Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Object of Eternal Love

While studying the Incarnation, I invited my congregation to reflect quietly upon this quote by theologian, Shirley Guthrie. Enjoy:

Before you ever thought of seeking out God to ask for God's love, God sought you out and acted in self-giving love for you.

Before you even considered choosing Christ and making a decision for him, Christ chose you and made a decision for you.

Before you even heard about opening yourself to the freeing and renewing work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit has already been at work in your life and in the world around you.

Before it occurred to you to ask for your own and the world's salvation, while you were still trapped and dead in your sin and unbelief, it already happened in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and is happening through the presence of the living Christ and his Spirit in your life and in the world.

Therefore accept and live by this good news.

Not because you must, but because you may.

Not because you are or want to be a godly, spiritual person, but because God loves, Christ died for, and the Spirit comes to ungodly, worldly sinners.

Not because God is soft and indulgent in dealing with sin and sinners like you but because in Jesus Christ God has already taken on God's self the consequences of your sin and the sin of the whole world.

Not because God will damn and punish you if you don’t, or payoff with all kinds of good things if you do, but out of sheer thankfulness for the loving and powerful grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Accept and live by this grace not because the kingdom of God cannot come unless you seek it and work for it, but because the kingdom of God is coming and is already on the way.

Accept and live by it because God always has been, is and always will be a loving and powerful gracious God - even in those times when you are not sure you believe and despite the massive unbelief and disobedience in the world around you?

– Shirley Guthrie, “A Reformed Theology of Evangelism” in Evangelism in the Reformed Tradition

The entire message is online and available here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Belief System Selector Results

I just took the Belief System Selector. Here are my results:

1. Mainline - Liberal Christian Protestants (100%)
2. Orthodox Quaker (93%)
3. Eastern Orthodox (92%)
4. Roman Catholic (92%)
5. Seventh Day Adventist (91%)
6. Mainline - Conservative Christian Protestant (90%)
7. Liberal Quakers (70%)
8. Hinduism (65%)
9. Unitarian Universalism (62%)
10. Sikhism (56%)
11. Reform Judaism (55%)
12. Orthodox Judaism (54%)
13. Bahai (47%)
14. Islam (44%)
15. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (41%)
16. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (38%)
17. Theravada Buddhism (38%)
18. Mahayana Buddhism (37%)
19. Jainism (34%)
20. New Thought (31%)
21. Jehovah's Witness (31%)
22. Neo-Pagan (30%)
23. Scientology (28%)
24. New Age (26%)
25. Taoism (26%)
26. Secular Humanism (17%)
27. Non-theist (11%)

Honestly, after number 6, I'm not sure how many really apply. But it seems pretty accurate to me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Superman Lives!

For those who take Superman seriously (like me)...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Quotes from "Let God"

Here are some more quotes from Winn Collier's book on Fenelon, Let God:

there is a difference between what we think God should do for us and what God actually does for us. There is a difference between whom we imagine God to be and who God actually is. Becoming a follower of God is hard because it requires that we submit ourselves fully to a God who is other than us. We must let go of our insistence that we know best what we need. We must let go of our demands that God act when and how we demand. (2)

If we had strength and faith enough to trust that God would take care of us, and if we were brave enough to follow God wherever he would want to lead us, we would have no need to exert great mental energy in order to grow in faith. However, our faith is weak, and we are convinced we have to know all the answers from God before we launch out on the journey. This makes our road longer and our spiritual transformation slower. (5)

Abandon yourself entirely to God. Recklessly abandon yourself to God as long as you breathe on this earth. Let loose. You are in good hands. You can be self-abandoned because you will never be God-abandoned. (5)

To follow God, we must walk into the cross, and to walk into the cross is to walk into darkness and poverty, nakedness and death. (8)

The apostle Paul talks about the strong human desire to be clothed well, to be snug and safe. However, the truth is that we need to be stripped naked. Then, when we are naked, Christ can finally be our clothes, our protection, our comfort. (9)

