Thursday, December 30, 2004

A couple thoughts off topic.

1) Had dinner tonight w/ GREAT friends. Chad Canipe, Aaron Klinefelter, Joe Long, Alan Creech, Kevin Rains and Mark Palmer. It was somewhat spontaneous with the plans being made all in the past 24 hours. Palmer drove down from Columbus with acute back pain and Alan came up from Lexington for dinner at Claddagh in Newport. You see, relationships are VERY important to me. Really, they are the center of my life, the rest is details. Another reason why I am very low-program when it comes to church is that it often neglects people and doesn't count relationship as significant. If I was busy pushing programs then I wouldn't have time for dinners like tonight, I would miss them. Everytime I meet w/ these guys and others, I walk away encouraged, inspired, challenged and more relaxed. All of this makes me ready for the long haul. I'm reminded that I'm not alone and that there's a reason I do what I do, its because people matter.

2) Just got finished looking at amateur video and photos of the Tsunami in Asia and it causes me to remember the worst night of my life. It was July in 2001 and I got caught in a flash flood w/ my family and friends in the car. We had to abandon my Jeep and head for high ground. It was 1:00 a.m., water was up to my waist and moving quickly, huge debris in the water, lightning filling the sky, a horrifying memory. Joe Long was w/ us, he grabbed Megan and walked out, holding her above his head as the water got deeper. I grabbed Ali and she awoke clinging to my for her life. Nicki grabbed our new puppy, Casey, who we've had for a week and Joe's date grabbed my cell phone. I could have lost my family that night to the power of the rushing waters. But I can tell you that it wasn't an option. I remember trying to keep my balance in the water holding onto Ali thinking about the famous line from the movie Apollo 13, "failure is not an option". I was determined to get us all out of the situation "okay" and we were.

I can't help but think that this is also a metaphor for our current conversation. When your in crisis, you make decisions based on the bottom line. If survival is your goal, then there isn't a "right or wrong" way, but there are "better" ways. Watching Joe go through one way where it got much deeper (to his neck) was not the best way to go. That was obvious. so we all took a longer but relatively safer route. We all got to the high ground, but w/ differing methods, one higher risk than the other. We didn't stay in the car and wait for the water to rise more as we processed the best route, we got out and did our best and that was good enough for that night. Im all for education and meaningful dialogue, but if at the end of the day our "ideas" don't turn into action, then we've done nothing. If the single mom who lives on our street does not experience Kingdom come because she lives w/ in the influence of our communities then our ideas are all rhetoric. As we think, exchange, discuss, dialogue, point out etc., let's make sure to do something about it today because when it comes to church, failure is not an option.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

Part of our discussion here is the nature of truth and knowledge. Is truth and knowledge static and absolute, or is it fluid and relative? Or is it both according to context? I am in no way an expert in philosophy, but I think some basic understanding helps in this conversation. I'll just mention 2 areas and see how they apply.

1) Epistemology (how can we know things?) Here's a textbook definition:
"Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge. It attempts to answer the basic question: what distinguishes true (adequate) knowledge from false (inadequate) knowledge? Practically, this questions translates into issues of scientific methodology: how can one develop theories or models that are better than competing theories? It also forms one of the pillars of the new sciences of cognition, which developed from the information processing approach to psychology, and from artificial intelligence, as an attempt to develop computer programs that mimic a human's capacity to use knowledge in an intelligent way.
When we look at the history of epistemology, we can discern a clear trend, in spite of the confusion of many seemingly contradictory positions. The first theories of knowledge stressed its absolute, permanent character, whereas the later theories put the emphasis on its relativity or situation-dependence, its continuous development or evolution, and its active interference with the world and its subjects and objects. The whole trend moves from a static, passive view of knowledge towards a more and more adaptive and active one."

So our epistemology (we all have one) influences how we see issues and determine the rightness or wrongness of any situation. Sometimes we may see things as absolute, while other times relative to the context. You have to decide what your epistemology is.

