Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I love Craigslist, BUT...

Man, I really dig Craigslist. I've sold things so easily, and even just recently my wife and I bought a great above ground pool for half the price that we would have spent at Academy. It's local dealing, it's free, and it's so easy.

However, several months ago I read a disturbing article in the New York Times about Craigslist being an easy venue for prostitution. I checked it out, and even here in little old Bryan/College Station, TX, there were plenty of offers. This bothered me, and I couldn't understand why Craigslist wouldn't just ban such smut. Of course, they have their justifications. And honestly over time I just forgot... maybe conveniently.

But now, I'm really disturbed today as I just read something even worse. Something that I just cant' ignore:

Modern Day Slavery

Last night I was talking to some buddies about their recent trip to Nepal. As we talked the reality of sexual slavery came up. It reminded me of a book I read about a year ago called "Not For Sale" by David Batstone. This is not an over exaggeration. The statistics are incomprehensible, and the reality is so well documented by so many agencies and organizations.

Here's a video interview with Batstone:

You can check out the website to learn more: http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/

Another site that features testimonies from around the globe: humantrafficking.com

If you need more credibility check out the U.S. Dept. of State web site

Recently in the News: Sex Ring Busted in Houston
Prostitution Ring Busted in Austin

Friday, July 4, 2008

An Interview with William P. Young, author of "The Shack"

William Young sounds like a genuine believer in this interview, and I'm sure he is. However, this doesn't mean that his book is sound. His book still needs to be scrutinized because it teaches theology. And although he wants to communicate an emotion, he ends up communicating dangerously weak ideas.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

God's Not Asking us to BELIEVE ANYTHING?!

On page 119 of "The Shack", God (Papa) makes a stunning response to Mack.
Mack says, But you're asking me to believe that you're God.
God responds: I'm not asking you to believe anything...

Would the God of the Bible ever tell anyone that He is not asking them to believe anything?

- Romans 1:5 "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

-Romans 16:25, 26 "Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him"

-Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God... "

-Romans 14:23 "Everything that does not come from faith is sin."

  1. God holds the whole world accountable to believe in Him.
  2. God offers us a relationship with Him through faith in his Son as opposed to doing a bunch of stuff to earn our way. Romans 4:5 tells us that God justifies the wicked through faith!

Is Jesus Really "the Best Way" to the Father?

On page 110 of "The Shack" Jesus says to Mack:
I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu.
(Papa = God the Father, and Sarayu = the Holy Spirit).

John 14:6 says:
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

  • - to say that Jesus is "the best" way presupposes that there are other ways to have relationship with God. In other words, to say Jesus is the best way to the Father is to say that he is only one of other options; it's to say he is not the only way.
  • - However, when Jesus says "I am the way", he means the only way. He does not mean "a way", otherwise, Jesus would have said so.
  • - "No one comes to Father except through me" means not one person. This would mean that the only way to Father is through Jesus.

The Matrix v. The Shack: The Oracle or The Father?

Please understand that this post is a personal perspective. It's simply my perception.

The discussion on p. 94 about fate vs. freedom strikes me too much like the Matrix. The Oracle tells Neo not to worry about the vase before he ever knocks it over. He then says, "what vase?" as he turns and then accidentally knocks it over. So the question arises whether Neo would have knocked the vase over if she had not predicted he would. This leads to another question as to the nature of freedom vs. fate.

Of course, the only difference in this scene from "The Shack" is that the Oracle is a black lady, and Papa (God the Father) in "the Shack" is a... oh yeah, he's a black lady, too.

I can't help but hear the Oracle's voice when Papa speaks. Not just because I know what the Oracle's voice sounds like, but because there is this thing in literature called voice. Good authors have a voice, and they know how to give their characters a voice. Unfortunately, Papa's voice sounds like the Oracle maybe because that's where Young got his idea. Just a thought.

God the Father according to "The Shack" Part II

Read Part I for background.

Derek Prince has some of the best Biblical teaching on Fatherhood. You can view one of his teachings at derekprince.org
You can also download the teaching in pdf format.

