisha's bear summoning power or Moses snake swallowing, Leprosy casting rod...I would use it. But instead, I will pray that you are delivered from your false prophetic ministry and brought to repentance by coming into the light and giving up your discouraging ministry of condemnation.

Anyone who writes letters with no return address, puts no name on the letter but initials and hasn't the guts to speak a 'word" to my face about someone else...shows themselves to be a spineless, coward.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Creatively Constipated....

I've been under enthused of late...and my artistic and writing self, have been dribbling out a few things here and there, but nothing steady. Sorry it's been slow around here...I've been pretty busy on other fronts and the deep places of meditative, artistic exploration have been few of poor artist soul is anemic.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day...

Prayers to all serving....that they would have these kind of moments soon.

Monday, November 09, 2009

AXIOM....Missional Church Planter Training Initiative

Axiom: is a new "equipping and spiritual formation" pathway for Local Church/Missional Initiatives. A inter-church cooperative to help train potential church planters and mission minded believers. Spawned through Eccelsia Spokane (check us out on Facebook): an emerging leaders Pastor relational network and in a forming partnership with Forge, Christian Associates International and local churches; we are currently bringing together a group of people to begin this equipping pathway.

Our meeting with Alan Hirsch ( last week, was the initial bush whacking, to stir up potential planters/leaders and continues through the Fall/Winter season with 6 more open gatherings for general mission minded people; who desire a foundation in missional movements and ministry. Then we will continuing next year with a closed program with a year long curriculum, local church apprenticeship and extra local training.

Many of the current churches involved have teams and/or individuals, who are being prepared or are already launching/rooting/ gathering or on the ground doing the work of first stage church plants and/or M.I.. We hope this work will help them be more successful, fruitful and equipped to fulfill the Lord's call and work in this city, region and beyond.

Our dreams and plans are centered around nurturing a co-operative missional environment that is supportive and apostolically generative for new works to emerge. All within a non-competitive, relational network of likeminded, gospel-centric, missionally motivated churches.

In the end...our prayer is that new works will emerge, existing churches will become reproductive and the Kingdom of God will deepen, explode and expand through evangelism and disciple making fruitfulness.

Jon in the movement of mission if you are longing to partner with people of like mind and heart and see new missional initiatives emerge in Spokane and beyond.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you...

A Psalm of David.
O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds,
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies!
-Psalm 141:1-4

Combining the fragrant aroma of incense and the burning of a biblical imagery that has been part of my prayerful contemplation lately. Moses was commanded to burning holy incense morning and night on the golden altar of incense (Exodus 30:34-38).

Jesus got ticked off over the lack of true prayer being at the center of His Father's house: "It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.'' -Matthew 21:13

Becoming a "house of prayer" is deep in my heart of late...not the charismatic sorcery versions that build altars of incantation, fleshly endeavors to prove to God "we are serious"; thats a works based rig·a·ma·role. But instead a community of praying people that have assumed a posture of worship instead of works.

I have no interest in the "Slash & Bash" meetings where length and content become the rule instead of spirit and truth. God isn't moved by much as we are moved by Him. Frenetic, all night, Charismatics and even "Change the World" by the sweat of our intercessions, Baptiscostals are attempting to put their own blood on the altar's four horns...instead of resting and believing in the Blood of the Son that has already sanctified the prayer altar.

Moses was forbidden to allow the sacred incense to become a "personal prayer item" anyone who was caught using it for themselves...was cut off from the community.

Prayer is first and foremost about Worship of God...not us.

All the hoops and ladders prayer material that continues to turn prayer into mystical lever pulling is a poor replacement for relational communication between Father and child.

It's all worthy of being whipped and driven out of the Father's really is that serious.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Alan Hirsch....The Forgotten Ways.

The Jacob's Well Barber Shop Quartet (Jim, Mike, Dan and I...don't ask, you wouldn't understand, trust me) attended 'Mission Movements' a day seminar with Alan Hirsch, sponsored by New Community Church and Ecclesia Spokane-(our emerging leader-pastor cohort). It was part of a collaborative church plant/church planter training program a group of us local pastors are dreaming together about. The goal being...creating a local church and extra-local ministry training path for new missional endeavors in Spokane and beyond.

Alan did a bang up job on giving 6 key elements that must be present to see mission impact and true organic church life grow and explode...or as he says..."The Boom Factor". We engaged a ton of content that dealt with theology, ecclesiology and missiology....great stuff!

Afterwards a group of us headed to the Steam-Plant Grill for beers and a chance to unpack the conversations and material. I had the privialge of meeting some new co-laborers, paticularrly Paul, lead brother at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

I find myself continuing to bless God for His wonderful body of churches and leaders in Spokane. I deeply treasure my pastor friends and the churches they serve. I have never had such a bond with a group of men and women developing across denominational and generational lines. The richness, diversity and giftedness is truly special to be part of. Learning from, leaning on and laughing with those who you not only call co-laborers a gift. Spokane is a good place to be part of the Body of Christ.

