life is a gift from God

i received this little expression wisdom from a person i value a great deal - i hope you get as much out of it as i did:

There was a blind girl who hated herself because she was blind. She hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She told her boyfriend, 'If I could only see the world, I will marry you."

One day, someone donated a pair of eyes to her. When the bandages came off, she was able to see everything, including her boyfriend.

He asked her,'Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?' The girl looked at her boyfriend and saw that he was blind. The sight of his closed eyelids shocked her. She hadn't expected that. The thought of looking at them the rest of her life led her to refuse to marry him. Her boyfriend left in tears and days later wrote a note to her saying: 'Take good care of your eyes, my dear, for before they were yours, they were mine.'

This is how the human brain often works when our status changes. Only a very few remember what life was like before, and who was always by their side in the most painful situations.

Life Is a Gift
Today before you say an unkind word - Think of someone who can't speak.
Before you complain about the taste of your food - Think of someone who has nothing to eat.
Before you complain about your husband or wife - Think of someone who's crying out to GOD for a companion.
Today before you complain about life - Think of someone who went too early to heaven.
Before you complain about your children - Think of someone who desires children but they're barren.
Before you argue about your dirty house someone didn't clean or sweep - Think of the people who are living in the streets.
Before whining about the distance you drive Think of someone who walks the same distance with their feet.
And when you are tired and complain about your job - Think of the unemployed, the disabled, and those who wish they had your job.
But before you think of pointing the finger or condemning another - Remember that
not one of us is without sin.
And when depressing thoughts seem to get you
down - Put a smile on your face and think: you're alive and still around.

it is amazing to me how the human heart acts in some situations. we reject how others treat us based on our faults yet we do the same thing. too many are unwilling to see the compassion, love, grace and care others give to us- for what ever reason - only to find that we reject the same things in others. an expression of love is not found in words, but in actions. to say you love someone is cheap, but acting on your love you open the world- and even the possibility of spending your life with someone who loves you.

open up and experience the world in feelings.


the "christian genome project"

what is the dna of the our faith? what defines us, moves us, embraces us, motivates us and keeps us? how can we as a collective share voices, ideas and expressions of our faith in a unique and dymanic way? how can we, as followers in the 21st centry, tell the story of our walk, and truly hear all voices? well, i am not sure i have all the answers - ok, i am sure i do not have all the answers :). but, i would like to introduce you to an idea i have been playing with called "the christian genome project" [CGP] - and we can use all the input we can get - because this is so not about me, it is all about us. here is how i see it -

CGP should be a place for story - where people share their stories, their views and no one corrects them or rejects them - a place where all voices can form the one voice we call "christianity" - we want it to be "liberal" and "conservative" - we want it to express all areas of faith and all faith traditions - no matter what - a place where you, not the "officials of the church" tell the story - it is a "collective of voices" designed to be a place where people can seek answers to questions - and we can dance this dance of faith united.

while the domain is set [www.TheChristianGenomeProjest.com] and a "splash" page will be set in a few days - we need voices - all voices - not matter your stance, tradition or point of view -

we need ideas of what you would like to see - how the CGP should be organized, what do you desire to hear and know - we know "seed stories" will be important, a place to share stories of churches forming and growing - we also know that worship ideas will be important, how does your church worship in an emerging culture - and what examples can you share - we need more ideas of what you think important. as we design this site to be a productive, useful site we need your input - so, share as you desire


what i would look like if all you knew was my spam folder

have you ever wondered what people would think about you if all they could see was your spam folder? think about that, if all we had was your spam folder what would we think about you?

ok, granted - i am bored. i am sitting in my fav cafe [la boca, in sacramento], watching soccer, while watching all the interactions of the people - and it got me thinking [right after i dumped over 1,500 emails from just one spam folder from one email account] what would people think of me if they simply read my spam folder? i mean, how would i come across? granted, i do not have much control of what comes via email into spam - but still, what would others think? if, 1,000 years from now, some futures indiana jones finds a copy of my spam folder, what would they write about me? here is what i think "future indy" would write about me:

"the subject sought to save hundreds of dollars on his car insurance, while seeking the best rates to finance and refinance his just purchased foreclosed home in the neighborhood of his dreams. He seemed to have done this while spending two free night in vegas, popping viagra and "natural male enhancement" pills he received via cheap canadian pharmacies, purchased with his free online credit card with a low introductory rate [while seeking to eliminate credit card debt]. It seems he spends his evening with special people he "hooked-up" with via the net, which he connected to using his free "powerful" laptop - all that between colon cleaning and weight loss. it is amazing that he found the time to receive his "cheap" online degrees in criminal justice, physiology and ministry, while striving to retire in three years."

if all people knew about you was what was in your span folder, what would you look like? what if people judged you via your spam folder? well, that seems unfair to ask, because in reality most of us do judge people by their "spam folder" - we judge people on what they look like, their past actions and the "spam" that fills their lives from others - we do it all the time - but, what if you knew what others thought of you - would that change your mind? being defined by our spam folders seems harsh, but so does judging people by what others have to say, or their past actions - hmmm, what does your spam folder say about you?


Reaction, not Proaction

i am always amazed at how we as a people who proclaim to follow Christ are more reactionary to issues. we tend to have knee jerk reactions to issues and then we apologize for the mistakes we make and the insults we bounce about - sure, we say it is because we are "human" but i think it goes deeper then that - i think we just do not care. let's be honest, many people in the church care only for their little part of the kingdom and they could careless about any other part.

I think we speak a good game, but when it comes time for the link to launch, we back down and run in the other direction - until the dust settles and then we shout from the rafters all the "evil" we see - never once saying, "well, if we only acted in a proactive way things would be better." bit i think this goes hand in hand with the fact that we are known more for what we are against, then what we are for - because we have become reactionary people.

not to long ago i brought this point to the attention of a gathering of pastors - that we are known for what we are against; that we are seen as a very negative people. one of the ministers after the conversation cane up to me and said, "i think we are known for being very positive." i said, "really? how? can you give one example" he thought for a moment and said, "sure, we are for marriage between a man and a women, because God is against gay marriages and we need to stand against them." i smiled and said, "and you see that as being 'positive?' it would have worked better if you would have left out the end part."

we react to problems in the world - what we need to do is look at the world around us, think in terms of love, grace and forgiveness and see how we can reach the world in a positive way - how can we be proactive?


blended families

define what it means to be a blended family? think about that for a second and share what you think the definition of a blended family is. this has been something that has been on my mind for a while, and more so as of late. over the past few weeks a dear friend [denise] and i have been talking about this idea of a "blended family" and what it means. we have been in process over the term and how God views such families. think about this, what are the "requirements" placed on the family by the church for a family to be considered "blended" - but here is an even more important question - how does the church truly VIEW "blended families?" why do some churches see "blended families?" as "less then" families? you see, for me all families are blended - all families. all families blend together traditions, culture, family and friends; all families are are blended.

