Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A "New" Conflict

"A tremendous misunderstanding has come about with regard to God’s kingdom. Much has been said about the church. Much has been said about the teachings that are preserved in the church, about the various denominations that have become a sacred good within the body of Christianity. Too much emphasis has been placed on forms by which we express ourselves as Christians. Thus today we cannot deny that many people no longer really find the living qualities that our Father in heaven wanted to give us in Jesus Christ. They have neither seen nor experienced the life that comes from God, and so they are in a fix. On the one hand they cannot deny that they too need God, God’s word, God’s revelation, in their hearts. On the other hand they no longer quite believe in the means through which God’s word is being proclaimed, and thus many of them no longer know what to do with themselves in regard’s to God’s kingdom. Their hearts hunger and thirst; they are aware that something of God’s eternity and truth should be revealed in us, but they don’t quite know what to do about it.

Because of all this we must begin to speak of God’s kingdom in a new way. In spite of present-day conditions where much of the church and of Christian fellowship is almost dead, we can speak of God’s kingdom to men and women of our time...millions of people are “Christians” in all peace and comfort from their childhood on until they are laid in the grave. They are satisfied with what is said about God, and it does not make them feel uncomfortable in any way. Religion is taken as part of one’s life; one accepts it such as it is. This causes no conflict—at the most an argument here or there about the interpretation of this or that teaching, but these arguments are futile. A new conflict arises as soon as we feel urged to proclaim the kingdom of God as something living. And this is what I want to do today. I don’t just want to edify you. I want to proclaim to you what God has put into my heart: God’s kingdom is a living reality, a rulership that impacts the here and now and even today is at hand—closer at hand than we may think. The intervention of the living God is more powerful today than many believe. God wants to manifest himself as the one who is something and who does something now."

Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919)
Action in Waiting

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Quote Worthy of Prayer

"Once my father wrote to me that I should make it a habit, wherever I am, to look at every human being as a believer, never to doubt, never to talk differently with him/her. That resonated with my soul. When a Muslim is coming, I call him[/her] a believer; I never suppose that some should be a non-believer. The objective belief that God believes in me and I in God, because God believes in me, that is faith to me. But I say it quite simply: Every human being believes, because God believes...treat all people, regardless of their appearance, as dedicated to God...Do this for a number of years, then you will understand the Redeemer. Then you have passed through. To hate, to insult, to gossip, to curse, to judge, all of that we do not want to do anymore, not even when we meet the most evil person. We want to say: he has access to God, I want to remove the obstacles, as much as I can. God has come to him, he needs to be able to come to God."

-Christoph Blumhardt, Ansprachen

I read this quote earlier today in an article by J. Moltmann and it hasn't left my heart. How true it is that God 'believes' in all of us despite our own prejudice towards one another and for that I am so grateful. How beautiful it is that God approaches each one of us with love and compassion beyond our knowing. It is time to put behind us the destructive methods of control, i.e., 'the deification of imperial goals and the victimization and annihilation of indigenous peoples' (Ray) then to put in its place... 'Come Holy Spirit.' It is time to realize that power is not defined by our contemporary materialistic worldviews as control and oppression, rather it is defined in a counter intuitive manner through compassion and acceptance.
Lord, forgive us.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

make sense

i hope that what i spend my time writing on this page 'makes sense'. i have this fear that the pieces of information that sparkle on the sidewalk and cause me to stop and admire remain concrete and rather bland to others. i hope that i write well enough for you to not only understand what i am saying but to read emotion as well. this is kind of the reason why i am writing this post. i decided to write how i was feeling and since i was just reading other blogs i decided to reflect on mine. my hope is to open up my life and my experiences for sharing in the same way i get excited about someone else's experience...which i think is a good trajectory. i wonder how all of our lives are going to play out in the coming years; the stories that stir up happiness as well the stories that cause great pain.

with the amount of variety we all have in our families and friendships, i hope that we take the time to 'connect' with one another. we sometimes connect face to face and sometimes we connect via technology, which right now is happening by you reading this text that has been encrypted by some fashion of web programming. i probably could have explained that better if i had not failed computer technology in my fresh/freshman year of college. anyways, i read other people's blogs, and even if i dont know them i somehow feel a sense of connection; the same thing goes for books i read. i have recently decided to email a few authors of the books that have played some form of transformation in my life. In one case the author did write back and i could tell he had taken time with the email. i felt connected. furthermore, without connection what do end up with? what depth is brought from a simple monologue designed to tell and not reveal? there is a difference between telling and revealing; i can tell you something or i could reveal something. revealing something is a lot less demonstrative which means that the listener or reader feels more inclined to respond by continuing the process and revealing something of their on and so on.

