Monday, May 29, 2006

Community-Fest weekend

It was a FULL weekend. OCC bbq on Friday night. Mini-elpida gathering on Saturday afternoon, evening and late, late night. (Beans, Johnsons, Palmers, Bishops, Marshalls, Klinefelters). The Bishops stayed the weekend and Amy and Micah Palmer stayed a night. OCC leadership gathering on Sunday morning and Student House Church on Sunday evening. Nicki and I are exhausted with all the preppin' and cleanin' but we love it. So blessed to have amazing spiritual family all around us.

Bean brought me a couple of book requests (send me the invoice please, Beanius) and I'm kind of excited to read them:

"Simply Christian: Why Christianity makes sense" by N.T. Wright


"The Secret Message of Jesus" by Brian McLaren. Here's a quote from McLaren:
“Jesus forms a movement of people who trust him and believe his message. They believe that they don’t have to wait for this or that to happen, but rather that they can begin living in a new and better way now, a way of life Jesus conveys by the pregnant phrase kingdom of God. Life for them now is about an interactive relationship – reconciled to God, reconciled to one another – and so they see their entire lives as opportunity to make the beautiful music of God’s kingdom so that more and more people will be drawn into it, and so that the world will be changed by their growing influence. ”

That's what I'm talking about, Brian.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

DaVinci . . . Da whattie?

the whole DaVinci code thing has been hyped and debated ad nausea. I never read the book, my wife did, and she liked it as literature.

being the scholar that I am, I just went and saw the movie and skipped the book. As a movie, I give it like a 6.5 on a scale of 10. Entertaining, interesting, but it had like 6 endings and left me wanting to leave after ending #3. By far my favorite character was Silas, the aesthetic albino monk. He was GREAT!! A total religious freak, loyal to the end, only to be used and betrayed by the institution. As his heart broke with the knowledge of him being betrayed by the entity he had given his soul to, I couldn't help but relate to him.

the premise of the story is humorously fictional. Dan Brown's claims of historicity are simply controversial hype to sell tickets which makes him smart. If he really believes in the conspiracy, then it puts him in the category of dumb. That 325 A.D. and the Council of Nicea was the 1st time people had the idea of making Christ divine is laughable. But what was really humorous is that the catholic (universal) church has been operating on this cover up for a couple milleniums is comedy. So every hospital built in 3rd world countries, every mouth fed at the hand of Mother Theresa and others, every widow being cared for, every martyr slain was all under the great cover up that Jesus was just a teacher and not God resurrected. As well the notion that real freedom is in the dismantling of this cospiracy, so that men and women are free only when Jesus is not who he claimed to be. therefore, we are really all alone, we have no identity in a larger story, we lack purpose. we are but sacks of cells on the 3rd rock from the sun. this life is a breath and its meaningless. i don't buy it.

So the protests and such are just more symptoms of a church in a culture war instead of one rooted in the Gospel of Kingdom. But, no question, within our culture is a raging debate over the nature of Truth and its implications. The postmodern context prefers to explain away all absolute truths. That is heresy. The DaVinci code is fictional, but the debate over the nature of Truth is a conversation the people of God ought to be a part of. By good study, I take on faith that Jesus was Divine, sinless, crucified, died, resurrected, ascended and coming again. I take on faith and good study that the Old and New Testament Scriptures are True. It is my conviction that the Kingdom of God is the basis of all reality and everything in all Creation is sourced from it.

peace to your weekeend,

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Happy Birthday OCC

This month, Ordinary Community Church turns 5 years old. Birthed out of a lot of pain and hardship, has brought passion and healing. We're really not that much, ordinary fits us. But together we are learning what it means to follow Jesus and invite others into His Kingdom experience. We are receptacles of the Divine, so the Divine lives in neighborhoods. We have birthed many children in the past 5 years and they are growing up with a different worldview of Church.