Listen to me with this. Believe it. I know that when you taste this truth, it will seem bitter, but if you will hear it, it will feed your heart well. You will need to die to yourself, the ultimate impoverishment. But this death is the only true life, the only way to be filled. Trust what I am saying. Don’t I listen to your self-protective voice. That voice is the grand seducer. More powerful even than the serpent that deceived our mother Eve. That voice coddles you into being afraid to risk what God requires. Trust me: you will find happiness if you simply listen to and obey the other voice. (10)

True love finds pleasure when it is giving to, suffering for, someone it deeply loves; and we are suffering for God. (14)

We are actually just coming to a place of strength when we begin to see how weak and anemic we truly are. (19)

It isn’t up to you, anyway; it’s all up to God. We need to learn to be kind and patient and honest with ourselves. There’s no need to flatter ourselves and try to talk ourselves into believing we’re better than we are. There’s nothing to hide, nothing to defend. At the same time, there’s no need to lacerate ourselves. There’s no need to hate our humanness and our weakness. God knows where we are and is working good in us. If we can allow ourselves to be where we are, right there with God, that very spot will be a place of transformation. We’ll find we’re in a place that’s ready-made to renovate us with the subtle, powerful tenderness of grace. (20)

Many of our spiritual truths and endless, glamorous spiritual theories actually get in the way Rather than leading us into death of self, they actually foster more arrogant self-confidence. (21)

I know it’s hard for you right now to enjoy any form of spiritual discipline. However, as much as you are able, continue to exercise your spiritual muscles. Someone sick won’t have much of an appetite, but she still has to eat if she wants to live. (24)

Also, there is something very rich and pure about simply not giving up, particularly when there is little pleasure in your Christian experience. The truth is that you are actually in a better spiritual position when you aren’t being governed by the whims of spiritual highs. All the giddy spiritual emotions can be something we work up, something we create out of our own desires. (24)

Just lean toward love. Just lean—you can do that. (25)

how help gets to us . . . that’s not so important. The water is necessary, but the pipe that pumps the water to us is almost inconsequential. (29)

How can you pray for God’s grace when you attach demands that grace can come only if it makes you look good? (34)

The self-voice is locked onto (you guessed it) self. This voice believes it is absolutely impossible to ever think about yourself too much. The self-voice obsesses to know exactly what everyone’s opinion is of us, who likes us and who doesn’t, who will feed our ego and who won’t. The self-voice sulks unless someone drones on about how fabulous we are, how beautiful, how good. (39)

true faith never delivers the sort of human certainty we constantly look for. True faith won’t let us grab hold of safety or latch onto dry formulas. True faith won’t let us make an unflinching rule based on God’s prior action. What brings us comfort and peace this time won’t be God’s way next time. If we drew relief from predictable patterns, we’d trust that instead of trusting God. God will do what God will do. (41)

Frankly it’s irrelevant how much intense feeling you have in your spiritual life right now. The more important question to ask is this: Do I want what God wants? … Choose to love God more than you love yourself. … Desire God to have God’s way—want that more than you want your own life. … ask God to give you this kind of love for him. (53)

True abandonment just gives itself over. Just rests in God’s care and love, like a baby in its mother’s arms. Here’s the tricky thing: true abandonment has to abandon even its abandonment. We have to give up our self-inflated sense of what a big sacrifice we are making. (61)

Abandonment is peaceful. If we are anxious about whatever it is we have abandoned, then we can’t really call it abandonment. Can we? (62)

Learn to let your neurotic fixations go. Learn to let humans be just that—human. Since we are human, that means we are broken, selfish, fickle, unjust, untruthful, and arrogant. Learn to let the world be what it is—fallen. The world isn’t as it was intended to be; accept that. Otherwise, you really are going to wear yourself out. Learn to give people space. Give them room to be who they are, having their own bents and struggles and ways of living. Make peace with this: you can’t change people. Let them be and live with them, exactly where they are.
Don’t be surprised when you see people acting in ways that make no sense or when you see people perpetrating injustice. Rest. Give way to peace. Trust in God. It’s God’s world, and God sees all that is happening far more clearly than you do (and, apparently, he doesn’t see the need to rush in right now and change everything). (71-72)

One of the beauties—as well as the prickly points—of Christian faith is that it is never intended to be lived in theory. Faith is fleshed out among particular people, in particular places. Some of the most important elements of our spiritual pilgrimage will be names—names of friends we’ve had and places we’ve lived. There will be people we couldn’t get enough of and people who hung around way too much. There will be places that felt like home, places that felt like hell, and places that had bits of both. (79)