well. maybe you feel disconnected at this point. let me encourage all of you to take time and connect with friends. reveal something important in your life and allow time to hear their part too. be hospitable to one another. im off. peace.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I recently submitted a paper on Leonardo Boff's 'liberation theology' and its reflection on the Holy Trinity. Boff's Trinitarian summa, Trinity and Society, was the backdrop for my presentation. I highly recommend this book with the hope of uncovering a new way of seeing the Trinity and its residual relevance. There is a condensed and revised version available that might be a bit more conducive entitled Holy Trinity, Perfect Community. Throughout my time researching I was able to reflect on a deeper level regarding the implications of the Holy Trinity for 'community'. I began my paper with the following quote from Boff:

"If God means three divine Persons in eternal communion among themselves, then we must conclude that we also, sons and daughters, are called to communion. We are image and likeness of the Trinity. Hence, we are community beings. Solitude is hell."

Sometimes we ask, why did God 'create'? What was the purpose of humanity? I came to the conclusion that creation is not some 'after-thought' rather it is a natural expression of love and communication that first comes from the Triune God, moves to creation, and then makes its way back from all of us, i.e. a repeated circular interaction. We share love. God is Love, so how can one love if there is nothing to love? Without something to share love with, there is no reason to love. By taking a quick and limited glimpse into the Holy Trinity, we see 3 persons and 1 substance. This substance that holds the Trinity together is perichoresis; a greek term used to describe an interpenetrational love that binds. This mutual, interdependent expression of 'love' is shared simultaneously within the Trinity representing equality versus dictatorship.

God is 3 in 1. We looked at the love regarding God as 3 but we still have to deal with God as 1. The Godhead, as One, naturally desires to then share its love externally by creating humanity to make this 'sharing' possible. Creation demonstrates this natural movement of love birthed in God preceding into the creation process. To me, this is a beautiful explanation and reason for life.

"So creation is not merely the result of a later act of will external to the Trinity, but is an expression of the intimate, perichoretic life of God, a life that expands outwards, creating different beings with whom God can communicate and enter into communion." -Trinity and Society

The Holy Trinity with its simultaneous and mutual love given between each Person (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) shows us the 'perfect' model of community, i.e. what we should do here on earth. The Trinity is not a community based on a hierarchy of Persons who stand on 1,2,3 podiums telling us who is best, better and left out, instead they are an egalitarian cooperative bond. This divine Trinitarian community is full of love, equality, and respect for each person in each case. It is a community that dares to radically give of themselves for the better of the group. Simply because we have been created by God tells us that we are a reflection of the Trinity and we should 'do' what they 'do', i.e., promote one another. I want to leave you with a definition of utopia by Alfred Hennelly that I found intriguing and inspiring.

utopia: the denouncement of dehumanization and the announcement of humanization.

How might we model our lives and communities toward this transpirable utopia? How can we do this?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

a response

(a previous response to an open post)


You definitely have some very good insight on what is truly important. I am in complete agreement with you in regards to separation of church and state. Religion should never be concerned with power and hegemony in hope of gaining control and dictating what ‘is’ and ‘is not’. When Christians look at the ‘kingdom of God’ and immediately think of government and politics it becomes very reminiscent of Constantine and his appropriation of laws regarding Christianity as the universal religion which ended up becoming oppressive and violent towards anyone who would oppose specific ‘legislature’; which I hope we all would admit was a grave mistake. (For some further reflection see Stanley Hauerwas...”Resident Aliens”) Jesus Christ came and surprised everyone who was looking and expecting a ‘powerful’ king to reign on the earth with an army and do it by force, but that’s not what happened. Christ came in a different way showing us what ‘greatness’ is. He came born in a ‘Jiffy Lube bathroom’ contra the Hilton, the mansion, the decadent. He hung out with lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, the despised, the marginalized contra politicians, leaders, and kings. He rode in on a used smelly donkey contra a procession with horses, chariots, and trumpets. Jesus the Messiah shows us that greatness is not being served, but being a servant to all (Mark 9:35).

