a podcast :)

alan hartung [the ooze editor] over at "a different perspective" did a podcast with me. here is the link "link" check it out and let me know what you think - at least you can hear my voice.

also, coming soon, bill dahl over at "a porpoise diving life" did an interview with me and that should be out in a few days, if not sooner.

i am not big on giving interviews, but i love these guys and know they both have a heart that seeks an open expression of faith - so, how could i refuse?



some questions:
what does it mean to be "saved" or to enter into a "salvation relationship" with God? does the "sinners prayer" do anything for us? does it matter if we never do it? what does it mean? does salvation only happen if we "confess christ as lord and savior?" does it only happen if say it with our mouths? what is the idea of "salvation" and what does it mean for my life as a follower of christ? does one need to remember an "exact date" of that salvation experience? can salvation be a process and not a "event?"

some definations:
the term "salvation" is a very interesting one and in the new testament, three words are translated as meaning "salvation" - and, with the limits of the english language we give all three the same definition "salvation" - yet, we change the meaning as we desire:

sozo - "save, saved, made well, cured"
soteria - "deliverance, preservation, salvation"
soterion - related to soteria and means "to bring..." what ever the word one decides.

these words bring interesting questions - let me pick one for example, "sozo" or "saved" or "made well" is a great example of how we have misunderstood the theology of salvation. let me explain by using three scriptures where the word "sozo" is used in different ways.

in scripture:
in luke 7:50 the word is translated as "saved" and jesus says to the women, "your faith has saved [sozo] you, go in peace" the word "sozo" is translated as "saved" - notice, that the salvation comes because of her faith, but faith in what? she never confesses jesus as lord and savior, and she never says the "sinners prayer," in fact she says nothing - so, faith in what? what "faith" change in her life cause jesus to tell her that she was saved?

i believe the "faith change" was that she showed a "heart change," a willingness to humble herself and do for others; something the owner of the home was unwilling to do - she had a desire to be something different form who she was, she sought a change in life; her actions showed a new heart - the story never shares that she has any idea who jesus was [while that is implied via a traditional theology where "salvation" as an act of only confessing becomes important - but it is not in the story] and jesus never makes her confess anything - her act was her salvation. salvation came to her because she had a change of heart and followed a core teaching of jesus, to humble ourselves and serve others with an honest and open heart. so, must one speak out that jesus is lord? can that transformation take place in the silence of our hearts and become evident in our actions, where one day we act one way, and another day we are something different?

then we look deeper into luke and we come to luke 8:36 at the conclusion of the demons of "legion" story and the results of the interaction with jesus we see another use of the word "sozo" and one i think has been seen as "less then saved" [in the message the word is translated as "saved" but in the niv it is "cured"]. what i find so interesting is that the man never asks for anything, the man never speaks and never interacts with jesus at all - the demons do all the talking, and the demons do all the begging not to be removed and the demons do all the interacting - the man requested nothing. jesus' interaction is not with the man, but with the demons, and "salvation" is so not requested by the demons, but it is given to the man. even more interesting is that the same word "sozo" is translated as "made well" and this story is never seen as a "salvation story" and yet it is a great salvation story. if we take the word and translate it as "saved" we get a different view of the interaction, because he is "saved" and so, salvation came not even on his request but on something totally and completely done by jesus - that becomes a powerful reality that moves me greatly. salvation came from the heart of jesus, and not a request of a person. salvation was completely based on the actions of jesus and not on the actions of the person; does that mean salvation can come without our asking for it? is salvation something given to all people, just for being alive?

then, in the ever popular [and often quoted] romans 10:9 we read, "that if you confess with your mouth, "jesus is lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" [i love the way the message puts it, "say the welcoming word to God--"jesus is my master"--embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising jesus from the dead. that's it. you're not "doing" anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. that's salvation.] and the word "sozo" is the word "saved." so, the question comes, if "saved" comes with confession [and i am cool with that] can it come in another way? can it be seen that a change in heart allows for the same gift of salvation? i think the idea of "salvation" is wider and deeper then we have been lead to understand. if we see the romans scripture as "right" then we need to see the others just as "right" - the words are the same and have the same meaning. romans does not say, "the only way to be saved is to ..." so why do we see it that way? why do we say that we "must confess?" and if we "must" confess, does the idea of confession only mean we "speak the words" - can our actions speak as a confession to jesus as lord and savior?