Do you really think that the way to get rid of self-absorption. The way to learn to love God more, is by filling your head with more facts? Really? You already know more than you could ever possibly put to good use. You don’t need to know more truth. What you do need, however, is to start obeying the truth you already have. (117)

Do you want a test to know when you actually are humble? Here it is: whenever someone corrects your faults and whenever you see all the rank sickness in your heart—and you aren’t surprised or offended by either—then you are humble. (118)

We no longer cling to the delusion that we are so put-together. The correcting doesn’t hurt because our identity and our wellbeing aren’t tied up with being good, with being right. We know that we can’t fix what is wrong with us, and so we give up on polishing our reputation. We feel the freedom of letting go. (118)

This is the crux of the whole matter of learning how to properly use our minds: we can know truth only in proportion to how much we love. When knowledge is divorced from love, it really isn’t knowledge at all. It’s just facts, dead facts. (124)

Despair about yourself as much as you like. Despair about how weak you are. Despair about how sinful you are. Despair about how desperate and small you are. But never, never despair of God. God is immensely good. God has a power you have never imagined. (125)

Monday, September 3, 2007


Love it or hate it - here is who I am:

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Click HERE for extended information.

Now that you know the ugly truth... will you still love me?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Midwest Emergent Conference

I had a great time at the Midwest Emergent Convention in Chicago with my friend, Maurice Broaddus. Here’s a summary:

Friday: Tony Jones began the conference inviting us to move beyond the old categories (e.g., liberal, conservative) to describe emergent. This kind of language capitulates to modernity. Too often we define ourselves over against the other. He utilized two stories from Mark 9 to make his point. In the transfiguration, Peter desired to memorialize the event with three tabernacles. Jones taught that we often seek to memorialize events that change us. We create structures and rituals to hang on to them, but these fall short of the initial transforming event. In the following story of Jesus’ healing of a young boy, he emphasized the father’s prayer: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Jesus does not chastise the man for his unbelief, but works a miracle anyway. All of us are a strange combination of faith and doubt. We must honor this.

Doug Pagitt followed by stressing that the important contribution of the addition of new people to a church does not make it bigger; it makes it different. We should value this change and transform with it. We should not hope to create the same outcomes with different mechanisms, but let the transformed congregation produce new outcomes. He also argued that the kingdom of God is bigger than the church and is active in the world even through people and organizations that have no explicit connection to the church. Therefore, we should not pit the kingdom of God against the world. The question: How can we support the kingdom of God in the world, even when it arises outside of conventional church ministries?

I attended Ivy Beckwith’s session on including children in the missional church. I’ve benefited greatly from her book, Postmodern Children’s Ministry, and wished to hear her personally. She argued that we should not simply translate others’ programs to our own local setting. Programs are successful because they develop out of an ethos of a particular church. Our programs should conform to our own congregation, and not that of others. We may discover transferable concepts from others’ programs, but we should not simply incorporate them without personalizing them to our church’s ethos. She highlighted three pieces that help in personalizing a children’s program to our church. First, family must be included. Family is where a child spends most of his or her time. Too often, our programs pull the family apart from the children as a means of attraction people to our church (e.g., “We have a great children’s program! You won’t need to worry about your kids, because we will take care of their spiritual formation.”) The challenge is to get families to realize their responsibility to their own children’s spiritual formation. This is not done by making parents into Bible scholars, but by helping them transfer their values to their children. Second, though the family plays a significant role, the faith community is also responsible for the spiritual formation of children. She suggested reading John Westerhoff’s Will Our Children Have Faith? Her main critique: Churches are good at doing things for children, but not as good at doing things with children. We must give kids the opportunity to participate in the intergenerational faith community. The third and final component is worship. Worship is a spiritual discipline – an act of spiritual formation. She quoted a rabbi who said, “There is no passing on of values without ritual. She also suggested checking out “Children at Worship.” Part of the problem of most Christian education programs is that they focus on an educational/school model rather than on a formational model. We are often great at education, but not great at creating people who love God and follow Jesus. She left us with the questions: What would a formational model look like? How can we make children inhabit and embody the biblical narratives. The point is not just to get across a moral or propositional truth, but to teach them how to live the Bible’s story. She suggested the Upper Room resource, The Way of the Child. We must include children in the worship of the church. Kids may be restless and draw in church, but that does not mean they are not participating. Since we would never exclude the handicapped for not understanding or making inappropriate noises, we should not do this with children either. Finally, she recommended the book Soul Searching, a sociological book of surveys of high-schooler’s faith.

