Wednesday, April 27, 2005
I like the Messages version of this scripture
Here is what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
It is just a reminder not only to pray, but not to cheapen our relationship with God by making a public spectacle of it.
It is fine to compliment my wife in public, to give her flowers, to kiss her on the cheek. Infact its important even, however, how much of that is about me? How easy is it for me to take the opinions of others about me to heart, and really focus on those things. Oh, he is such a good man, see how he loves his wife!
What really creates a deep relationship is when it is just the two of us, and we talk. When I tell her how beautiful she is for no other reason than it is true. When I listen to her. When I just allow our connection to be, sitting silently in each others arms.
I hope my intimacy with God grows, and it wouldn't hurt me to work on my other relationships as well.
Yesterday, I betrayed a trust. I severed a bond, between man and his best friend, that may not be repairable.
Early in the morning I dressed, placed the beautiful studded collar upon my little buddy Winston, and invited him into the car. His exitement was undeniable. He was going for a ride with daddy, but he did not know the horror that his destination would bring. He sat there, smiling, wagging his tail, no actually wagging half his body. And I closed my heart, started the car and pulled out of the drive way.
As we traveled, we saw other dogs, and their best friends frollicking about. They were so happy. So united. Each happy couple was like a nail through my heart. Why couldn't I turn back? Why couldn't I just refuse? But I knew I couldn't I gritted my teeth, and continued, to the doggy hospital.
As I arrived, Winston jumped out of the car, and pulled me onward. The little guy was so brave. He burst through the door and immediately started tap dancing on the slippery wood floor. His legs going every which way in his finest impersonation of Gregory Hines. A giant labrador joined him immediately, and towered above him. And they were off on a tail wagging contest of epic scale. They took some time to sniff each others butts, and became instantly best friends. However, I knew this Labrador was really no friend at all. But rather, the instrument of the devil, sent to lull Winston into a false sense of security, and into the arms of the cutter.
I am sure he was telling Winston in his doggy parlance, oh its great here, you'll have a wonderful time, don't worry about a thing. Oh what treason.
And then the cutter arrived. The fake smile gleamed white through her spagetti style hair. I shivered at the false love she showed to my little boy. She reeked of patuli oil, and every word from her mouth was false. She dressed all in white, and reached out with giant, evil hands. The instruments of her torture, had made them muscley, almost mannish. And then I handed my little boy over to this heartless sadist. She laughed aloud and said, you can come back after three, I will be done with him by then.
And I walked out, numb, the betrayer.
Winston is back at home now. He is missing a few things. He seems sad. And I don't think he likes me anymore. I can't say i blame him.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
But first some explaining:
I have become a very big fan of cricket. I cannot explain it to my american friends very easily, but it is similiar to baseball in a few ways, but disimiliar in most. A couple of notables for this conversation is the bowler, vs the pitcher. In cricket the bowler, (pitcher in baseball) is allowed to run up to the place where he delivers the ball rather than forced to stand still. He must not bend his elbow while delivering the ball which is a very unnatural way to propell the ball. And you are supposed to bounce the ball off of the pitch before it gets to the batter. Spin bowling, (what I am learning to do), is a slower delivery that has violent spin on it, so when it hits the ground it bounces in angles that make it hard to hit. It isn't easy to do. Shane Warne is the best bowler in the world at the kind of spin bowling I am doing, which is called leg spin. If you need more info, just ask and I'll try to help out
Now to my revelation:
As I was reading the psalms I found myself wanting to read more about Jesus. As someone trying to learn more about leg spin bowling I wanted to read more about Shane Warne. But I also want to read about other leg spinners, and more than either of these I want to read about how to leg spin. I crave instructionals. I am looking for a coach to help me make adjustments. I actually found I don't much care for Shane Warne the person, I just like watching him bowl and want to bowl like him. He isn't the focus, it is what he does that is the focus. Which got me thinking.
What is the focus of my religion? I am called a Christian, a Christ ian, a follower of Jesus. The difference between spin bowling and Christianity is the focus on an individual. Why do we as Christians tend to spend more time reading about how we should live, how we should do church, the bio mechanics of spiritual salvation, the end times etc., than we do reading about Jesus?. Then spending time with Jesus? Then trying to practice being like Jesus? Jesus is the focus. We are called to be disciples of Jesus, called to be followers of Jesus, called to accept, worship and give our lives over to Jesus.
So the instructionals that Paul wrote are very important. The examples of Christ and the spiritual lessons of the old testement are very important. The stories of the disciples, the birth of the church are very important. As are our hope for the future in the prophecies. But all pale in comparison to our pursuit of the person Jesus. I have made a commitment to spend more time in the gospels, and to read everything else with a goal to understanding Jesus. Because the way Jesus lived, and what he did, and what his followers did is important, but not as important as He is.