but let me share with you a little story of a man who decided to take the "plunge" and marry a women who had a child. he was not sure about it, because he knew that in "church circles" the family would be seen as "less then normal" [he knew that the traditional view of a "blended family" was not viewed as the "primary family" in the eyes of some church people] - but he did it anyway. he loved the women so deeply and knew he would be a good father figure and could teach the child how to be a good man, a "godly man." so he did so, he married her and raised the child as if he was his own. even after bring other children into the marriage this man loved his eldest son and never thought in terms of a "blended family."

this man was named joseph and his son was named Jesus - think about that. our savior, our Lord, our light and model for all we do as followers is the product of a blended family - he was raised by the love and care of a man who felt God had brought him and mary together - he gave his all to teach his son, yes i am certain joseph saw Jesus as "his son," and loved him with all his heart. when we see the family of our savior as a "blended" family we start seeing things with different eyes - we start to see how God is working in the lives of others. if we see blended families as "less then" what we are saying is that Jesus was raised in a "less then" family.

so, how does one define "blended families?" i think we need to lose that term in the church and focus on what it means to be a "godly family" - what does it mean to be a family where God is the center, and where God is the guide to marriage and the way we relate to each other. you see, "blended" does not matter if we are not willing to allow God to be the "blending agent" in the family. you see, i believe what matters the most is that God is the center of the marriage and everything we do is founded on knowing, loving, and seeking to please God first. when we worship as a family, pray as a family, study as a family, share life as a family and know that God is the absolute center of that, nothing else matters; because with God all things are possible.


can we see?

over the past few weeks my morning readings have been centering on the book of john. i have always been found of the gospel of john because it shares a vision of our walk in faith that should center on how we see Jesus in our lives - now, all the gospels do that, but john always spoke to me at a deeper level - and reading it in "the message" has been even more powerful.

this morning i was reading chapter 9, while attending a poverty summit in san fransisco and i was struck by the reality of the blind man - one of the things that struck me was that after he was healed, many doubted he was who he said he was - they accused him of "just looking like" the other man. this got me to thinking about how little we pay attention to those on the margins of our society. we see them, but we never truly look at them.

as i was walking along powell watching as people would pass by those who most never even gave a glance at, or a tip of the head, or even the slightest sign that they knew the person was alive - i was wondering how we were doing on this "war on poverty?" with most people not even looking at those sitting on the edges of society how can we say we are ready to fight a war? if all we do is walk past those in poverty, can we actually say we are doing everything we can? [now, before i get to deep into this, please do not misquote the scripture where Jesus says "the poor will aways be with you." i have had too many people use that to justify not giving to those in need, and that is a complete misuse of that scripture.] so, how do we fight the war on poverty?

i believe the first thing we need do is look at those in poverty in the eye and say, "we have missed looking at you and we are sorry" - then, and only after we see that they are humans, can we truly start fighting the fight - because then we see them as people worth fighting for.


spirit and truth

where is God's word in our life? for most, it is on the self behind the fake flowers we got a few years ago at a yard sale for 10 cents. but really, where is God's word in our life? if, as followers, we claim to be walking in the light of Christ - i ask again, where is God's word in our life? now, i have to be honest and say that this is kind of a "trick question" - because, in reality [for those who follow Christ] God's word can only be in one place - our hearts. let's be honest, that is the only place it can do any good. sitting behind cheap flowers is not a good place :)

so, i believe the best place for God's word to be is in our hearts, unfortunately too many of us have it stuck useless places, like in our heads. God's word bouncing around in our heads has little impact on others, and it has little impact on us. I believe we need to move it from our heads to our hearts; "flush it" if you will to get it down into our hearts - that means we need to live, practice and walk in the light of God's word - this my friends is the hard part :) but we have to remember that if we are truly following Christ, we are changed people - made new in Christ and seeking to live more "christlike" every day. for that to happen, i think we need to keep in mind three important realities.

first, forgiveness - this is one of the hardest. but we are called to forgive, so we should strive to forgive others who have harmed us - and as a new friend shared with me last night, while we forgive we also need to remember that there are consequences to all our actions. but forgiveness is a very important part of our walk in faith - it is a very important part of knowing God's word is in our hearts - because it is when we forgive we are most "christlike" in our actions towards others.

second, love - yup, we are to love - love the ugly, the homeless, the hurting, the messy and the broken - it is hard and messy but we are truly called to love others - so lets love. it is easy to love the cute and cuddly - but we are called to love everyone

third, help - this may seem silly, but we should help others and make sure they have enough in their lives. if we are blessed with much, we should help others in need - if we are blessed with little, we should also help others in need. there is a great tradition in the middle east that says, "when it is time to eat, go to the house on the right and if they do not have enough food invite them to your house and share a common meal." think what would happen if we did the same thing.

you see, i have been thinking about what it means to "worship in spirit and in truth" for a while, and i tend to think it is living a life the way Christ lived his life - forgiving, loving, helping and giving to others. when we do that, when we reach the reality that we can walk closer to God by putting His word in our hearts we become better followers, better people, better friends, better lovers, better wives, better husbands and mostly better people - we see the value of those we love and care for and we accept them for who they are - we open our hearts to God and God works in us to change.

as for me, i seek to walk closer to God and keep his word in my heart - how about you?



ever get friends requests on your myspace? i get some, about 50 or so a month. i accept some, and i reject many others. if, for what ever reason you have, you desire to be a friend on my myspace, keep in mind some very simple guidelines i use to determine who is and is not a friend - here goes:

1. you need to be someone i would send a birthday wish to. now, that may not seem like a big deal, but the reality for me is that i like sending out little messages every now and then - and i like sending birthday wishes. i will actually read your site, not all and not always, but i will and i may comment on what you wrote. so, if you are the kind of person who does not mind a little comment every now and then from me, cool - friendship can be formed :)

2. your pics need not be "booty shots" - now, i am not a prude, and i like the human body as much as the next guy - but please know i am a pastor - no mater what i do to make a living to plant a church, i am a pastor - and shots of your "butt in thong" to show off your tats really does not make me jump for joy - in fact, i hit the "ignore" key faster then you can think of -

3. pictures of your kids "flipping off" the camera with some cute little caption like, "he has a mind of his own" or "she is that kind of kid" - i am not impressed - not in the least - sure, i look like a rebel, and i may even write like a rebel but the reality of it all is that kids need to learn what it means to live in love and grace, and flipping off the camera is not love and grace. i do not flipp people off.

4. pets are cute, but if all your pictures are of your pet cats, i wonder if you have a life. i am not the kind of person who demands you have pictures of yourself, but to have no pictures of you interacting with other humans just gets me to think that you live like "cat people" and never get out of your home.

