Monday, December 31, 2007

As I study for each sermon each week I read a lot of translations and go back to the original greek to make sure I fully understand what is going on.

Then sometimes I will do the translation work myself to make sure I really understand it. Then...sometimes...I do a modern [or postmodern] paraphrase to help me GET it.

This is a paraphrase from this week's work on chpater 2 of 1st corinthians:


When I was in 2nd life with you, my spiritual Sims family, I did not have an avatar with cool flash-media or a superior graphic interface as I downloaded to you the files about God. For I made a preparatory choice to delete everything while I was with you except Jesus Christ and the story of his being uninstalled. I came to you outdated, recently rebooted and with a shaky and unstable virus massively effecting my CPU stability. My files and my folders were not with nifty PowerPoint’s and eye-candy multi-media, but with a real-player demonstration of the Spirit's satellite uplink, so that your faith might not be upgraded with men’s bootlegged culture-coding, but with God's spiritual supernatural mainframe. We do, however, encode a file of help patches installed in those with a large hardrive and technorati skill, but not the lying spy-ware media files of our era or of the hackers of this age, who are outdated files, out-of-date and broken links. No, we speak of God's zipped files, an operating system that has been hidden but is now being launched and that God designed for our beta-version upgrading before creation itself. None of the cultural software makers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have deleted God. However, as it is written: "No operating system has installed, no hardrive has opened, no media file has been imagined, what God has as a platform for those who merge with him— but God has opened this file to us by his Ghost in our machine. The Spirit’s search mode investigates and knows all things, even the protected files of God. For what IT manager among men knows the Trojan horse and imbedded files of a man except the spyware spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the files of God except the Spirit of God. We have not downloaded the files of the world in fact we are blocking them and uninstalling them; but we are downloading the Spirit who is from God, that we may navigate what God has share-wared us. This is what we copy and paste, not in links downloaded to us by human mainframes or the matrix but in code uplinked by the Spirit, installing spiritual programs in spiritual code. The man without the Spirit deletes the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are spam to him, and he cannot open or unzip them, because they are spiritually uplinked with access codes he doesn’t have. But the spiritual man makes download-now? choices about all things, but he himself has a firewall that rejects man's reviews about soul matters they can’t open and don’t know how to read. "For who has googled the full operating system of God that he may rewrite his programs?" But we have the mind of Christ.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I have now spent 25 years serving, leading, and attending churches. That said, there have been more than a few times as a follower and leader that I wanted to give up on the whole thing.
I read a book once called “how to quit church without giving up on God.” I secretly hoped it was true. But it was just silly and selfish. In all fairness it was then that I read a book called “church, why bother?” by Phillip Yancey. And then I just looked up every verse in the New Testament that had the word church in it. Then I came to some conclusions.

The reason this is important is that about 85% of Americans believe in God, but we are drifting towards 40% being in church. It’s not that people don’t believe in God so much as people don’t believe in church.

Some reasons for church:

1. Jesus imagined and built it. It is his family on earth. He nurtures it, loves it, and died for it. It matters to him a lot. It is not disposable, if you follow him.
2. Church brings us the teaching, love, fellowship, mentors, etc that we need to grow healthy. I meet people all the time that “don’t do church anymore” and the vast majority are slowly falling away from God.
3. The spiritual gifts we have and give to others often make or break the lives around us. Some people are literally starving for love, mercy, and teaching. These gifts are what God uses us to knit us together and teach us to lean on each other.
4. Together we can do things we could never do alone. Acts of social justice; altruism in people’s lives; sending missionaries to other lands only happen in the context of a committed community.
5. No other place on earth will teach us the servanthood, selflessness, deference, humility, and longsuffering that church does. Church is a melting pot of VERY different people who are united by the love of Christ. These vast differences are the very things we need most to learn how to give the unconditional love we have received.
6. Tertullian “The blood of the martyrs are the seeds of the church.” Saints have died for what we take for granted, their legacy calls us to hope in the church. Each generation must rebuild her anew.
7. Most of the New Testament was written to churches NOT individuals. That means something.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

why I haven't been blogging


mostly because of two things. Both are good.

1. The church is getting healthy and there is a lot to do. When I first got here it felt like the church was on the verge of disintegrating. While you might think that would mean there was lots to do, actually there wasn't. People had to get to know me, and I had to start casting vision and push the community to start the process of finding thier identity in Christ. This simply takes time, but it is a limited amount of time. Now a lot of people are getting excited and confidence is rising as they are sensing what the spirit wants to do through them and us. So now I am spending a lot of time bringing things togther so that all the energy is focused and on the same page. It's a good sort of busy.

2. The church is way ahead of schedule in terms of turning around. I thought I would be spending 9-18 months helping them heal...but they / we are amazingly resilient. The leadership core of the church is hungry for vision and I am now probably behind them and am trying to catch up! So I am trying to spend more time in focused prayer about what phase 2 looks like.

So I will be getting back into the swing of the blog...but right now my kids have a snow day, and I have to show the little texans how to sled, poggie, and throw a good snowball. As I look out the window they are playing in the snow...I'd love to blog more...but the snow is calling out to me

Monday, November 12, 2007

Be Ye Angry, and Sin Not

food for thought. This is an article i found today while researching nehemiah 13. In nehemiah 13 nehemiah gets pretty angry...and then we have the question: who, what, where, when, how ,why is angry good or bad?

A boy shows up near the battlefield, bringing food for his brothers. There he sees a strutting giant of a man, taunting the armies of Israel, who stand ashamed, afraid to take him on. The boy gets his dander up. “What’s the reward for the man who kills this Philistine and removes the shame from Israel? Who does this foreskinned Philistine think he is, defying the armies of the living God?”

Seized by the Spirit, a young man is granted a vision of the Kingdom of God. He leaves home, indeed turns away from life as any sane or righteous person would know it. He lives in the wilds, where he keeps body and soul together by grubbing up insects and digging out the honey from beehives. People come to hear his straight preaching: “Repent! The Kingdom of God is near.” But when the pillars of the religious community show up, he suddenly dispenses with the gentle language he had used for the common people and the tax collectors and the Roman soldiers. “Snakes! Who has gone and told you to flee the wrath to come?”

The tireless apostle, stoned and whipped and shipwrecked, arrested and beaten yet never cowed into submission, finds himself checked not only by the pagans but by false followers of Christ. These undermine his work by preaching that unless a man is circumcised, he shall not be saved. The apostle has already argued, at exasperating length, that to preach the circumcision is to preach salvation by a human work. Finally he cries out, “As for all those who preach circumcision, forget about their skins -- I wish they’d have their testicles cut off to boot!”
I’ve been taken to task recently for a notebook entry in Touchstone, wherein I discussed the irascible faculty of the soul, that ally of reason whereby we strive for what is noble and beautiful, and, when it is called for, rise up in anger against the unjust and the ugly. “Where is such a faculty to be found in the Bible?”

In such places as above, I guess; and in the account of David’s full-hearted dancing before the Ark, and in the tale of the three Hebrew youths who defied the King of Babylon, and in a hundred other expressions of zeal and high spirits -- for anger is only one of the many manifestations of this faculty.

But does the Bible have to spell out what is common sense? When Jesus knotted that rope of cords, we must deny his real humanity to suppose that he did so without any surge of adrenalin. And if his whipping the moneychangers was an act of genuine love (and we would deny his divinity to suppose it was not), then it is hard to see how that love could have been unaccompanied by the severe pleasure of seeing justice done.

Sometimes Christians are cowed into speaking as if Jesus were, in a minimal sense, justified in what he did; as if circumstances excused the anger. Thomas Aquinas saw it differently: the anger (and I am not talking about the deadly sin of wrath) is, properly understood, a gift of God to man, indispensable to many a welt-raising act of charity.

I’ve also been challenged to show why this “anger” is proper to the exercise of true manhood. Common sense, again: whose bodies are made for soldiership? Who enjoys the fight? Or are Christian soldiers supposed to fight with clothespins over their noses, condescending to mixing it up a little, but determined not to like it?

Yes, women possess the same irascible faculty, and when the security of their persons or their children is threatened, they are as fearless as lions. But in general, the zeal of the good woman will show itself in her wanting to keep herself and her children as far away as possible from the wrong. Nor is there anything sinful or shameful about that; it is her wholly admirable modesty in action.