2) The Law of Non-Contradiction (Can something be true and not-true?) Textbook definition:
"Law of Non-Contradiction: (a) Not (p and not p) or (b) (for all x) not (x is P and x is not P). It is not possible that something be both true and not true at the same time and in the same context. I think the notion of time is more inherent in the Law as we normally understand it , but that the notion of context is equally important.
Example: A table can not be both made entirely of wood and not made entirely of wood.

Why do I take the position I do on this church issue that it is preference? Because of the 2nd part of this statement "at the same time in the same context". I think that different structures are valid in certain time and contexts according to the purposes of God. In Scripture we see God use different strategies and structures. One time he judges humanity and floods them off the earth. Then determining to never do that again, he extends mercy when judgment is called for again. One time and context, he reveals Himself and offers covenant relataionship through a particular people (Israel) and in another time and context he reveals Himself and offers covenant relationship through Jews and Gentiles. God does not contradict himself ever at the same time and context. He acts with wisdom and purpose.

So if we have differences, we have to be very specific. Any structure that advocates a "Reductionist" gospel, which reduces Christianity to only about forgiveness of sins and settling the heaven or hell question is faulty and inadequate in my opinion. It is inferior to the Gospel which is about the re-formation of the heart and our entire being. We are "in Christ" not to just go to heaven, but to finally become like him, to become who we were created to be and heaven is the fullness of that experience. We are on a journey back to the Garden to become whole creatures, transformation is at the heart of Christianity, not just redemption.

Barry and I share different ecclesiastical structures and assumptions about the world and context we live in, but we are pretty similar where it comes to the Gospel. We believe in redemption and transformation and contextually speaking I can say that I've seen the fruit of his labors in the form of real people.

My epistemology says that I can't have enough ultimate knowledge to know that what I'm doing is the only "right" thing, but I can tell you why I choose it and why in my time and context that I'm not leading in other church structures. I think we often make well informed decisions by choice and preference than with absolute knowledge. Part of my job as a pastor is to interpret the times I live in and where the Spirit is leading and act accordingly.

I'm sure I just opened 12 dozen more cans of worms so let's see how they taste.


Friday, December 24, 2004

While in my 3 hours snow shoveling celebration yesterday, I had a chance to think as I did my hard labor time. One of the reasons that I will continue to believe that it "is" a preference issue is that the models we are talking about come out of 2 different paradigms that aren't old nor new but strategically different.

The church growth movement that came out of Fuller Seminary in the 60's and 70's and combined with the seeker movement of the 80's is the majority of the influence for what evangelical church planting is today. The downside to this in my opinion is that it can be too closely aligned with corporate American business practices than Kingdom theology. The tangible measures for sucess put enormous pressures on leaders and left a wake of good people disallusioned by a system that at times had nothing to do w/ Christ following. The upside, and something I am really grateful for, is that it made a prophetic and lasting statement that "lost people matter to God." It gave permission for church to be re-thought and re-tooled for the sake of mission. No longer would the only voice be the long-time church goer, but now resources, time and energy could be spent paying attention to those who are not yet followers. This was a healthy change. For those who are more modern in worldview, they would attend these experiences and Kingdom things could happen.

But then transitions began to happen. As the postmodern worldview began to grow in the West, all assumptions about organizations and leadership structures were questioned and deconstructed. Some leaders began looking deeper into our historical roots and adopting ancient practices of worship and community. Celtic Christianity, Ancient Monasticism and a renewed focus on spiritual formation. Out of this began to form another layer of leadership, particularly amongst those who are more postmodern in worldview towards more simple structures that were small, communal and relationally driven. Mission was done in more one to one encounters and in small, intimate settings. This is more of a missionary model amongst unreached people groups and in the western culture there are large pockets of people who have lost trust in all institutions and wouldn't attend a weekend service but would attend a backyard bbq. The growing edge for these churches is how to interface their deep community w/ the general population of people who are non-followers of Christ.

