year end reflections

well, it is getting late on the west coast and the new year is about 5 hours away. i have to admit that things have been pretty crazy this year - i have been riding an emotional roller coaster, while dealing with some pretty crazy things in my life - but all is good and God is leading, i pray. as i look over the past year i can point to some pretty hectic stuff, and i can point to some pretty cool stuff - but one thing is for certain, processing life has been one crazy dance. here are some things to ponder at the year comes to an end:

what part of up is down?
what part of down is up?
can people actually meet in the middle when they come from two different sides?
if christians are "changed" how come they act like everyone else?
if human life has value, how can we justify taking the life of another?
who determines the rule of engagement?
who engages in the rules of determination?
if we have never been to the other side of the sun, how do we know there are no planets there?

life is filled with questions and most are never answered - well, so i find :D


an unpopular gospel:

the idea that the american church "sells" a gospel is not that hard to grasp, because it spends millions on trying to make the gospel message popular. well, actually they spend billions, not millions. in my opinion, the american church spends more on trying to get people to "swallow" a palatable gospel message, that it has lost connect with what the gospel message is all about. it has spent billions on trying to smooth over the rough edges of the message that in reality the message has become so "milk toast" it is of no value to anyone. let me share with you how i see it:

"God Loves You"
the american church has called this to be the center of all it is - it is the driving mantra of the church and the core to all the american church holds dear. but what surprised me the most is the reality that jesus speaks more of how much we are to love God then on how much God loves us [in fact, the only time jesus speaks of "God loving us" is when he speaks of "God loves the world"]. At some level it is a given that God loves us [God loves the world], but it is not a given that we love God [but it should be]. you see, our love of God is so very important to how we see our faith and how we act out our faith. if we look at the words of matthew, mark and luke we see that the center of our love for God moves us to loving others. in fact jesus tells us that if we do not love God we can not love others [jesus shares the truth that if we say we love our brother, but we do not love God, we lie]. so our love for God is center to how we think and act in our walk with others.

salvation as an event:
i am not sure i am on the side of the "accept jesus, say a prayer and all is right and you are saved." to me, the process seems a little deeper, a little more "expensive" then the cheap grace of a quick prayer and a fast dip in water. paul talks about "working out our salvation" [phillippians 2:12] and the word paul uses for salvation is "soteria" and implies a present and future reality. when paul is speaking about "working out salvation" he is implying that salvation is a process and not an event. in 1 corinthians 1:18 paul seems to be speaking of a process, or "perishing" and "are being saved" - the deeper i look into the idea of salvation the more i am coming to believe it is a process and not an "event."

putting yourself first:
too many churches seem to want to make faith a "me thing." a thing where you are better then others, where you have more value then others and where "prosperity" drives our connection with God. they seem to be saying that if you are not "the boss" or "the richest" or the "overseer" you are not truly right with God - but jesus says just the opposite. You see, jesus calls us to be slaves [doulos] to others - not "servant leaders" but slaves, "bond slaves" - not a popular idea, but one that seems to be echoed many times by jesus. we need to remember it is never what you get, but what you give, that matters the most.

i am a realist and i know it is hard to "sell" the unpopular aspects of a gospel where we less then others, called to love God and where we have to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. but then again, what are we "selling?"


more pondering

with all the stuff flying around about the episcopal church, i just wanted to add my two cents - well, half a cent - i am not that important. i need to start out saying that i know katherine jefferts schori from when she was the bishop in las vegas. i was talking with the episcopal church about planting and worked with them - katherine was great, but there were a whole lot of very old closed minded priests in the episcopal communion [some very cool ones also] - so it just did not click for me [i am sure it did not click for them either, but this is my story and i get to write the history :) ]. but i digress, let me get back to my "pondering."

with the fresno diocese leaving the communion of the american church i got to thinking what was happening in the episcopal church - now, i live in sacramento, ca so i figured i would look into the church here and see what was happening - all i have to say is, if this area is a "norm" for the church they are in pretty bad shape - in the "northern california diocese" there are over 16,000 "baptized believers" in the church, and of that just under 6,000 are in church on any give sunday - now, that may not seem like a big deal, but i tell you i was shocked - think about that, 62.5% of the "members" of the church do not attend - and that is the norm for the episcopal church, and many other churches as well. why? what would cause 62.5% of the people who are seen as "members" not show up on sunday, or any day for that matter?