As we look at the heritage of North America we have become somewhat blind to the reality of its conception. A lot of our founding fathers (wishing I could say fathers/mothers) were not infused into the type of Judeo-Christian belief structure we think they were. Their religious beliefs were formed during the Enlightenment where skepticism and its emphasis on ‘reason’ and ‘natural philosophy’ was extremely prevalent among the upper class. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, and Locke to name a few were ‘Deists’. They believed in God who created this world and then removed himself. Within Deism there is no belief in Jesus Christ and subsequently dismisses a lot of what modern Christians find identity in, namely Christ and his atonement. Some such as Franklin do admire some of the ethics in Matthew 5 but by no means hold it as scripture and 'truth' the way some do. This group of men, who I am not speaking of condescendingly, had been products of religious wars erupting out of the Reformation and spilling for hundreds of years; hearing and witnessing the bloodshed of countless people due to contrasting beliefs and values, i.e. Anabaptists, was enough for them. This is relevant because we live in a country that is full of people with different religions, values, interpretations, culture and so on. The birth of this country was to be a place that was free from religious persecution and oppression and is something i commend. I will not go so far to say that I agree with all that these men stood for because of the horrendous involvement in slavery and greed to name a few, but the thought of living in peace without oppression based on religious views is admirable.

Lastly, I completely agree with Danielle when she says that God is strengthening us amidst hardship whatever it may be. Jesus Christ has never co-opted with a government out of necessity, and furthermore is not intending on using government 'control' to do so in the future. His loving message of freedom is spread by a movement of people who are committed to living for a real God who is passionate about all of his children in all of their situations. Contrary to belief, the early church spread like wildfire in the face of a government and political arena fixed on wiping out Christianity. It spread by 1) martyrdom: the dedication that was seen displayed in these so-called “followers of Christ” who were committed to Jesus Christ all the way to their gruesome death; and 2) compassion: the love shown by the monasteries towards the poor, widowed, desolate, marginalized, shunned, etc. As a follower of Christ, I am not dependent and hoping in government because it is a man made structure with the inevitable corruption. Let the followers of Christ come together and be strengthened in love and compassion for all people in all situations holding to our own convictions realizing not all people think and act like we do. Our responsibility is in Christ and not ‘empire’. Feel free to participate in government and do it diligently if you would like but realize that as followers of Christ we put our faith and hope in the transcendence of God and not the murky political scene that is so easily entangled in deceit, pride, malice and so forth. Why not put all of our effort in calling the church to be ‘community’ built around compassion and acceptance in the ‘immediate’ and ‘extended’. Let all Christians look back to the cross as our heritage and not our presidents, kings, queens, bishops, emperors, and empresses.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

questioning questions

I think the title of this blog encapsulates how i have been feeling lately. The past year and a half i feel like i have been walking down a country road with no destination in sight, no country store along the way, no ghost towns, no cracker barrel. I pass by corn fields, over bridges, through pasture, and forests yet still i walk. Its as if my destination is meant to be a wanderer and nothing else. I anticipate the rest-stops with the hope of finding a moment of rest and clarity maybe even the chance to stay for awhile. At the end of this thought, i still walk.

Road-trip endings are always the longest. I have driven back and forth between Minneapolis and Indianapolis two dozen times or so and it has been proven the the last 100 miles of the trip are always the longest. maybe this is good advice for me. then again, maybe im not even to the 100 mile marker and ive got a ways to go. I do question a lot of things right now; 'who am i?' 'who is God?' 'what is Christianity?' 'what is spirituality?' all of which seem important to consider. (note: to 'question' is different than 'doubt' in this context. Questioning is a healthy practice whereas doubting has more of a possibility to truncate.) Continuing with this rhetorical question, "Are ever supposed to 'have' all the answers?" Some will say "Well, i don't have all the answers, but i have a real good idea of what they are." A good idea of what though? Maybe your real good idea is different than my good idea. Maybe you interpret the good idea differently than i interpret the good idea. Maybe we are both right but maybe we are both wrong. Someone who seems to have all the answers has silenced his/her surroundings and eschewed reality.