so, who is "saved"
whenever one questions the idea of salvation, one is seen as a heretic; more so if it is "outside" the normal "traditional evangelical" view of what salvation is all about. the idea that "salvation" is anything other then what has been seen as "right" over the modern age is seen as "just wrong." the idea of seeing salvation in a different light always seems to bring about the next question; when i speak in terms of a "different view" of salvation people ask, "so, who is saved?" to me that question seems to say, "who is in our club" or "who do we see as "equal" to us?"

for me, and my reading, when jesus came and lived with us the story of salvation came to life [the incarnation became real, and moved into the neighborhood], and when he died the story started to come together in his willingness to give his life for us. when jesus died, salvation was granted to everyone [titus 2:11 clearly says that salvation appeared for all people]. i can hear the next question, "if everyone is "saved" doesn't that make cheap the idea of salvation?" not at all, why would it? the idea that jesus died for everyone is key to seeing who jesus is; if his death was for only those who think they got it right we cheapen the gift of salvation; we become a closed gathering of people who look only to themselves. the difference maybe [and this is outward processing] that some accept the gift and others do not - but jesus died for all people, everyone. yet, if we see the stroies of jesus and how he interacts with others can we say that "salvation can only come if we confess jesus as lord" and could their be other ways?

closing thoughts:
zacchaeus is another example - his salvation came not because of his confession in christ, but because he had a great change in his life - a shift in his business ethics if you will. the story is plain, and the idea of confessing jesus as "lord and savior" never happened. so, is his salvation not a true salvation? when jesus told zacchaeus that, "today, salvation entered your house" did he man that because of zacchaeus' actions his whole family was saved? today, we seem to think that there needs to be a magic formula [the sinners prayer] and a special password [confession] to truly be a christian. many in the church feel that if a person cannot express an "exact date" of salvation, never said it out loud and have never said the sinners prayer then their "salvation" is not valid. i believe that scripture shows that there is no "one method" of salvation; there is one source, the death of jesus for us, but not one method.


i want to live the incarnation!

i want to live the incarnation! the more i think about this, the more i desire to live the life set before me by God. i desire to be the incarnation to others - not a bible thumping, line quoting, "holier then you" christian who thinks they have all the answers and demands everyone "tow the line" and can force feed dogma to another. i believe, living the incarnation means i have to know my limits - i have to know what i can and can not do, and i need to be ready to do what i can and not what i can not.

i can bring no one into a relationship with jesus christ; that is up to the person and the holy spirit. what i can do is extend my life to develop a relationship with the person in an honest and open way. i can be open and honest and seek to reach out past my life and into their life, no matter the condition of their life. i can not convince them who christ is, but i can model who christ is and if they see that and desire to know fine. but if they never come to know who christ is, they will still be my friend and i will love them and care for them as i can.

i can not make others get closer to God; they need to have a heart that desires to be closer to God. the idea that "we" bring people closer to God is not real, "we" can not do that, they must desire to get closer. what i can do is show my heart for God, and even live my heart for God and pray they see it and desire to have the same. as they see me move and live a life that is closer to God, they may desire to get closer. i "example" the walk, and seek a closer walk.

i can not make people worship; they need to have a desire to approach God in a meanigfull and life giving way. people need to desire to worship God, i can not make people worship. what i can do is worship God and let them see me in worship. if, as a follower, i am not interested in worship others will see that and model that. i must be willing to raise my hands, open my heart and be on my knees before God. i can be an example of what it means to worship God and know that the desire comes from God, and not from others.

as the incarnation deepens in my heart and life; i desire to be more then who i am and more then what anyone thinks of me. others can place limits on me because of one thing or another, but the incarnation frees me from those boxes and i become more of what God desires and less of what people desire. in reaching out past me,and into the incarnation of my soul i seek to walk, speak, live, breath, touch, and love in the incarnation - not in human desires.


