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Archive for the ‘journal’ Category




We All…

We all need a break sometime

We all could use some comfort food

We all can use a breakthrough every now and then

We all would like some change

We all have books we wish we had read or could read

We all have places we’d like to travel to

We all wish we could go back and relive some things… spend more time with kids or choose a different path

We all hate the feeling of being misunderstood

We all have good days and bad days

We all tend to forgive ourselves quicker than we do others

We all have blind spots

We all find it hard to be perfect and live up to everyone’s expectations

We all struggle with finding the time or energy to pursue God more

We all have doubts

We all have fears

We all –deep down- want the approval or respect of our father

We all want to know secrets

We all want to know what happens next

We all have things in common… we all need affirmation

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Posted in: Antioch, journal

Institutions vs. Movements

I love this quote by the late theologian Richard Niebuhr. (more…)

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Ephesus – You’ve Lost Your First Love

We began a new series yesterday at Antioch on the 7 Letters to the 7 Churches in the book of Revelation.

First Church, Ephesus.

First issue, losing our first love.

What is it when we lose our first love?  Who is at risk for that?  What does it look like when religion begins to overtake relationship and purity begins to overshadow passion?  What do we do to recapture our excitement and desire for God?

Check out the video below and hopefully the look at these 7 churches and their all too human issues will be profitable as we go through the series.

Ephesus | You’ve Lost Your First Love (The 7 Letters to the 7 Churches Series) from Antioch Church on Vimeo.

 

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Is Social Justice Biblical?

Today is, according to the United Nations, Social Justice Day.  (more…)

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Questions

I’ve been thinking a lot about questions.

Questions exist where they are articulated and where they are hidden or obscured.  There are questions on the surface that we feel and know.  And there are questions below the surface that shape us or nag at us, but that we can’t quite put a finger on or articulate.

Jesus’ interaction with people in the gospels are case studies on the nature of questions.

When Jesus encountered someone they usually had a question – a surface felt need, agenda or simple curiosity.

Jesus didn’t have much time for this.

Rather, Jesus would quickly brush past the surface and elicit the deeper – unspoken – question.  What was really going on… what was really driving someone… what really defined things.

In John 3 the Samaritan woman asks, “Who’s right… should we worship in this style or that style, this mountain or that city,” and Jesus responds by avoiding the trivial and saying real worship is a matter of the heart and of authenticity… “A day will come when you  won’t worship here or there, but  you will worship in spirit and in truth.”

He didn’t waste time with pop-culture questions like, “Does Tim Tebow win games because he prays,” but would dive right at the heart of the thing, “Why don’t more professing Christians pray like Tim Tebow?”  ”If you believe God answers prayer then why are you not praying for bigger things like fighting injustice, how you can be used in his Kingdom, helping the orphan, loving the widow than just who will win an American sports competition?”

I’m growing hungry for better questions that lead to deeper answers.

We find God a lot better in those places.  We find truth a lot better in those places.  We understand ourselves a lot better in those places.

 

“Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable.” – C.S. Lewis

 

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Greed and Sin

I just asked a friend what a spiritual topic was (more…)

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Monsters

Here’s something I wrote a few years back… (more…)

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Posted in: Featured, journal

We all…

We all need a break sometime (more…)

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The Cascades

Sara and Esther went with me on a drive up to Elk Lake yesterday – crazy reminder how beautiful the Cascades are!!

Here’s a shot of the girls on the backside of Mt. Bachelor from on the way home.

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Posted in: journal

Entitlement

Feeling entitled (in the negative sense) is when someone thinks or feels he has more rights than he actually does. (more…)

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Freer Gallery

Yesterday I was able to see the Washington Gospels (W. Codex Washingtonianus I) in the basement of the Freer Gallery in Washington D.C. The Washington Gospels are the oldest biblical manuscripts in the United States dating back to the 4th or 5th century.  They were acquired by C.L. Freer in Egypt in 1906

We were given a private viewing by the curator of the museum as the codex and various manuscript fragments from the collection are actually not on display.

It was my first time ever seeing manuscripts of that age and it was pretty wild wandering around the basement of the Freer Gallery (right next door to the original Smithsonian building) with an archeologist showing us various artifacts and letting us examine the manuscripts directly.

Definitely my top “nerd moment” of the month.

Here’s a picture of the curator since he asked that we not put pictures of the manuscripts themselves up on the web.

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People Helping People

In mid 1975, Saloth Sar (later renamed by himself, Pol Pot) became the leader of Cambodia.