5. ask, just ask to be a friend and i will be happy to add you - well, depending on the other areas. i do not care where you are from, what your name is, how old you are, or your gender - i like to get to know people. if you live close by and want to get a cup of coffee, just message and ask - i would be happy to meet with anyone and just have conversation.

myspace is a great place, and it can be a wonderful tool to expand our friendships and our definition of what a friend is - but it can be a place where people hurt one another - so, be careful. develop friends, but mostly develop your walk with Christ.


torn bibles

recently, i have the pleasure to attend a "black church" - a church in the historical african american tradition - and i was amazed. i was not amazed by the music, which was great - nor was i amazed at the preaching, which was fantastic - what amazed me was that in each pew they had pew bibles - now, that may not seem like a big deal - after all, many churches supply pew bibles - i have been in luthern church, methodist churches and even baptist churches that had pew bible - the big difference, that i saw, was the pew bible in the african american church were worn, torn and dog-eared; they were used.

i am not suggesting that the pew bibles in other churches are not used, but i have never seen them used like that - i have been in "white churches" where the pew bible looks as new as the day it was purchased. i have been in churches where i pick up a bible and the spin "snaps" as i open it - and the gold edging is still stuck together.

i was impressed with how used those bibles were - and they were used - written in, pages marked, dog-eared and folded - it was exciting to see that in a church - this got me thinking, i need to get out more and visit more churches :)

in fact, i would challenge each and every reader to visit a church of a different tradition this sunday - your pastor should understand :)


the fallen

i am not impressed with political leaders or religious leaders who take a "hard line" stance for any topic - because they always fall from grace. it is the "speck and beem" thing Jesus told us about. spitzer is just the latest in a long line of "leaders" who have stood hard on what they saw as a moral issue, only to fall to that same moral issue. when i was a kid my grandfather taught me that, "those who scream the loudest against something, are usually what they are against." i have seen this many times, and more so over the past few years -

leaders who shout "anti-homosexual rhetoric" are caught with gay prostitutes, paying for some pretty kinky stuff. leaders who stand on a "anti-drug" campaign, only to find themselves in rehab working on "personal demons." leaders who shout for a "moral center" are found to be so far to the left, or right, that they lose all creditability. this seems to be the way of the world, shout against and fall into the sin you stand against. but when they do fall, they aways ask for the grace they refused to show others - i am reminded the the swaggart/bakker thing, where swaggart rode bakker about his "sexual immorality" only to stand before his own congregation a short time later asking for forgiveness and grace - yet he offered bakker none.

the hard part for me is not what they are against, or that they have fallen, but that they lived a lie for so long that it is hard to see value in anything they have ever shared - i mean, if they lied that big about who they were sleeping with [and paying big bucks for it] then how can i trust anything they promised? if they lied to the people closest to them, their family, how can i, a stranger, trust anything they have to say? i have lost all confidence in our political leaders, our religious leaders and anyone who claims a "moral right" for any reason - because they all have fallen way short -

now, we can "caulk this up" to them being "human" and they are, but actions must match words. if those we seek to be leaders are not sharing with us a reality we can see and express - who is there to trust to lead? leaders keep complaining that people are not supporting them, well it could be we are just waiting to see who falls next.

just some thoughts i have been having today as i read the spitzer stories - and how they relate to all the flash backs that seem to be going through my mind of past "leaders" great and small.


words that guide my faith journey

over the past few years i have been processing a great deal of life - some great, some good and some not so good - but life never the less. in that processing, i have been thinking a great deal about my faith journey and what God is doing to refine my faith walk. when i think of my faith journey some very important words come to mind, and help me in the process - let me share with you a few of the words that have great meaning to me:

forgiveness: i start with forgiveness because i believe it to be the most important thing that i as a follower must offer to others. to me, this is the most important part of my faith. i see forgiveness as so central to my journey that without it i feel i can easily walk off the path. for me, this is my forgiving those who have done me wrong, and knowing i am forgiven for the wrongs i have done others - believe it or not, in my heart, forgiveness starts and flows from God - i can not forgive on my own, i need to be in a constant relationship with Christ to truly express forgiveness to others - i need to trust in Christ to guide my heart to truly wanting to forgive those who have hurt me - while it is hard, i believe it is not impossible. i need to keep in mind that if i do not forgive others, i will never be forgiven my sins.

grace: this is me acting in kindness, finding a kind way of expressing thoughts that may see different then the ones held by others. it has not always been my strongest reality, but it is one i am trying hard to develop. you see, i can tell the truth in all cases and with grace i can make that truth meaningful, without hurting the feelings of others.

caring: i need to be ready to go that extra mile for others, even when i do not want to - and i have to admit that i have failed on this one big time. you see, sometimes [many times] i am unwilling to go that extra mile - i am unwilling to give of myself to the point where it is uncomfortable. interestingly, i have found that i am willing to help those i see as "being in need" but i am less likely to help those i see as "not needing" - i will give a homeless man some money, but am i willing to give to a man who has all? to be "caring" to me means we need to redefine what we see as "needs" and know that without Christ we are all in need.

love: believe it or not, love is not "high" on my list of words, not because it is not important, but because i believe we can not truly love until we forgive, care, and show grace to those around us - some would say that before we can do all that we need to love - but for me in my journey, i find loving someone as easy - i find caring for them, showing grace to them and forgiving them hard. for me, in my journey, i have found love to be over rated and fleeting.

acceptance: this may seem like grace, but i think it is deeper and harder. you see, we can show "grace" to a gay or lesbian, but can we accept them for who they are? we are quick to discount the "lifestyle" as "against a christian life style" but we have to ask - so are many other things we ignore. one pastor friend said, "God said he hated homosexuals" so we can not allow them into the church - ok, but the palmist tells us that God hates all who do wrong [plms 5:5]. so if we use what God hates as a bar from the church, we would have some pretty empty churches - oh, wait we do.

optimism: i just can not have a negative attitude when it comes to my faith - i have to see the good things in life. too much of our faith is based on what we are against, but it should be measured by what we are for. if we are for very little, we then need to rethink our faith and determine what it is we believe in.

journey: faith for me is not a destination, it is a journey - a walk, a rose i travel to find my way and experience how God works in my daily walk. if we view our faith as a destination, we stop our journey when we think we have arrived. if we say, "accept Jesus as your lord and savior and you will have eternal life" and "eternal life" is our destination, then simply by accepting Jesus we have arrived at our destination and the faith journey is over - so, for me, i need to rethink what it means to "accept Jesus as my lord and savior" not as a destination, but as a starting point where i work out my salvation in fear and trembling.

life: too many followers i know just do not like life - and man, we need to truly enjoy life. i seek to embrace it and live among God's people - i seek to express my life in words, art, song and deeds - i seek to eat at the table of life and feast on all that God has made - we need to stop acting like we were pickled upon baptism, and start acting like we truly have a new life in Christ.

unity: i seek to find the common ideas between us, and not seek out the differences. we have spent years looking for what divides us as a faith group and we need to stop and find our united center again.

fluid: things flow, and God sends waves of change into our lives. if i am unwilling to see the waves, i can not be doing what God asks of me - so i need to be fluid in my ideas, expressions and direction - totally and completely open to the powers of God.