liberal? i don't think so. conservative? not that either. irrelevant? now i think we are getting somewhere - yes, i believe the episcopal church, like the umc, the lutherns and many other denominations, have become more comic relief and less communion of saints. we find small, silly and seemingly just stupid things to fight about - so we are fair game for the late night comics and conversations at the bar. when a church that serves an area with just under 3 million people and can "boast" [at best] 6,000 people, on a good sunday, there needs to be a honest and healthy look into what is and is not being said in the church. but my ponder falls to this, the church will not look deep into what is happening, so i wonder if anything will change?

just something i am pondering


thoughts in process

i have been thinking about a few things as of late; that is not to say that i normally do not think of things - well, kind of, i guess. but i digress..... sometimes, for me, things are never as "clear" as they may seem for others - i tend to have more questions then most - i tend to look at things with a "different view." here are a few things i am processing:

my first ponder: with the shootings at the different churches in colorado i am not sure which makes me more uncomfortable - the shooter going into the church and shooting, or that the church had an armed security guard. i mean, the shooter was killed by an "armed church security officer" - i am not sure i like the idea that a church would have armed security. i am not sure where i stand with this, but i am pretty sure i am not for armed security in a church.

my second ponder: what makes an emerging church? is it "method or message?" i mean, if a church is just cool and flashy, but has the same old message does that make it "emerging?" does the church need a "new message" to truly be "emerging? you see, i am not sure where i sit with this - now if you asked me last week i would have given you an answer, but this is a different week and in that my theology has shifted - it could shift back, but it is hard to tell - give me a week. think of it this way, if only the method changes can we truly say we are a "different church?" if we simply put the message in a different cover, can we truly claim we are a "different church?"

my third ponder: what value is the church? now, i am not asking this to piss people off, but to be honest with myself. what value is the church? what do we add to our communities? what do we add to culture? what do we add to the social mix? if all we do is collect funds to keep a building to gather in one hour a week, do we add to the community mix? if programs, ministries and meetings are so important we need to ask what value they bring to the mix.

my fifth ponder: how are we viewed by the world around us? are we seen as closed, old and losing ground? are we seen as a faith that has little to add to the world? are we simply viewed for what we are against?

now i am certain that these are not new ponders - and i am certain that i will be going back and forth over these for the rest of my life - but that does not mean i do not desire to know what this is all about. life is filled with questions, and so should our faith - i am not seeking answers, all i am seeking is other questions.


the witch hunt

as many know, i am not a big fan of televangelists or pastors of "megachurches" who make more money then the national income of many small countries - mainly because i believe they use and abuse people, while actually bringing a bad name to a ministry they claim centers on christ - so, i have no great love for such abuse - but i found something i have even "less love" for - and that is "power hungry senator's from iowa" I have to say i am not at all impressed with sen. chuck grassley of iowa - while i may not have a deep love for the one group, i find the actions of the senator to be scary beyond the actions of any minister, no matter how greedy; let me explain.

the senator, in the throws of his power abuse, is asking people like benny hinn, creflo dollar, the white's, meyer and the copland's to give his committee all financial records of the ministry - now, i am not sure what committee he is speaking for [seeing he is on several] but i am assuming it is not the "agriculture committee" [one he is on] - but even when we look at the committees he is on [per his website] none of them have "over site" of the church - that could be because of that silly little piece of paper we call "the constitution" - he must not have read that one yet. but have no fear, he can get a copy from any fifth grade text book on government [yes, i am assuming he is smarter then a fifth grader, and i hope he does not prove me wrong]

i am always amazed at politicians who strive hard to keep the church out of politics, yet see the need for politics to jump into the churches business. while i would disagree with the theology and the ideas given by creflo dollar [and the others] i have to give the man his props - he seems to be standing his ground and saying "no."

it seems that creflo's lawyers have answered the "request"[actually a demand] of the iowa senator with a "Dollar's lawyer asked that the investigation either be referred to the IRS, which would give greater privacy to the churches, or that the Senate committee get a subpoena for the documents." - but the senator, in his complete understanding of the constitution replied with "I can't tell (the IRS) what to do. I can't refer anything to them unless I know something is wrong. And I won't know if anythings wrong until we get the information." what? he has no idea something is wrong, yet he is demanding books and information to "prove something might be wrong" - that seems to fly in the face of "self incrimination" - another one of those silly little constitutional things they must not have gotten his head wrapped around. in case the senator does not know, asking people to give you their books for you to look over to see if there is something "wrong" is called a "witch hunt" - bad form senator.

well, i am not a big fan of over paid preachers and huge expense accounts - i believe the way that is solved is by people not giving to them, and not iowa senator's with too much time on his hands demanding books to search for what may or may not be there -