Pol Pot was the head of the Khmer Rouge, a socialist rebel group who had taken control of Cambodia.  He set out to “cleanse” Cambodia and enforce a strict agrarian socialism (empty the cities and make everyone work in the fields) and ultimately was responsible for the deaths of 21% of the Cambodian population. Estimates vary on the exact number of deaths – anywhere from 750,000 to 3 million. Many of these, were marched out into the fields and forced to dig their own mass graves. They were then beaten to death or buried alive as the directive was that “bullets were not to be wasted.” This led to the naming of the Cambodian fields, “The Killing Fields.”  (There’s a 1984 movie by that name, which details the story of the Khmer Rouge and the horrors that followed.)

These mass killings – I remember it being called “genocide” – was the first of this kind of thing I learned about in my life.

The reason was that when I was almost 8 years old, my parents sponsored a group of Cambodians to come to the United States and live with us.  Fauy Long, his wife Muy Kear, two kids roughly the same ages as my sister and me, Sok Im and Mov Song and Fauy Long and Muy Kear’s baby girl named Ov Mouy.

They had fled the Khemer Rouge in 1978, just before Vietnamese troops overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and plunged the country into a decades-long occupation and war.

The Cambodian family my parents helped bring to the states lived with us for the better part of a year.  They started from scratch.  While the adults learned and worked, the two kids became a built in brother and sister, went to school with us, played sports with us and did just about everything else with us.

I didn’t quite get it all, the sacrifice my parents were making, but others did. A local TV show came and did an episode on us called, People Helping People, and profiled my parents and how one family could help the plight of another family by simply caring enough to help.

I asked my dad the other day about our time sponsoring the Chov family. The paragraph below is a part of what he wrote back:

The most memorable moment was the day after they arrived, Fauy Long sat down at our Kitchen table and wrote a long letter to me in English using the Cambodian Lexicon we got from the library.  He spoke of the horrible conditions in Cambodia, Khmer Rouge killings, hunger, people eating people, etc…then he asked me to help him find a job, that he wanted to learn English and start a new life in America.  Two pages outlining where they came from and where they wanted to go with their lives. 

Walking around today and learning first-hand about Cambodia reminded me of my past, the example my parents set and of the simple truth that refugees, today just like 30 years ago, need people to care enough to help.  

I’m still processing that feeling in my gut, but I certainly hope I can set an example with my life like my parents did for me.

Anyway, here’s a picture my dad sent from Halloween 1979.  That’s me with the silly Superman outfit, my sister and Sok Im and Mov Song.

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Posted in: cambodia, journal

Gratitude

I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately.

I think gratitude – thankfulness, appreciation, value – has a very underrated foundational role in virtue and vice.

Legalism, the kind of self-righteous Christianity that is all about control, guilt, power, pride and perfection, really has beneath it a sick and hollowed out sense of gratitude.  Grace begets grace. Love begets love. Likewise, law begets guilt. Self-righteousness begets control. Pride begets judgment. And Pharisaism begets exclusive, controlling, joyless and sick Christianity.

Justice, as well, depends on gratitude.

God said to his people that we are to love and welcome the alien and the foreigner “for you too were slaves and foreigners in Egypt.” (He rescued us, therefore, we should have an affinity with those who need rescuing.)

Our sense of gratitude begets lovingkindness. Our appreciation for justice begets concern over injustice. And empathy precedes love and advocacy for the vulnerable and oppressed.

It’s a tough thing though – gratitude isn’t exactly the dominant virtue in a consumer-driven culture and with an entitled generation.

So, may we find ourselves coming to understand and appreciate the justice, love and gifts of a good and loving God. May we be filled with thankfulness to the degree love for others flows easy and naturally.

May we have a foundation of gratitude.

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The Third Baptism

I’m in Zurich right now on a church history trip through Kilns College.

Tomorrow we head to Geneva, the next day Pisa, then Florence and then a few days in Rome before flying back.

There’s nothing like actually standing in places to learn the nuances of history – a lesson I first remember learning when walking the field where the Confederate attack known as “Pickett’s Charge” took place during the battle of Gettysburg. The “high ground” really comes to mean something when you understand what it’s like to cover almost a mile heading up toward entrenchments where cannon and rifle fire rained down.

I had the same experience in Zurich today. As far as church history goes, it’s not even close to being the most important city. It only registers because it is where Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, taught and ultimately ushered in the Swiss Reformation before being killed during the second war with neighboring Catholic states over religion.

