Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Or maybe you've just listened to Bird Notes on NPR, or bought a CD on Identifying Bird Calls in the Wild.
Anyway, the point is, that's what it sounds like outside my office this morning. It's a cornucopia of tweets and twitters and chirps and chirrups and woo-l00-loos and the like. It's utterly amazing. And I suddenly realize I can't identify even one of them.
But spring is here, and I live amongst the wild and wooly (and feathery) flora and fauna of the great Pacific Northwest, and I'm loving it. It's like having my very own nature show piped into my office, only it's the real thing. You all should be so blessed.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Jesus, when you said “follow me,” we answered, “we will.”
When you offered salvation and hope, we gladly accepted.
When you offered bread and wine, we ate and drank.
When you gave your own life so that we would have life,
we received your gift with gladness.
But you call us to obedience, as well.
To love those unlike us, to serve those around us,
to become as children;
seeking not pride of place nor glory,
but the opportunity to lose ourselves
so that others may live.
You called us to be salt and light in the world,
to give up our own desires for pleasure
in order to truly follow you.
Again, we say, “Yes Lord,”
knowing we need your help to obey.
Give us hearts of obedience,
help us to become as children,
salt and light and servants of the world.
We will obey you, God.
Give us strength to heed your call,
courage to choose the right,
endurance to overcome our desires
of lust and pride. We will obey you, God.
We will be your disciples. Amen.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Friday night the youth group of Lakebay Community Church were well into their 30-Hour famine, attending a rally (with a loud band, or so I'm told) in Gig Harbor. Over the years I led a dozen or so famines, so I know what that's all about. And the leaders - they were well into hanging out with all those rowdy teens who were hungry and loud and teenager-like.
I, on the other hand was enjoying dinner at Tango Tapas Restaurant on Capitol Hill in Seattle (home of Seattle's #1 dessert according to voters). Eating Spanish Olives and Toasted Almonds, Queso Azul, Enselada con Pato, Oysters, Spanish Cheese, and a host of other delightful and aromatic dishes. My wife, her sister, and their father were enjoying it all along with me.
And following dinner, about the time our youth leaders were hauling kids back into vans to go spend the night at sleepover locations, the four of us wandered over to the Paramount Theater to see Jazz Legend Dave Brubeck (and quartet) in an astounding display of virtuosity. For an 87 year old man, Brubeck can still jam. He even blessed us by closing the set with his standard, Take 5.
And the night closed with the Ramsey Lewis Trio, who serenaded us with the sweet sounds of funk, gospel, and cool jazz, including a few soul-searing piano solos.
I loved my years in youth ministry, so don't get me wrong. And I am excited about the great staff we have working with our youth at Lakebay. For one night, though, it was nice to play adult.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Just don't be worried if this space remains silent for the next few days.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
You need to know that I have attended Harvest Fellowship, and while mega-churches with their own bookstores and coffee shops and parking attendants aren't my cup of tea, I could tell that God was at work there. I have listened to Greg Laurie on the radio, I once attended a Harvest Crusade in Anaheim where I saw him in person. I have always enjoyed his powerful delivery of the gospel, his passion for evangelism, and his cultural sensitivity. And I've been a fan of the Calvary Chapel non-denomination, to which Harvest belongs.
Which is why I was all the more saddened, disheartened, and angered by the above-mentioned article. I'm not sure what Laurie's intentions were (I suspect he is hoping to "protect" his flock from those heretical emergents), but the result is disastrous. He misrepresents the Emergent movement, he fails to grasp the real issues, he chases after red herrings, and he ends up being divisive and disparaging toward his brothers and sisters in Christ. I'm shocked that he would publish something so shoddy.
Let this be a teachable moment to us all.
1. From the article:
One of these leaders made this statement: "I must add, though, that I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherence to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many, not all circumstances, to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts."This sounds very inclusive and loving, but it is flat-out wrong and unscriptural! We want people to become followers of Jesus in a biblical context!