shock evangelism

over the past few days i have been processing an event that was so different for me, it kind of freaked me out. one friday a month we bring in a few bands for a concert at 247connection. we do it because fridays are what we call "the asylum; a safe place for crazy people." it's a time when we open the doors and let the local teens hang out and drink free coffee - and share relationships. this last friday, along with the bands, we had "visitors" across the street, and they were not the friendliest group i had the pleasure of meeting.

they where six men, all over 6' tall, 250lbs between the ages of 30-40. now, i add this because you need to remember that on friday we can get some 100-200 teens coming in and out of any concert we host and this was not exception. these men were from a local missionary baptist church. they desired to "share the gospel" from across the street. their "idea" of the gospel was to shout that all the teens were going to go to hell because they were wearing black and listened to "evil rock music." the teens started to get a bit upset, and they asked if we knoew what was happening and why these men where souting at them. so, me being over 6' and 250lbs, i decided that i would venture across the street to ask why they felt it important to insult the kids. my intention was to invite them over to 247connetion and we could have them speak with the teens without shouting. well, as i got their and introduced myself to them i was shouted down and insulted on levels that would make a truck driver weak in the knees; needless to say they did not want to visit with us. one, even tried to accuse me of "assault" because i touched his arm as he was walking away from me - when i explained that we were a church, and that i was the pastor and all i wanted to do was talk - they continued to shout and called me names i would have never believe would have come from a fellow follower.

this got me thinking, do they truly think people are listening to them? i mean, all the teens kept away from them and the police asked them to move on [they said they were being "oppressed" because they had to keep moving]. all i was able to get from them is a self-righteous drive to prove they were right and everyone else, who thinks different, was wrong. i could not find a single thread of kindness, of humility, or grace, of love, or care in anything they were sharing. they did not desire a conversation, they simply wanted to shout down anyone with a question. being from the southwest, this was new to me - i am sure they are around in the soutwest, but i never ran into anything like it. it is hard for me to understand a monolog when it comes to faith, because i see so many conversations.

i think there is something counter to "sharing good news" by insults and fear. i mean, good news is good, by it's nature - right? as i walked back to 247connection, after being insulted on levels unknown, one of the teens came to me and asked, "why do they hate us so much?" wow, was that a shock. the men thought they were doing good, but the teens saw it as hate. i replied, "i don't think they hate you, they are doing what they think is right. it is not our style, but it is theirs." with that the teen walked away, and as she did i heard her say to her friend, "that is why we like coming here, they don't shout at us."

the idea of "beating people into jesus" is so not where we need to be as a church. jesus loved people, and so should we - we need to love people unconditionally, without shouting at them. when we love, truly love - without placing conditions on that love - people truly desire to know us and our faith. they open the conversation, they seek to know what we believe and they desire to learn from us - but when we shout, we only share how closed we are and how out of touch we are with the needs of people - people need love, not fear.

the funny thing about all this is that several people in the congregation was surprised it took them so long to getting around to doing what they were doing. i tried to get the name of the church they were from, but got noting but "kjakhdfkhsd missionary baptist church." hopefully, i will be able to get it the next time - and i am assured there will be a next time - and i will try to speak with the pastor - and i will post the results of that.


where do you go to church?

how about you? first baptist? family church? community church? some "cool name" church? some home church? some "small group church?" where do you go to church?

the longer you think about the answer, the more you think the answer could be a trick. but think about this, in our modern world, the idea of "going to church" is not that weird - we can actually answer the question direct.

but, let's ask that same question to a person living in the first century. think of it this way, that same question asked to a first century mind would be just too freaky. why? because the idea of "going to church" would be so unreal to a first century christian. you see, for them one did not "go to church" everything was the church. the church was not a place, it was the culture.

to the first century mind, church was not a "once or twice a week gathering" where you heard music, got preached at, to gossip or drink coffee. church was so much more. for them, it was a continuous community of interactions, gatherings, and others that flowed through every part of their daily being. church was never seen as a "place" or even a gathering of "people in a place." church was seen as the interaction of people on a daily basis. church was you, me and the people down the road - getting together to mow a lawn, go on vacation, paint a house, fix a roof, plant a crop - church was a community gathering that embodied all that we could be, in all our faults and still learning to love each other. "church" was the idea that you, me and everyone else needed each other for our daily life needs.