What jumped out at me is the spot, now commemorated with a plaque honoring those who lost their lives, where the town leaders in Zurich gave the “third baptism” to Anabaptists during the Reformation. Anabaptists (only somewhat related to Baptists in America) were seen as radicals and trouble-makers. They wanted religious reform to go even further than Zwingli and the other reformers wanted – separation of church and state, pacifism, abolishment of tithes and taxes and more.

The symbol of their difference was their belief in adult baptism or “believers’ baptism.” Most of the reformers still baptized infants – much like their Catholic counterparts – but the Anabaptists (literally “another” or “re-baptizers”) wanted for adults to get baptized after making a religious decision to follow Jesus Christ.

Many Anabaptist leaders were eventually given a third baptism (they had been baptized as infants and then as adults as was their custom) when the town leaders took them out to a fishing platform in the middle of the river below, tied their hands and feet and then pushed them into the river as crowds of people looked on.

Religious persecution – even from one sect to the next – really feels different when looking at the river, the plaque and coming to understand the nature of church and state collaboration as was the case in Europe. In the shadow of all this, the reasons for separation of church and state at the founding of America become all the more clear.

It also explains a lot about the way many Europeans perceive American when watching on CNN International or the BBC when our leaders pray on TV, talk about their faith publicly and read political placards in the crowds during election cycles that speak of taking America back for God.

I guess all this is what I love about history… it is a lot more nuanced than we ever give it credit for. The Reformation is a historical story for us with about a half dozen players and a few key dates. The reality is it involved all of Europe, two diverging Christianities, rulers, property rights, business, literature, art — everything.

If reductionism blurs the complexity of past events like the Reformation, then it seems logical that generalizations and reductionism in the midst of the complexities of today likewise obscures depth, truth, logic, cause-effect, meaning, lessons and the reality of our own finitude in the midst of it all.

Learning, reading, trips, studying history, seeing from outside our paradigms all allow things like the third baptism to become more real and for us to become more mature – whatever our faith may be.

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2 Cor 3:2

2 Corinthians chapter 3 verse 2 reads, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.”

It’s a letter from Paul to the Corinthian people where he states with confidence that the people themselves – changed lives – are the fruit of his ministry and the letter of commendation for his team.

Isn’t that a cool thought? Defining ministry success by changed lives?

I hurt when people leave Antioch because I wonder if we’ve failed them.  If programs, events or other distractions have kept us from ministering to them.  I have to remember no church ever kept 100% of its people.

It’s a good guide, however.  Are the people, rather than the programs, becoming the letter of commendation for our work?

Paul continued, “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

I pray that our ministry may always be driven by the Spirit of the living God and that it may always reach to the level of human hearts.

I pray the church itself, the people, may be our letter.

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The most “like” there is

My four year old, Sara, hopped in bed with us this morning. I love early morning cuddles and I love saying to my girls, “I love you.”

Sara, however, usually pushes back my I love you’s by saying, “You ALWAYS say that to me.”

This morning, I thought I would try a different route with the hopes she’d truly understand that I love her.  So, instead of saying it, I thought I’d define it.  I asked Sara if she knew what “love” meant and then told her, “It is the most ‘like’ there is.”  She only giggled, but I knew it had meant something.

I think we draw a distinction between like and love sometimes.  We know our parents love us – care for us, will provide for us, won’t leave us – but we’re not always secure they like us.

We often approach God the same way.  He loves me – he has to… he’s God.  He’ll probably accept me into heaven, he’ll probably forgive me of stuff, but I’m not always secure he likes me.

This lack of confidence that God likes us, values us, desires us is at the heart of much joyless Christianity.

Without delving too deep, I think we need to realize that love is the most “like” there is.

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Holy Tension

I’ve been thinking tonight about the difference between holy tension (tension over injustice and unrighteousness) and idealistic tension (tension over the gap between my expectations and reality.)

Both cause stress.  Both aim at a better reality.  Both extend beyond our realm of control and become subject of prayer.

One, however, seeks to align us with God’s view of imperfection and sin in the world. The other seeks to have perfection and maximize our desire for pleasure.  One looks through the lens of true love.  The other looks through the lens of self-love.  One seeks to give life away, while the other seeks to gain it.

There’s a lot of stress out there.  Often, we feel we have the majority share…

The question is, what lack, deficiency, problem or tension point are we going to focus on? The ones that stir up righteous passion or the ones that fuel self-pity.

I’m going to have tension in my life and I’m going to want to bring it to God in prayer. My hope is I’ll come before God fueled by holy tensions rather than idealistic tensions. I long for my fervor to match God’s.

