Sunday, October 26, 2008

Instead of a Show . . .

Instead of a Show - Jon Foreman

I hate all your show and pretense
the hypocrisy of your praise
the hypocrisy of your festivals
I hate all your show

Away with your noisy worship
Away with your noisy hymns
I stop up my ears when your 
singing ‘em
I hate all your show

Instead let there be a flood
of justice
An endless procession of righteous
living, living
Instead let there be a flood 
of justice
Instead of a show

your eyes are closed when you’re praying
you sing right along with the band
you shine up your shoes for services
but there’s blood on your hands

you turned your back on the homeless
and the ones that don’t fit in your plans
quit playing religion games
there’s blood on your hands

Ah! let’s argue this out
if your sins are blood red
let’s argue this out
you’ll be white as the clouds
let’s argue this out
quit fooling around

give love to the ones who can’t love at all
give hope to the ones who got no hope at all
stand up for the ones who can’t stand up at all
instead of a show
I hate all your show

Lost: A Dispatch From Brokenness

Lost: A Dispatch From Brokenness 

Location: Placentia, CA

Time: 10:27 P.M.


As I sit here in my new friend Merrick’s room I am lost within my thoughts, hopes, and prayers of the past two months. The pain of a failed relationship and the brokenness which still accompanies, the loneliness of youth, and the sickness of a parent whose situation still seems beyond my comprehension or reason. I have given up the search for reason and logic behind all of this pain. The reasons make little difference to the present impact and feeling of the moment. Yet as I sit here seemingly lost amidst, I am struck by how real this all is and how the reality of God is made known through the pain. I have indeed become lost in a sort of obsession.

This obsession of late is with the reality of brokenness and pain that exists in every facet of life. Make no mistake; this is not a sort of pathetic depression induced pity party (although the origins may or may not be of that kind) but rather a simple acknowledgement and peace with the reality that in all humanity is and does, we are broken and filled with pain. I do legitimately mean I find peace in the midst of pain, brokenness, and war. It is in the context of my pain that I discover power of true shalom. Even as I write this the incessant and annoying feeling of loss plagues me, but then a moment passes and grace falls with peace onto my heart and spirit. Amongst this, I am also more aware, in a powerful way, of the connections between brokenness and love. This should not be a surprise I suppose to many older and wiser Christians or even people for that matter, but to me this is a new realization in that this obscure theological talk is being brought down into the dirtiness of life. The paradox of the light manifesting itself with and in darkness has now been imprinted upon my heart as I see Christ and both Lord and suffering servant who endured all brokenness and death to give life. Only the words of peace and love can be placed with such power.

 I would not even post such a thing on a public blog except that I feel that this reality of God and situation is universal and therefore not solely mine. This I realize is an out of character post but I suppose I am changing out of “character” and into something more full and real . . 




Sincerely with love,



Saturday, October 4, 2008

Disciples of Love -> Disciples of Christ

I recently looked at a myspace profile of an old high school acquaintance and saw something that caught my eye. This particular person, in place of the usual religion labels, opted for the simple line "love is my religion". Disregarding the song it was pulled from, it seemed to me that this little line on a myspace page said a lot about how we "the church" are perceived and have damaged much of true Christianity in the west. Don't get me wrong, this is not yet another tiresome smear on the church but merely an acknowledgment of my own failings which I think others may share. Following this myspace encounter I was reading a book titled The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings On Discipleship authored by Dallas Willard, and this little story jumped out at me.

"Some time ago I came to realize that I did not love the people next door. They were, by any standards, dangerous and unpleasant people-ex bikers who made their living selling drugs.
They had never tried to harm my family, but the constant traffic of people buying drugs, a number of whom sat in the yard while shooting up, began to wear down my patience. As I brooded over them one day, indulging my irritation, the Lord helped me see that I really had no love for them at all, that after "suffering" from them for several years I would secretly be happy if they died and we could just be rid of them. I realized how little I truly cared for nearly all the people I dealt with throughout the day, even when on "religious business". I had to admit that I never earnestly sought to be possessed by God's kind of love, to become more like Jesus. Now it was time to seek". 

This may seem like a load of liberal pacifist hippie nonsense but the more I meditate on what it means to truly follow Christ the more this story resonates within me, and convicts. 

"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect". (Matt. 5:46-48 ESV). 