Thankfully my cricket aspirations do not focus on a person, but on a skill. And I can grow in my skills, without having to get too close to the ultimate skill player. Because I have met Jesus, and I have read about Warne, and let me tell you, Warne is no Jesus. But he does have a nice googly :)
Monday, April 18, 2005
It turns out she used to use a cane, but she stopped after being robbed three times. How anyone could rob an elderly blind lady is beyond me. It sounds as though she has a son who takes care of her, but it also seems she doesn't want to be "too" looked out for. She needs help. She wants her own independence as well. So what do you do?
This reminded me of a story my pastor told of a sweet old lady in their church. She was very poor and widowed. She needed a ride to church because she couldn't drive. She didn't have any family and few friends outside of church. But she put in a tithe check every week.
The elders of the church felt bad about taking the money of an elderly lady who was obviously poor and needed the money far more than the church did. Finally one night they went to her home, and told her how much they loved her, and asked her to use the tithe money to help pay her bills and such.
She started weeping. See what they didn't understand was she couldn't drive, she couldn't go to the evangelism rallies, she couldn't visit the sick, but the one thing she could do was pay her tithe. And they were taking even that away from her. It was the last thing she could take any dignity from.
Sometimes things aren't so simple, infact usually they are not. Our job is to learn to love, listen and follow God's leading. My wife helped her as much as she was asked, prayed for her, and left feeling guilty she couldn't have done more. What do you do?
Thank God He walks with us
Sunday, April 17, 2005
I know that I drink too much coffee, eat too much cheese, drink not enough water and eat not enough dark green vegetables. I know I could lesson the amount of these very painful episodes, but it is so hard to remember. It is true what they say, you forget the pain when you hold your child between your fingers.
I feel like St. Paul, I know what I should do, but don't. And I know what I shouldn't do, but do it anyways. What in the hell is wrong with me?
Here's to my new commitment to eat healthy, may it last longer than the memory of my last child
Thursday, April 14, 2005
I would suggest that there is a religion greater than all others. It is one so powerfully followed that it is not only cross cultural, but includes all faiths. The prevailing religion of our world today is consumerism. And it is my contention that our current churches not only foster a Christian consumerism, but that this is actually idolatry.
One need not look too hard at the Western Christian church to find consumerism at its very heart. Beyond the incredible super market of Christian books, Christian music, Christian apparel, and Christian seminars we find an even more insidious consumerism at the heart of how we do church.
The current church is structured in such a way as to perfectly surrender to consumerism. It is a verified fact that our churches exist with five percent of the people, doing ninety percent of the work. Not only that, but if we have been able to increase that, by great teaching, and so on, we brag about having a thirty or forty percent volunteer rate. This is actually considered miraculous by most church leaders. Does this not stand directly in opposition to Pauls admonition that every joint supplies. That every one of us has a part in the body, and that for the body to operate efficiently everyone must fulfill their roles?
With the extremely high value placed on the worship "experience" we find that certain gifts are needed, and not only needed, but needed full time. We need dynamic preaching, from a charismatic leader. We need spectacular music, from talented musicians. More and more we need video, powerpoint, multimedia imagery and so on. Ofcourse this must be done excellently so that we might compete with hollywood, therefore we must have these "experts" set aside for their specific purposes. What this does is continue a cycle of clergy laity distinction. They are the experts, the called, the vocational ministers, and most of the rest of the body is then reduced to consumers. I work hard, so I can pay the "experts" to do the "ministry" for me. My job is to buy there services with my tithes, and try to get my neighbors to go to church with me, so the "experts" can save them.
This model is not by itself as evil as I may make it appear, and does have its place, however, the priority of this kind of "ministry" is what becomes the problem. It alienates people. The clergy develope their own language, and they seperate from everyone else. They say things like "God showed me" and "the Lord lead me" and the common man says, well God doesn't talk to me so I am right to give my money to this man to hear God for me. When in fact what the preacher should have said was, "after much prayer, reading of scripture, and talking with those that I trust, I came to the conclusion that God's will was..." Not that God doesn't at times talk to us, but most of the time it is through these processes.
This also results in the idea that I am not good enough to do ministry. These experts have gone to school, got degrees, and understand things better, therefore they are equipped to do ministry and I am not, so I pay them so they can do it. This makes spiritually lazy members, and robs the church of powerful gifts that these "ill equipped" saints, have been blessed with for the edification of the body.
Now the "church growth" community, has taken the lead in calling us to become even more consumeristic. They advocate such things as:
seven keys to a growing church
good follow up
great childrens ministries
culturally relevant messages
awesome worship band
seminars for community needs ie marriage help, single parenting
Now all of these things are great, and helpful, and we don't really want to scare people away with dirty restrooms, and horrible music. But what of discipleship, growing mature in your spiritual gifts, practicing hospitality, social justice, and personal responsibility.