Part of the problem with this article is that it doesn't leave room for nuance or further explanation. Laurie uses quick soundbites to create positions that he then dismantles. The above quote could be construed as unbiblical, but not necessarily so. In fact, this isn't even an Emergent discussion, per se. This is a discussion being held among the leading missiologists around the world. And it's not the "younger, emergent" types leading the charge. None other than Ralph Winter, godfather of U.S. Missions, has been leading the discussion on "Insider Movements." The question is this - is it better to see a Muslim converted, only to have them "come out" and be ostracized, cast out of their family and network, and probably killed? Or could they remain within their life, yet pray to Jesus during the prayer times, and worship Jesus when they go to the mosque? Would it be possible to create underground networks of Christians within those systems, who could then start to witness for Christ from within?
Please note: I'm not attempting to begin a discussion on Insider Movements. I'm only pointing out that whereas Laurie would call out Emergents as being unbiblical, this issue is not even an Emergent issue. It is just entering into the emergent discussion because it's the very discussion that our missionary leaders are having.
2. From the article
Jesus plainly said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the life. …" (John 14:6, NKJV) Yet despite this clear biblical teaching, another "emergent" leader says, "I see the world through the images of Christianity, which teaches me that I encounter God in everyone I meet, regardless of what they believe."
This is New Age mysticism, not New Testament Christianity. The truth is, you will only find Christ living in those who have put their faith in Him.
Again, the problem here is that Laurie has picked up on a couple "red flags" and, without attempting to understand what is really being said, he has chosen to shoot down the entire movement. However, with just the tiniest theological work, the above quote could, in fact, be entirely biblical. Simply begin with "Let us make humans in our image," and you're there already. Or go with the words of Jesus: "Whenever you do this to the least of these, you've done it unto me." I don't think the person being quoted meant to say that we're all one big happy God-filled family (although Laurie's failure to identify sources makes any backtracking impossible - another weakness of the article); from what I understand of Emergent thinking, the premise is simply that God can be seen in and through anyone. It's not a question of salvation, it's a question of the imago Dei. Wasn't it Mother Teresa who said something like "If you want to see Jesus, then go love a leper"? Whenever I took our youth group to feed the people at the Modesto Gospel Mission, I always told them "look in their eyes - those are Jesus' eyes looking back at you." Unfortunately, Laurie is coming in with suspicious eyes and finding heresies that aren't really there.
3. From the article
At the same time, I see other churches becoming distracted from the proclamation of the Gospel and instead focusing their primary energies on issues like "global warming." I'll tell you about global warming; it's when people spend eternity separated from Jesus Christ in hell! Jesus said of hell, "The fire never goes out" (Mark 9:48, NLT).
Here Laurie makes the logical mistake of assuming this is an either/or. You can either care for creation or you can witness to sinners. You can't seem to do both in Laurie's world. However, he misses at least three important points. First, the creation-care mandate was the first given to humans, (read Genesis 2), and it has never been rescinded. We are commanded to care for the earth, so we can't cop out by saying "we need to focus on other things." Second, he misses that creation care can actually be a powerful witness to Christ by children of the Creator. Proclamation of the Gospel is not solely accomplished by door-to-door evangelism, nor crusades. When the Church joins in with those who are working to better treat the creation, we witness to our love for our Creator, which is another way of proclaiming the gospel. Third, we won't have the opportunity to witness for the gospel if millions of people are dying because of the way we mismanage this planet.
One more point to be made - Note the employ of flashy rhetoric, equating global warming with people burning in hell. I hope your non sequitor alarms were going off when you read that one. Laurie is attempting to circumvent logical discussion with fiery (pardon the pun) language, pulling you in emotionally while short-changing you logically.
4. From the article:
We in the Church of Jesus Christ had better get back to basics, or we will lose what little influence we have left in our culture.
The ironic thing is, this is exactly what the Emergent Church is attempting to do - leave behind the packaging of modernity and returning to biblical basics, such as being the community of God, being salt and light IN our communities, living our faith as much as we verbally proclaim it, allowing the scriptures to speak rather than forcing on them arguments of human theological systems.