This all reminds me of when I was a high schooler on a trip to Kenya to build youth buildings.

Our camp was out in a national park area and we had been dealing with army ants for days. These ants are huge, pinch like mad and can literally blanket the whole area.

One night, the ants found a way into the girls’ tent.  Around 3 a.m. they started screaming.

The whole camp came alive to try and help – except me. I somehow stayed in my bed and kept trying to fall back asleep. When I realized what had happened I hollered at a friend to “put ash in front of my tent door.”  These ants didn’t cross ash and it seemed logical to have someone put some in front of my tent.

Later I realized how ridiculous I had sounded to everyone else. While the others were trying to help hysterical girls with ants in their hair, their clothes, and their bags, I was thinking only of my comfort.

I ended up staying up all night after the others crowded into the remaining “ant free” tents to keep the fire alive and spread ash. It was my form of penance and attempt to appease my sense of shame for being so stupid.

This is kind of a picture for me.  How often do I ask God to spread ash in front of my tent? How often do I miss opportunities to unite with God in serving others, helping the vulnerable or giving to the needy because all I see is my own comfort?

Holy tension v. idealistic tension. May we be occupied with the first…

Find Rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

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A Response to Glenn Beck on Social Justice

I responded to a friend on the recent comments by commentator Glenn Beck on Social Justice.  Below is my text:

Glenn Beck has a narrow definition of Social Justice.  For him, it is political and liberal.  All of his examples make this clear.  Thus, his argument, from a philosophical perspective, goes like this:

1.  Social Justice is an abuse of power, borders on entitlement and is tainted with socialist ideology

2.  Instead of all that, Christ commanded us to love

3.  Therefore, Social Justice is not good and possibly quite bad and different from what Christ commanded

In contrast, the argument from many strong Christian leaders for Social Justice goes like this:

1.  Christ commanded us absolutely to love – indiscriminately, globally and holistically

2.  Social Justice basically means indiscriminate and holistic love in working clothes

3.  Therefore, Social Justice is near and dear to the heart of God

Put another way:

Glenn Beck: Social Justice >> political, liberal and a-theological >> bad and dangerous

Many others (and me): Social Justice >> love >> good and true

What I believe many of the younger Christian leaders understand better than many conservatives with a tight narrow definition of social justice is that in debates like this, that center around terminology, History and Etymology count way less than we are inclined to think.  Rather, how a word or phrase is “trending” at the current moment in culture is a much better gauge for what it actually “means.”

If we were debating the meaning of the word “gay” and someone took the meaning of the word from when he was a kid talking with his grandparents and then defended it with all the logic in the world – he’d still be wrong.  The cultural meaning of the word has changed.  Groovy was a cool word in the 70′s, but not now.  Social Justice was a negative concept to many from the 50′s to the 80′s, but to this generation it is a good word.  It’s not that we’ve changed our worldview completely on certain issues… it’s that the term has morphed culturally.  What it points to as well as whether it is a positive or negative term.

The bigger issue that is missed on the conservative side of this argument (one that you should recognize from your time growing up in the conservative circles) is that all the energy against Social Justice and related ideas does not add up to energy for love and peacemaking.  I can argue against a cult without ever arguing for Christianity… I can argue against Coca Cola without ever arguing for water.

The other side, however, is arguing for love.  The energy of many of my friends promoting Social Justice adds more to the “love” tank than the time and energy their antagonists add to the “love” tank.  You can see this by the two conclusions from the philosophical arguments above: one ends with a negation while the other ends with an affirmation.  This is more than semantic — it actually points energy in a direction.

It’s subtle, but it is why the conservative church went 50 years arguing against the Social Gospel before it realized that it hadn’t really argued for the many justice or love aspects on the periphery that Christ certainly would have had things to say about.

I’m an Independent.  I try to avoid falling wholly in either the conservative or liberal camp.  What I do know, however, is that many hate the term Social Justice because of what it might have meant decades ago or what it does mean today in political arenas.  I think this is where Glenn Beck is coming from. He means something by Social Justice that is highly political, liberal and debatable.

Most of the Christian leaders I know, however, use the phrase to talk about seemingly incontestable things like caring for orphans and widows, helping children in the third world who have AIDS, promoting economic and educational initiatives in developing countries, dealing with refugees, world hunger and the horror of modern-day human trafficking.

In this discussion, terminology, definitions and meaning are everything – in many instances, we’re all saying the same thing and promoting the broader categories of justice and love.

In the end, this is a classic debate where more heat can be added than light.  Starting with a talk show host at the center is probably not a good idea –

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