were do we find common ground?

before i start, i want to explain that i believe Jesus is my Lord and Savior - while i have never had an issue with that, i have to say i am very uncomfortable thinking i need to say that before i go on - and why is that? because i am going to write about "common grounds" between christianity and islam - and i know, if i did not "qualify my words" some would take them out of context - and that is the scary part. there are some who would refuse to dialog, and i pray for them all.

recently i came upon a site called "a common word" where some 250 islamic leaders [originaly 139 signed and more were added] signed an open letter to the christian church seeking dialog between us and them - and that is very cool. they sought to open the dialog with what we hold in common - our belief in one God and our love for others. this excited me because i saw it as a way of being able to stand and talk - to come to the table with two core, common realities and start a dialog of peace - peace between the two major religious groups of the world - because if we are not at peace with each other, the world will never be at peace. but i wonder if it is really possible? not on the islamic end, but on the christain end.

as i read through the site i was impressed with the words of many of our "christian leaders" - but not overly impressed; there was subtance but very little "let's have a cup of coffee and talk" stuff happening. we can do more - how? easy. as local church leaders we can open dialog and friendships with local islamic leaders; we can go and have a cup of coffee - we can start this at a grass roots level, where our voices are not heard on a national stage, but in the hearts of local people, where it counts. while i am encouraged over the voices of the "leaders" i am reminded that for us, Jesus is the head of the church [the true leader] and we are representatives of Jesus on earth - so we, the local church people [pastors and all], should be taking the actions to speak to the hearts and minds of islamic followers in our communities - not to convert, but to have an open, honest and meaningful dialog on what we hold in common -

let's be honest, it is too easy to find the differences, and to be honest i think it is cheap to find them - what costs more, what drives our hearts, should be the desire to find a common ground - a common word - where we can stand and stop the killing in the name of religion - if not, if we are unwilling to take that step we will soon find the world at war, based on the misconceptions we hold about each other and that would be very sad.


changing the world

do we as followers have a faith that can change the world? i often wonder, because if i hear many evangelicals right, our faith is not enough to change us - never mind the world we live in. if, our faith is unable to cause in us a new life, what makes us think we can make a new world? what makes us think we can bring something to the world that will change the direction? if, our faith just "saves us" but does not "change us" what value is it? what value is a faith that does not change our walk, direction or journey?

i was wondering this today as i sit in my favorite coffee shop sucking on my chai latte - what value is a faith that does not change us at a core? if all we can say is "i am saved" but not changed, are we truly saved? it seems to me that we have a great deal more to think about when it comes to the words of Jesus and paul - that when we decide to follow Jesus we are changed, we become a new person - we no longer desire the things we did before - we become "children of God" and in that we seek to live a life of love and forgiveness. we search for ways to unite and not divide; we strive to know others and love them - because we are told we must. if, we are not changed and if we are not seeking out a path of love and forgiveness we can not claim to be followers on a journey of faith where Jesus is the lead.

that may sound harsh, but i am tired of hearing "followers" claiming to love others and yet not wanting to truly love them - people who claim forgiveness, but who do not forgive. i desire to be connected with people who truly desire to live a changed life and seek out the kingdom of God on earth - by loving others and truly forgiving those who have done us wrong - consider it a "christian sanity" where when we strive to be "sane" we know we are to follow the teachings of Christ, even the hard ones.

check out these passages [click here]


what part of love don't we understand?

i am amazed at how many people desire to "qualify" love in different ways. we stretch it, we mold it, we sell it - but we always seem to discount it when it comes to loving those who are different then us. we find reasons not to love, and that to me is amazing.

why do we discount love? why do we make excuses for not loving? why are we seeking something we are unwilling to give to others? what part of love are we having a hard time understanding? what does a community of faith look like if it is willing to place the love of others over the love of self? can we strive to reach a point in our journey where love is the center of our thoughts and actions? if, as Jesus tells us, we are known to be his followers if people can see our love for each other - how known are we? do people look at us and turn away? do people see in us, and in our actions, the love of Christ? can it be said of us, "they love each other greatly?" where do we see love in our lives? at what point do we give into love and allow love to control our walk? why is it we love in the easy times and not in the hard times? why is it so important that others love us, but less important that we love others?

what part of love don't we understand?


a stranger in a strange land

one of the greatest, if not the greatest, sifi book i have ever read in my entire life is called "stranger in a strange land," it is the best-selling 1961 novel by robert heinlein. of all the books i read in college, this book had the most profound influence on my life and future actions. if you have never read the book, i suggest you buy it and read it - it is amazing. why is it amazing? because it will make you think beyond the limited possibilities we see and it will make you think about what it means to be a follower in this world, where change is possible and sacrifice is required. you see, i read the book right before i became a christian. it effected my life so deeply that i found my understanding of who i was as followers of The Way based on the actions of the main character; you have to read it to understand what i mean.

in the second letter attributed to peter, peter writes, "friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.[2:11-12]" what peter is telling us is that we are "strangers in a strange land" and we need to act accordingly. how do we do that? i am certain there are many ways, and i am certain some will disagree with the ways i am suggesting - but i would like to share with you my views on how we act like "strangers in a strange land."

first, i believe we need to stand for what is of God - not "justice" - and seek social change. you see, i believe we are to be a "just" people, but we are not to seek "justice." true justice can only come from God, our human idea of what is and is not justice is, at best, weak and blind. there is little we can do to escape the idea that justice is "not even." think of it this way, you know the person living next door is here illegally, “justice” requires you call the police and they be deported. but in God's love we are never given justice, we are given grace. “justice” requires we “turn them in” – grace requires we help them live a better life. because if we are demanding others live by "justice" [a state thing] we must be willing to answer to the same “blind” justice; and justice is never “justice” when it effects us directly. in Christ we are given grace, salvation and a walk of faith that allows us to see the face of God on our journey - so, for me i do not seek "social justice" i seek "social grace"

i believe we also need to embrace the unclean of our day. that means we need to visit people in the hospital and love on those who are hurting, wondering, seeking, thinking, and outside the love of our community. we need to visit those in prisons, literal prisons, and seek to help them to walk in the light - we need to give water to those who thirst, and we need to feed those who hunger - we need to honestly and openly work on helping people meet their physical needs long before we meet their spiritual needs - Jesus did, he was always concerned about the person on earth before he was concerned about the person going to heaven.

i believe we need to honestly and openly confess our sins and strive to walk a solid path of light, without fear of those in our community pushing us to the side and tagging us with some certain letter. you see, too many time we tell people to be open and confess their sins, and the second they do we toss them aside like damaged goods never to speak with them again. over my life time i have met more people who have been so hurt by those in the church that they refuse to even think about “coming back.” we need to be different, we need to be willing to forgive, even before being asked to forgive. if we hold peoples sins against them, then Jesus teaches God will hold our sins against us. we must forgive, forget, love and minister to the people of this world and know that God is God.