Men are called -- sometimes -- to soldiership at the front of the battle. And for that, we need to train boys to meet the challenge. But no society has ever succeeded in fashioning such gallant knights without sometimes -- sometimes! -- separating the boys from their mothers and sisters. Must we really spell out the psychology of boys to show why? Are we afraid we might fail? We fail now. We are afraid we might succeed.

by: e olosen

Saturday, November 10, 2007

genesis, the rollout

- - - -
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Not just for the profit, either. God wanted a place where beings could find products that could make a difference in their lives.
The first thing he worked on was ambiance. "Let there be nice lighting," he said. God called the light "Come on in. We're open!" and the darkness he called "Closed. Please call again!"
God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures, some for heat-and-eat, others for petting, some simply for atmosphere. And to every animal of the earth I have allocated certified-organic food as well as romp-and-roll toys."
From the dust, God manufactured a male consumer in his own brand image capable of purchasing, or "just looking" at, house wares and sporting supplies for many hours before tiring.
God was pleased: the heavens and the earth were launched, with placement of all things according to the Paradise Plan-O-Gram.
God planted a garden, and in its midst, FOR DISPLAY PURPOSES ONLY, God placed the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil!®. Any knowledge to be gained from it was strictly proprietary.
God said to man, "Of every tree of the garden, and of all the artisanal cheeses therein, you may freely eat, whether it be dine-in or takeout. But the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil!® you shall not eat. It is definitely not ready-to-eat."
God said, "I will make man someone to shop with," and made a woman. God brought the woman to the man, who said, "She is bone of my bone. She will be called 'wo-man,' for she is a tie-in." God said, "Man and woman shall be as one flesh, a Buy One Get One Free. Be fruitful, multiply, and enjoy the Everyday Low Pricing."
Now, the serpent was not a team player. He gave the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil!® to the woman and said, "Just look at it. I'm telling you, the fiber content alone is through the roof. Die? Please, don't make me laugh. God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened to real value. Here, taste the difference."
When the woman saw that the fruit had genuine apple flavoring and 4 milligrams of quercetin, an antioxidant compound, she ate of it, and she gave some to her husband and he ate, paying attention not to what he was eating but to a porcupine pup playing with a baby panda in an extremely cute way. However, the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil!® is super-fast-acting and so their eyes were opened and they knew that they were not wearing men's branded athletic apparel or Xhilaration® terry coverup dresses with ruffle trim in true white. They sewed fig leaves together to package their unsalables.
God paged the man, and said to him, "Where are you? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" The man said, "I knew not that there would be 360-degree feedback." They knew, both of them, that this was an exit interview.
"What is this you have done?" God asked the woman, using an open-ended question to gain consumer insights. The woman said, "The serpent deceived me. I fear I will have buyer's remorse all the days of my life."
God said, "In pain you will bring forth children. You will be met with frequent out-of-stocks. Your desire will be for your husband, but his will be for magazines about consumer electronics. You will surely know that he is as a final sale without warranty or return, for eternity."
To the man he said, "As you may have guessed, thistles will have a significant share of your stomach."
God sent them forth from the garden, far from the Lord's fulfillment house, to till the ground. And at the gate of the garden, he placed a flame to guard the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil!®, which was now open by appointment only, for preapproved customers exclusively, some restrictions apply, not available to former inhabitants of the garden or their relatives

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

a lot of people define a relationship with Jesus as simply having an emotional conscience moment and asking for Jesus to help, and then engaging in a vague obedience of his general precepts.

That is a far cry from what is offered.

He says "my sheep hear my voice; I will be with you always; I will send my Spirit to teach you all things."

It's not "Jesus-take-the wheel" it's "Jesus I wanna be possessed!"

So here are a few catalysts and questions to help broaden our experience of Jesus relationally. We kicked these around in our small group tonight and it was provocative. The questions aren't just meant to be answered, but to be mulled over and reflected on.

  1. How does Jesus communicate with you? You can't have a relationship without personal communication. Is it through scripture; prayer; nature; art...? When was the last time you heard something specific for your life?
  2. If you could spend a whole day with Jesus one on one what would you do? What would he do and say? Would you feel comfortable being his friend for a whole day or would it feel like a day with a stranger? Why?
  3. What is your favorite Jesus-scene in the Bible? What is your most disturbing moment? Do you think there may be other sides to Jesus you haven't explored yet or are afraid or annoyed by? Is Jesus still dangerous and unpredictable or have you domesticated him?
  4. What roles are you comfortable and uncomfortable with that we see in the Bible as people define their relationship with Jesus: slave, servant, child, adopted heir, ambassador for, friend, companion, bridegroom, lover of your soul...? Why do you cleave to some roles and avoid others? Does this limit the growth of the relationship?
  5. What is fresh and new in the relationship? What significant experiences have you had with Jesus in the last Is Jesus a monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly friendship?
  6. Which disciple of Jesus do you most / least identify with? What does this say about you? What are perhaps some new ways of having friendship with Jesus that you should explore?
  7. What does Jesus effect the most / least in your life: how you spend time; how you spend money; your sexuality; your parenting; being a spouse; your emotions; your mind; your actions; your attitude; your mouth...
  8. What would Jesus most encourage you about? What would he most likely confront you about?
  9. Do you believe Jesus is lonely for you? Do you believe he longs to be a part of your world? When do you let him in? When do you kick him out?
  10. How could / would you prove that you are bringing more quality and quantityto your relationship with Jesus?

These questions help us to look at the depth of our faith. There are lots of shallow places to root ourselves in [experiences, momentum, morality, good works, legalism, etc.] But Jesus calls out to us to be in a much more intimate and dynamic relationship than mere religion. He wants to have a relationship with us that is exponentially more dynamic than any other relationship we ever had or will have. As a pastor I am trying to open people up to a holistic faith that penetrates and saturates our whole being. There is no arrival, but the journey can be FANTASTIC is we will simply engage it with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.

is that your best...I think you can go farther.

don't starve your soul, he is everything you want and everything you need

Friday, October 19, 2007

lonely but not alone

I remember like yesterday what it was like to be alone. The feeling of being in the midst of a hurricane called life, with the winds of chaos and meaningless swirling all around me. I took a lot of autumn walks in those days before I met Jesus, and the slow fading death of autumn would fill me with a sense of mystery at the dissipating nature of life. In Octobers and Novembers I would walk in dark winds, down lonely grey streets, with the frozen rain sleeting against my face. Somehow it made me feel alive. And I would come home and sleep in front of an open window spending most of my nights questioning the stars...which never seemed to hear me.

I had been down south for nearly 20 years. A seasonless sauna of humidity and heat, without the relief of seasons. I am glad to be gone, glad to be back in the place where the seasons allow me to recalibrate my spirit with the turnings of time. Autumn winds again, and leaves that dance and die in them. Their death is done with so much celebration, a bright flame of yellow or red bursting within their veins, and then that last slow dance into the wind.

The season makes me melancholy in a wonderful way. The writer of Ecclesiastes said there is a season for all things. For me it is a season of thanksgiving and reflection. I find my true-center in the autumn, it raises up the painter-poet-prophet part of helps me to see things, past and present, in new ways...with a new lens and perspective, and thus the chance to redeem even the tragedies that have happened and seem them as perhaps not so tragic after all. Perhaps they were epic moments where things happened around me, through me, and in me that were deeper than the initial scars which is all I could feel for a time.

And autumn makes me lonely for heaven like no other time of the year. A great longing to be the leaf who finally falls and goes home to He who made and remade me. But this loneliness and longing is so different than the feeling of being alone that I had when I didn't know my maker. Because now he saturates me with his presence. Now every atom and electron spins under his watchful eye; now liberty and free will and even evil itself He has mastered and can pull back with a brushstroke back into the great canvas of existence that he is painting; now His Spirit is my ever near companion whispering comfort and convictions. I cannot always find his hand, but there is always his light, and I know his eyes are upon me.

And when I think of those who don't know him, there is a great sadness and burden that rises in me. For I know His wisdom is shouting at them on the streets; his subtle spirit surrounds them day after day calling them home; and the gaping hole in their lives is being filled by so many things that will never satisfy. This is what pastors struggle with, in tears, those long hours of the night. This is why at times you will see me driving wide circles around the edges of ashland...praying for her. I feel such a sense of urgency, and yet God is also teaching me patience in allowing for God to orchestrate his fullness of time.