Contrast Derek's teaching with Young's teaching. Which one lines up with biblical teaching?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

True or False? Fact or Fiction?

I just ran across this great video by Bill Moyers dealing with our visual culture. It is inspired by the teachings of Neil Postman, a brilliant cultural and mass media critic. His writings and theories are extremely important, and prophetic.

What Moyers and Postman are getting at is the same point that most concerns me with "The Shack" by William Young. Fact and Truth are no longer relevant. It's just a matter of aesthetics; it's a matter of whether I like something or not. Truth is no longer something worthy of consideration.

Of course I know that "The Shack" is a work of fiction. I have no problem with this, but I must point out that truth and falsity still stands within fiction. For instance, if I'm reading a fictional work where a character explains that 2+2=5, then I can rightfully conclude that this is not true. It's fiction, but it's not going to influence my thoughts about mathematics. However, how can we as Christians be encouraged by a fictional story that conveys contradictions to the truth?

Decoding "The Davinci Code", I mean "The Shack"

We live in a world where fact and fiction blur. As a matter of fact, our postmodern world doesn't care about fact or fiction.

Earlier today I was thinking about the book "The Davinci Code." The Christian world was in an uproar over this book because of its challenge to scriptural authority. Book after book was written by Christians to decode the Davinci Code. The book is a well spun piece of entertainment. It can suck the reader into its entertaining grip. It presents history as though it were fact, but so much is fiction. And of course, Christians were aware that the myths would overpower most people's thinking so that they would take it as fact. Yet, I find it ironic that the Christian community is the number one consumer of "The Shack", which I find far more disturbing in its subversion of scripture. It is much more subtle in its presentation because "The Shack" presents no devil's advocate; rather God comes to us in sheep's skin. In the end, "The Shack" is a much greater threat to Christian thought than "The Davinci Code" could ever dream to be.

These lyrics from the OC Supertones have been running through my head today:

See wisdom and knowledge is one thing that we lack
You’ve been a christian how long and you’re still on similac
So I call on martin luther and all the reformation back
Then the common people couldn’t read god’s revelation
You had to be a monk or a priest or read latin
That was all before the revolution happened
But the fire cooled down ever since that generation
We put down the Bible and picked up the PlayStation
And we can't defend our faith
cause we don't even know it
We say we love his word but pick a funny way to show it.
The world walks by and we don’t have a thing to say
I call ’em as I see ’em
And that’s what I see today
-from "Return of the Revolution" by the Supertones

God the Father according to THE SHACK

(This is only based upon the 1st 94 pages of the book)

On page 94 of "The Shack" by William P. Young, Mack says to God the Father, who is at this moment a woman who goes by the name Papa:

"But then... why is there such an emphasis on you being a Father? I mean, it seems to be the way you most reveal yourself."
"Well," responded Papa, turning away from him and bustling around the kitchen, "there are many reasons for that, and some of them go very deep. Let me say for now that we knew once the Creation was broken, true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering. Don't misunderstand me, both are needed -- but an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence."

I will make three points about this controversial stance:

  1. According to Young, even before the fall, God knew that fathering would be lacking in an imperfect world, so He decided to emphasize this facet of his being. Or is it that we can see the areas of greatest potential for God to be imaged forth as being the most attacked and distorted? The enemy can only counterfeit and distort, he doesn't create. Therefore, we can detect the potential areas for greatest glory by looking at the areas that are most distorted and deficient in creation. But, of course, this would mean that the father/maleness of God is the genuine expression of God. This doesn't demean femininity in any way, nor does it relegate women to inferior status. Femaleness is part of the image of God; there is no denial in this. However, the point here is simply that the deficiency of fatherhood has a reason; and Young fails to acknowledge that the reason is that God's primary expression of himself is that of Father, which is why the enemy has so distorted this image.
  2. Consider the fact that if we were to apply "Papa's" reasoning with Mack about appearing as a woman ("Hasn't it always been a problem for you to embrace me as your father? And after what you've been through you couldn't very well handle a father right now, could you?" p.93), we would need to apply this to all of humanity since this is the story of most of humanity -- an absence of true fatherhood. If mothering is the cure, why would God decide to emphasize His fatherhood with all of humanity except for Mack? Why wouldn't He help Mack to understand Him as a Father? Why would he do the absolute opposite to the rest of the world, and fail to comfort the world as He did Mack? Like Mack, the world would be able to embrace God better if He were to reveal himself as mother. This is a circular argument.
  3. Most of all, Young's argument disregards the concept of Truth. Young doesn't portray the Father-hood of God as Truth; it's simply a counterbalance; even though he applies fatherhood with contradiction. The Bible reveals God in masculine terms. God always speaks of himself in the masculine. I can only think of a couple of verses where he uses imagery that parallels that of a woman (1. as a woman in labor gasping and about to cry out 2. as a mother who will not forget her children). Nevertheless, the overwhelming revelation of God is in masculine terms. The New Testament emphasizes the Fatherhood of God with a new depth of revelation beyond the old covenant. Further, Jesus is the Son, and His bride is the church. The only way to deny the TRUTH of this revelation of God in scripture is to deny the authority of scripture. Young does both. He denies the authority of scripture, and yet claims that God is the author of scripture: Papa tells Mack that He purposely emphasized His masculinity. So the authority of scripture is denied, but the author of scripture is God. The scriptures speak with authority about God as Father. Yet, Young's portrayal of God is that He was simply humoring us at best, which leaves us with a God we can't trust.
*****Please note that I am not criticizing Young's allegorical portrayal of God as a woman. Though I don't particularly dig his imagery, it's a personal matter of taste. I do concede to the function of allegory and fiction. However, I am criticizing what comes out of God's mouth. If Papa had never explained why she was appearing as a female, I wouldn't have made this critique. Or if it had been a better explanation like: "I felt like messing with your mind", I wouldn't have critiqued.

For more on fatherhood check out my follow up post.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Be CAREFUL with the word "Heresy"

So far, in Young's "The Shack" I have found nothing that I would consider heresy (as of p. 95). Questionable yes, heresy no. I would be careful to use the word heresy. Oftentimes Christians throw that word out when there is a difference of opinion regarding theology. We all have bad theology to some extent. And I believe that heresy can only be reserved for transgression of the most basic orthodox tenets of our faith. A great guide for this would be the apostle's creed:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
I will highlight a few trouble spots and share a few thoughts.

pp.65 last paragraph discussion about the Bible
Mack is thinking back to his experience in seminary and he remembers how he was taught that God no longer communicates with man through any other means than the Bible. This particular passage has taken a lot of criticism.
  • On the one hand, I don't believe that the author was saying what his critics claim. If you read only a clip of this passage on a critic's website it will probably sound bad, which is why you need to read the whole context. It's important to note that Mack is not questioning the value or authority of scriptures so much as he is dealing with the view that God does not speak to us today outside of scripture. Many people believe that visions, dreams, and other supernatural communication with God are not biblical. This is the point in contention here. If you believe that God doesn't communicate outside of the Bible, then you'll be at odds with Young. However, it is possible to believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God and that although his primary communication to man is through the Bible, he also communicates in other ways. As long as these communications line up with scripture, they can be regarded as legitimate interactions with God (though not more authoritative than scripture).
The Father as a Woman

What strikes me the most is that this woman seems to be like the oracle in the Matrix. As a matter of fact her voice seems to sync with the oracle. That bothers me.