i believe we need to be willing to exchange our lives, for the lives of others. this one is the hardest things we could ever be called to do. In “the word” people are told to “defend themselves” and “kill those who wish others harm” – but Jesus goes deeper, and so should we. Jesus was willing to die for others, to give his life even when he had the power to set himself free. it is hard to think in terms of giving your life for another - who among us is willing to die for a stranger? is that not the same question paul asked? you see, we may be willing to be "inconvenienced" for a short time for a friend, but who is willing to give their lives for a complete stranger?

i believe we need to walk in a counter-cultural direction and stand firm on the issues facing us as a people of faith - it is not that we are demanding that others follow our way, it is that we just will not follow their way. you see, as people of faith we are called to live a very different life then those who are not called to faith. our faith requires that we actually do something, take action and stand firm on who we are and how we act as followers of The Way.


emerging and methodists

it might be best to start out with a disclaimer, i attended a umc seminary called drew and pastored a few umc churches in my day. now, that being said i still think a great deal of my theology is based more on the wesleyan traditions and less on other traditions. wesleyan theology connects for me - it allows me to develop a flow on information in my walk of faith that keeps me centered on Christ. I like that, and i think i know why -

the "wesleyan quadrilateral"

scripture - the Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments)
tradition - the two millennia history of the Christian Church
reason - rational thinking and sensible interpretation
experience - a Christian's personal and communal journey in Christ

for me, those allow me to develop a solid emerging walk that calls me to action, prayer and vocation. it allows me to see a christ-centered community of faith seeking to be a missional reality to the world we live in. it speaks to me of a ative and living faith where i can express a narrative theology, with an honest expression of a generous orthodoxy. it allows me to find an authontic community where people, all people - even the broken - can find a home and reach the face of God. in that community i can see to be in conversation and dialog with all people, regardless of where they are in their faith journey. i have found it to be a place where the community can express themselves in creative and dynamic ways.

are they perfect? no, but i can say that they are accepting of others - and that is cooler then being perfect.


crash, burn and heal

i have been dealing with some very deep personal issues as of late. the kind of issues that change your life and make you take a deep look at some of the mistakes you have made along the way - and i have made some pretty big mistakes - but i am thankful God is there, and that i am able to learn from the lesson.

you see, i am a sinner - no, i am not saying this so people can say "look, even a pastor can sin" - because that seems trivial to the moment - no, i mean i am a sinner - i lie, i cheat, i steal. i am a self-centered egomaniac who seldom thinks of anyone but himself - i over inflate my importance and under inflate my responsibility. i have hurt people, i have lied to people - i am a sinner - pure and simple - i am the scum that forms on the scum in a stagnate pond. i have crashed, and i have burned, i have reached the bottom of the pit and i am climbing out - i have reached the lowest point of my life and i am thankful to God for that - because in this i have found a very important love relationship - and that is the love of God, through Jesus Christ.

you see, over the past few years i have been operating on "my skills"- "my quick thinking" and "my words" and i have ignored the words of God in my life - and all that simply added up to a pile of garbage in my life that has festered, and smelt the room up - a tower built on my words, my skills and my thinking is noting, a tower built on garbage - so it came crashing down - with me and others in the rubble, and for that i am sorry - i did not mean for anyone to get hurt in the fall - and for that i am deeply sorry - i cry when i think of the hurt.

you see, i have learned some very important lessons over this time - first, i need to trust 100% on God and get my sinning self out of the way. i need to trust 100% that God has a plan and i fit in to that plan - i need to stop making my own way, and start making a way for God. i need to be less me, and more Jesus - heck, i just need to be less me.

next, i need to get past hiding the hurts and the pains - life suck and sometimes we get bit. i feel like i have been attacked by a pack of pit bulls, but i also have to say that many of my wounds are self inflected. you see, i can not blame others for the pains i have in my life, that falls flat on me. it is because of my human nature, and i have the scars to prove it - i need to let God take the pains and move them to healings - as i have been doing. i need to open and be honest with myself and others about my feeling, no matter the fall out - i need to be ready to learn and move past where i am and allow others to tell me what they see wrong about me. i need to stand on Christ, and let Jesus add to my voice.

and with all that, i need to trust the counsel of those i trust and love. no matter what i think i want, i need to allow others to have a voice in my life - people i love, and who i know love me - they have the best in store for me, so i should trust their words. i need to learn to trust and let those around me see my faults and help me past them.

i have not been a very nice guy over the past few years - and i am sure i hurt many people - and for that i am so deeply sorry - I stand before God with an open heart, confessing all my wrongs and all my selfishness - and i know he forgives me - so to others i say i am truly sorry for being the jerk i was - i pray, and i know, that this life experience has forced me to take some deep looks into my heart - and what i have found is a man looking to reconnect in a deep way with Jesus Christ -



i will admit i am still in process over this idea, but it is one that struck me the other day. ever since i became a christian i have heard people say "we need to be selfless in our actions to others." i was talking with a great friend and he mentioned the same thing, "we need to be selfless" - when he said it i did not hear "selfless" i heard "selflast" - and i think i like that view of life.

to me, being "selflast" means i place all others before me - i am willing to give all i have to help others in need - now, that may not be the smart thing to do, but i think it is the Jesus thing to do.

as i mentioned at the start, this is in process - help me flush this out. give me your ideas, your voices count and i trust what you will share - comment, and let me know


Five Second Theology Without Meaning - Living the Church Organic, Part 2

Ever had your guts ripped out? Ever had your spin ripped from your body with such force you fall to your knees in shock, wondering what just happened? Ever had your world explode around in with such force you are left deaf from the noise and numb to the results for days? Ever had fear over take you in such a way that you had no idea where to turn, how to move or even if you should? Ever been so over whelmed by the hurts of life that no matter what you do, think or say you know the feeling will just grow and the forces surrounding you will win? Have you ever been so moved by hurt, pain and loses that all you want to do is go into a corner, curl up in a ball and just stay forever and let the world move along without you? I have, several times in my life, had those feeling. Feeling where you know everything is messed up, and you have no control over any part of the events; it is like chaos taking control of your life and it is spinning out of control. Feeling so lost, so disconnected, so alone that you cannot hear the world around. Feelings so intense you shake with fear, are blinded by hurt, misdirected by confusion, crying in anger and in such pain that you live in uncontrollable flashes of white noise and a cascade of thoughts you have no control over. Feelings so deep, so primal, so raw that there is no way to describe them, no way to control them and no way to hold them in – so you cry. You cry over little things, you cry over memories, you cry over lost possibilities, you cry over where you put your car keys. So, what do you do? Where do you turn?