I speak in terms of modern and postmodern worldview because we can't separate ourselves from the culture we live in. We have all been deeply formed by our surroundings for the good and the bad. And I believe that we are in a transition time in history. We, here in the western world, are neither modern nor postmodern, but both. And this may be the case for another 50 - 100 years. History tells us that Macro-change is very gradual so there has to be room for some humility. However, neither the modern nor the postmodern worldview is SATISFACTORY!!! The Gospel Script is the only One that will satisfy. Kingdom Come and the Fullness it brings is the Script that we all need to be a part of. Is it now, finally possible, to come together under the Headship of Christ, and begin to prophetically advocate a 3rd category?????? Kingdom is a bigger idea than culture. Kingdom is a bigger idea than preference. Kingdom is a bigger idea than worship style, teaching paradigm or evangelism approach. Kingdom is the movement of God amongst His people, all of them. Kingdom is the only unstoppable force in the universe that governs the laws and seals our steps. Kingdom is what was, is and always will be. If we jump in this River, questions of differences become pointless as we get caught up in the purposes of the Spirit of the flow. If we continue the hard work of aligning ourselves relationally and spiritually with one another, can we not stand together on this battlefield? Can we not stare our common enemy in the face, shoulder to shoulder and draw swords together? I want nothing more than to get my foot on the neck of the enemy in every place where I can find him and I'll take whatever allies I can get. I take great encouragement to know that as today I pick a fight w/ the enemy on this battlefield, that across the river, Barry is doing the same this morning. He fights differently than I do, but neither of us will go to our grave w/ unused swords, and for that I celebrate.

On this Christmas Eve, in whatever battlefield you find yourself tonight, look for the star in the East and take the time to bend a knee at the manger of the One who is making all things new! I love you all with the love of Christ. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Again, a big thanks to all who are putting in energy and time to this conversation. I think its really helpful. I will try and respond to some of the comments made and see where we go from here.

1) It is evident that there are some disagreements re: the rightness or wrongness of simple church structures. I have really been trying to process this one. Because of a lot of really painful experiences for me, it has taken me a looooong time to come to a place of healing where I can see traditonal/seeker churches in a more balanced way. I do see some built in problems which I will try and point out further, but I also see people/leaders that have encountered Christ and want to make Him known. I am not being nice to Barry, he doesn't need that from me, I'm speaking my heart. I don't want to villainize the former in order to communicate what I see emerging. I want to move on and declare what I "am" about, instead of expressing what I'm "not" about. Its time for me to grow up and get over it because I am singularly motivated to see Kingdom happen in my community. As Rains said, there is no question that there are reasons why I do what I do, but I still don't see it as a right/wrong dichotomy.

2) Bishop absolutely nailed it on his thoughts expressed about the educational model of church that we have been accustomed to and his pursuit of more interactive, holistic and communal models of teaching. Although people are traditionally accustomed to attending a service and listening to a sermon, is this the best mode of how people learn? With what we know now of communication theory and education advances (i am a teacher by trade now as well), is 30 min. of one person talking the best mode for people to learn? Perhaps there are people that have this learning style but I would suggest that there are large populations of people who don't learn this way. Visual aids and creative elements are more helpful, but interaction and participation bring ownership for the individual learning. Relationship and trust are also dynamics that provide a great enviornment for learning. Smaller, more communal settings with high relationship I think provide the best atmosphere for spiritual formation.

3) If there is one issue that will get me on a soap box its the way $$ can drive ministry. I admitt to having real issues and history here. I longed to see if church could be done w/ out the need for $ in order to make it a non-issue. $$ is not the root of all evil, its the "love" of $ that is. What do I see that is unhealthy? We live in a consumer society where goods and services are exchanged at every moment. Its a part of our western worldview but it isn't Kingdom. Traditional church planting makes assumptions that certain costs are neccesary to have legitimate church. Particularly facility and paid staff. With more simple structures, these assumptions aren't neccesary. The pressure on a planter to get more people in order to get more $ can be a really destructive dynamic to the individual and the church. The drive to make these things happen have caused burnout and disallusionment that could have been avoided. Using $ to pay staff, provide facility and run programs can be done in healthy ways, but I don't think we have to assume our need for it. I have found that taking this issue off the table has brought enormous freedom to me as a leader and allowed us as a community to talk about our resources in missional ways and not have all the pressure of not having enough $. I often wonder if my view here is based on fear or conviction, still processing that.