time changed that, and i am not certain any form of american church fits the idea of church in the first century. some may come close, and others may think they come close, but i think many fall way short. with our systematic approach to life we lost the idea that we are a non-linear people living in relationships that abound in greatness - where the lawyer can eat with the auto mechanic, and the doctor can hang out with the day worker; where the criminal can eat with the choir director; where the forgiven can eat with the sinner and the saint can know the life of the lost. where education, money, race and anything else we can think of does not separate us from each other.

the idea that "church" is a collection of programs, budgets, songs and meetings is so not what God desires from us as a people who gather. as a gathering people, a people who flow together in a union of life, the old ideas of church just have no value. for me, church is a deeper connection of friends and family where lives intersect and merge in a collection of chaos and fun. for me,i seek a deeper walk that goes well beyond one hour on sunday, or another hour during the week. Imagine a community of faith where people are so connected, they help each other with life; with mowing the lawn; with fixing cars; with watching the kids; with meals. think of a community where who you are is based on nothing more then what you share. where life is so active, and so connected, common vacations are the norm and people find reasons to come together and share life with each other.

i have seen churches where the people come for one hour, and then leave and seldom see each other - except by accident in the supermarket. our lives should be formed by a collection of accidents, or "just misses." we should be desiring to be with each other and sharing our lives, hurts and desires. we should be willing to go past titles, status, income and see the persons God is placing before us in community. so, the question becomes, "where do you go to church?" think about it for a second or two; now, where do you go to church?


sick, sick, sick...

it has been a wonderful last few weeks - i got this killer flue, and then got over it; then my wife got it, and now i have it again :( not a ton of fun. i have been wanting to post more, but i am feeling like garbage - soon, i will be back and posting.

as i write this i am reminded of the words of pink floyd, in the wall:

[Comfortably Numb]
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain, you would not understand
This is not how I am
I have become comfortably numb


community is the rule

i am big on community [ginktionary on community]; heck, i am huge on community; ok, i will admit it, community is almost everything for me. i believe it is so important that i see God in relationships and how those relationships play out in community; it is so big in my book because i believe jesus walked in, lived in, eat in, taught in community. i believe decisions are best made in community, and and not by those outside the community. i believe local people solve local needs, those outside the community do not see the relationships that live in community. i believe this so much that when i got an email from a friend, i was sure how i would respond, but i did not desire to be negative in my response. here is a question i got from a friend who is looking for a position:

"What do you think about companies, like 'Ministry Search,' that are contracted to find a Pastor for a Church?"

ok, here is what i think, ready? i do not support them, at all. first, let me share with you a bias of mine - because i am certain it does give weight to my answer. i find any for-profit organization that calls itself a "ministry" [implying that it is a non-profit] is not very cool. at some level i think it is dishonest and misleading to imply a ministry, when profit is the actual drive for the organization. this is my bias, and i just needed to express it and to be open.

now, let me explain why. if, and only if, community is important to a "church" or community of faith, then these kinds of ministries do not have much in developing community. let me share some points, keep in mind that i was just emailed this today, and i have not completely processed my thoughts [and just so all know, the person is well aware that i am bloging about this email].

"ownership" - community should not only own the process, but also the outcome. when we "outsource" the important process of bringing aboard a staff member we outsource the center of community, and the responsibility for the selection. if a "bad" selection is made, one can blame the organization and not the community.

"time" - if, the community is too busy to gather and search for a person to be on staff, they should re-examine their understanding of community. yes, it takes a great deal of time to pick a staff person, but that time is needed to help in the process and in the understanding of what community can be.

"location" - if we look at the organization listed in the email as an example, one has to ask, "what do they know about us and our area?" think of it this way, "ministry search" is located in texas, so what do they know about the culture of southern california? what do they know about the culture of new york? what do they know about the culture of orlando?