I think I'm learning what it means to have an open life, a concerned life, an inspired life. I am always energized by what kinds of experiences others are going through and how their passions and ideals are impacting their direction. I would be complete to live in a community where openness is virtue. If you are wondering what kind of individuals don't think there are any questions out there to ponder, they are robots. Questioning questions is healthy. It adds depth. Remember in Back to the Future where they had that baseball almanac brought back from the future and Biff got a hold of it trying to make all those killer sports bets? Besides making millions of dollars what fun is that? (tongue in cheek) For real though, there is no genuine experience available here. Without questions we would be left with stale minds. Life is not an almanac brought 'Back to the Future'.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"how do i say.....?"

this was a recent summary I submitted in a class discussion assignment based upon Grenz and systematic theology...feel free to read in full, half, or not at all

Systematic theology is ‘the reflection upon one’s faith’. In the past, I had seen systematic theology as a set of doctrinal beliefs able to be sealed perfectly within a square package thus opened, signed and posted upon reception. The problem with this is that there is more than one recipient, more than one interpreter, more than one culture; all of which are involved in un-packaging this brown box of faith. I am one of many within a community of believers who is committed to exploring the magnificence of God and all that His beauty reveals as it flows into all people and all contexts. Systematic theology is what it means to follow Jesus Christ. Systematic theology is allowing Jesus Christ the freedom to teach along the ‘way’.

Faith in God is the primary action of humanity absolved from all obstacles resulting in a discovery of what this belief system flows into; systematic theology. Systematic theology is the articulation of beliefs within a particular context. Since there is more than one context in which this package of faith is being opened and discussed there is room around this box of faith that allows all of us, as believers, the freedom to communicate with one another what is inside this box of faith. Systematic theology helps all of us to root a Christian identity deep into the Biblical narrative of salvation and then watch it grow into the relevant branches of ‘today’. My branches of faith might be different from another’s branches of faith; still they are branches of faith. The goal of systematic theology is to create the connection between the Biblical expression of what life and faith mean to the contemporary expression of what life and faith mean; contextualization.

Faith will either draw us toward Jesus Christ or it will pull us away. Every human being places their faith in a belief system whether it glorifies God or not. This primary step of faith, in regards to Christianity, will inevitably call forth a systematic theology. This ‘reflection’ is the process beginning immediately after the statement, ‘I believe’. I believe, yes, but what is it exactly that I believe? The mind searches for an understanding of what this statement is connected with in order to form a cohesive and comprehensive Christian ‘identity’. Systematic theology is the articulation of faith coming out of the community’s interpretation of character, virtue and values. It is a product of one’s environment among countless environments.

We engage systematic theology for the benefit of the Christian community because ultimately, systematic theology is practical. Christian theologians help make sense of what it means to live out this Christian odyssey in a personal and communal context. It is important to remember that all theologies are a human construct therefore are limited. The goal of systematic theology is not to answer the mysteries of revelation but rather to ask those important questions with hopes of discovering practical answers which infuse our identity. Systematic theology is listening to the Holy Spirit in light of Scripture and constructing a healthy Christian belief system.

Another reason for systematic theology is accomplished through they type of model used to interpret a belief in God. We look at the history of systematic theology and its journey through history so that we are able to avoid some of the mistakes that have been made on behalf of theology but also to build upon some of its accomplishments as well. The old adage, ‘hindsight is 20/20’ is true in regards to systematic theology. It was not meant to be rigid and limiting as seen in some occasions in the past and we can look back and read about the division and cruelty that have been perpetuated by what presuppositions we have seen regarding systematic theology and consequently now able to avoid these ‘pitfalls’.

Systematic theology is also important in teaching new Christ followers what this new found faith means. It is not my intent to define systematic theology as a subjective discipline. Instead, it is a community discipline of the church; there is accountability. The role of the church is to be a place where disciples are discipled which is accomplished by, besides by life, laying out a foundation of the few indispensable beliefs that structure the 'foundation. Systematic theology is not handing an exhaustive list of dogma to the new believer; instead it is the commitment to listen to God as he reveals Himself to the ‘church’ continually. The sooner we are able to realize that the conclusions and results we come to are not always cross-cultural, meaning there is a lot out there for all of us to learn from one another, the stronger 'the church' will become. It is my goal to engage systematic theology in order to build bridges not to burn them. I believe that we have a lot more in common than not and it is my goal to hopefully illuminate the beauty of Christ in all packages and in all receivers.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