In my view the current church structure not only is incredibly consumeristic, but has succeeded in making a generation of spiritually fat, lazy, and unsucessful saints. And has glorified the pastor teacher gift to the point of disproportionate power and glory.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
We went into the Lyrebirds forest exhibit and we saw a male lyrebird "presenting" Which means they throw their tail over their heads and start this amazing mating call. They do their own call, but also mimic the calls of other birds, and noises they hear in the forest. Apparently the more diverse calls they use the more attractive they are. This thing sounded like C3PO. Anyways thought I would share a file and a picture, it was very cool.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
I shared about a time years ago, when I was walking down the street on a jobsite in Orange County. My tool belt jingling, when I just felt this overwhelming love coming to me. It was like I was being hugged spiritually by my daddy. I went and hid in a closet and cried a bit.
How about you? How has God spoken to you? Whats the last thing you remember Him saying?
Sounds a bit silly, but I was actually quite moved by the whole thing. It was dark, and lightly sprinkling, so we were a bit wet. And we waited for atleast twenty minuts. I have to admit I encouraged my wife to drive a bit faster than the speed limit, driving for almost two hours to see some birds didn't seem like a great idea, but driving almost two hours to miss them seemed even worse, but we arrived in plenty of time to wait in the rain.
A little group of maybe twenty or thirty penguins came out and made their way to safety, but it was atleast 200 meters from where we were sitting, and I hoped they would get a bit closer than that. We waited another five or ten minutes and all of a sudden these little black and white spots jumped out of the water in front of us. They started making there way around rocks, around and over seaweed towards the hills where we were sitting. It was fascinating.
What I found very cool was the way they seemed to watch out for each other. The group would gather at the start of a long patch of flat sand, and wait nervously. They would wait until every straggling member had joined the tight nit group and then brave the long exposed sand stretch as a whole.
Now maybe for you Melbournites you know all about this stuff. But for a yank like myself, I had never seen it before and was enjoying it. It made me think about our little church community in Footscray, we gather together, reassure ourselves, encourage each other, and then make a mad dash. The terrain is difficult at times, and scary, but we know we need to stay together. It is really beautiful.
Now I know nature quite often takes our analogies and does dirty nasty things to them. And for all I know they hang out in a big pack so if a predator comes along, the odds are better to not get picked if there are others around. And maybe they are thinking, I don't have to outrun the fox, I just have to outrun you!!! But I was touched none the less.
They sure are cute.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Went to hanging rock today with the sister in law. Some pretty interesting rock formations. Was a nice day, warm and sunny. I was struggling along with a headache and a sore back. My oldest daughter has a broken toe, and her younger sister almost ripped her big toe nail off, so we were all walking very slow. It is amazing how much more you see when you slow down. The different color of the moss on the rocks, the way they attached the handrails, even the colors of a butterfly. There is a lot to see. Same with all of our senses.
But in our world we hurry all the time. The destination is the goal and heaven help anyone who gets in our way. We have things to do and not enough time to do it in. We don't have time to see, hear or feel.
I have a good friend that used to drive me crazy. We would be stuck in traffic for an hour and he couldn't even slow down long enough to finish listening to a whole song. Sometimes even changing cd's in the middle of a song that he had impatiently been looking for just a moment earlier. We have made life into one rush after another.
Made me question how much I miss everyday. Made me wonder how many people I miss.
One time Jesus was taking his time getting to a sick friends house. I will get there when I get there He seemed to thing. Well he was too late. His friend died. Because of Jesus' lack of speed, Lazarous died. But somehow things worked out anyways.
I guess maybe we can slow down a bit? Maybe? I mean if we are supposed to follow the Guy, and He is walking very slow, maybe we should slow down. And maybe, we might just "see" some of those wonderful kingdom parables His friends got to see.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
She starts yelling at the customers and causing a general uproar, and she won't leave without being physically removed. And worst of all she spits on people, on customers, on the owners, on innocent pedestrians.
Last week she came in, as I was just stopping by to say hello on my way to our prayer walk. She had started screaming, was escorted out, and actually hit one of the customers in the face. The owner a big strong rugby player was very upset and was contemplating taking her out back. But what was interesting was the woman who got punched was a Christian woman. The disturbed woman was screaming for a glass of water, and the Christian woman who had just been punched, tried to be Jesus by going in and buying her a bottle of water. Now I and my wife are very proud of the love this woman showed, but at the same time, we feel for the owners of the cafe who are having this woman really disrupt their business. And we are worried about the womans safety as the owner can only take so much. We are also concerned about the customers safety when she assaulted one woman, why wouldn't she assault another?
Well, as Christian what do you do? I stayed outside with the woman with a goal to protect any customers without hurting her, and tried to act as peacemaker. The police were called. But she got on a bus before they arrived.
Life gets pretty interesting at times, and I guess you have to roll with the waves.