After reading this scripture I saw just how limited I am when it comes to loving people, whether in a romantic relationship or with friends and family. The human capacity for love extends only just past our sense of self-worth and pride. I know this because I have been both the perpetrator and victim of this limited love just as everyone else on earth has been too. This is where my friend's myspace page comes into play. While she herself is not a Christian, she has this idea, albeit an incomplete idea, that there is something special about love. She longs for it. She seeks it. She knows that it is essential not just to live, but to even exist. She knows all of this to such an extent that despite her bad run ins with the organized church and its followers, she has listed love as her religion; as what she chooses to believe in and base her life on. This I think is what we all long for. Love. Forever lasting, passionate, vibrant, powerful, and beautiful love. But we miss the point so often it seems.

We seem to talk a lot in our evangelical churches about how we "have Christ" or how we have "accepted Jesus". There is nothing wrong with this but as I keep studying what biblical discipleship should look like I am becoming very worried. I am worried that we have blown it. Yes, we have Jesus the risen savior, but we ignore so much of what he has commanded especially in regard to love. In fact, I would wager that for someone to really follow his commands in our current church culture, they would be labeled one of two or possibly both of the following: Radical/liberal. Its interesting how we are so quick to label someone a Jesus freak for handing out tracts yet when we see someone in the church engaging social problems or talking to our society's criminals (sinners) we write them off as out of the ordinary and almost in opposition to our "Christianity".  

Maybe this just sounds like an arrogant rant, and if it does please let me know and we can discuss it, but the last few months has really been a time in which God has convicted and stretched me in regards to what it means to be a disciple. I want my friend, whose myspace I was on, to be able to look at me and know that I love her and that the love I have is a love that will never be destroyed because it is not of me. I want her to be able to look at Christians and feel love that will direct her to Jesus. There is nothing more freeing that abandoning all hope and sense of self-worth to Christ, and loving others. Please let me know what you think. I pray that God will guide and direct us to become true followers so that the "radicals" will be those not engaged in love rather than those who are. 

Friday, August 22, 2008

Love Perfected: Spiritual Insights From an Irish Poet

A few nights ago I was reading poetry with a very special lady friend of mine when she showed me a short story written by the 19th century Irish poet Oscar Wilde entitled The Nightingale and The Rose. There are many themes the reader can identify within this beautifully crafted narrative, but as I read it there was a very specific part that really tugged on my spirit. 

 As the reader nears the middle of the story, there is a line of dialogue where the tree that is talking to the nightingale explains that in order for the best rose to grow it requires the nightingale's lifeblood. True love is made perfect by death.

 This last part really hit me hard. I thought of how beautiful and sad this is, that true love means not just having the willingness to possibly sacrifice passionately and selflessly, but true love cannot even be true without the constant spirit of selfless, and at many times painful, sacrifice. 

I don't know why but I guess I feel that maybe this is something you might want to look at too.

 "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends" - Jesus (John 15:13 esv).

Click here to view Oscar Wilde's The Nightingale and the Rose

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A thought from the Beatitudes

"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, so do to them" - Jesus, The Beatitudes (Luke 6:22-23).

Lately I have been reading through the Gospel of Luke, and as you can probably guess I have come to the Beatitudes. As I began reading through I was struck by how much I usually gloss over them. I mean, here are the actual words of God incarnate, and I skip over them as just something Jesus said on his way to the cross to give ME salvation. I am not trying to devalue the cross in any way, but I did realize that I do not take Jesus' actual words seriously enough in the here and now of life. This problem, I think, extends into the evangelical church at large.

A good example of this is, I think, would be the general attitude many (including myself) have had towards giving to the homeless. A common excuse for not giving money to the homeless goes something along the lines of "he'll just use it for alcohol", or "how do I know she won't just buy drugs?". But I think our attitude is all wrong. Christ says, "Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back". As I read this I am struck by how this runs contrary to the many of us in the west think and act. Jesus is showing us a way to live in which selflessness and humble giving are to be ruling principles, yet many of us in the church would balk at such a statement were it made today, and rule it out as "liberal tripe" or "the shallow Social Gospel of the left". We might say, "I have to work and I don't beg so its not fair or right for others to do so!" or "Why would I give up MY cash to a lazy beggar?!".  It seems to me, and maybe I'm wrong, that we listen more to the underlying philosophies of the enlightenment which stress our INDIVIDUAL rights, and we skip over these parts of the Gospel we claim to believe, which blatantly clash with our self -centered worldview. 

