Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Open letter to Ordinary Community Church

Hey OCC family,

Man, our weather was a lot to overcome yesterday at the park for the baby dedication and I just wanted to pass on a few thoughts I wanted to share a bit more but couldn't really communicate as my pages were ripping through the wind.

First, thanks all for coming (and for those who couldn't share in this gathering, you were thought of and missed). Its so incredibly important that we make time for each other and to be in community to one another. We are literally spread out all over the Cincinnati metro area, including northern kentucky, and its a real legistic challenge to come together, especially with
these gas prices. But community is not an option for us, its a calling and our spiritual lives can't live without it. As you journey in your individual house churches, I want to encourage you to practice the spiritual discipline of presence to one another. There are many things that creep in and steal our time from being together, guard your house church times fiercely. Put up boundary lines around that time, budget it in as a non-negotiable and then reap the benefits of a loving, spiritual, Christ-filled, Spirit-Driven community that deeply loves you and is committed to you. When it all comes down, this is all we have that is eternal. Invest in such things. (Matthew 6:33)

Secondly, the vows we made to each other and the parents to their children are a really big deal and also eternal. We are a subversive community living out the values of the Kingdom of God, not the values of the culture and empire we live in. Pay attention to your children, cherish them, love on them, make them your vocation, bless them, discipline them gently, learn from them, show them appropriate touch, give away encouraging words, be their protector, be their provider, show them the ways of the Kingdom of God. In doing so, you will knit within them a healthy sexuality, a sense of wholeness, intimacy and communion with God and one another. Our world and ourselves cannot give this, it comes from parents and a community that lives by a different set of rules, ones submitted to the heart of the Father.

One of the things I wanted to do but scrapped in lieu of the weather was to take communion together before we prayed over the families. We need to emphatically state that we can't do this on our own. It is only because of Christ and his
Kingdom that we can share in this life. Everytime we can celebrate the table of God in communion or a shared meal, we are participating in part of something we will do forever. Christ invites us to his table of blessing, one overflowing with the life of God. Eat of it daily, drink from it deeply and don't forget to give it away to the hungry and thirsty around you and in your neighborhood.

I am reminded tonight of the ancient vows of the early church who committed themselves to:
1) Simplicity - not participating in the wealth of this world. Making decisions to deny self in order to be freed to love our neighbors. In a sure or an unsure economy, simplicity is the model of Jesus who had no place to lay his head. Its not about having wealth, its about not desiring it and being content with daily bread. Contentment is the language of the free in Christ.

2) Availability - not participating in the pace of this world. Making decisions to be quiet, seek solitude and budgeting time to be available to God and to one another. Loving our neighbor does not come naturally, it comes from an inner commitment to be available to them first.

3) Vulnerability - the admission that we are yet broken. Being broken before God and our brothers and sisters we trust to allow the healing of the Cross to continue to wash over us. It is in our honesty and openness that we make our wounds accessible to God, and whatever He can touch, He can heal.

My love and affection for each of you is sure and forever. I choose to belong to you as my spiritual family, my Church on earth. I don't know exactly what God has in mind for our future, but I believe He is not done adding to our number. Be open to giving the Kingdom away.

King Jesus is on the move amongst us, let's submit ourselves once again to follow Him. As we do the curtain to heaven becomes just a thin veil and His life will pour out all over us more and more the deeper we go. Let's not give up now, we're just getting started. Can't wait to see y'all at the finish line someday.

May the love and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection be upon you and your home this night,


Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Revelation of Hope

So we all have good days and bad days. Last Sunday night, I had a bad day. A series of things triggered me and I felt trapped, alone, codnemned and accused. All I felt was pain and it brought up childhood issues that I haven't felt in a long time. In a conversation with my wife where we were processing things together I lost me temper in a way I can't remember since I was a teenager. Where do things like that come from? That's for another day.

Today, I feel a bit of that revelation of hope. Its not in circumstances, that hasn't changed much. Its mostly in relationships. A relationship with a God that is not done w/ me yet. A God who is calling me to deeper intimacies with Him. A God who is calling me into deeper works of redemption on earth. A God who is breathing in me words of prophecy that haunt my dreams.

I feel hope in a wife whom I celebrate Mother's Day with today. A woman who is exactly my opposite. A woman who is the best partner I could hope for. A woman who is committed to me in the good and the bad. On our wedding day she vowed that "when the tough times come, I'm not going anywhere" and has proven just that. She gives me my space, but she also pursues me and I never thought I would find somebody like her. She actually does complete me, its more than a movie line.

I feel hope from amazing friends. Like really amazing friends. Friends I've gone to war with and friends I'd go to war for. I can't mention y'all by name but I need you to know that your words and presence have brought hope to my life. You love me in ways I can't hope for myself. You believe in me and stick with me when I can't find my way. You affirm the places I find myself and earily your lives and thoughts often parallel my own. You have been the revelation of a Kingdom come for me.

I don't always know who I am and where I'm going, but for tonight I have the revelation of hope and that is enough.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The good, the bad and the ugly of church

I'm doing final teaching prep for the second night of a New Testament Survey course here in a few minutes and just reflecting on tonight's topic of Acts and the explosion of the 1st century movement known as Christianity.

I want to make sure to challenge traditions, expose myths, reveal truths, make space for reality, talk the good, bad and the ugly. I can't think of a topic I care more about. Being the people of God on earth in mission to a fallen Creation is my vocation. With all the talk in blogdom on being bi-occupational, building the Church is my vocation, just not my occupation.

We need to continuously ask a lot of questions about how we're doing being the people of God on earth. We can't be comfortable nor content so long as their is suffering, hunger, injustice and lostness in our world. Until the final consumation of all things and the Resurrection, we have work to do. We are invited into this redemptive work and that's a pretty big deal. The author of life invites us to participate with Him in His restoration. We can become agents of His restoration, that's a pretty freakin' big idea.

I hope to pet the dog's fur the wrong way tonight. Shake up commonly held positions so that we come together not on how we do church, but that we ARE the church to the world. Some days we're good, some days we're bad and some days we're ugly, but never give up. Ever since the first Century, those followers of Christ have always had a pesky habit of Rising Again!


Monday, May 05, 2008

Blog Lesson

In the 5+ years I've been blogging, I've learned at least one thing. Never blog at 3:43 a.m. in the midst of a sleepless night, nothing good can come of it.