Well, if you are me – a Follower of Jesus and a Pastor – the natural place to turn to is the “church” you belong to for help, love, guidance and support; but if you are also like me you soon find that none of that is found in the church. In fact, when I look back at a time in my life where I needed people to support me the most, the church was the place that helped the least; in fact the church pushed me away. When my world fell apart, the church actually moved back and became a cold and distant voyeur of my life pain. I was no longer a person to help, I was now a person to keep away from, treat politely in public settings and talk about in the “privacy” of the Bible study; my pain became a virus and I the carrier that would infect the church as a whole. I would hear people say, “I will keep you in my prayers” and I would think, “Thank you, but right now I need a hug.” People would say to me, “God will not give you more then you can carry” as I was trying to figure out where I could park my car to get sleep because I could not afford a hotel room to sleep in that night. People who say to me “Keep us in the loop” but would never ask me to come over for dinner. People, who you would think should be there for you, simply gave short one-liners as if that would “fix” the pain – or even worse, they actually believed that those one-liners were the truth of the Gospel message.

Now I have to say that not everyone does that, but 98% of the “Christians” I have been in contact with do just that. The part the hurts the most in those times, for me, was that I was the Pastor of the church, and they still acted that way. Where I would have expected them to “rally behind the leader” I actually found that they would run and tell others I has koodies. This got me thinking, not that they were bad but where they simply doing what I taught them to do? Where they simply acting out what they saw me do and say to others? In my heart I have to not point fingers at others, but instead point fingers at myself and other pastors who feed a “five second theology” into the minds of God people. You see, “they” are not to be blamed – “we” are.

Some actions on our part:
I think the first thing we need to do as Followers of Christ is realize that cute little catchy slogan and pithy little sermon titles do not make for good theology. I would say the reason we do this is because we are lazy, I would have to add that we also do this because we fear “upsetting” a few people in the church; and we do not desire to “get dirty” with the “emotional vomit” of others. Think of it this way, if a person comes to you and says, “My husband just kicked me out of the house and I have no place to live and no money to live on” and all you can say is “I will pray for you” – you need to rethink your theology, because in the reality of her world, your words are useless.

Let’s look at in this way, if a member of your community of faith comes to you and says “My husband just kicked me out of the house and I have no place to go and no money to live on” what would the “church” do? Chances are they would point the person to the battered women’s shelter and offer her some food vouchers – and if the woman never comes back again, the church would say “they helped.” But did they? I think not.

You see, for me and “the church organic” we need to start to replace “words of theology” with an “action of theology” – we need to stop “saying” and start “doing.” We need to go that extra mile and get ready to give up our comfort for the comfort of another – we need to be ready embrace, hug, love and help. For example, w need to find her a place to live with loving people with in our community of faith; people willing to help her on her journey, no matter how long it takes. But for this to happen, I believe the Pastor needs to take the lead and openly confess that the church has failed in many ways. But with God’s help we can honestly and openly take the lead in this and change our way of thinking.


The Only Way

Faith to me is a journey, it is not a destination; it is not “where I am going,” it is “how am I getting there.” To me, my walk in faith has been an interesting adventure, and is often filled with times of great stress, followed by times of rest and relaxation. It has been a journey that has brought me through some very hard times, and some very good times. In my faith journey I have met people I adore, people I can share my life with and who are honest enough to love and care for me. I am certain my faith journey will continue to be an exciting adventure because my faith is always in process. While some may find that hard to understand, you know the idea that faith should be “in process, I know the truth of a “faith in process” because I am living it every day. While I know my faith is a journey, and that my faith is always in process, I also know that there is one center of my faith that remains a constant core; that one center is that Jesus is the only way. You see, even on a journey one needs a guide, a map, a idea of how to get from point a to point b – and in my reality Jesus is that guide.

To some that sounds “harsh,” even closed minded, but it is not. Let me relate a recent happening from my faith journey. Not too long ago, I was in a gathering of people and the concept of “religion” hit the table. I am always amazed at how little people know of other world religions, and even the religion they claim as their own. One of the people mentioned that they could not understand how anyone could claim their faith as “the one true faith” and discount others. As I was listening to this person it dawned on me that they were doing exactly what they were standing against. You see, for them their “faith” was that everyone was right – and they wanted everyone to embrace their truth; they felt they were right and everyone else was wrong – they stood firm on the idea that we should see all faiths as being “right.” In fact, I believe they stood on it firm enough that they could be viewed as “radical” about their faith beliefs. This got me thinking about Jesus as “the only way” and I found peace in my thoughts.

You see, in my heart I know Jesus is the only way to the Father and I desire others to know that reality; I’m good with that. In fact, as a pastor that is one of the driving realities of my ministry – that people know, live and embrace Jesus as the only way to the Father. I am good with the idea that Jesus is the only way; I like it, I am comfortable in that reality. I have no problems with that core, but some do. For me, the journey is best traveled with Jesus at your side; people can fail you but Jesus never does. While I do not believe in “beating people into Jesus” I am comfortable with living my faith and speaking of it as a core of my journey – I truly am ok with the idea that Jesus is the only way.

Recently, on my journey, I have taken a path that was uncomfortable and hurtful, but I believe needed to center my core. This path was filled with doubts, questions, dark turns and even a few pitfalls. It was a path that stripped me of my core, caused me to doubt my call and allowed me to become less so others could become more. I believe I needed to be on that path so that I could reinforce the core reality of Jesus in my life – I needed to journey that path in darkness so when I saw the light, it was brighter and warmer then I had remembered.

I am certain Jesus is the only way, while everything else is in process – everything I process, processes around the core reality that Jesus is the only way.


living the church organic

[thoughts in process]

what does it mean to be "church organic?" what value does being a "church organic" have in relation to being "church inorganic?" the reality for me is that most churches have started with the desire to be "church organic" but have added so many artificial flavors and ingredients that they can claim, at best, being "church inorganic." is "church organic" healthier for you then "church inorganic?" Over my personal walk in faith i have found that when i needed the church the most, it walked away from me; it was the "church inorganic." is it possible to strip "church inorganic" of all it caries and bring about "church organic?" if not, do we simply need to "start fresh, in organic soil, with heirloom seeds" to truly keep it organic? can we see past the hype and the programs that create "church inorganic" and bring about a revolution in the church organic? keeping in mind, being "church organic" means we seek smaller growing fields, natural water supply, organic soil and organic fertilizers; we also need to remember that "church organic" requires a great deal of labor; growing things organically requires a great deal of labor, and a great many workers - is the "church inorganic" truly ready to become "the church organic?" to me, and others will disagree, but the key to "the church organic" is looking at the church in the first two centuries; a deeper look at the church in Acts.

it forms a "sense of place"
what does it mean to form a "sense of place?" i believe it means it flows from the people, and is not designed around programmatic needs, but the needs of the people at any point in time. everything it is, is because it is "local." it forms a place where the local flavor is nurtured and embraced. being organic means it demonstrates a reverence for the people in the community. it sees the value of the local connection and it benefits the local community. it connects people to people and allows for the needs to be found from the ground up; it is feed by local soil. by forming a "sense of place" it allows for generations to come together and experience life in new and different ways. the idea behind a "sense of place" means we see past ideas of "generation" and we find a way to truly work to develop a common ground and in my heart, that common ground is always Christ.