"just one" - bring anyone on staff is too important for just one person, no matter the experience that person has - or what the educational value is of that one person. keep in mind, that even when "interviews" are done, and certain things are shared with the person collecting resumes, that one person is the one selecting which person "gets by" and who is finally interviewed.

i believe that communities of faith that by-pass the process of looking deep into what God is doing with them, and allow for the process to form in community, are missing some great opportunities of growth. to gather in community, to pray over the possibilities in community, and to all God to speak to a gathering in community are valued lessons God desires for us. to give that over to an "outsource" is not being in God's call for us as people of community.


theology and faith

recently, i have been hearing more and more people speak of having, "the right theology," or those who keep saying "look at paul's theology," and i have to tell you, i am so confused. what is what is "the right theology?" what is "paul's theology?" is it different then "your theology?" is it different then "my theology?" is it different the "church theology?" or "baptist theology?" or "catholic theology?" or "any-denominational theology?" why does paul have a theology, yet there is no "jesus theology?" does "paul theology" beat a "jesus theology?"

you see, for me "theology" is the "study of" religion; especially in the relationship of the study of God and of God's relation to the world. faith, is trusting in things not seen, and knowing things that are uncertain, and is a heart reality of how we live in relationship to God, and in relationship to others in community. so, "theology" is man made and "faith" is God founded.

now, that may be simplistic for some, and some might even disagree - and that's all good - but i see a huge difference between people of faith, and "people of theology" or "theologians." i think what i find so "uncomfortable" with the term "theology" is that jesus never speaks in terms of a "theology," or of "theology." to me, i hear the voice of christ speaking in terms of faith, forgiveness, grace, love and acceptance - "theology" is a human term, that defends "rules" of what are and are not words about God. theology sets the tone for what you must believe, while faith sets in motion who we must love - the term "theology" does not even appear in any of the scriptures i have search ability, but faith is all over the place.

now, it could just be me [and some times it i], but i am not motivated by a "theology" - because i believe that is what gets us in trouble :) i see "theology" as the "new law" and "theologians" as the "new pharisee'." harsh? not really, and i do believe this. you see, i do not have a "theology of God" i have a "faith in God." i do not live under law, i live under grace - so, i am not motivated by theology, but i moved into action via my faith. i have found that "theology" gives us "ways out" of helping people and going that extra mile, while faith demands that we act in relationship with God and it causes us to move out of our comfort zone and into action.

i know many people who hold to a "theology" and many "theologians" who do not have a faith. over time, people have pulled the "theological" card to justify war, killing, and keeping certain peoples oppressed. but no one i know of has ever said, "i have a faith in God that teaches me war is acceptable." i have never heard a single person say, "my faith in christ teaches me it ok for the poor to go hungry and it is ok if we do not do anything for them." i have yet to hear the words, "my faith in christ teaches me that i can make as much money as possible and shaft the little guy." but i can tell you of many people who will say, "my theology teaches war is ok." you see, "theology" is this nondescript term assigned to create an idea that suits us and our view - but when we say, "my faith in christ teaches," that means we have a voice to go to to learn, we go to the words of jesus to give us guidance; we become "red letter christians" and we seek to change the world around us - faith says we can, theology tells us we can not.

for me, being christ-like is very important; it is the center of my faith and it is what i see as a very important teachings of christ. if not, if i am not to be christ like, then what? if i am to have a theology, and use that to govern my faith then am i using the law to control grace? if my faith is to move me into action, and a theology holds me back, what should i do? if i am to seek a deeper walk with God, do i seek out a deeper understanding of "theology" or do i accept the mystery of christ and live in that? you see, to me, being a "theologian" means i am more "human-like" and far less "christ-like" and i so desire to be more like chirst, and less like the jerk i am. i have found that theology takes out the mystery of christ and replaces it with disconnected doctrine and rules of what we "must" believe.

to me, livinf in faith and being christ-like means:
i forgive all who harm me, or who seek to do me harm
i love everyone, even the ugly and the unloveable.
i strive to see people where they are, not where i demand they be
i open my heart and life to all people, regardless of... [you fill in the blank]
i share my live with others, and my food.
i strive to live in community, open and expressive.
i am willing to die for others, but i am not willing to kill
i am willing to walk along in the faith walk of others
i must be a servant to all people
i open my home to those in need
i seek to harm no one

i believe that faith is more important then a theology - jesus speaks of faith, but never speaks of theology.