When I look at what Jesus said, did, and who he was I see someone who would be very unhappy with the western world and how we live our lives. I see him not just promoting or advocating, but commanding with heavenly authority to practice compassion, grace, and humility with totally lack of regard for the self and full regard for others. And when I see this I realize that I am guilty of not just disobeying, but flat out ignoring these commands. And I figure that just maybe many others in the western church may want to think about this too. . .

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Everything Must Change: Jesus of My Suburbia

As I write this I am in beautiful Bakersfield, CA inside a brand new Starbucks coffee shop. For those who have been to Bakersfield you will get the sarcasm hahaha. This summer has presented me with a lot of opportunities to form out my thoughts with hands on experience. As a result, some things have come to light that I felt like throwing out on this blog, which sadly sits forgotten by its author for months at a time. So here it is!I am currently reading a book called Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope by
author Brian D. McLaren. This reading is on the tail of my finishing Tony Jones' The New Christians: Dispatches From the Emergent Frontier and Timothy Keller's The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. This reading list, set to the tune of Green Day's American Idiot album, has inspired quite the activist/revolutionary mood. I do not write out this list to bore, but to give some reference point to my current frame of mind and thinking. Ok. Back to McLaren. 

Let me say, I LOVE this book. It has already begun to stretch my mental framework, and I know it will continue to do so.  What I want to delve into is a specific part of Brian's book, namely the section dealing with the alternative emerging view of Jesus. When I first began this section I expected it to be a complete deconstructionist method with no real regard for scriptural integrity. Its not that I was accusing him of this, just that I could not see HOW he could back it up with any type of Biblical reference. As usual, the much more intelligent author proved me wrong. 

The section begins with Brian talking about the world's most pressing problems and how our modern western take on Jesus and his message has not only become domesticated, but domesticated into such a place that it actually gives credence and contributes to many of the global crisis we know face. This, I think, is an essential and vitally important realization that all Christians must at least examine with open hearts and minds. McLaren cites the typical end times eschatology of modern Christianity as a major cause of this domestication and deviation from the original Gospel message of the Kingdom of God. If we follow this line of reasoning, McLaren argues, the Gospel simply becomes about getting individual souls into a postmortem heaven, and encourages believers into complacency in the here and now, or into a sick kind of happiness when the world progresses towards destruction because who cares right? God is coming to destroy the earth anyways so if anything this human progress towards self destruction means that God can come back faster. Ok.

I will concede that this is a slight exaggeration onto what SOME Christians believe, but the sad truth is that this actually does represent the kind of subtle reasoning behind what drives much of the evangelical Gospel, at least in the more fundamentalist or even my own Southern Baptist roots. Here is the main thing I want to highlight. If we take the conventional view of Jesus and make the Gospel into ONLY about heaven, hell, and Jesus as a transcendent justifying sacrifice for our eternal destination, we are losing a great deal of what Jesus actually SAID. I am in no way saying that Jesus is not the savior of the World, or that we cannot be "saved" through justification by faith, only that the Gospel entails so much more. My friend Jim Grey, who pastors the church RegenerationLA explains how the central message of the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, cannot be divided and compartmentalized. He says that to Jesus, there was no separation between this life and the next. There is only the Kingdom of God. But this it seems, runs contrary to the way most modern Christians think of the Gospel. In fact, I am tempted to say that we, the average evangelical Christian, ignore or downplay a significant portion of the Gospel message and elevate other parts. It is common, in many evangelistic outreaches, to find people who think of Jesus as only a good teacher. We Christians would say that it is impossible, based on Jesus' own teachings to see him as ONLY a good moral teacher. I agree with this, yet it seems that at times we evangelicals are guilty of the opposite extreme as we relegate Jesus' "worldly wisdom" as somehow less important in the scheme of the Gospel message. It seems to me that when we make the Gospel solely about human salvation we are really just getting what benefits us without any real commitment to anything useful RIGHT NOW. McLaren would say that this leaves us with a Gospel more about Jesus rather than a Gospel message of Jesus. I think a both/and mentality needs to be applied in which we can have the Kingdom of God encompassing eternal salvation and the Kingdom now simultaneously. This rethinking may be uncomfortable, but we must realize that this rethinking is not new to the Church's history and should be welcomed with prayer and with the glory of God and his kingdom at the center.