Before my wife and I decided to plant OCC, we were told: "it won't work", "you have no discipleship plan", "your theology is questionable", "we're not going to support you", "you sound angry", "shouldn't you be extra-ordinary?", "when will you launch a service?", "what programs are you going to have?", "when will you be self-supporting?", "you will have a building at some point, right?". I was personally isolated and rejected by those who were previously spiritual family, good times ;)

My favorite one is "it won't work". So much is loaded in that statement. If we can't be content with the fact "where 3 or more are gathered, there I am in the midst of them" as a church model, then we have issues. Church is not someplace you go, its a people you belong to. Our world is becoming increasingly post-Christian. If I worked as "pastor", its not an acceptable role from a missiological standpoint in culture. So that is why I work at IWU as my "tentmaking" profession in the tradition of Paul. Its not the only way to do it, its just where God has led me. Is vocational pastoring ok? Sure, just differendt sets of pros and cons my friends, and I've chosen this set.

We don't have paid staff and a building so finances are never an issue. We use our offerings to support the community gatherings and give to missional causes in our neighborhoods. I am just am not a CEO type and frankly couldn't last if I had to worry about $$ all the time. Just a choice to be more simple. The more simple I am, the more I can pay attention to people around me. I'm a better Shepherd if I'm paying attention.

5 years ago, 8 people gathered in our living room to start writing a story called Ordinary Community Church. God has written many more chapters. We have had some house churches and folk come and go. Today we have 3 house churches networked together that make up OCC. Is it working? It is bringing me to depths in Christ following that i didn't know even existed. I love it and am completely content.

I believe that Church fundamentally is a movement of Spirit. If we stay in tune with the Spirit, more chapters are going to be written that have relevance in the Kingdom of God.

Thanks OCC.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Teaching N.T.

One of the perks of my new job is that I still get to teach as adjunct faculty, which is extra $$ but I really enjoy it. Perhaps in a few years I'll be doing it full-time again, atleast that's the plan. For now, I'm actually enjoying doing academic advising.

Last night I started teaching my next 5-week New Testament Survey course with adult learners at the college level. It is always so interesting. Some are glad to be there to go deeper in their NT knowledge. Some haven't been to church in 20 years and would prefer to keep it that way. Some have never opened a Bible and are totally intimidated at the thought of having to take this course. And, well, I love the mess that kind of diversity creates. For 5 weeks, one night a week, 4 hours a night, they have to journey with me through the NT story that I find so compelling. The Story of Jesus Christ and how He revealed what the Kingdom of God is like and how we can access it.

Last night we spent about 40 minutes just reading through the Sermon on the Mount, one teaching at a time and applying it to our lives. This teaching of Jesus is purely genius for blessed living. I could see the Spirit enlightening these truths in the hearts of each of us as we discussed them. Many of the students are outsiders to Christianity and we noted how the Gospel of Luke shows a Jesus that breaks the barriers so outsiders are invited in. Jesus is passionately pursuing his missing children. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." -Luke 19:10.

I enjoy teaching N.T. I might even do it for free, but don't tell the University that :)

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

For Allison Simmons (Zach's Buddy)

My friend, suffering is a part of the Kingdom that I like the least.

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."
Luke 6:27-31

You are a gift to our family in the way you care for Ali, Megan and Zach. You are immensely gifted with a mind, a personality and a heart that honors Christ. You are one of the many reasons why Ordinary Community Church exists.

Peace of Christ to you.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Psalm 117 (The Message)
1Praise GOD, everybody! Applaud GOD, all people!

2His love has taken over our lives;

GOD's faithful ways are eternal.

Hallelujah! al

For numerous reasons, I have found myself very thankful for the role of God in my life lately. The way his Spirit inspires me, the blessings of my family, the foundation of my spiritual community. the provision of daily bread and the tasting of a Kingdom now.

Tonight is one of the many BBQ's hosted at our home from Spring - Fall. They are regular open parties for our church community and any friends. Its a pretty simple formula: Food + Fire + Friends = Flippin' great time. (it could even categorize as official church time).

Its all about creating community in the suburbs. I know, I know . . . the "cool" emerging church folk all say that the focus should be in urban city environments and the such , but I've never been one to go with the crowd. Real, authentic Christian community can happen in the 'burbs if you plan for it and wait long enough to see it happen. Just my 2 cents.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Now is the Kingdom of Heaven (and not yet)

There, I said it. I believe that we experience the "quality" of the Kingdom of Heaven now, and someday will experience the "quantity" of the Kingdom of Heaven in its Fullness forever. Apparently some folks are criticizing me behind my back for this perceived "heresy" that I teach. Well, I don't apologize for it and its not heresy, its the whole basis of the Gospel.