So, to conclude, Greg Laurie has attempted to speak out on an issue on which he has proven he has no understanding; I fear he has listened to other voices speaking out against the Emergents and allowed their rhetoric to cloud his judgment. He has called his brothers and sisters in Christ a "dangerous counterfeit"; he has clouded the discussion with empty, hollow rhetoric, he is causing division in the Body of Christ, and all by way of proclaiming an expertise in an area where he has yet to prove that he understands the issues.
For this, I am troubled and saddened, for his ministry has been blessed, and has been successful in winning many to the Lord. I just hope he's not becoming more exclusivist as he moves on. The Church does not need more Christians throwing stones at one another. We should set the example of those who listen, sift, discern, do the hard theological work, then listen, sift, and discern once again. And above all, we should be known by our love for one another, not our suspicion of one another.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
- Just in time for Passover, grocery stores in San Francisco have all run out of Matzo bread. "It appears there's been a huge disconnect between the Bay Area grocery community and the Bay Area Jewish community in terms of supply and demand."
- Ever wonder why the women in those polygamist compounds dress like 19th century pioneers? Experts are talking about the same thing.
- Religious leaders in Zimbabwe speak to the growing crisis in their country, warning of impending genocide if the situation isn't resolved.
- We used to have this good friend names Anya. Anya was pretty cool. She was very attuned to the Lord, you might say. (She has a cool younger sister, too, but this story isn't about her.) Anya spent a week in Mexico with us on a youth mission trip one summer. She also did the YWAM thing. Sometimes she would come hang out at our West Main house and eat tacos and talk about Jesus. Good times. Anya was just accepted to Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle, and we are excited for her. For one, she's finding her future and embracing it, entering into the calling God has on her life. I have no doubt she'll do great things for the Kingdom of God. So congratulations are in order. But, more selfishly, she'll be just across the water from us, so perhaps we'll all have a chance to sit down at Caffe Ladro and catch up, just like old times.
- Link: Church of the Masses. The blog of Barbara Nicolosi, one of the mainstage speakers we heard at the Transforming Culture Conference in Austin. Barbara is a Catholic who works in the Entertainment Industry, living as salt and light in Hollywood. She's got great insight into the intersections between God and Popular Culture, and she can be funny as well.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Drove over to my brother's place in Lynwood through a blinding snowstorm. Imagine "Over the River and Through the Woods," or your favorite Christmas card. Only remember this is in late April.
Spent the night at Mike's house. The kids went out and built a snowman. All night long the power came and went as snow-laden branches fell on power lines and transformers blew.
By Saturday morning, 6-8 inches of snow covered everything. Most beautiful were the maple trees all abloom, and the tulips sticking up through the snow. So much color, laying underneath the covering white.
As Saturday progressed, snow turned to hail, which brought with it thunder and lightning. The kids did find more time to go out and play.
Eventually, we drove back to Lakebay where, alas, there is no snow. Although it's supposed to be in the 20s tonight.
So, imagine that one. April 20. 8 inches of snow, as in deepest winter. I think we'll remember this weekend for years to come.
Now, hopefully back to our regular programming.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
- Tony's discussion on "definers of orthodoxy."
Note well, O Definers, you may define me “out” of emerging or evangelical or orthodoxy, but beware, it’ll be you next. Drawing lines and defending borders never ends well for the line-drawers because before you know it, someone has drawn a line right behind your heels and, guess what, you’re suddenly on the other side of the line with me.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
My first two years at Lakebay were spent building health into the leadership, building rapport within the body, and seeking after a prayerful spirit in the community. All the while, we've been slowly chipping away at some of the issues up there on the property. The well was put in and tested. Engineering plans were revisited and revised. The scotch broom was knocked down.
A few months ago, it became obvious that it was time to figure out how to really move ahead with the project. We're almost ready to go for the Conditional Use Permit. Most of the early site work is finished. And we're moving into my 3rd year at the church - transition times are over.
However. . .the church itself has gone through a lot of turnover in the last 10 years. Many who voted to accept the property and accompanying 20/20 vision have left. Many more have come who never were part of that early process. Some of those still around are passionate about finally moving on. A small but vocal minority are just as passionate about not making the move.