Further, I don't believe that the Father would appear as a woman. I really don't think he would take on the form of a human other than in the person of his Son. But I really don't know. I mean I guess God can visit us how he pleases. He visited Abraham, but I don't know if the Father was there; or were the angels representing God.
  • One light note: the only non-critical perspective I could summon from this was that I remembered a joke about how God likes to break out of our boxes: One time there was a black and white preacher who fought all the time over whether God is really black or white. One day they ended up killing each other. So when they were at the gates St. Peter said, "Oh, I don't know if I can let you in since you killed each other. I'm going to have to ask God." So he tells them to sit in the waiting room. While they're waiting they get into another fight, and as they're slinging punches they hear the sound of huge footsteps approaching, "boom, boom, boom, boom...." The door flies open. God sticks his head in and says, "Wuz up hombres?!"
p 94 Mack asks why there is such an emphasis in scripture on God being a Father. The reply from God is nothing short of heartbreaking. I truly feel grieved about this response, which is from the pen of Young and far from the TRUTH. I am now realizing that I will need to do a separate post for this subject.

Monday, June 9, 2008

"The Shack" by William Young

The Shack by William Young is a literary phenomenon as of late. I've heard a wide range of views on the book, so I decided I'm going to go on ahead and read it myself. I must admit that I have some reservations about the theology of this book. At first, when I heard about it, I thought, "what's the big fuss? Why do people always get so worked up over something a little different?" But the more I've heard, the more I'm suspicious that there is more than just a different perspective. As terribly unpopular as this might sound, right thinking about God is essential. Bad theology wrapped in pathos changes minds for the worse.

I don't deem myself some keeper of the faith. I am no fundamentalist, yet I believe the scriptures are the inerrant word of God. I believe it's the primary source of God's revelation to humanity. I also believe that God speaks in multitudes of ways through people, vision, dreams, revelations, and day to day circumstance. I have no problem with this, and I have no fear of experience. As a matter of fact I think experience is essential to acquire biblical knowledge.

However, I am deeply concerned about the corrosion of thought within our entertainment saturated culture. Fact and fiction have blurred together. The news is reported by entertainment conglomerates. What we see is what we believe. Critical thinking is less common, and therefore most everything is accepted as true. It all looks real in our virtual world. It feels so real. Therefore, it must be real. As a matter of fact, what's real is boring and so we turn to our visual techno entertainment "realities." Our productions of art that supposedly represent the world but in fact have enslaved the world to mimicking and loving the art more than the reality...

These might not seem like theological concerns, and honestly it's this social reality that concerns me more than any other. The postmodern departure from a logo-centric world has left the church with a dangerous propensity to abandon the true master narrative for lesser stories that sound so good. Stories like this one by Young might grab our hearts and ring "true" in our souls. But we forget how convoluted our world has become with the simulation of fact to create fiction to create fact to create fiction to create fact...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

John Eldredge, The Way of the Wild Heart

This video is an interview with John Eldredge, author of "The Way of the Wild Heart". He hits on some points even in this video that weigh heavily upon my heart. The idea of rites of passage for boys has almost vanished from our culture, and its consequences are terrible. I am pained when I see how easily our adolescent boys slip off into the oblivion of inflated ego, peer worship, impulsivity, techno consumer gluttony, visual fantasy, and peter-pan escapism. How can we the church be so passive as to let this keep happening? The problem isn't video games, it isn't Hollywood, or the internet. It's a Fatherless generation. Maybe even a manless culture. Where are the men? Why aren't men of God reproducing men of God? Where is the Spirit of Elijah to turn the hearts of the Fathers back to their children?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pagan Christianity

Last night I read Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna. I must admit it was interesting, and I am inclined towards some of the ideas.
However, I believe that the author fails to examine some of his own assumptions.
Let me preface this with the fact that I do not love the "institutional" church, and I often long for a more simple expression of Christian community. I understand that Viola's opinions are a major threat to many who cling to the Christian tradition of what we call church. Yet, I am still disturbed by some of the idea that Viola wants us to buy into. And the fact that he has the answer to all of my problems. I can just check his website, and get his books on how he interprets the way that church is supposed to be done.