4) Now to Barry's question about evangelism and reaching people. An admitted weakness to simple church structures is that its not exactly a fast way to grow more people into Christ following. But it is happening and in some creative ways. We count conversations and care for people as much as we do conversions. One of the reasons why I want to separate myself from "house church" language is because I think that house churches have often lacked the missional piece. We exist in small communities in order to be missional and express the Kingdom. (I'm speaking for myself here, many would disagree w/ me). Jesus and Paul were in mission towards people, no question in my mind. They were bold, asked lots of questions and proclaimed the Gospel of Kingdom without hesitation. I am not satisfied about our progress in this area and am in pursuit of more personal energy to reflect theologically, pray intentionally and think creatively in order to call people to a lifetime of following Christ. We do community really well, but we have to interface what we do in the small to people who are hurting and in bondage all around us in our neighborhoods. I think that hospitality may be pursued more for missional purposes. It may just be a matter of providing the space for evangelism to happen that fits our values and expresses our theology. More to come on this one.

Looking forward to hearing you talk back.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Saturday, December 18, 2004

(I want to respond to Barry here rather than in "comments" so there aren't any length constraints. Barry is the senior Pastor of the Vineyard in northern Kentucky and is my wife's uncle as well. We come from differing generations, background and mindset but agree on quite a bit too such as kingdom theology, a heart for being missional, experiencing the spiritual gifts and we both think his son, Joe, is pretty Rad. We have mutual respect and relational time invested so I really enjoy our conversations. This is a response to his comment in my last post. Ok, now you're all filled in.)

Hey Barry,
I'll try my best to clarify atleast a couple things. Its not a "right" or "wrong" dichotomy but rather just a different set of values and how one measures success. I'm not an expert but I have served in ministry in both paradigms.
Simple structures typically have less financial overhead, utilizing 20% of income for community needs and 80% is available for missional purposes instead of the other way around. This is why many simple church pastors are bi-vocational and don't have a permanent facility to upkeep. Trying to make sure that the tail (buildings and budgets) doesn't wag the dog (church).
Simple structures see relationships as an end and not a means to an end. If one is establishing kingdom relationships then one is sucessful, without needing more tangible things to happen. Its kind of like seeing with a different set of eyes.
Simple structures are more in the arena of art than science. There isn't a linear formula to follow, its a relational approach if one is intimate with the Father then the Spirit leads on in what to do.
Simple structures have less centralized leadership models. I don't advocate a completely flat leadership structure for 2 reasons: 1) Christ is the Head and 2) Not much happens w/out leadership. Simple churches have leadership that tries to be more fluid and less top down. Because there aren't many assets to manage (physically speaking) there is somewhat a built-in checks and balance system against those who have faulty agendas or seek power. However, Brian McLaren once challenged me to realize that just because a church doesn't have positions and buildings doesn't mean that there aren't power positions for people to fight over (i.e. anabaptist traditions in eary American History) and I think he was right. Leaders in simple structures have influence but is more fluid and less formal. Its an attempt to have a community where if people have the spiritual gift to lead then they should lead, without all the assumptions of what that must look like as Western cultured folk in 2005 A.D.
Simple churches have a different set of goals in mind. Instead of wanting to build one big church in a short amount of time, it seeks to build a large network of very small churches over a long period of time. Instead of a 3-5 year business plan, I am literally trying to chart a course for 30-50 years. Its a much slower approach, seeking depth over growth but realizing that they are not opposable ideas. I believe that all healthy kingdom organisms grow, its a by-product of being "in Christ".
Simple churches intend on being a multiplying body of small churches (3-20 people each).
I suppose simple churches are somewhat of a natural by-product of the postmodern worldview and deconstruction but it is not a new idea and has existed in the Body in history particularly in places where persecution pushed the churches underground. Its hard to differentiate modernistic structures and postmodern in one blog post but this is my attempt. 5 years ago, I thought simple church structures was my origingal idea and that I was all alone. What I've learned since is that thousands of people like me all over the world have been thinking the same thoughts and coming to some of the same conclusions for our contribution to the Body. Either we are all into the same heresy or the Spirit wanted to start writing a different story perhaps preparing some branches of the Church for a specific purpose and future. (that's my best prophetic guess)