in creating this "sense of place" we need to remember that a 10,000 member church can not form a "sense of place." while they can think they can by creating "smaller churches" [cell groups] within the larger church, but it still becomes "program" and it is designed to keep the church big - it's "sense of place" starts with the needs of the institution and that can never be church organic. the process of growth in such a church falls into canned programs and prescribed process that moves a person along an assembly line of "faith development."

it reduces the "toxic load"
living in "the church organic" enforces and promotes a "less toxic" environment where living, breathing ideas grow and are nurtured; where people connect and share life together. we live at risk of exposure to noxious "artificial" programs and we run the reality that we are feeding poison to those into the community. think of it this way, the church organic lives in the environment so supporting organic reality doesn’t just benefit out community, it helps all families live a less toxic theology.

messy, you need to get dirty when playing in the dirt
it takes a great deal of hard work to develop organic soil. the idea of saving "the garbage" and letting it turn into nutrients seems so far away for most of us, we are use to the "instant growth" chemicals bring into our life. but when we start looking at the church organic we need to remember that the soil needs to be rich, natural and available to use. so, in that we need to get ready to get dirty.

slow growth - growth is on God's time, not on ours
developing the church organic takes time and commitment on the part of the servant called to serve the people. they need to be connected to the lives of the people, live among the people and share their lives and struggles with the people - the people they servant must know, love and trust that servant. we have to remember that just as organic food is better for us in our heath, the organic church is better for us in our spiritual walk

before i had mentioned that whenever i had hard times in my life, i felt the church pull away from me - they never seemed to open and express a love and care. i was left to "fixing the problems on my own." but in the church organic, and because of the realization that we are to be their for others, this can never happen - when we are growing as a community, in our spirit, in our relationship to Christ, we express a desire to help - to get dirty - to be a shoulder to cry on - because we know, when the time comes and we need the support of the community, the church organic will come and be there for us.

i want to be honest, and let you know that living the church organic is costly, timely, hard, dirty and tiring work. it will bring you to the point of screaming, and it will bring you to the point of great joy. you will cry in the good times and the bad - you will experience a community of faith like you have never experienced - an "acts community of faith" where people shared life. you will find yourself sharing things you would have never thought sharing and you will forgive those who have hurt you along the way. the church organic is a place of healing, connecting and expressing the love of Christ to the world around us. when we look at the hearts of those we see, we know that they need the church organic, they need to live in a community of faith that loves them, helps them and supports them through hard time - if a church is unwilling to be the church organic, i desire to have nothing to do with it - i am looking for a church to pastor in california, and i am looking for a church with the heart and desire to be "the church organic"


searching for grace

where do you find grace? where can we, as humans, find grace and unconditional love? where can we find a place that welcomes us for us? where can we be loved for who we are and not what others demand of us? where can we find a place where we are acknowledged as having value? where can we find a place that helps us over come the pains of life? where can we find a place that simply will help take the pressures off our shoulder? where are we welcomed when we are broken? when we are lost? when we are searching? when we are crying out in pain? where do we find grace?

to be honest, i am not sure. i am not sure where we could ever find this place - a place that just takes you as you - a place that allows you to be flawed, and loves you in spite of the flaws. while i expect the "let down" of people, i do not expect the "let down" of people who profess to be "followers" of "the way." you see, at some level i expect "people" to stab me in the back, but i do not expect to fall to "friendly fire." how do we get past that? how do we get to the point where we as followers truly live in grace?

i am flawed, big time flawed - and i have never said i was not - yet in the "flawed nature" i do not think i have ever walked away from a person in need [and if i did i am so very sorry] - i have tried to be a shoulder, a ear, a voice to help and support. i have tried to be a voice to those who profess to be "followers" and call them to a life that strives to make a difference - sometimes my words and advice are not the best - but i am ok with that - all i can say is i strive to care - i strive to show some level of grace - sometimes more and sometimes less. given that, i have to say that over the past few years i have been meeting people who just seem to ignore the love and grace of christ for others, and it causes my heart to hurt - i cry over the way others seem to treat those seeking grace, love and forgiveness - and they do it in the name of "jesus." it is as if a man is crying in the cold and all they will do is "pray for him" and give him a bar of soap; then say, "look, we helped him by doing the best we could." then, when someone says, "no, you should have given him a blanket" they reply with, "all we had was soap, so we did the best we could." but the question echos, is our "best" that we are called to give - or are we called to go beyond our best, and into the world of meeting the needs of others?

you see, in my flawed nature i understand that living in grace, and sharing love and forgiveness with others, pushes me beyond my best; it pushes me to give of myself to the point of giving away part of myself - it means, that if i truly desire to share with others i must give a piece of myself in the process - and never ask for it back. i must be willing to give of myself, to the end of my life, to help others. this is not the "prevailing wisdom" which teaches "we give of what we have left" - we would never think of giving of ourselves to the point of our lives.

but if we are unwilling to truly go beyond our best we never truly seek to give grace, forgiveness and love to others - oh, sure we will talk a good game, but we will never truly do anything to help.

so, where can one find grace? in you? in me? in the community of faith we gather in? where does one find grace?


welcoming and inviting?

some questions:
how do you define feeling welcomed into a "church?" what would make you never step foot in a "church" again? how would you define feeling "invited" to a "church?" what do you think are the core realities of feeling welcomed and invited? would you feel welcomed in a "church" if you could not find it? would you feel invited to a "church" if there was no one around who could tell you where the "church" was? if you called a "church" on sunday morning, looking to go, but could not speak to a person and only heard a tape [without directions, or even address] what would you do?

the story:
last sunday i had that exact experience - i tried hard to find a local christian church, disciples of christ congregation in sacramento [it is not my style to give the exact name of the local church - besides, what happened after was even more enlightening] only to get no where - the local church had the wrong link to a map on their site, so i googled the address and got directions. after driving in the area for a while i was not able to find the church - so i did the next best thing...

first i stopped into a local store and asked for directions - the store was filled with people getting their morning stuff and no one, no one [not one person there], had ever heard of the church. facing the reality that this church was not connected to the community, i did the next thing i could think of, i called the church. now, i was "in the area" and it was about a half hour before services so i figured i would catch someone in the office and get directions - but all i got was a voice message - so i drove around some more and called again - all i got was the same voice message - so i stopped by a local church in the area and just brushed off the experience as "well, so it goes."

the more i thought about the experience the more concerned i got about the reality of how i felt, so when i got home i decided to email the regional minister for the disciples and explain my frustration and let them know that the way the church "acted" [or did not act] allowed a lack of "welcoming and inviting" to the church - i did not think the email was that bad, it just explained my view and how i felt - the response i got spoke volumes to me - because it discounted my feelings and simply gave excuses as to why the church acted as it did - i replied back and simply expressed my concern about having my experience discounted and how i felt about being given a list of excused for why the church did what it did [or did not do]. but the next email was not a reply from the regional minister, but rather from someone he asked to email me and "explain deeper." the email was rather interesting, and very condescending. she tried to make me feel as if i was the problem for feeling unwelcomed and i did not understand. again, all i got from her was the same list of reasons why the church acted as it did - and my feelings were discounted and pushed to the side.