The history and exploration of where our traditions come from was fascinating. I particularly enjoyed his brilliant take on the birth of American Evangelicalism. The book breaks down different pagan elements of church into individual chapters. So he does a chapter on the church building, the order of the service, preaching sermons, the offering, the pastor/clergy, dressing up for church, etc, and he demonstrates in each chapter how each of these have no foundation in scripture but are more so rooted in the pagan world. Now this might all sound so horrifying to some people to the degree that they would never listen to the fascinating insight offered in this book.
But what truly disturbs me is that Viola doesn't play by his own rules.

He deals particularly with how institutional christianity hinders believers from expressing themselves as the church. We have buildings that don't facilitate genuine relationships. We (the laity) sit in rows looking at the back of the congregation's heads while listening to a trained pastor (the clergy) preach a message. We listen silently, passively. There is no dialogue, and no room to question. The building is sacred, which presupposes a division of secular and sacred.

I agree that there are some serious problems with this form of "worship" and that it can become an addiction. However, Viola's call to arms is quite ironic. He traces these traditions back to pagan roots. Thus pagan roots equals evil. Yet Viola never asks us to swallow that assumption because his rhetoric (which is an art invented by the pagan greek sophists by the way) has already induced a spell to get us to agree with him without ever facing his baseline assumptions. Pagan = evil. Therefore, if any remnants of the pagan world find their way into the church, then it is not biblical.

How can Viola rail against the institutional church's terrible dichotomy of secular and sacred and priesthood verse laity, when he uses the same reasoning? The Bible is a book of redemption. Psalm 24:1 says that the earth is the Lord's and all that is within it. We don't forfeit the world as Christians, we let God redeem it. Viola sets himself up as the interpreter of the New Testament as it really was yet he does the very thing that Paul of Tarsus had fought against. You see Paul had this revelation that he was to take the gospel to the Gentiles, and he believe that they could partake in the promises simply by faith. However, many Jews demanded that the Gentiles be circumcised and basically converted to Judaism. Eventually the apostles held a council and decided that Gentiles do not have to become Jews in order to be Christians. Thankfully this happened because this allowed Christianity to explode in the Greek world so much so that by the end of the first century the majority of Christians were Gentiles. The bottom line is that Christianity is not bound to a culture, and therefore it can thrive in any culture. If the Jewish culture were a requirement of Christianity I dare say that I wouldn't ever have heard of Christianity.

Now I agree that Constantine's implementation of church was devastating, but even that is something that God is redeeming. In the meantime, God has redeemed pagans and I don't know of any other kind of person he has redeemed. That's the point. From Adam to the last man on earth, we're all pagans. Humanity has a knack for discovering things as well. The Greeks discovered theatre, they didn't invent it. The Greeks discovered rhetoric, they didn't invent it. We as Christians don't need to forfeit these things just because "pagans" discovered or even invented something. If a man in some remote primitive tribe comes to faith in Christ should he throw away his conch shell that he once worshipped his gods with? Yesterday he blew the conch in worship to false gods. Is the conch evil? Is it pagan? Or is it possible that the redeemed man determines the direction of worship? Is it possible that he can now worship the god of heave and earth with the same tools. Even in America should we throw away our guitars? How many worship leaders once played them in bars, but now play them for the glory of God. Is this pagan?

Where is the line? What is Viola saying? Even if I joined his house church movement, I'll bet that they would encourage us to be relevant to our culture. But isn't that pagan?

Yet, I must admit the criticisms are insightful and can bring some constructive criticism to the church. We do need a massive revolution. I'm just not so sure that I want to follow Viola. It scares me when someone claims to know what God really wants. This is the way to do it. This is the way they did it in the New Testament. Viola uses this reasoning to support his own ideas, and yet he also criticizes the institutional church for not being organic like the new testament church (which I agree with). But this accusation is backed up by his point that the new testament church didn't even have the new testament, they didn't have all the systematic theologies that we do. They simply expressed the life of Christ and what came out of it is what we call the New Testament Church. So he criticizes the institution for not being fluid and spontaneous -- organic if you will. Yet when he puts forth his ideas of home churches he relies on his claim that we must understand the new testament in all of its fullness and historical context, which by the way Viola has an entire curriculum that will help us laity, I mean Christians, to understand. But not just to understand, also to mimic and reproduce the church as it was meant to be. However, the act of following a prescription excludes improvisation and the organic life that we're supposedly supposed to live. It sounds more like the institutional prescription that Viola is criticizing. Which one is it?