However, let me conclude with this thought. Because we live on this side of Kingdom without fullness yet, the Church ultimately should be a bigger idea than what modernist or postmodern attempts have brought it to so far. Church health is "loving God" (worship, teaching, community) and "loving neighbor" (mission, evangelism, care), if we are about these things regardless of our ministry models, this seems to be what Jesus was calling us towards. I once heard you say during a teaching that "there is no plan B for Church", that this is what we have and we have to figure it out. I couldn't agree more and that has stuck with me. So as we as leaders continue to deny ourselves, submitt ourselves to Christ and listen to the Spirit, I pray that our fruits are a taste of Kingdom Come and I believe it will take all of us to get there.

thanks for the dialogue, I would welcome many readers out there to chime in and keep the conversation going but be nice or Barry and I will send out the Hitmen :)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

One more day and I'm on the welcomed 2 week teacher christmas break. I must say that the work schedule for being a teacher is pretty sweet sometimes. The downside is dealing w/ self-absorbed/obnoxious teens and payday, but the hours are great.

Had good coffee conversation last night w/ Klinefelter, G. Johnson and C. Canipe. Discussed a myriad of topics including the emerging attention from large, established Christian organizations towards simple church structures. We'll have to see how this all plays out because its not a different model, its a different worldview altogether. To not see that is to not see the issues.

Been shorting myself sleep every night this week and its catching up w/ me. Glenn and I went to a late showing of "oceans 12" last night. It was okay, I fell asleep 4 times from exhaustion.

peace to your day,

Monday, December 13, 2004

Nicki and I just had a family meeting and announced to the kids that we will be going to Orlando, Florida for Spring Break this year and check out Universal Studios, Island of Adventure, Typhoon Lagoon and lots of chill time at the pool. They are really excited, as are we. I'm not excited about the 15 hour drive each way, but its all in the name of family memory making. Ali misuderstood me and thought I said winter break, she said, "I can't believe we get to go there on Saturday!!!" I had to break it to her that she will have to wait 3 months. I love plannig trips so I will be single minded these next couple months. If your wondering why we tell our kids so far out, its because we like to have a special vacation planning night one night a week for the 10 weeks before we leave. We eat dinner together and then do an activity or watch a movie that correlates with one of the attractions at the park. Since we did Disney last year, for Universal this year it will be "Back to the Future", "ET", "Hulk", "Spiderman", "Twister", "The Mummy", "Shrek", "SpongeBob" and "Dr. Seuss".

I feel blessed to have the opportunity to take these kind of trips.


Friday, December 10, 2004

Ok, feeling 1,000% better this morning. Like a 24 hour oppression bug.

Thanks to all my community out there who encouraged me with words sprinkled w/ grace and wisdom. Thanks to all of you who were praying for me behind my back, the Spirit did come alongside. Thanks to Nicki McG. for her sharing of prophetic Scripture. Thanks to Rains and Creech for letting me vent a bit fulfilling your monk vows of availability and brotherhood(yet again). Thanks to Paul for coming out to keep me company last night.

What was my remedy last night? I took myself to dinner. Went to Barnes and Noble and skimmed a book on Zen meditation and Henri Nouwen's "Turn my mourning into dancing", drank a Starbucks mocha, Paul showed up and we skimmed picture books of really big guns and fantasized about releasing some stress by firing those bad boys, I bought a CD (Death Cab for Cutie) and then we went and saw the movie "I am David". Really good, well made, innocent movie. Then did some communicating with my wife last night and this morning. All of that helps.