The western world, evangelical idea that Heaven is only a place that we go to after we die is not at all consistent with the words of Jesus, not what he called people to. His Gospel invaded this world in the Now. A Christianity that reduces the Gospel to only going to heaven after we die is a lifeless religion. It is connected not to the Scriptures, but to a modernist worldview and a literal interpretation of all genres in the Biblical record. It is rooted in Plato's dualism, an evil physical world and a preferred spiritual world completely separated. Jesus transcended the teachings of Plato, he taught a wholistic Gospel. One where the good news of the Spiritual realm invaded the broken physical world . . . and continues to invade it even now.

John 14:8-14: "8Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." 9Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

Jesus was the Kingdom of God, Jesus is in us, the Kingdom is already growing in us, changing us, transforming us, we are communing with Jesus already in the same quality as we will someday forever. Is this so threatening? Is this so heretical? The gospel of forgiveness of sins only, not attached to an ongoing transformation of a person in Christ is not at all consistent with the teachings of Jesus. He calls us to be followers, not only saved.

I believe that we can experience the Kingdom of Heaven Now. Atleast in part, and someday in fullness. The Kingdom of God is now and not yet.

"May your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven." -Jesus

(if this bothers you, feel free to talk to me)

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you.

Friday, May 05, 2006

waiting for a new day

This is kind of like confession, but its been like 5 days since my last blog . . . shameful, shameful. I'm pretty comitted to writing at only the times that my heart is stirring something up. When it needs to rest, I want to do that. I kind of turned a corner in my new employment this week with IWU. Getting the hang of it and settling in, overcoming the first few weeks of complete overdrive. Looking forward to summertime (no more summers off, though) to be with my family. My parents gave us a week at their timeshare in Orlando for a week in July so we'll be heading back to Universal Studios. Should be fun, but its a long road trip.

I think about Chad and Palmer everyday. Continually when I get quiet, I just miss them. Yesterday would have been my niece, Kate's 2nd birtday. She also tragically passed a couple days before Christmas. So much sadness. It really at times has just overtaken me. I find myself really counting the small stuff and not worrying so much. Life is just too short.

I just ripped this quote from Palmer off of Blinn's blog, and it is one of my favorites.
"Whisper your hope when you lie down at night; scream your hope when you wake in the morning. Live your hope as if it is the one and only thing that sustains you in this ravaged world. You will not be disappointed." -Palmer
I loved the wisdom and prophecy that came from my brother's soul. This is the stuff of life.

Chrisitianity is not a new Law, it is a Freedom and a new Life. In order to fully embrace it, you need to rebel against the desires of your flesh and the world you live in. You have to learn to live counter-cultural, you have to follow Jesus. If the world screams busy, you must live simply. If the world cries self, you must love neighbor. If the world cries more, you must learn to have less. If the world cries now, you must learn to wait patiently. If the world cries control, you must let go and trust. It is the Way of freedom. It is the Way your heart was designed to live. It is the Way of the Kingdom, and only a few find it.

So hope and life yet live in me. I am waiting for a new day. A day where we see the spontaneous expansion of the Church above and below ground. Where communities centered in Christ and on His mission in this world explode in number and depths of spirituality. I long for a day to see new trees of Elpida sprouting up on the banks of the river that flows from the Temple. Everything those trees touch bring life and healing (Ezekiel 47). Life and Healing is our rebellion as we follow Jesus. We are rooted in that River, not in this world.

We need to die to this world, if want to follow Jesus and taste the Freedom our hearts are longing for.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Monday, May 01, 2006

still grieving

To be honest, I haven't felt like myself in at least a month. I'm tired all the time, not so much physically, but emotionally and spiritually. When I get quiet and alone, I find myself wanting to still weep over Chad and Palmer. In fact, it all just brings up deep seeded feelings of loneliness. I feel as if I've lost my center and God is somewhat silent. I'm just trying to be patient and persevere for a new day to come. I'm just not feeling very inspired towards anything right now. All I can figure is that I'm still grieving.