So as you can see I don't trust Viola's arguments. It disturbs me because he's just one more expert out to tell me God's will. I need him to help me interpret and understand. I need to listen to his lectures, sermons, and read his books. I need him to be my priest, my pope? But according to him we don't need leadership except that of the lord Jesus himself. Now that of course is only in a small group setting. But we do need itenerant apostles to keep us in check... I'm just poking fun. I love the church. And the lingo is constantly recycled. I just don't like the gaps in Viola's logic. We aren't the first century church, and the Bible doesn't give us a lot of prescriptive methods. So I am on a journey. And I'm looking for leaders that aren't trying to go back to yesterday, but are trying to find God today in the here and now with all the stuff we've built and done, good and bad... Just like the first century church.

Lifehouse's Everything Skit

A good friend of mine pointed me to this video awhile back. Let me know if this moves you.

Youth Ministry

I post our Wednesday night youth discussions on the LifeChurch Blog. Check out some of the posts to see what kind of stuff I teach:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Male Rites of Passage

I am devouring research about male initiation. I truly believe that this accounts for so much of the social disarray among our young people. And I am enamored with the possibility of rallying the men of our church to first of all submit to God our Father’s initiation process for our own lives, and secondly, to take our young men on a journey into manhood. If we do not fill this role, then they will turn to follow peers and cheap thrills just to feel alive.

John Eldredge claims that the masculine soul was designed to long for an adventure to live, a battle to fight, and a beauty to rescue. This sounds like young men to me! However, most men do not live epic lives that embody these traits. It’s no wonder that youth are often repulsed by the spirituality of men. Besides, most young men are essentially fatherless. Either the father is absent, he’s present but disinterested, or he’s present and abusive. Any which way, it leaves a boy alone to face the world on his own. Fatherless.

Eldredge also claims that every boy is asking two questions. Brace yourself. 1. Am I loved? When Jesus was baptized the father’s voice came from declaring “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Every boy needs this question answered. 2. “Do I have what it takes.” Boys need the opportunity to test their strength, to take risks, and to demonstrate courage in order to answer this question. But they need a man to initiate them, and help them interpret their victories and failures so that they can rightly discover the answer to this question. Therefore, boys need validation and they need initiation.

I’ve also been reading a book called Adam’s Return by Richard Rohr. Wow. He’s got some brilliant research and insight, but every once in a while he says some really dumb things. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water though. He takes a raw and honest look that is quite refreshing.

Here’s a quote from Rohr’s book, From Wild Man to Wise Man:

In almost all cultures men are not born; they are made. Much more than for women, cultures have traditionally demanded initiation rites specifically for the boys. It is almost as if the biological experiences of menstruation and childbirth are enough wisdom lessons for women, but invariably men must be tried, limited, challenged, punished, hazed, circumcised, isolated, starved, stripped, and goaded into maturity. the pattern is nearly universal, and the only real exceptions are the recent secular West. Boy scouts, confirmation classes, Lions clubs and Elks clubs have tried to substitute, but with little spiritual effect.

Historically, the program was clear. The boy had to be separated from protective feminine energy, led into ritual space where newness and maleness could be experienced as holy; the boy had to be ritually wounded and tested, and there experience bonding with other men and loyalty to tribal values, and then have something to give back. The pattern is so widely documented that one is amazed that we have let go of it so easily. The contemporary experience of gangs, gender identity confusion, romanticization of war, aimless violence and homophobia will all grow unchecked, I predict, until boys are again mentored and formally taught by wise elders.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sacrifice and The Local Church

Church is a dangerous place often enough. I don’t know any honest person who hasn’t been burned by the church at one time or another. And I certainly know a lot of people who would never set foot back into a church for that very reason.