So today is a new day. I was down but not out. I am never alone. Tonight is the annual OCC Christmas party, that's exaclty what the doctor ordered. When the enemy comes at us and God allows us to have a dark night of the soul, it is never fatal. As followers of the Christ, we have a nasty habit of Rising Again.

thanks to the One who says . . . "behold, I am making all things new"

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Sometimes I wish that I had never seen behind the curtain,
Maybe it all would be easier to deal with,
What do you do when you've heard all the songs meant to stir your heart,
What do you do when you've seen all the gimmicks used to keep your attention,
What do you do when you've received all the tag lines and challenges,
What do you do when you don't buy it anymore,
I used to buy it, I used to sell it, I used to believe in it,
But I don't anymore,
I'm not sure if it was my choice to not believe,
Or if the choice chose me,
I just know that I don't belong to church anymore,
I don't get it, I don't fit in and it leaves me feeling very alone,
There are honest and good people who fit in and belong to it well,
But somehow I have become lost from its gravitational pull,
I am utterly conflicted, I don't know what to believe,
Its not a matter of trying harder, where's the Grace in that?
If I just need to try harder, what differentiates church from Islam or budhism?
Its not a matter of having it explained better, I see it for what it is (good and bad),
You see, I'm a cynic who wants to believe, I'm a conflicted soul,
I've been around the block and have collected experiences from all over the world,
I get God, I get Christ, I get the Spirit, but I don't get church anymore,
I think I get Church, but not church,
The culture smothers me, I can't breathe, there's no freedom,
I've seen behind the curtain, and its left me uninvolved.

Please don't receive this as pride or rebellion, and don't read it as only darkness, it is what it is, its my thoughts on today.
Why at times do I feel alone, regardless of all that You have shown,
Why does the night last so long and the morning seem so far away,
Why do my thoughts turn dark and ignore the coming of the sun,
What can I do when the clouds arne't lifting, when the storm is a steady threat,
The wind is gusting and I can't find my balance, I have no center,
Numbness overcomes me, my heart is covered in a canvas,
I don't see right, I dont' hear right, I don't know right,
I didn't mean to get lost in the valley so how did I get here,
Why is the desert all around me, desolate and bare,
Why at times do I feel alone, regardless of all that You have shown?


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Well, today is my 32nd birthday and I have a lot to be thankful for. I have more than a wife, but a partner for life. I have 3 kids with whom I'd rather be with than anybody else in the world. I have a place to call home and I'm in Cincy where I always wanted to settle down. I have cool computer toys and a big mean truck. I work 3 jobs to make all of this work but I enjoy each of those roles and they fit my giftedness.

But to know me is to know that I have a restless heart and today it is as restless as ever. I am not very content in a few areas that I lack the time to process and the blog world is not the best place for it. But there are atleast 3 areas of my life of which I am experiencing some profound disappointment. But, who isn't? I don't think there's anything wrong wth longing for more or desiring improvement. I admitt that underneath my laid back exterior, I am driven. I am on a mission on this side of eternity and I don't want to ever be content with anything less than Kingdom Come.

U2 says it best on my birtday, here's some lyrics of longing to experience something different from my 2nd favorite song of the lads from Ireland.

"Where The Streets Have No Name"
I wanna run, I want to hide
I wanna tear down the walls
That hold me inside.
I wanna reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name.

I wanna feel sunlight on my face.
I see the dust-cloud
Disappear without a trace.
I wanna take shelter
From the poison rain
Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name.

We're still building and burning down love
Burning down love.
And when I go there
I go there with you
(It's all I can do).

The city's a flood, and our love turns to rust.
We're beaten and blown by the wind
Trampled in dust.
I'll show you a place
High on a desert plain
Where the streets have no name

So peace to your day and your areas of discontentment. But let's not whine together, let's have the courage to do something about it. What's the point in having dreams if you can't experience them?

don't forget to count your blessings,

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

In prayer for my friend and fellow teacher, Doc and his family as his parents were in a car accident last night in which the car was blindsided and they didn't expect his Dad to make it through the night. Pray for the Savage family as you can.