And so we have been through a time of listening and discernment over the last few months; specifically, we just completed three Saturday night coffee klatch listening meetings, at which 10-20 people gathered, prayed, and then discussed our future, and, specifically, our plans to move up north.
Let me take us off onto a siding for a moment. The church in which I grew up went through a nasty split when I was but a lad. The first church I worked for went through an even nastier split. The second church I worked for seemed to be in a constant posture of antagonism and positioning. So I have seen my share of dysfunctional meetings. I've witnessed sound people shut off the sound system and walk out the door, in the middle of town meetings. I've witnessed people shouting across the aisles at each other, calling them all sorts of names. I've witnessed older ladies spit on the sanctuary floor to show their distaste for "all these here changes you're making." I've seen friends become enemies, refusing to acknowledge each other as they pass by. I've witnessed division and anger and spite and hatred and animosity over everything from what music to sing, to where the piano should be located, to whether to adopt a green mission statement or a pink one. I've just about seen it all.
All of which feeds my continued amazement and love for the people of Lakebay Community Church. Because they showed up, they shared their opinions, they spoke in kindness and love and humility, they discussed and offered varying viewpoints. . .and they remained dear friends. We had people coming from opposing positions ("We need to move now"; "we should maybe never move, or at least not for a long time. . ."). They shared clearly and concisely, and with some passion, why they felt their position was correct. And then after the meeting they hung around and talked about trips they had taken, or what their kids were doing, or "why don't we get together like this more often?" And over and over again I heard "Look - I'm not going to be divisive about this. . .whatever the church decides, we'll go along."
I almost can't believe the health of this place. They get what church is supposed to be about. And they give me hope that we have a strong future ahead of us, because we're not going to let an issue even as huge as this one divide us.
Let me state this for the record: there was a day when I would have thought it impossible that Christians could meet and talk about selling their church and moving without bickering and spitting on each other. The people of Lakebay Community Church just proved me wrong. And so, while we still seek God's guidance on our somewhat murky future. . .I believe God has laid the groundwork for that future to be bright.
Monday, April 14, 2008
I feel like a true Pacific-Northwesterner now. And it feels good.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Then be prepared –
prepared to give everything away
prepared to lose your riches
prepared to lose your reputation
prepared to lose your life.
Wash each other’s feet.
Mow one another’s lawns.
Forgive your enemy.
Treat your mother-in-law with kindness.
Give up your pride,
your grasping after wealth and fame.
Pay your taxes.
Give money to causes of righteousness.
Ignore the drive to consume,
fan the hunger for peace-making in this war-ravaged world.
Sell your television and donate the money to feed the hungry.
Would you become great?
Then take up your cross,
and follow Christ.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Once upon a time there was a man named Joseph, who had always wanted children. 18 children, to be exact. And so he had 18 children.
However, Joseph being a wise man, even before he had his children he knew that they would disobey him, bringing great shame and dishonor to his name. He knew they would eventually reject him (don’t all children?), and that he would be forced to punish them for their sins against him. Yet Joseph was a loving man, and so he devised a plan – again, long before his children were born. His plan would pay the penalty for the rejection of his sons and daughters. He would provide a way to take the punishment himself, thus retaining his honor and yet freeing his children of guilt (editor’s note: the specifics of that plan are another story for another day).
And so it came to be. He had his children, they rejected him, and he initiated his plan, paying the price for their sins, opening up a door for forgiveness to flow. But there was another part to this plan. Back before his children were born, Joseph had already decided he would save children 1,3,12, and 17. The rest – well, they could just live and die with their guilt. They could just receive the punishment they so deserved.
And so Joseph, being a wise man, worked in the lives of 1,3,12, and 17, wooing them and drawing them closer to him, until they had no option but to accept his forgiveness. How fortunate for 1, 3, 12, and 17! How grateful they were for being forgiven! And all the neighbors were amazed at this man’s mercy, his glory, his wisdom! He had shown everybody that he was still in charge, and that he would be so kind as to even save a few of his kids.