Yet I find there is a sinister irony at work. On the one hand, many people complain that the church is just an institution. Some follow Christ but aren’t part of the institutional church, and some don’t follow Christ at all for the same reason. I’ve certainly had my bitter moments with institutional Christianity. I agree that the church is the people and not the buildings and programs to which “church” so often refers. However, I find that people including myself oftentimes grow bitter with their local church because it’s not doing what we want. “This isn’t the way I want it” or “that could be done better”, and “why don’t we (meaning “they”, i.e., the leadership) do x,y, and z?” It’s as though there is this passive force within the human soul that wants a welfare institution. Now, I don’t doubt that some churches have power structures that would never allow regular lay-people to do some new thing — that’s oppressive. But there’s plenty of unwarranted belly-aching that merely perpetuates the whole institutional cycle. We’ve got the clergy and the laymen. The clergy need to make me happy or I’m going to bail!

Honestly, I’m just pondering this phenomenon with a clear conscience. I am not involved in any situations presently that would fit this bill, so I’m not venting or anything. Instead, I’m dreaming. I’m dreaming of a church that would wake up and get it:

Ask not what my church can do for me, but what I can do for my church.

This morning, as I pondered how we’re ever going to become a relevant force in society, the Lord brought this scripture Haggai 1:3-8 to mind:

3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD.

This came to me not as a word written long ago, but as a word that is being spoken this very moment. It has the sound of responsibility and sacrifice. We might have given up on the dream for which the apostle Paul gave his life. We might even say like the people in verse 2: “The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.” But it is time to consider our ways.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bill Moyers Interviews Newark Mayor, Cory Booker

I just saw a great interview with Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, NJ. INSPIRATIONAL! I think I might go back and watch this one several times. He spoke like a man who truly understands the responsibility of freedom. No blame-shifting and empty promises here. At one point he said,

“We have the statue of Liberty, but I believe on the other side we should have the statue of responsibility.”

Follow the link and you can watch the whole thing on PBS. Or you can download the videopodcast on iTunes.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


This is burning on my heart. I just can’t shake it. Ever since I made the connection, there is a growing fire within me. Malachi 4:5-6

See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, ad the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.
With all the crazy things happening with young people today, it’s not a far stretch of the imagination to say that our land is under a curse. But the cure? Who would have ever thought? I mean, we can blame postmodern relativity for a break down in morals, video games, point and click porn, violent movies, and the list goes on. Yet, the Lord simply states that where there is a problem of fatherlessness there is a curse. Moreover, the Lord promises that his spirit will empower men of God to be Fathers! Yet we still think Hollywood, Washington, public schools, liberalism, etc, is the problem. My perspective of the kingdom and ministry is undergoing a radical shift.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Accountability Partners or Warriors?

Thanks to the men’s movement the church understands now that a man needs other men, but what we’ve offered is another two-dimensional solution: “Accountability” groups or partners. Ugh. That sounds so old covenant. “You’re really a fool and you’re just waiting to rush into sin, so we’d better post a guard by you the keep you in line.” We don’t need accountability groups, we need fellow warriors, someone to fight alongside, someone to watch our back… The whole crisis in masculinity today has come because we no longer have a warrior culture, a place for men to learn to fight like men. We don’t need a meeting of Really Nice Guys, we need a gathering of Really Dangerous Men. That’s what we need. I think of Henry V at Agincourt. His army has been reduced to a small band of tired and weary men, many of them are wounded. They are outnumbered five to one. But Henry rallies his troops to his side when he reminds them that they are not mercenaries, but a “band of brothers.”… Yes, we need men to whom we can bare our souls. But it isn’t going to happen with a group of guys you don’t trust, who really aren’t willing to go to battle with you. It’s a long standing truth that there is never a more devoted group of men than those who have fought alongside one another, the men of your squadron, the guys in your foxhole. It will never be a large group, but we don’t need a large group. We need a band of brothers willing to “shed their blood” with us. (Eldredge, Wild at Heart 175).