The fullness of time is a bible phrase. I means that some pieces of time are pregnant with more meaning and impact than others. Time when God crashes through the barricades and invades us with his hope and love. I have felt the fullness of time so many different times, and each moment is a precious memory I hide deep inside to remind me of his goodness and love. They are the kindling woods of hope on those days which are so very cold, and confusing; when I can't find him and feel lost again in the hurricane.

I embrace this lonely day...the cool winds and darkening skies. This fullness of time is lonely, but I am not alone. His rod and staff comfort me. And we sit here in silence and feel the great weight of those who don't know him. And deep patience is there as well, for even as the people of Israel cried out in misery and into the silence of I did...there will be a day for each of them to see a burning bush [or red and gold leaf on a tree] and they will have to choose as I did to go and look deeper or turn their back and walk away. I pray for them every day. I pray for their aloneness to end and for the longing of desire in loneliness to begin.

For what I have has far surpassed the vagueness of faith...I am my beloveds and he is mine.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

the sea lion

From the dust of religion to the oceans of experiencing God

Once upon a time here lived a sea lion who had lost the sea. He lived in a country known as the barren lands. High on a plateau, far from any coast, it was a place so dry and dusty that it could only be called a desert. A kind of course grass grew in patches here and there, and a few trees were scattered across the horizon. But mostly, it was dust. And sometimes the wind, which together made one very thirsty. Of course, it must seem strange to you that such a beautiful creature should wind up in a desert at all. He was, mind you, a sea lion. But things like this do happen.

How the sea lion came to the barren lands, no one could remember. It all seemed so very long ago, in fact, it appeared as though he had always been there. Not that he belonged in such an arid place. How could that be? He was, after all, a sea lion. But as you know, once you have lived so long in a certain spot, no matter how odd, you come to think of it as home.

There was a time, many years back, when the sea lion knew he was lost. In those days, he would stop every traveler he met to see if he might help him find his way back to the sea. But no one seemed to know the way.

On he searched, but never finding. After years without success, the sea lion took refuge beneath a solitary tree beside a very small water hole. The tree providded refuge from the burning rays of the sun., which was very fierce in that place. And the water hole, though small and muddy, was wet, in its own way. Here he setled down and got on as best he could. Had you journeyed in those days through the barren lands, you might have seen the sea lion for your self. Quite often in the evening, he would go and sit upon his favourite rock, a very large boulder, which lifted him off the burning sand and allowed him a view of the entire country.

There he would remain for hours into the night, silhoutted against the sky. And on the best of nights, when the wind shifted to the east, a faint smell of salt air would come to him on the breeze. Then he would close his eyes and imagine himslef once more at the sea. When he lay himself down to sleep, he would dream of a vast, deep ocean. Twisting and turning, diving and twirling, he would swim and swim. When he woke, he thought he heard the sound of breakers.....

The sea was calling to him.

The sea lion loved his rock, and he even loved waiting night after night for the sea breezes that might come. Especially he loved the dreams those memories would stir. But as you well know, even the best of dreams cannot go on, and in the morning when the sea lion woke, he was still in the barrn lands. Sometimes he would close his eyes and try to fall back asleep. It never seemed to work, for the sun was always very bright.

Evetually, it became too much for him to bear. he began to visit his rock only on ocassion. "I have too much too do," he told himself. "I cannot waste my time just idling about." He really did not have so much to do. The truth of it was, waking so far from home was such a disapointment, he did not want to have those wonderful dreams anymore. The day finally came when he stopped going to his rock altogether, and he no longer lifted his nose to the wind whe the sea breezes blew.

The sea lion was not entirely alone in those parts. for it was there he met the tortise. Now this tortise was an ancient creature, so weathered by his life in the barren lands that at first, the sea lion mistook him for a rock. He told the tortoise of his phight, hoping that this wise one might be able to help him. "Perhaps," the tortoise mused, "this is the sea." His eyes appearesd to be shut against the bright sun, but he was watching the sea lion very closely. The sea lion swept his flippers once against his side, gliding to end of the water hole and back. "I don't know," he said. "it isn't very deep." "Isn't it?" "Somehow, I thought the sea would be broader , deeper. At least, I hoped so."

"You must learn to be happy here," the tortoise told him one day. "For it is unlikely you shall ever find this sea of yours." Deep in his old shriveled heart, the tortoise envied the sea lion and his sea. But I belong the sea. We are made for each other."

"Perhaps. But you have been gone so long now, the sea has probally forgotten you." This thought had never occured to the sea lion. But it was true, he had been gone for a long, long time. "If this is not my home, how can I ever feel at home here?" the sea lion asked. "You will, in time." The tortoise appeared to be squinting, his eyes a thin slit. "I have seen the sea, and it is no better than what you have found here." "You have seen the sea!" "yes. Come closer," whispered the tortoise, "and I will tel you a secret. I am not a tortoise. I am a sea turtle. But I left the sea of my own accord, many years ago, in search of better things. If you stay with me, I will tell you stories of my adventures."

The stories of the ancient tortoise were enchanting and soon cast their spell upon the sea lion. As weeks passed into months, his memory of the sea faded. "The desert," whispered the tortoise, "is all that is, or was, or will ever be." When the sun grew fierce and burned his skin, the sea lion would hide in the shade of the tree, listening to the tales woven by the tortoise. When the dry winds cracked his flippers and filled his eyes with dust, the sea lion would retreat to the water hole. And so the sea lion remained, living his days between water hole and tree.

The sea no longer filled his dreams.

I was that May that the winds began to blow. The sea lion had grown used to the wind, and at first he did mot pay much heed at all. Years of desert life had taught him to turn his back in the direction from which the wind came and cover his eyes with his flippers, so that the dust would not get in. Eventually the winds would always pass. But not this time. Day and night it came, howling across the barren lands. There was nothing to stop its fury, nothing to even slow it down. For fourty days and fourty nights the wind blew. And then, just as suddenly as it begun, it stopped. The sea lion lifted himself to have a look around. He sould hardly believe his eyes.

Every single leaf had been stripped from his tree. The branches that had remained, with only a twig or two upon them, looked like an old scarecrow. And I do not need to tell you that there was no longer any shade in which to hide. But worse than this, much worse indeed, was what the sea lion saw next. The water hole was completely dry.

Three weeks after the wind ceased to blow, the sea lion had a dream. Now, as I told you before, there were nights in which he had dreamed of the sea. But those were long ago and nearly forgotten. Even still, the ocean that filled his dreams this night was so beautiful and clear, so vast and deep, it was as if he was seeing it for the very first time. The sunlight glittered on its surface, and as he dived, the waters all around him shone like an emerald. I he swam quite deep, it turned to jade, cool dark and mysterious. But he was never frightened, not at all. For I must tell you that in all his dreams of the sea, he had never before found himself in the company of other sea lions. This night there were many, round about him, diving and turning, spinning and twirling. They were playing.

Oh, how he hated to wake from that wonderful dream. The tears running down his face were the first wet thing he had felt in three weeks. But he did not pause even to wipe them away, he did not pause, in fact, for anything at all. He set his face to the east, and began to walk the best a sea lion can.

"Where are you going?" asked the tortoise.

I am going to find the sea!".