Oh, except for the rest of the kids, who are now down in the cellar, being tortured mercilessly for their sins. Sure, Joseph had it within his power to save them, but he showed everybody just how glorious he was by NOT saving them. They’re not so sure their father is all that glorious. In fact, he seems a little unfair. After all, he knew they would reject him. In fact, some said it was his plan for them to reject him in the first place. And yet he never had any intention of saving them, like he did their brothers and sisters. These children, the ones in the basement – they all think they got the shaft.
Which works about 90% of the time. But every once in a while, I can't get a signal here in my office. The VAIO just looks in vain for a wireless signal.
And I've noticed that this problem is a lot more prevalent when it is raining outside.
Why would that be? Why does rainy weather outside affect the router signal strength inside? And is there anything that can be done, besides praying for more sunshine?
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
This little independent movie follows in a long line of films that mine the depths of high school angst, portraying befuddled teenagers attempting to navigate the hallways of life with some semblance of dignity and hope. It could very easily be the Sixteen Candles or Breakfast Club or Say Anything of the early 2000s.
Reece Thompson plays the protagonist, Hal Hefner, a high school freshman with a stuttering problem. The movie wrenches your heart as you watch Hal attempt to order food in the school cafeteria; you feel deeply embarrassed for Hal as he is forced to stand in front of the entire school and answer questions about U.S. history. Added to Hal's issues are a bully of a brother and divorcing parents, and you have the quintessential teenager drowning in a confusing life.
Hal's fortunes might just change, however, when Ginny Ryerson, the beautiful senior captain of the school's speech and debate club (played with sheer genius by Anna Kendrick) approaches him about becoming her debate partner. She claims to have the ability to discover talent in out-of-the-way places, and believes that Hal could help her finally win the state debate championship. As Hal enters into this world, he (expectedly) falls hard for Ginny, and determines to join her as a debater, just to remain close to her.
However, Ginny soon is playing hard-to-get; Hal has a hard time even getting together with Ginny to research and prepare for their upcoming competitions. And eventually suspicion sets in that just perhaps Ginny isn't being perfectly honest in her intentions - did she string Hal along because she wants their team to actually lose?
Before I get to the plot spoiler and begin to draw some conclusions, let me also mention that along the way the story is filled will all sorts of memorable characters - the special needs educator who tells Hal "too bad you don't have autism - then I could really help you!"; the young boy who lives across the street from Ginny and secretly watches her out his window (not to mention his parents, who play music as marriage therapy); Hal's Chinese friend whose father begins to date Hal's mother. . .every character brings in both comedic relief and added angst to Hal's life.
But now. . .
++++++++++++Plot Spoiler Alert+++++++++++++++++++
Here's where all this is so important: At the end of every 80s coming-of-age story, the girl got the guy. Or the guy got the girl. The nerds won respect (and the hot chicks). The computer geek got the cheerleader (because she recognized that depth is more important than wavy hair). Ferris Beuller ended up back home with his loving parents and sister. Friends made up for their disagreements. Everyone ended up hopeful, if not happy. In other words, those stories ended up with redemption. Yes, school and teenageism were shown to be dangerous, painful, full of disaster and competition. Parents weren't always loving, hot girls were out of reach. . .but they all ended up with some sense of things being better, of life turning out for the good, of the loser finally finding victory.
Not so in Rocket Science. Hal does not, in fact, win Ginny's heart. Ginny ends up being every bit as devious as expected. And the final debate ends not with a Rocky-style victory; not even a loss with dignity, but a simple disqualification. Hal doesn't get the girl. He doesn't get the trophy. His parents are aloof as ever. His stutter never goes away. The whole movie simply fades away with a half-hearted conversation between Hal and his father. His only victory is that he finally gets the pizza he always wanted.
Which, to me, tells us a lot about the existential position of society today. 20, 30 years ago, there was still hope that everything would be better. The 80s and 90s were times of great hope, despite the threat of nuclear war and the onslaught of grunge. People still held onto the Disney Model of Life, in which, eventually, the dragon is slain and the prince marries the princess and they live happily ever after. We were still living with echoes of the 1950s, of Mayberry and Happy Days. The American Dream was still alive and well. Or so our movies would lead us to believe.