feeling welcomed and invited:
to invite someone to my home i need to give them the address and help them find the house. if i give the wrong address, or do not give the directions, i am telling them - in a round about way - that they are not welcomed at my house. the same is true for the church. if you tell people, "come" but they have no idea how to get there - you are not saying "come" - you are saying "stay away."

now, there can be a million reasons why a church would not be welcoming or inviting but to be honest none of them are valid. let's be honest, and say straight out, that there there are no reasons for a church to be closed. we all know it, we all say it but we still give excuses for those who do it. one of the first things we need to remember is that it is not "our home" - it is a gathering of community, open to all who are seeking to know christ - what if i was a person who was not a follower, and in a quick decision decided to "go to church" - and could not find the church - would i go again? would i look at it as say, "well, looks like God did not want me to go to church."

while i am not impressed with how the church closed its doors to the community, i am less impressed with how the "leadership" of the denomination simply making excuses for the church. we, as followers, need to be open, honest and stop allowing bad behavior of leaders and churches as they ignore the reality of being open and inviting.

it is not my desire to "pick on" the "christian church, disciples of christ; i am certain other church have the same problems. but keep this in mind, the "vision" of the disciples of christ is "to be a faithful, growing church, that demonstrates true community, deep christian spirituality and a passion for justice"

yet i wonder; for me, the interesting thing is that to "demonstrate true community" means people are welcomed and invited, to have a "deep spirituality" means we are willing to be more like christ and less like others and if we have a "passion for justice" we do not ignore the feelings of others, and their realities and make excuses for the actions of others.


predictions for 2008

let me pretend i talk with dead people and see if i can predict the future. well not really "dead" people, like in the whole "oh no, my heart stopped and i'm dead and either going to heaven or hell" thing going, that would be too freaky. i am talking about "dead people," you see i do speak with a great many people in a great many churches and most of them seem dead, and that counts. in my conversations with these "dead people" i have developed a "insight" into what i believe will be the problems facing the church in 2008 [besides the whole dead thing] - now, i could be wrong, but i don't think i am - you see, of the people i speak with and the things shared with me i believe i have a pretty good handle on what will be happening over the next year in the church - so, here is what i think will be the three greatest issues facing the church in 2008:

gay clergy [or just gay people in general]
for many in the church the idea of "gay" tosses them for a loop - they can not process that reality, and they are not sure how to handle what that brings to the table. you have to remember that most people in the church were "born" into the church [their parents were believers] and raised in the church [attended church their whole life] so many have a collective of some 50 years hearing about how all gays are "going to hell in a heap of fire, wrapped in the chains of twisted sin and covered in the grease of indecency." in that, there has been a great tension building in and around the church concerning "gay people" that i believe will come to a head in 2008, or come close to a head [maybe a neck].

i believe churches will split over this issue more in 2008 then in 2007. in 2007 whole sections of the episcopal church left the american church over this issue, and i believe it will cause others to do the same - in all denominations. while this will not "kill" the church, it will lead to a bigger problem for many of the "old line" and "main line" churches - some will be seen as "closed" and others will be seen as "liberal" - and the pew picking begins. but the issue goes deeper then just gay clergy, it speaks to how will the church open its doors to gay people, in general - this i believe will be a big wall the church will need to knock down in 2008.

what is a possible solution? i think what needs to happen is we as a church need to walk away from looking at everything in terms of "sex." sure, "sex sells" but it also destroys. i often wonder about the idea of sex in the church. too many people are too driven with the idea of "weeding out" people with sexual issues yet, the idea that they are so driven by the sexual issues of others means they in themselves have a sexual issue. the idea here, for me, is to trust in God and know that God is the head of the church and in that God will deal with the issues God desires to deal with. we are not the "moral police" - we are followers of a loving, gracefilled, giving master called Jesus Christ; and Jesus asked us not to judge other. we need to open our hearts and find ways of allowing God to change the people we come across in our walk.

decreasing membership
i am always amazed at churches that look over their own stats and just do not see it - they refuse to name the elephant in the room and they ignore that the elephant is even in the room taking a dump all over the place [which only attracts "dug beetles']. many churches look over the "member stats" and see that there is a very large gaping hole of people between the ages of 18-40. many simply say "we want to attract those people" and yet they are willing to do noting to bring those people into the church - they continue in their non-relevant reality. but even more, many of those churches have no idea how to change and become relevant to the community they are called to serve.

i believe in 2008 the church is heading deeper into a "non-relevant" phase in the minds of many people outside the church [you know, the ones we are trying to attract] - 2008 can be a "make or break" year for many churches seeking to be relevant to the communities they serve. unfortunately, many of the churches in this position will simply place their collective heads into separate hole [theological differences preclude the sharing of the same hole] and ignore the issues facing them. many will see this time as a "time of persecution" and stand firm on the legal aspects of what they believe. they will refuse to look at themselves and see that they are the problem, and that the message of Christ is still pure and sweet, but the words they are using are anything but.

what is a possible solution? at some level that is simple, get relevant, change, redirect, look to the community you are called to serve and see what needs to change to serve that community. if you look around and the community is filled with young people, and none of them are in the church, you might not be reaching them with the style of music and "sermon" you are use to - be the "bigger christian" and be willing to change. in my time consulting with churches i have found that the ones with immature christians are the ones unwilling to take a deep and honest look into who they are and change. for some reason, the church is tied to this idea that we must hold to the traditions of past generations, when the reality is we should be looking to do what it takes to bring the next generation into the church. it has never been about yesterday, it has always been about tomorrow.

church planting
with more and more churches hemorrhaging members due to the train wreck they call "church" many churches will see planting new churches as taking away from "their" resources and members. this will cause a "circle the wagons" mind set even deeper then the current one. this will bring about churches disconnecting from there associations, denominations and communities while going deeper into themselves. these churches will see church plants as a threat to their survival and even gather to "pray against" the plants. these church will become bitter and simply add to the close minded nature of their reality.

what is a possible solution? bite the bullet. realize that it is not about how your church it's about the kingdom being served. if your church is unable to reach out to others, other gatherings of the faithful maybe able to do it better. support them, help them, work with them - regardless of their denomination. if you own a restaurant, offer free meals to the planter and their family; if you run a theater, offer a free evens out to the planter and their family; if you are a doctor, offer free medical care to the planter and their family; if you are a lawyer, offer free legal assistance to the planter and their family; if you own a business that employees different people, offer the planter and their spouse a job - don't complain about what they are doing to your church, glorify what they are striving to do for the Kingdom of God.

based on the conversations i have with dead people, i believe this is where the church is heading. those are mine three - i am sure others see other issues - so, let's share; what do you believe are the three big issues facing the church in 2008?