John Eldredge from:"The Journey of Desire"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

the life saving station

this is one of my favorite stories on what church is...and...isn't

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a little life-saving station. The building was primitive, and there was just one boat, but the members of the life-saving station were committed and kept a constant watch over the sea. When a ship went down, they unselfishly went out day or night to save the lost. Because so many lives were saved by that station, it became famous. Consequently, many people wanted to be associated with the station to give their time, talent, and money to support its important work. New boats were bought, new crews were recruited, a formal training session was offered. As the membership in the life-saving station grew, some of the members became unhappy that the building was so primitive and that the equipment was so outdated. They wanted a better place to welcome the survivors pulled from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged and newly decorated building.
Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They met regularly and when they did, it was apparent how they loved one another. They greeted each other, hugged each other, and shared with one another the events that had been going on in their lives. But fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions; so they hired lifeboat crews to do this for them. About this time, a large ship was wrecked off of the coast, and the hired crews brought into the life-saving station boatloads of cold, wet, dirty, sick, and half-drowned people. Some of them had black skin, and some had yellow skin. Some could speak English well, and some could hardly speak it at all. Some were first-class cabin passengers of the ship, and some were the deck hands. The beautiful meeting place became a place of chaos. The plush carpets got dirty. Some of the exquisite furniture got scratched. So the property committee immediately had a shower built outside the house where the victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting there was rift in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's life-saving activities, for they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal fellowship of the members. Other members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all those various kinds of people who would be shipwrecked, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. And do you know what? That is what they did.
As the years passed, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a place to meet regularly for fellowship, for committee meetings, and for special training sessions about their mission, but few went out to the drowning people. The drowning people were no longer welcomed in that new life-saving station. So another life-saving station was founded further down the coast. History continued to repeat itself. And if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of adequate meeting places with ample parking and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

missional worship

Some people have wondered what "missional" means. I use the term a lot and so it is important that we all understand it. It is also very important to understand what worship is, in order to understand how these 2 ideas will COMPLETELY saturate 5 stones.

Missional simply means to obey the COMMAND of Christ to go everywhere and tell everyone the story of God's rescue of humanity [the gospel]. It is the story which starts in the garden of Eden and man rebelling against God; and it ends with people coming home to God by grace [unconditional love] through faith [receiving and trusting this gift in the person of Jesus]in Jesus.

Missional has 2 components in the new testament:

1. "Come and see" Jesus teaches to large crowds and people invite their friends. This is the "attractional component" and you see it in our Sunday morning services. This is where we invite our friends to come see and listen to our Jesus.

2. "Go and tell" Jesus sends out his disciples to search the highways and byways to tell people about Him. This is the "incarnational component" where we go into bars, brothels, and anyplace else where Gods Kingdom is not functioning and we tell people about, and serve people with the light of the world while visiting dark places.

Worship: It means literally to ascribe worth [or worthiness] to something. ALL of our lives, everything we do is an act of worship. We worship God; ourselves; material things; other people depending on our choices. God tells us that really, he is the only thing worthy of worship and that our hearts, minds, and lives will not have good consequences while we worship anything but him. Blaise Paschal said "we have a God-shaped vacuum inside us" and we will never be at rest till we stop stuffing other things inside of our emptiness and instead allow God-and God alone- to fulfill us. Augustine said "Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in You."

Worship has a serendipity [a side effect]

When we worship we lift up our whole heart, mind, and body to tell God how great he is. The aim is to let God feel our love for him. This is natural and healthy, as natural and healthy as cuddling our spouse or infant. But in this relationship we are the giving child who crawls up on the daddy's lap and says "I love're doing a good job." The serendipity is that God meets us in that moment and tells us that he loves us to. This is what we "feel" at a worship service, or see on the faces of other true is even the magical thing that happens to a "seeker" at a worship service who "senses" God for the 1st time but doesn't know exactly what is going on...but knows something is going on.

But worship can easily get off track. If we worship only to get from God, we miss the whole point. Now we are just using God for our own pleasure and we are worshipping ourselves. As a pastor I sense this when we have a service that is more celebrative in nature and people say "THAT was worship." What they mean [sometimes] by this, is that it was good for them; and thus they have worshipped self [what I value] and missed God. [It is sort of liking kissing someone, while looking at yourself in a mirror and saying to yourself..."I look good, and I'm a good kisser" I hate to say it...but I really don't ever want to be kissed by someone like's gross]

God on the other hand is simply looking for authentic worship. A body yearning for God, dancing for God, hands in the air. A heart clouded by doubt that is trying to press through pain to again value God above their own temporal struggles. A mind who is letting music and lyrics guide them to repentance...celebration...hope...even guilt [read the Psalms] as the means through which we again come to God and say he is great and better than everything [including our sin] Worship is not just triumphant or celebrative feelings rushing through is whatever is in us rushing into the presence of God. It is our true and naked selves dancing, bowing down, confessing, every ounce of our being to him.


We are on mission for God as an act of worship. Worthy are his commands, and we should be doing them.


We are worshipping God for his sake and we are focused solely on him [we spend enough of our time focused on ourselves]. It is a special time that is focused on him as the audience of our ardor and extravagant love. And in the midst of loving him fully...he meets us and loves us back.

We are in the baby stages of being missional in many ways. And we are still learning to worship. But let us all help one another into being true, loving Children of the King of Glory


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

encountering Jesus

Our small group tonight looked at a passage from the gospel of John about 'the woman at the well"

it was a great dialogue because it gave us the chance to ask ourselves how we encounter Jesus.

the woman in the story has a transition:

  1. she calls him a jew and defines the relationship as adversarial

  2. she then calls him sir as he acts respectful towards her

  3. she then calls him a prophet as he exposes some things in her life

  4. she finally calls him Messiah [rescuer] as he offers her living waters

Then she tells others what she experienced / encountered.

What is ironic is most christians talk about Jesus like a religious theory more than a relational person. Also, most people really can't see in thier own lives a relational evolution of how they encounter Jesus as a person.

In the Bible we see different stages of relationship:

  • lostness and alienation from God

  • a possession of God

  • an awereness of God

  • a slave to God

  • a child who calls God Abba [dady]

  • a watcher of God

  • a disciple of Gods

  • a companion with God

  • a friend to God

  • an adopted heir of Gods

  • an espoused of God's

  • a bride to God

  • a lover of our souls

This is a short list. But it highlights how we should grow closer to God and have a relationship that is growing more and more rich and diverse. My own relationship with God grows more and more simple and complex every year. Much like that with my wife. Both are a mystery I will never understand and a piece of art that I see more and more beuty in as the years of appreciation pass. God is a paradox to me in many ways. I am both more comfortable with Him and more scared of Him than ever. And I love it!!! There is nothing stale, or is always fresh and more real.

I pray that for you as well.

and If you get bored on tuesday nights from 6:30-8 come join us on this journey.

Next week instead of looking at a scripture, we will watch a movie clip about Jesus and talk about how it effects us.

the scripture from this week is below, if you want to kick it around and think about where you are with Jesus.

He had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob's well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
7-8A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, "Would you give me a drink of water?" (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
9The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, "How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" (Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
10Jesus answered, "If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water."
11-12The woman said, "Sir, you don't even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this 'living water'? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?"
13-14Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life."
15The woman said, "Sir, give me this water so I won't ever get thirsty, won't ever have to come back to this well again!"
16He said, "Go call your husband and then come back."
17-18"I have no husband," she said.
"That's nicely put: 'I have no husband.' You've had five husbands, and the man you're living with now isn't even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough."
19-20"Oh, so you're a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?"
21-23"Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God's way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
23-24"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."
25The woman said, "I don't know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we'll get the whole story."
26"I am he," said Jesus. "You don't have to wait any longer or look any further."
27Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn't believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
28-30The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, "Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?" And they went out to see for themselves.
It's Harvest Time 31In the meantime, the disciples pressed him, "Rabbi, eat. Aren't you going to eat?"
32He told them, "I have food to eat you know nothing about."
33The disciples were puzzled. "Who could have brought him food?"
34-35Jesus said, "The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started. As you look around right now, wouldn't you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I'm telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what's right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It's harvest time!
36-38"The Harvester isn't waiting. He's taking his pay, gathering in this grain that's ripe for eternal life. Now the Sower is arm in arm with the Harvester, triumphant. That's the truth of the saying, 'This one sows, that one harvests.' I sent you to harvest a field you never worked. Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others."
39-42Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to him because of the woman's witness: "He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out!" They asked him to stay on, so Jesus stayed two days. A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say. They said to the woman, "We're no longer taking this on your say-so. We've heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He's the Savior of the world!"

Monday, September 24, 2007

This is my small group for encountering Jesus. We will be meeting on Tuesdays from 6:30 till whenever at 836 STONE CREEK BLVD, ASHLAND OH 44805

We start this week and will focus on JESUS. Jesus stories, scripture, poems, art, movies…whatever. If you want to learn about and/or love Jesus better, this is the place to be.

No age limits, community or college people…atheists, whoever wants to come.

You can belong even if you don’t believe.