Rocket Science walks the same path, yet comes out at a completely different place. The PostModern Place, if you will, in which nothing really has any meaning. There are no large stories that give us hope and meaning. Most people don't win the lottery. Nerds don't get the cheerleader. Kids with disabilities never do "finally show 'em all!" Life just is what it is. It has its funny moments, it has its painful moments. Parents leave and don't come back. People play you and then dump you and walk away without a care. Hearts are broken, and never really recover. And that's just how it all goes - eventually you'll become your parents and probably divorce and mess up your kids just the same as they messed you up.
So here's the thing - I think this movie is important. Yes, I think the message is wrong - in fact, I know it's wrong, because I know that there is an ultimate Redemption to all of this; I know that these moments all do have meaning, because there is a God who hurts alongside of us, who gives us meaning in our days. But I think the movie is important because it reveals the heart of those who walk next to us in our world. In fact, if I was leading a 2-day seminar on youth culture, I think I'd show Pretty in Pink and then Rocket Science, and then lead a discussion on exactly what messages we're being sold. And then I'd move into a discussion on the psyche of American youth in the year 2008.
I think Rocket Science is a mirror on our youth, and is thus important as a tool to get inside that culture and understand what it's thinking. Because they've given up hope, they've given up on the dream that all will someday be better. They believe that, unless you win American Idol, life is pretty meaningless and pointless, something to be endured, rather than embraced.
And, I think if we understand that, then we're a whole lot closer to reaching them where they are at, and opening up the world that is so much better just outside the door.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Friday, April 04, 2008
But I have to write a sermon.
I need to mention some of the speakers we heard over the week, and the wonderful conversation Karina and I had with one of them, when both our planes were delayed at the airport in Austin.
But I have to write a sermon.
I was going to mention our experiences on Southwest Airlines - with the medical emergency on the way down and the engine problems on the way back.
But I have to write a sermon.
I should mention something about our time with Dave, a friend from way, way back in my first ministry days.
But I have to write a sermon.
I'd love to share some more general impressions about Austin, Texas.
But I have to write a sermon.
I've been wanting to do a movie review on a little film we watched last week - Rocket Science - and how it reflects our current ethos as a culture
But I have to write a sermon.
So, instead, let me share a poem I wrote on the flight down instead.
And maybe I'll just keep this list and work on it all next week.
Three times up, three times down
like children playing leapfrog
we seem unable to maintain
our grip on flight
one moment dancing the vast
western sky inexorably
returning to earth-planted feet
we leap, we soar, buckle
and feel the rush of liftoff
pushing into your bones
we plummet and plod the
crowded taxiway, growing in
awareness of sore butts and
Is how I talk to you, God
friend, companion on this journey
never quite sustaining rapture
growing ever weary of the ground
discontent to remain
unable to fly
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Dinner tonight was Texas BBQ. And later we're meeting up with old Upland friend David Clucas.
I'm beginning to wish a lot of people I knew were here. Too much to digest and process and ponder and be challenged by. . .
As far as I know, we're the only Covenanters here, and I'm wishing we had stronger representation. I think a lot of good could come out of the discussions being had in this symposium. I also wish I had 10 more Lakebay people here, so they could get some of the same message. Good, powerful, mind-changing. A vision for re-awakening a heart for art as an expression of God's creativity and our worship; a multitude of sights and sounds and textures and tastes and smells, all for the glory of God. Wondering how to have a place in bringing it to reality in our world. So much to think about, so much to do.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Last night Karina and I drove around Austin, had some Indian food for dinner, toured the UT campus. I suppose southerners could probably be more astute to this, but it all feels just like Knoxville, where I spent a couple weeks for CHIC 5 years ago. Driving around UT felt just like driving around the University of Tennessee. So all you who went to CHIC - that's what it's like in Austin.
Which is a good thing, by the way. Clean town, friendly people, lots of options for food and diverse shopping, large parks. . .oh, and very humid.
Had a nice, short talk with Luci Shaw this morning; she was gracious and truly engaged in the conversation. Now Andy Crouch is on stage and ready to give the first message, so bye for now.