One of the problems we see in the church in its modern structure is the over elevation of the position of pastor teacher. In Ephesians chapter four Paul explains how things are designed to work.
11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
So in the beginning the church recognized the roles of certain people in the church that were gifts to the church rather than the world. These are commonly called the five fold ministries. Apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor teachers. When the church was a loosely connected grass roots movement all of these were in operation. While this was going on we find 120 people in the upper room, turns into over a million people in only three hundred years. But what happens when Constantine "unites and establishes" the church, is these roles radically changed, and some became unnecessary. The role of pastor teacher became the primary roles as the state already establishes the church, and the heirarchy of the church directs it, therefore the only real necessary role becomes the maintaining role of pastor and teacher.
Lets look at the the roles:
In our modern times we have deified the role of apostle. There is a difference between the 12, and the office of apostle. The original "job" of the apostle was to create communities of faith where none existed. The word apostle was messenger, the messenger was to bring the gospel to places where it was not before given. In modern times the persons called to be apostles wind up becoming frustrated in the church as they are usually forced to become pastors. SO they start churches and wind up stuck in the role of maintaining them, which is not their primary giftings. They will usually find more comfortable ministry as missionaries, or wind up being entrepreneurs in the business world.
If we are to reclaim our missionary edge we must reclaim the role of apostle, take away the mystical fear of it, and allow these gifts to the body to function.
the prophets were those that brought about correction, and gave direction to the body as a whole. In modern times men like Tony Campolo would be prophets. They call us to areas of ministry that are being neglected, they stand against heresy, and the give us direction. The new testement prophets are not called to be "the voice of God" as we are all now filled with the spirit and able to hear and be moved by God. However, the church is in need of these men to challenge and correct us.
Todays evangelist like Billy Graham and Greg Laurie, have focused on conversion, and in that they have been very effective. However as they are by and large seperated from the church, no matter how hard they try to include the church in their crusades, wind up having only 5 percent of their converts going on to sustained walks with God. In the origins of the church the evangelists were those that were able to translate the gospel within the culture they found themselves in. They would take the cultural traits that would open the people to the gospel, and use these openings to lead people to faith in Christ.
The offices of pastor and teacher were designed to help grow the church.
One of the biggest issues in our consumeristic society is that we have forgotten that these five ministries are designed to equip the rest of the body for the work of ministry. Instead of allowing them to do the ministry, or indeed paying them to do them, the church is called to do the ministry, having been equipped by these gifts to the church.
If we are to make the shift to a grass roots missional movement, that was our beginning, we will have to once again accept these ministries, and release them.
Our job here is multifaceted, we are basically doing three different things:
Our church plant
We have started a church in the working class Melbourne suburb of Footscray, with some friends. Our goal is to be a light to the community here, with a focus on the outcasts of society. We currently have 18 people that are coming. We have a breakfast get together on Sunday morning, this takes turns from house to house, with the host planning the breakfast and our worship times. We have a community dinner every Thursday night, and we do a prayer walk in the downtown area on Thursday afternoon.
Our job at FORGE
Forge is a training course for those interested in doing missionary work in the western context. We have realized the need for missionaries not just to the two thirds world, but in our very culture. We are training people to look at their own neighborhoods as mission fields, and equip them to deal with the current cultural issues facing us, including postmodernism, consumerism, modern politcal and racial issues, social justice and so forth. We do this by teaching five day intensive courses three times during the year. These are focused on "Jesus the missionary" "Jesus the disciple" and "Jesus the leader" . My role here is to help plan the conferences, including an alternative worship event, to speak at various classes, and to be a part of the groups that are attending to stimulate discussion and answer questions. We had over a hundred people attend our last intensive including over thirty interns. For our interns, we also provide a year of assignments that they do within their social context and a group of their peers for support. And we provide a coach to meet with them regularly regarding a missions project of their own choosing.
This year I have the honour of coaching a great group of people. Two are running an open house for young people in Torquay. One runs a skateboarding ministry, and a youth group. One works with some of the transient poor in a caravan park ten minutes from my house. Another couple is starting a church in a suburb of Ballarat, and one amazing single parent is running an open home in a government housing building. I am also overseeing the coaching of another church planting couple, a couple that is preparing to go to Cambodia for missionary work, and two young people involved in a ministry focused on the urban poor called UNOH.
Our social work
This area has been hardest. We are currently looking for inroads into a short term housing program in our neighborhood, which is starting to give us some relationships and opportunities. We are serving breakfast to a local public school on Tuesdays. And we are hanging out in the downtown, drug trafficing area trying to make some relationships with these people. It is a bit funny most of the people are a bit distrusting of tall atheltic looking white guys, and I am usually thought of as a cop. But we are making slow progress.
Please keep us in your prayers, and if you would like to talk to us about our ministry or supporting our ministry financially please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org