It will be fun and thought / heart provoking friendship

see ya then!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

stunned by grace...again

The Bible still surprises me all the time. This week in Nehemiah 8 I am just bewildered by what happens.

let me catch you up quickly.

for over 140 years the temple has not been operational; Ezra [a priest] return to Israel to rebuild it...and fails. Then Nehemiah shows up and it is rebuilt. In the midst of all this Ezra gets up one day and they basically have a launch-service for the 1st church plant in Israel in 140 years. 50,000 people show up for the first service and listen to Ezra recite the first 5 books of the bible for 6hours! while standing...silently...pressed in like sardines.


the priests divide the people into smaller groups and explain it all. And people who have never heard God's word just start balling, and crying their eyes out. They realize for the 1st time all God has done for them and just how far off-base they are with God.


You'd have thought this was a good thing. I mean that's what religious people are looking for right? Conviction!!! I mean if I preached for 6 hours+ people would be crying but probably not out of conviction. But if they did I think I would be happy. I mean...that makes sense to me. People who don't know anything about God finding out and repenting.

but Nehemiah and the priests tell the people 3TIMES!!! to not grieve or cry. Instead they are to be filled with joy and have a 7 day party called the festival of booths.

[side note: God's providence...this takes place every year in mid-September...and NO I didn't plan this]


that has haunted me for a couple of days now...

I think this is the point. Just like the story of the Prodigal son coming home in the New Testament.

The prodigal and Israel want to repent...they have prepared confessional scripts all ready to go. But God doesn't want them impressed or focused on their sin; he wants them impressed and swept away with his love, forgiveness, grace, hope, second-chances, compassion, mercy....!!!!

and sometimes i forget to be stunned by this

I fall into a gray little routine of sin-confession-guilt-and a vague sense that I am forgiven

then I read this story, or the story of the prodigal son and I am just shocked again at how God handles us. He runs after us, gives us a signet ring, kills the fatted pig, and has a party every time we come home to him [old testament or new]

and I'm so busy trying to apologize...i miss the party...and the point

God isn't nearly as impressed with our 'sin' as we are


He is SO impressed with his 'son' and the grace he makes available to us

so who and what are we more impressed by?

or sin
or His son

our emotional well being stands in the balance of that choice. Life will either be a penitentiary of pain or a massive party caravan


choose wisely?

"for the joy of the lord is your strength"...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Chapter 10: Sympathy for Pete People wanted to peg Jesus into a category. Speculation abounded. Is he sympathetic or antagonistic to: the Pharisees [Ultra fundamentalists of their day]; Sadducees [liberal collaborators with the Romans]; Zealots [militant revolutionaries]; Essene's [mystical separatists]; Scribes [conservative traditionalists]; and a host of other splinter groups. People also guess that he is a reincarnation of John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or some other prophet from long ago. There is a whirlwind of controversy as the crowds seek to unravel the mystery of “who is this Jesus guy.” Oprah has a special; 20/20 sends a crew out; Frontline hosts a prime-time “event”. But Jesus refuses to be pigeonholed into an ideology, political party, or perspective. In doing so, his mystique only grows as his popularity starts to surge. Socratic questions; parables; paradoxes…passion, anger, compassion. Every mold that is constructed he shatters, every category is mangled, every presumption exposed-exploited-exploded.

The way Mark writes it in his book; Pete has a hard roller coaster ride with Jesus from Chapter 8 through Chapter 9 of his narrative…1 week in the “Twilight Zone / Outer Limits” with Buddy Christ.
On the way to Caesarea Phillippi, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” And so they throw out some of these ideas. You can almost see Jesus smiling with subtlety…but perhaps with a bit of anxiety. Perhaps he wonders what the disciples think of Him; if they understand yet; if they get it. So he asks “Who do you say I am?” What a question! This is THE question of the ages as people have tried to guess if he was madman, moral teacher, or divine. It is THE question that all serious seekers of truth, philosophy, and religion ask themselves at some time or another. 2,000 years later it is still hanging in the air, in the threads of philosophy, in the silent hopes and dreams of the billions. Peter pipes up 1st. You are the Messiah!” Boom! For Peter the great unfolding of the mystery has taken a crucial turn. Jesus goes from Rabbi to calling himself the mysterious and enigmatic “son-of-man,” to the Old Testament promised one from God. And on the brink of this incredible discovery Jesus tells him to shut up. Why? Isn’t the whole point to herald and shout this to everyone? Here is God or something; here is THE answer; here is the cure to everything. How befuddling, Peter who has signed on to follow Jesus everywhere and anywhere can’t even tell people who he is. If God told you the cure for cancer and then made you promise to not tell anyone…how would you feel? Confused, bewildered? It cannot have been easy. Read on and you will realize it wasn’t. It gets worse, and weirder. The very next thing Jesus does is explain that he will die. Whoa! No way! The messiah doesn’t die…I’ve got expectations, assumptions, and traditions to back me up on this. Peter who has just made this huge paradigm shift to Jesus being Messiah, and then is told to shut-up and keep it to himself is now told the Messiah will die. His fuses blow, and he takes Jesus off to the side. Smoke still coming out of his ears while his file registry goes through de-bugging…loose wires spark and fizzle inside his brain. He then says something like this “Whoa there big guy. You da man! We gave up everything for you, and now you want to destroy our expectations of the Messiah?! I got some Prozac dude, are you ok? Is this a suicide pact, some new teaching methodology, are you testing us…this isn’t a good plan. People will unravel and freak out…don’t talk this way. Don’t drink the kool-aid!” Jesus isn’t kind to Pete on this. He was off to the side privately with Pete, but he turns to face the disciples and shouts, “Get away from me Satan! You are seeing things like a human and not like God!” A verbal slap across Peter’s face in broad daylight before everyone. To add insult to injury he asks the disciples then and there to sign up with him for suicide. “Pick up your cross, deny yourself, and follow me…[to death]”. He then rips into them about cowardice for several more verses. Ouch. I would have been hacked. What happened to the bling, bling? 6 days later he takes Pete, John, and James to a mountain. On the mountain we see a Spielberg-like special effects show that is indescribable. Jesus is “transfigured,” he unzips his human flesh and a blinding angel-like being of shimmering silver, light, and aura is unleashed. Prophets show up, God’s voice [James Earl Jones style] thunders down. Holy cow! They all freak. Wouldn’t you? And then suddenly it is all over, and they wonder what is going on. Then Jesus tells them again to shut up about it. Whatever. Synopsis for poor Pete….”Everybody guesses who Jesus is, I somehow figure it out and win the lottery, and am told to shut up about it. Jesus is then a melancholy suicidal and a heretic who is dismantling the Messiah stereotype…and I carefully correct him in private only to be humiliated publicly and again be told to shut up. We then all get tongue lashed; told we are going to all die, and to suck-it-up and not be cowards. That is just crazy. Finally we go to a mountain where Jesus unzips his flesh and shows us the full wonder of being God…and again I am told to shut up. Welcome to my week from hell…oops…week 1 from hell I don’t even want to talk about the passion week, or the week after that. How in the world did I get drafted into ‘apostleship!’ “Mark wasn’t there for any of this. I wonder what facial expression Pete had when he told him about it. Was it funny in hindsight; mysterious; maddening; shaming…who knows? What I do know is that it must have been a fairly weird and crappy week for Pete. What would you have done? I’m not sure I would have handled it very well. But I would have felt trapped, that’s for sure. You see miraculous stuff, and are caught between the tension of that reality and the apparent death-of-God looming in the distance of destiny, like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming train.We have so many expectations and assumptions about truth, God, and life. What happens when almost all of them are mangled by reality. Pete felt that…so did Anne Lamott…Thomas Merton…almost everybody really. A big part of reading Christian biographies is watching people pass through the cliché-o-kingdom and embrace the radical Christ of experience and encounter. I had to go through that furnace a time or 2 and I suspect it will just keep happening. Who is he? And each time I define him he just smiles and winks at me while he morphs into something more. I can’t blame Pete for wanting him to just stay still…how do you worship something that is in motion-experiencing-emoting-and evolving right before your eyes?!

And like a moth in the moonlight or the porch light, I am both mesmerized and hypnotized by Jesus…while…being terrified and desperately addicted. I love him but don’t begin to understand him…not really…not ever. Is that enough? It is for me, but what about you? He would ask you: “Who do you say I am?” And as ever, believer or not…he waits for your response.