lose the agenda

so, i haven't written in 2 months and im sure all of you who are dedicated to these ramblings have been 'sleepless in seattle'. There is no specific topic or inspiration for this blog, just simply a need to write and hopefully come out on the other side in love and in Christ. For me i struggled for a long time saying the words, "i love the church" because of all the connotations and ill-feelings that come with that realm of community if it could be labeled a community for all its worth. Not to sound pessimistic in this endeavor but i think we need to re-examine what it is that 'the church' represents. If you are not aware, i am currently furthering my education with a Master's degree...oh how wonderful. While attending seminary i have friendships that cross the typical 'boundaries' that are so often promoted within each denomination because of a difference in belief and value. This type of fragmenting that occurs not only in 'the church' but in all sectors of life has become an epidemic. We are in need of a cure powerful enough to heal all the bitterness and anger within and against Christianity. Quickly, the early church grew rapidly through two methods...martyrdom and compassion...both of which were not agendas.

I grew up in a Pentecostal tradition which usually emphasizes a charismatic viewpoint in the Xn life whereas a Lutheran tradition might emphasize a liturgical viewpoint...both of which are needed. What we find is that individuals who hold onto one viewpoint and schematically look upon the other, are spiritually sick. What we need is, back to my original statement, 'The Church'. What is 'the church'? It is all of us who are connected with a few fundamental beliefs, such as,
1) There is one God
2) God is three
3) Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God
...and after these we, in the past, have begun to 'split hairs' or become divided on bits and pieces of belief. Why? I think it is out of fear. We are scared to realize that God is bigger than our tradition; bigger than our particularities; bigger than our hearts. We have been indoctrinated to believe that we, as humans, must monitor and enforce strict parameters so that the body of Christ will not fall apart. This is fear. This is a burden unnecessarily too large for any human hand no matter the size and effort. We must begin to function out of love and freedom. Free to be confident in our own love and relationship with God so that we can allow another to live in theirs. This is the beginning of trust. It is allowing the other person to experience God in their own manor thus allowing us to learn from each other. The friendships that i hold close to me right now are the following backgrounds...

'New Reformed' (Calvinist)
Messianic Jew
Greek Orthodox (Antiochian)

There are other traditions out there, but these are the ones accounted for in my primary relationships at this time. Simon, we've had a few enlightening classes together so you are in my list. Im telling you, there is nothing better than hanging out with others who love God in different ways. I find myself challenged and encouraged by the disciplines and rhythms set forth by Scotty, Mike, Ben and others. This is why, recently, i have been able to physically say the words "I Love the Church". The Church is big and full of life. The church is not our building or our house, our doctrine, our belief systems, our systematic theology, our is God. I have found that the life of a Christian is built on love and freedom not on expectations and resumes. I am challenged in this time of life to find new ways of communicating with others. We must find new signs and symbols that represent the inclusive nature of Jesus Christ; signs and symbols that shatter modernity and even post-modernity/late-modernity. How can all of us move into a new paradigm that compels all of us to say...I Love the Church? I am not calling for all of us to pick up a particular agenda...i am calling for all of us to drop the agenda. No longer should we live with this oppressive theology of division through a need to 'herd' the church. We must begin to celebrate and encourage individuality. We must make room so that growth is possible in each of our lives."

Monday, August 4, 2008


The term contrapuntal translates from latin to english as counter-point. I have been reading somewhat on the Israel-Palestine epidemic from the Palestinian Christian perspective and have been exposed to the other side of the "state of Israel" dilemma. The events that lead up to a firmament of the specific geographic residence for ethnic Jews has been somewhat startling. Given, i haven't spent much time studying this specific area I was initially intrigued by a book written from the Palestinian Christian perspective with an ends to a Palestinian liberation theology. The author, Ateek, and his complete family and city had been displaced from homes, businesses, schools and other areas of community during the Jewish Zionist expansion in the late 40's. They were left with nothing but refugee camps and a daunting question of, "what next?"

I begin with "contrapuntal" because of its answer to a problematic stance that comes with a biased majority. For instance, I hadn't given much thought to the other side of the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue/tension while I am well aware of the U.S. support of Israel in their endeavors. When we think of ethnic Jews and the state of Israel i hadn't usually thought of military, violence, Zionism, and oppression...until now. Without going into all the details, which would constitute a large set of books, there is a need for Palestinian liberation and Jewish-Palestinian reconciliation. The Palestinian people who were violently displaced, stripped of cultural respect and marginalized are in need of replenishment. Palestinian Christians who have been condemned by fundamentalist right winged Old Testament literalists deserve to freed from such assumptions. Does God care about land more than people? Is God more concerned with war than peace? Are we disconnecting God of the Old Testament from God of the New Testament? Is it our job to set up the New Jerusalem or should it be in the hands of God?