Tonight begins the 8 days of Hanukkah and the recognition of the miracles of God amongst us and his provision for what we need. God overcame the Syrians and delivered the Temple back to His people for them to remember and live out His presence amongst them. The candle flame to symbolize the purifying fire of our hearts towards Yahweh. They had only enough oil for one night, but the flame burned miraculously for 8 days. As followers of Christ, this is our spiritual heritage as well.

Thank you Abba for your provision and your flame of purification.

stop and notice the Kingdom amongst you today,

Sunday, December 05, 2004

First things first, Who Dey!!!! The Bengals beat the despicable Ravens today 27-26 on a last second field-goal. That brings them to 6-6 and earns respect around the league some more. The re-building program is right on schedule, gettting better all the time and no longer the laughing stock of the league. I'm proud of my Bengals tonight, and my Eagles who are 11-1. Yee haw.

I am guilty of watching most every episode of "Extreme Home Make-Over" on Sunday evenings with my family. Its so Kingdom to change lives and do good. Its based on compassion, generosity, new beginnings, hope, family and friendship. Yes, I may have even shed a tear over a few episodes, but if you ask me face to face I'll deny it, just so you know :)

Nicki is forcing me to watch Mitch Albom's "The 5 people you'll meet in heaven" because she read the book and wants me to experience it. All theology aside, its pretty gripping. We all think we know what will happen the moment we die and cross over to the other world. We think we know what heaven will look like and what hell could be like. I suggest that we don't have a freaking clue. The Bible says so little about the specifics. It is loaded with imagery and figurative language, but no encyclopedia explanations. Its mystery and that's part of the beauty. What we do know is that heaven is eternity w/ God and that hell is eternal separation from Him. We also know that our crossover destinations have a direct correlation to our being "in Christ" or not. But specifcially what they are like, I don't believe we can know. I believe all our images are pure speculation. I believe heaven is the fullness of the Kingdom of God. That what we experience here on earth is a partial taste of heaven. Someday we will crossover and taste the fullness. I also don't beleive that heaven is a far off place in the sky that is made of mansions and streets of gold. I take that as figurative language of the glory of the Kingdom of God. I believe that He is building a new heaven and a new earth right here, near us in another spiritual dimension that we don't see without pure spiritual eyes. I believe that those who have crossed over before us are not far away in a distant place but are near to us. They are the great cloud of witnesses as Hebrews states, surrounding us, cheering us on, maybe even praying for us. I think its traditional thinking and not Scriptual to believe that heaven and the throne of Christ are somewhere far away, I believe the fullness of the spiritual realm is very near to us and can be accessed through the spiritual disciplines to taste in the here and now. I do not fear death and I look forward to crossing over into the Kingdom fullness someday. But for now, I am content to take the fight to the enemy daily as a partner in ushering in the new heaven and new earth. If I can do whatever I can to bring others into the experience of eternal Kingdom and to come on this journey of being "in Christ", then that's what I'm here to do by any means neccessary that reflect His character. I am here now to do whatever it takes, proclaim His Kingdom come and invite others to come and to follow the One who changes life in the now and the not yet.

peace to you tonight,

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Just got back from Philly for my grandmother's funeral. Had some miserable flights and connections, plust they lost my luggage and I didn't receive it til 15 min. before the funeral at the funeral home. I'm not a big fan of Northwest Airlines right now.

It was a pretty good service time there, the Marshall side of my family are pretty good story tellers. Lots of laughter and lots of good stories. It was real casual, real warm and deeply spiritual. good stuff. My grandmother was one of those people who was very open about her excitement to see Jesus face to face so it was easy to grieve her with many words of hope. I caught up with cousins that I was close to as a kid but haven't connected with in 12 years or more. So the reflecting was fun too.

This was also one of about 5 events I can think of in my life where my Mom and my Dad have been in the same room. Since they divorced before I was born, this is a rare occasion. Seeing them together is kind of eery though. Like, "what would my life have been like if these 2 learned how to make their marriage work?" I also was given the honor of closing the eulogy time with some words and prayer. I was able to share my heart through the Spirit and it was easy to honor somebody like my grandmother, an amazing woman.

I need some rest and family time tonight. peace-out.