Monday, September 10, 2007

love is...

In Jumping off of what we talked about on sunday I thought this might be a good thing to remind people of.

There are a lot of values in the Bible. Things having to do with money, justice, morality... But in the new testament there are two crowning values that are repeated over and over and over and over again.

  1. One is the Mission of God's love. Flowing through Jesus and his death and resurrection...and continuing through our lives in searching and helping to rescue those who are lost to God.

  2. The other is the Description of Christian love. Starting with how and how much Jesus loved others and leading us to love one another in the church outrageously...loving those who don't know God...and even loving our enemies.

what this love looks like is listed below

The version is from the message.

1 Corinthians 13
The Way of Love 1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.

Love doesn't strut,

Doesn't have a swelled head,

Doesn't force itself on others,

Isn't always "me first,"

Doesn't fly off the handle,

Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn't revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

8-10Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:

Trust steadily in God,

hope unswervingly,

love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Don't EVER expect any real blog entries on Saturdays in the Fall.

All I can do is vent about College football.

Dan and I both have wives who are keeping sharp objects and rope away from us. Being an Amy is a hard job.

Big Blue and the MiCks are now 0-2 with a looming showdown for a battle of the basements, and a turf war to see who's the biggest loser. National titles are gone...bowls are in doubt...already.

and yet...

Michigans loss seems far more tragic and humiliating right now...thank goodness. At least the Irish are losing to ranked opponents...I mean...ranked in the same DIVISION.

I have 6 days to talk

then next week I will cry a river.

go irish!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Jesus final instructions to his followers are very important to understanding his mission. We see him delivering them in an upper room just before his final passion week.

He is getting them...and us....ready for life when he is not around in the way we are accustomed to [physically].

Churches usually get on-track or off-track depending on how well they know the words of God. And more than even that, that they know them in terms of priorities and emphasis. IE: Jesus heals, but that is not the mission of the is part of the Mission. The mission is to make disciples and present the gospel and live like Kingdom people in a tribal family called the church. Those are the essential matters, for every church, all the time.

a summary of John 17 might look like this:

  • Father you and I are 1 in love
  • Father you have made me 1 with these disciples in love
  • Father make them 1 with each other in love
  • Father make the future ones, 1 with all of us in love
  • Father help them to continue my mission of love
  • Father I can't wait till we all are 1 in heaven merged together forever in love


  • what he says to the believers about the need for unity. He knew there would be temptations for them to be divided
  • what he says about the mission continuing after he leaves. The mission of the kingdom and the gospel, he makes sure these are remembered and reinforced as primal priorities
  • what he says about those who don't know him yet but will in the future [us!]

John 17
Jesus' Prayer for His Followers 1-5 Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said: Father, it's time. Display the bright splendor of your Son So the Son in turn may show your bright splendor. You put him in charge of everything human So he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge. And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, The one and only true God, And Jesus Christ, whom you sent. I glorified you on earth By completing down to the last detail What you assigned me to do. And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendor, The very splendor I had in your presence Before there was a world.
6-12I spelled out your character in detail To the men and women you gave me. They were yours in the first place; Then you gave them to me, And they have now done what you said. They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, That everything you gave me is firsthand from you, For the message you gave me, I gave them; And they took it, and were convinced That I came from you. They believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I'm not praying for the God-rejecting world But for those you gave me, For they are yours by right. Everything mine is yours, and yours mine, And my life is on display in them. For I'm no longer going to be visible in the world; They'll continue in the world While I return to you. Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life That you conferred as a gift through me, So they can be one heart and mind As we are one heart and mind. As long as I was with them, I guarded them In the pursuit of the life you gave through me; I even posted a night watch. And not one of them got away, Except for the rebel bent on destruction (the exception that proved the rule of Scripture).
13-19Now I'm returning to you. I'm saying these things in the world's hearing So my people can experience My joy completed in them. I gave them your word; The godless world hated them because of it, Because they didn't join the world's ways, Just as I didn't join the world's ways. I'm not asking that you take them out of the world But that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world Than I am defined by the world. Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. I'm consecrating myself for their sakes So they'll be truth-consecrated in their mission.
20-23I'm praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they'll be as unified and together as we are— I in them and you in me. Then they'll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you've sent me and loved them In the same way you've loved me.
24-26Father, I want those you gave me To be with me, right where I am, So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me, Having loved me Long before there ever was a world. Righteous Father, the world has never known you, But I have known you, and these disciples know That you sent me on this mission. I have made your very being known to them— Who you are and what you do— And continue to make it known, So that your love for me Might be in them Exactly as I am in them.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

why I love the church

85% plus of americans say they believe in God, pray, and think the Bible is very important.

and just under 50% nationally go to church.

People haven't given up on God, but they have given up on church. Let me tell you some reasons I haven't. [And believe me, I see the best and worst of the church, so this isn't a winking at the problems]

  1. Firstly, Jesus Christ promised to build the Church-therefore, my commitment should be to it (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:39-47). But more than that Jesus commitment to it is unswerving. He LOVES the church and won't give up on it. So I shouldn't either. It's not a question of perfection, or finding what is wrong [that's easy] it's a matter of investing to make it good...and great.

  2. Secondly, He purchased the Church with His own precious blood-therefore, I love those for whom He died (1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 3:14-16). Jesus died to make the church viable. If He values it this much than who am I [if I believe in God, and value what he values] to give up on her?!

  3. Thirdly, the Church is the predominate agency through which God’s will is manifested on earth-therefore, it is the community with whom I labor (Ephesians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:28-29). Great individuals come and go, but revolutions are made in groups. People who say they love God and don't go to church...slowly fade in faith...and impact....I have seen it a hundred times. We need each other much more than our pride and ego is willing to admit. We bring out the best in each other in a way that being alone can never do.

  4. Fourthly, the Church is the only earthly expression of heaven-therefore, we must daily grow together in conformity to the fullness of Christ (2 Peter 3:10-14; Revelation 4:4-11; Ephesians 4:12-13). God tells us to give people a foretaste of Him, his kingdom, and heaven by how we live in community here. There are no islands or hermitages in heaven.

  5. Fifthly, the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church-therefore, in light of the assured victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, our worship and toil is not in vain (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58). Call me a fair-weather fan but I want to be on the winning side. As a player on a team. Not just a couch potatoe playing monday morning quarterback and coach.

  6. Sixthly, I love the Christ of the church. The church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. He bought it with His own blood. The Bible says, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). I believe that we should loathe what Jesus loathed and love what Jesus loved.

  7. Seventhly, I love the creation of the church. The church originated in Christ and was forged by a handful of believers who had been on their knees in prayer and empowered by the Holy Spirit to change the world. They emerged from an upper room with an indomitable faith and an unconquerable zeal to face a world that had previously intimidated them into a paralyzing fear. Inspired by the miracle of Pentecost they launched out on a grand adventure that resulted in churches being planted throughout the whole world

  8. Eighthly, I love the convictions of the church. The convictions of the church are drawn from the Bible. The Word of God is an infallible handbook that is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 2:16). When a church fails to embrace the Bible as altogether true its doctrines and values are subject to weaken or disintegrate. However, thank God for those churches that don’t try to change the Bible or find fault with it, but just believe it, even where it is weird.

  9. Ninthly, I love the congregation of the church. There are always some surly, cantankerous, religious nut-jobs in the church, but the best people I know are also in the church. I have received great acts of love from caring church members. I have made intimate and lifelong friends in the church. I thrill to find warm, love among God’s wonderful people wherever I go. I just teach and preach grace to people till the mean ones change or go away.

  10. I love the commission of the church. Of course, the commission of the church is articulated in Matthew 28:18-20, and it charges the church with the responsibility of rescuing the world. We are to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person. Only when man’s heart is changed will the world be changed. No institution, entity, or organization has a higher or nobler commission.

  11. I love the cooperation and colaberation of the church. The world is known for its anarchy and competition, but the church is known for its camaraderie and cooperation. When God’s people get together incredible things are accomplished for the good of mankind and the cause of the Kingdom.