Finding people to journey with that you understand, believe in and trust is so rare. The folks in this co-hort are real, transparent, human, fun to be around and void of that pastoral pompous pea-cocking that so often accompanies most "pastor thingies". This is the first group of leaders that have approached "doing stuff" first by "being together". The emerging works in the future are going to come from true developing relationships...not just "project based, cause related or event tethered"" relationships. Being known...not just being used to accomplish one of the gifts the emerging generations have recovered and offer to all who have gone before and who are coming after. I praise God for the generations.

Here is Alan, giving a intro to the material we covered.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Roger...the Great.

This is Roger...about 4 years ago, when I first met him. This was taken at my birthday party in the park, I had recently met Roger and invited him to come down and enjoy some BBQ. He came and for the next 3 years we began getting to know each other in the neighborhood. I would invite him to church, events and various opportunities that we would make available in the neighborhood but he always turned them down. He would explain how he wasn't a people person, or was busy, or just didn't want too. Over the years, he started explaining to me that he read the bible and thought maybe we should have a Bible-study. But whenever I would invite him to one...he would say no. Then I would offer to come over to his house and do a study...he would say no. Basically it always seemed like a dead end, as far as making something "spiritual" I just kept extending neighborliness towards him.

Then one day a few months ago....he came to my house and asked me what I was doing. I told him, I was writing. He explained that he was lonely and that he didn't have many friends. I asked if he wanted to go have coffee. He smiled and accepted and that began our regular Friday morning Breakfasts and Bible-study together.

We go and eat something good and bring our Bibles and go through a basic christianity study. It's always a good time together. Mysteriously....after our first Breakfast Study...he showed up at Church that Sunday and has been coming ever since.
This is a shot of Roger in his house, showing off his Matchbook cars collection. He is quite proud of all his really old cars and the display on his wall. I told him I had to take a picture of his collection...he was most inclined to do it.

"Whoever is least among you...will be the greatest." -Jesus

When I read those words...I think of the "Rogers" in our communities. People who are often forgotten, ignored or looked over. You wont find their faces in the glossy church promo flyers or in the flash Video's on the websites. They don't lead much, or contribute to the Sunday Show....except...they often find their way into fundraising newsletters. We love to "reach them" but that is where our relationship with the "poor and lost" tragically, often, ends. They are people we "Go To" but rarely people we call friends. They are "projects" to us...they are ministry campaigns, meant to soothe our slightly unsettled, middle-classed souls. We do stuff for them and that somehow makes us feel better about ourselves. We mail stuff to their houses and pray blanket prayers over their neighborhoods...but we don't truly know them.

We fail as the church...when we depersonalize people. When we end up having to go on missions trips to connect with them...instead of becoming neighbors and sharing life together. Roger has taught me many lessons about how to deconstruct my "evangelism" paradigm...turning from "reaching people" to simply loving them and let God reach them.

Replacing agenda's with pancake's has humanized this pastor...and helped me truly enjoy the man in front of me...someone who I now call my friend.

Our 4th Annual Candy Carnival...

We hosted our 4th annual Candy Carnival on Halloween Night at Jacob's Well. We had 260 folks come on through and enjoy games, smiling faces, a safe stop in the neighborhood and lots of candy and goodies for parents. It was another smashing success...a big shout out to all our amazing volunteers, You all are the best!

Here is some video, its not the greatest, but you can get a feel for the event: Here

Monday, November 02, 2009

Bright Star....

I've been waiting for a break in our too busy lives to take LeeElla to this movie. Finally this weekend, we were able to steal some time from others and shared a amazing corned beef sandwich called the Hooligan & Hannigan and a great Black & Tan at O' Doherty's Pub. Then we watched Bright Star at The Magic Lantern, our local independent theater, which is only $5 too. Then we enjoyed dinner at Isabella's with some friends.

I loved, loved, loved...the movie. It is right up there with "Once", another must see romantic/drama movie. Bright Star combined a number of my most favorite things and did so with such a intimate, artistic sensitivity that left me actually slightly breathless at times. The director was an artist and his ability to weave, sound, music, color, feelings, passion, anticipation and all the cadences of love...was superb. As one given to poetry both writing and reading, and being a romantic at heart...drank deeply from this movie.

It's PG but that doesn't mean there wasn't some of the most sensual and passionately charged moments...there was, even though there was no nudity, sex or typically oversexed content. They masterfully captured "longing" and left you aching in love's riptides.

Needless to say...I was enraptured.

It's slow, methodical, character driven, poetic and all about a heart tingling romance...if that's not your're dead...or at least need reviving.

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.
-John Keats