In a moment of ironic bliss, Maurice and I went to lunch with Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Annie Gill-Bloyer, and John Armstrong! We all huddled in Doug’s rented vehicle and ate burritos together. What a blast!

In the afternoon, John Armstrong spoke as a friendly "outsider" to Emergent. I was particularly touched by his presentation. His spiritual journey is powerful and inspiring. He has experienced a lot of betrayal and rejection from those who once called him friend. And yet, he has weathered it all with grace, love, and compassion. And in the midst of this, continued to grow in the faith in ways that continue to impress. God bless you John! I'm glad you contributed to this event. Your wisdom and example are desperately needed. By the way, my favorite quote from John was: "I like ideas, but I love people. I'm not sure why so many pastors are in ministry who love their ideas more than people." [Note: John as recently posted about his experience at Emergent Midwest.]

Denise VanEck taught that community begins with mission. We cannot control community; we can only discover it in our midst. It begins with mission and not with intimacy. A platoon sergeant does not force all his unit to share the hearts, but rather, to share a mission. We cannot create community, only facilitate it. Like a guardrail on a mountainous road, we facilitate it with minimal guards.

In the evening Maurice and I skipped out of the evening session to see the new Harry Potter movie. Great fun!

Saturday morning I overslept and missed the first session. However, Maurice and I ate lunch with the main speakers, James King and Alise Barrymore, founding pastors of Emmaus Community in Chicago Heights, Illinois. We were joined by a couple of their staff. It was very inspiring to hear about their new church plant and how they use media in their teaching. They have three spaces from which people can participate in their service: an auditorium, a coffee shop, and a theater room. The live feed is pumped to the two latter spaces. Very creative and interesting!

Finally, Spencer Burke ended the conference with an empassioned presentation. I'm not sure what the main point was, but Spencer proved to be a captivating speaker. He comes across as winsome, energetic, and loving. (By the way, my favorite quote from the session was from Richard Rohr: "We spend the first 40 years of our lives building our tower - and then, we jump off.") Spencer takes a lot of flack for this book, The Heretic's Guide to Eternity. I myself have serious issues with this book. I guess many people have problems with his soteriology. I have no problems with this. In fact, I agree with him and may even go further. I have trouble with his ecclesiology, or better, lack of it. Anyway, I did find him incredibly charismatic. Again, I'm glad I was able to hear him and not just read his works, because I feel I would really like him personally, even though I believe his writing is a bit sloppy, to say the least.

Overall, I had a great time. I learned a little, but more than that, I made some great connections. And, I'm coming to discover, this may be the best reason to attend conferences like this.

Friday, July 6, 2007


Well, my vacation is winding down.

For the first few days I was able to completely detach from my responsibilities. This is rare. I am usually consumed with thoughts about ministry, church, and theology. But this time around was different. I read some light material, as well as a boatload of graphic novels (comics, for the uninitiated). Perhaps this is due to my relative peace and contentment with my new church and position. Perhaps I am just maturing. Who knows.

Anyway, as the days wind down, I am beginning to be consumed again. Thankfully, now I am refreshed and ready to get back in the saddle. However, the initial reintegration into ministry can be hectic. Today my anxiety was extreme. In fact, the last few days I've been beginning to get antsy.

Well, my anxiety was lifted for a few moments as I watched Dream Theater's Score. Particularly, their performance of the "epic" Octavarium. During the final minutes I found myself in tears. Dream Theater's music moves me deeply - especially during the climax of some of their epics - Octavarium being one of my all-time favorites.

Anyway, I realized again how deeply music moves me. It took away my anxieties for a moment. It touched my soul. It made me rest in beauty. By doing that, it became a sacrament of the divine.

I thank God for Dream Theater!