  12. I love the charity of the church. Think of all the needs that have been supplied, all the hurts that have been alleviated, all the homes that have been blessed, and all the lives that have been changed because the church is motivated by love. So long as the church insists on love being the quality which crowns her ministry worthwhile things will be attempted and achieved.

  13. I love the celebrations of the church. I have seen the revelry that comes with winning a championship football game and the festivities that follow the final out in a Major League Baseball World Series, but there is nothing that compares with a worship service when the Spirit of God is moving, souls are being saved, heaven comes down, and glory fills the souls of the saints. Now that is a celebration!

  14. I love the consummation of the church. The church will outlive and outlast every other organization on earth. Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. The church is the bride of Christ and one of these days He is going to receive the church unto Himself. It is going to be a “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

In short I am dazzled by the church in every way. Abandoning her would be like amputating my heart. I am not blind to her silliness at times, but she has also accomplished more good than anything, anybody, or any other institution ever has or could even dream of.


Sitting at home, skiing at the lake, and sleeping in isn't accomplishing any great things on Sunday mornings.

Spiritual Conversations - My Paradigm Shift

Over the last twenty-five years I have seen a paradigm shift in evangelism. Here are a few of my observations:

1. Event to Process - I think the confusion between the event of conversion and the process of evangelism was generated by the majority of evangelism training being centered around leading someone in a prayer of repentance...while little was offered on identifying the steps a person takes in moving towards or away from Christ. In the mid-80's I discovered Dr. James F. Engel and his Engel's scale.pdf , along with Willow Creek's Seven Step Outreach Strategy. The combination of these ideas helped me make the shift from event focused evangelism to more of a process oriented approach. People consider faith over a stretch of time. God uses all sorts of conversations, events, movie clips, draw people to Himself. In many ways it is better to think of God courting or wooing people to himself...too often it looks like he is hijacking or mugging them [through us]. Viewing yourself and what you do as part of a long string of events God is bringing into persons life. When they are ready, don't will be an UNSTOPPABLE moment.

2. Combative to Attractive - Most of the evangelism training I experienced in school and in seminars was apologetically driven. Don't get me wrong, it is biblical to be prepared. Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (I Peter 3:15) Yet all too often I missed the two key concepts around this phrase 1) Lordship - “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord." Making sure that my life aligns with Christ through personal purity, through confession of all known sin and being filled with the Holy Spirit turns controversial information into transformational truth. 2) Rapport - "But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (I Peter 3:15-16) Rapport is that emotional bond or friendly relationship between people based on mutual respect, trust and care. Lordship and rapport are the keys to save us from being combative and more attractive in spiritual conversations. Study Jesus' interactions with people. The only times he was combative was with the religious elite who distracted people from the truth of God. (Matthew 23; Luke 19:45-46) Here is a question to ponder: When was Jesus ever combative with anyone but the Pharisees?

3. Monolog to Dialog - There has been a profound shift moving from giving a memorized sales pitch to a meaningful two-way conversation. In my early days of ministry I was driven by decision theology (we had to report something to our superiors.) But, Jesus said "go make disciples" not "go make decisions!" Monologs are like decision based theology, they are neat and tidy. Dialogs are like disciple making, they are messy and unpredictable. Learning to see God at work in the messes is challenging and exciting. Monologs take a little practice and can come across as impersonal. Dialogs take faith, patience and love. Saying "I don't know" is fine, and liberating. Tell people what you do know..."Let me tell you what Jesus has done in me..."

4. Short-term to Long-term - A short-term mentality works through this type of sequence: 1) Presentation 2) Decision 3) Assimilation. A long-term mentality operates with this sequence in mind: 1) Belonging 2) Believing 3) Becoming. On an individual and corporate level the church is learning to love and accept people where they are at on their journey along with providing opportunities and experiences to engage with Christians and explore the implications of Christ's teachings. George Hunter III writes, "Effective communicators do not try to do all the communicating. They know that faith is 'more caught than taught', that a person's meaningful involvement can do its own communicating, and that involvement helps people discover the faith for themselves..." This meaningful involvement takes time and persevering love. There was a season in our church plant with lifechurch where several people came to faith through their engagement in our set-up team. It was a place in our church where they could make an instant impact and rub shoulders with other people of faith. Our top 10 list will take a decade or perhaps a lifetime, but will need to walk the long road of love and deny our american fixation on quick fixes and immediate gratification to see things happen.

5. Every day hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands come to be rescued by God. It is happening all the time. Ask God to simply insert you into the flow of this reality. Look for moments to love and opportunities to tell stories or ask questions. Remember: God has no back-up plan for this, He is trusting us to walk this path with Him. And he believes in you FAR MORE than you believe in Him!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

who leads the church?

one of the more interesting things about being a pastor is how people relate to you as a leader and how they try to figure you out. In many ways it is like trying to piece together the true story of brittany spears from the tabloids. People get pieces and parts, from a variety of sources, and then try to construct an image from those assumptions, expectations, and sound bites.

We all feel it when we meet new people. Do they smile; how do they talk; how do they relate to their spouce or kids; what are their hobbies; how do they dress; what do they read; tv or movies that they like...and as we look at these things we form a composite image that evolves and we decide if we like them; respect them; enjoy them; want to be with them; etc.

Jesus knows what this is like. People wanted the Messiah to look like a lot of things. Someone to overthrow the zealots; a pharisee or saducee or essene based upon which clique or cult you happen to be in; a preacher; a pastor; a...

Even today we try to press Jesus and God into our mold and force him to conform to our assumptions, desires, and needs.

We've all felt it. The pressure from parents, coaches, church-people, teachers, pastors. Everybody trying to make us into something they think we should be. Usually for them.

Which brings me to my question.

Who leads the church? Jesus says "I will build MY church." He is the chief cornerstone and the function head of the church. But that sounds vague and theoretical. Is it?

I don't think it is. I think Jesus really is leading 5 stones. I think that the staff, boards, me, and other leaders are really trying to listen to him and follow his leadership.

so what? Well if Jesus really is leading it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of us. We can be free to be who we really are and who Jesus wants and is making us to be. People in the church can not so much lower their expectations about leadership...but grant them grace and acceptance to be who they are and not who we think they should be. That way Jesus can lead, and all of us can be followers and nobody has to play a game of trying to be perfect and have all the answers. Instead they simply go to Jesus with the questions and try to follow him.

Wouldn't that be nice.

Wouldn't it be great if we all looked to Jesus to lead HIS church and all of us just followed him. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all give or gifts in who we are [broken people] and have a community of grace, committment, covenant, and love that would accept us.

I think that is what Jesus is trying to do at EVERY church.

But when we follow fads, personalities, selfish desires, the new bright shiney things, charismatic individuals, momentum, success...we cheapen following Jesus because now we are simply following our desires and needs.

He no longer leads, we simply follow our own whims.

Which is, naturally, sad and pathetic and will ultimately take us nowhere.

In Esther it says "perhaps you are here for such a time as this." That has a lot of stuff packed into it. 1 it assumes God has a plan and has placed you here for a purpose. 2. If you know the story of Esther it is to be courageous and committed and not cop-out because of convenience or consumerism. 3. It assumes others at at risk for wonderful or terrible things based upon what you do.

But what undergirds everything, is that Jesus is leading us. Leading us sometimes into places we don't want to go, don't like, and don't enjoy. But his plans need our obedience more than our happiness to be the deciding factor in what we do.

And 5 stones as it tries to get back on it's feet is under pressure. A wonderful pressure that proves ones character and integrity...or shows us something else. All of us will face it.

We had a great Sunday...but is that why we like our church? I will preach good and that why we love our church? The music will be great and flat...small groups...youth ministry...childrens ministry...paryer...missional adventures... Is that why we love our church?

Or do we love our church because Jesus loves it...and he has us here for a reason...a mission. Those who are young in their faith won't fully be able to grasp this [and that's ok] but for the rest I want you to think about this.

Because Jesus has allowed what he wants to do to be by our love, obedience, and character. And one of my not-so-fun jobs is to remind people of that...and to remind myself.

I follow Jesus, and ultimately Jesus alone.
Today I struggled with this. I had a hard day, and wanted to be somewhere else for a few hours. But in praying Jesus said...just be with me...and wherever you are will be just fine. And that's true. Sometimes it feels like Jesus is sleeping somewhere out of sight while my little boat is tossed and turned in the sea. But then he comes out and rebukes the waves and all is calm. And then he looks at me and of such little faith.
And yes, at times I have little faith in the circumstances that seem beyond my control. And then he steps out and controls everything.
and I would have missed it all if I hadn't been on the boat. I would have missed the miracle. Talk about regret, man.
God help me to have you and you alone lead me. Help me to enjoy and appreciate my circumstances. And help me to believe the truth that these circumstances, not matter how hard they are, are here because and you have me in them "for such a time as this." Help me to not pursue the "other" things...but to pursue you right here and right now. That is all I REALLY need. Amen

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I completed our teaching schedule for the next 6 months or so and thought you might like to know

  1. We will do Daniel for 3 weeks total
  2. Then we will finish off Nehemiah
  3. In October we will do a topical series called "Baggage" it will be about overcoming life's hardships...depression, emotional trauma, addictions etc. This will be a "RUNNER" series IE: We are gonna ask you to invite your top 10 unchurched friends
  4. we will have a "vision" teaching in Novemeber mapping out our church future
  5. We will then head into the holidays with a series on Jesus
  6. We will start 2008 going through 1 cornithians...which I am calling "the 1st church of Jerry Springer"

details below...if ya really wanna know

Tentative teaching schedule for 5-stones on Sunday mornings

1st Church of Jerry Springer AKA: 1 Corinthians

January dates forthcoming

Jesus [advent] ure [holiday series]

Week 6: A misunderstood Messiah
Preach 12.30.07

Week 5: A revolutionary in diapers
Preach 12.23.07

Week 4: Joe Somebody was Jesus Dad
Preach 12.16.07

Week 3: There’s something about Mary
Preach 12.9.07

Week 2: Seeking the Sacred
Preach 12.2.07

Week 1: The North Star
Preach 11.25.07

Vision sermon
Preach 11.18.07 “an unstoppable force in Ashland”

Runner series: “Baggage” Topical series on overcoming emotional trauma

Week 4: Weight penalty baggage [depression]
Preach 11.11.07

Week 3: Excess baggage [emotional scars]
Preach 11.4.07

Week 2: Addiction baggage [what’s hidden in the airport locker]
Preach 10.28.07

Week 1: Baggage check [what if we let God carry our burdens and scars?]
Preach 10.21.07

Nehemiah series completion

Week 13: Missional Barbarians (Nehemiah 11:1-36)
Preach 10.14.07 Based off of a list of men specified as leaders in various neighborhoods of Jerusalem, the word explains that living missional lives in the city of Ashland is a matter of sacrifice in order to see the gospel of Jesus take root in all areas of culture.

-I would like to see us have a missional adventure in conjunction with this message. Something where we serve the community, and invite people to visit as we will probably have a “runner” series after this.
*we will need to have print material, signage, t-shirts, website done by then if at all possible

Week 12: K[no]w Commitment K[no]w Community (Nehemiah 9:38-10:37)
Preach 10.7.07 The people of Israel renew their commitment to walking in God’s law by entering into a covenant. With this covenant comes an assessment of the resources needed to continue on in ministry. In light of this, Dave will explain the current state of 5 stones and organizational changes being made so that our church model can expand to reach more people for Jesus.

Week 11: U-turns and changed Destiny (Nehemiah 9:1-37)
Preach 9.30.07 In a heartfelt prayer in remembrance of God’s character, the people of Israel confess their sins and the sins of their fathers. This example shows us that prayer must be radically biblical, God-centered and truly repentant.

-In light of this we will also have a 3 fold communion service.

Week 10: Medicinal Laughter…is God Prozac? (Nehemiah 8:1-18)
Preach 9.23.07 The people of Jerusalem gather together to hear Ezra preach from the Bible and to worship God. In their conviction over their sin, Nehemiah encourages them to stop grieving and be joyful in the Lord. Scripture explains that it is vital to know and understand God’s Word, allowing it to convict and encourage us.

-I would like to end service with a time for the prayer team to minister the spirit to those who are in pain, grief, and depression.

Week 9: Your name in lights…forever (Nehemiah 7:5-73)
Preach 9.16.07 After lots of hard work rebuilding the wall, the people of Jerusalem are allowed back into their city. Scripture walks us through a list of pastors, musicians, deacons and other faithful followers of God who led the way in, reminding us that God knows each of us by name and has an important role for us in rebuilding our own city of Ashland.


College returning: Mini-Series: Daniel [alien nation: series title]

Week 3: Daniel “the writings on the wall”

Week 2: Daniel serves and stands against an alien world

Week 1: Daniel intro chapter 1

Saturday, August 25, 2007

ghandi quote

"I with very much desired to be a christian, until I met one"

quote has been assigned to ghandi and a buddhist monk at different times, so I'm not sure i have it right.

the challenge is to live in such a way that we are congruent with Jesus, and thus people find him and us compelling.

another quote helps:

GK Chesterton: "Christianity has not so much been found tested, and wanting; but untested and unexperienced and thus ignored and unwanted"

The person who desires to make a difference in the world sooner or later is confronted with the Christ. In finding Him the potential for moral grandeur and spiritual audacity becomes apparent. And if we would dare...our lives can become mythic and epic...not because we follow of myth, but because we follow a reality and truth so counter-cultural that our lives cannot help but become revolutionary.

missional revolutionaries

5 stones community church is looking for people who want to take the church on a road trip...monthly.

Missional Revolutionaries:

People of God who bring his love, liberation, grace, hope, meaning, compassion, and social justice to the world. They act in his authority, love, and power to make His Kingdom manifest itself on Earth.

Point Person: Heather Haldeman
motto: "Jesus loves you, and we are here to prove it"

Potential networks of the kingdom to plug into:

Isahia [A/U religious life: contact Aaron Wardle]
Luminus Network [contact Doug Cooper]
Habitat for humanity
Salvation army
Pump House ministries

Goals and values:

Matthew 5:1-48;6:1-34;7:1-29;22:36-40; Acts 10:34,35;
Social justice as an act of worship, discipleship, and love
Lepers, widows, orphans, the poor and the imprisoned as core priorities
Because all people have dignity, being made in the image of God, we will serve them as if they were Jesus himself
We will be a catalyst for the kingdom, our church, and individuals to be focused on these things
The greatest gift that can be given to anyone is for them to be rescued by Jesus. Thus, when the fullness of time makes us aware we will present the gospel to people as our highest priority

Calendar and balance:

1 event per month [at least]
Try to do a college servanthood project every other month
Try to do a community project every other month
Try to do something urban and rural once a year [at least]
Try to do something global once a year
Missions trip
Water-well in Africa


Pray for vision and strength [pray]
Have an initial team meeting [plan]
Explain vision
Explain values
Explain calendar
Pray as a group
Brainstorm ideas
Pick things that are possible NOW with no budget
Pray for future things that need resources
Think developmentally [baby steps for the church]
Calendar ideas and assign a point person for each monthly event
Communicate with church staff
Make sure we communicate with the church body
Make sure things are administrated correctly
Have at least 2 people work together on each event

Go before church [or assign] to report on activities in services
Powerpoints, pictures, video, etc.
Have fun with Jesus
Expect Satan to be annoyed!

An initial list:

Move in college students
Do something with pumphouse ministries
have a workday with habitat for humanity
Have a free car wash for college students
Visit and serve a local hospice, nursing home, assisted living facility
A day trip to a Cleveland homeless shelter
Cook brownies / cookies for local firemen, emt, and police
Provide free back to school supplies for poor [next aug]
Help people moving in to the area move in [talk to local realtors about this]
Do an extreme makeover on a house for a single mother [when we have some cash-flow]
Distribute cards that tell college studnts we will clean their dorms for free on a designated day if they RSVP with us
Feed students not going home for thanksgiving, Christmas, easter…especially any international students
minister to local shut-ins
Visit local prison and start pen-pal relationships
Start a designated fund at church and ask people in the community to help fund a water-well in Africa
Find a sister church that is in economic poverty and go paint, clean, pray, serve, etc.
Find out how to serve Neuman [sp?] and fellowship of Christian athletes
Ask doctors what we can do to serve in the ER or Maternity wards of local hospitals
Find a leper…aides victim…?...serve them with outrageous love
use your imagination…that’s my 5 minute list!


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