Quickly let me say, all that we understand about God in the Old Testament is primitive understanding unless we connect it with Jesus Christ in the New Testament. If we see Jesus Christ we see God. There are not two different Gods acting in different Testaments, it is a growing understanding of who God is. For example, we can see the greatness of God by his longing to be involved in all aspects of life; from the way we eat to the clothes we wear. How great is God who is present and active in our lives?

my final comment is this: I know that there have been wrongs on both sides of the Jewish Palestinian relations, but the point is that there are 2 sides to the story and probably even more. The Palestinian liberation message is about Justice with Mercy. It is reconciliation. It is acknowledging the wrongs that have been done and to move into a place of community of sharing which was intact pre-Jewish Nationalism.

"For many centuries Palestinian Muslims, Palestinian Christians, Palestinian Jews, Palestinian Druze, and more recently, Palestinian Baha'is have lived side by side. They belonged to different religious faiths, but they were all Palestinians."

Get involved in contrapuntal reading. Look at issues from all sides so that no voice is silenced, no person looked over, no group marginalized. In order to make right decisions that include God we must look at all perspectives so that we can come to a communal decisions that is fair and inclusive. Anything else is oppressive and destructive by nature which is not the heart of God.

inspired by:
Justice and only Justice by Naim Stifan Ateek

Monday, July 21, 2008

bathroom notes

We had a guest speaker in service yesterday; Jeremy Kingsley. He challenged us to think about the true identity of "greatness" and who we allow to define it. What the world tells us is "great" (i.e. money, cars, fame, looks) is the complete opposite of what Jesus Christ has shown us that which is "great". We can look at his entire life and see the unexpected contra our expectation. We think that a savior, a king, a messiah should be the one who comes down to earth with a great precession; born in the Hilton's presidential suite with 85 doctors taking care of all the needs of each individual involved. The local symphony and choir playing on the side as Mary gives birth to the coming King but the reality is that Jesus was born in a "Jiffy Lube bathroom". There was used toilet paper on the floor, urine on the seat, bacteria piles on the corners...this was the locale of the magnificent birth of Christ. Born in a manger or a troff where animals eat and use the restroom at the same time. How in the world is Jesus, our savior, born in a troff Christ-like?

Maybe we are going to see "greatness" in who Jesus hangs out with. The upper class participants, politicians, doctors. Jesus hung out with the poor, lepers, prostitutes, children, the marginalized, the unwanted. Why?

ok ok...maybe His ultimate take-over will occur when He enters Jerusalem. Here we will see the "greatness" revealed in our King. Instead, He decides to ride in on a small, dirty and used donkey.

What is "greatness"? Is it what the world is trying to promote or is it in the love and humility shown in Christ? If it is in Christ, He came not to be served but to serve others. In our individuality and uniqueness we are created to be ourselves and to serve others. This is greatness. It is loving Christ so much that we are infused with His love and are able to serve in the depth demonstrated throughout Scripture. How uncommon it is in Western culture to see a book on "How To Serve", "How to be Humble", "How to Sacrifice".

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all".
-Mark 9:35

Know that greatness happens when it is while you and God are working together. There may be no one there to give a standing ovation when "greatness" takes place. There might not be a victory box to stand on when "greatness" transpires. There is only intimacy between you and is the personal work of the Holy Spirit within that breaks hearts for those who are in need and we decide to get low to the ground and truly serve. This is not service as a means to gain. This is servant-hood. It is the secret acts of kindness that demonstrate the "greatness" shown to us by Jesus Christ. It is within the quiet atmosphere that we are challenged.

Jesus, help us to be more like you. Help us to listen to you define greatness for your people.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

cell phone blog

I want to be me. I want to continually challenge my own personal limits in order to I don't want to let someone else decide who I am or who I am supposed to be. I am only one thing and that is God's child. I used to find the phrase "God's child" corny but it's true. Personal replication has become popular. We have to fight for our individuality and the respect it deserves. God decided to take time and create you with a mold made specifically for you.

I don't want to be that man who has already walked the block and passed out the same agenda. I am different. My name is not david; My name is not Scott; My name is not Jerry; My name is Spencer. What I am trying to communicate is the amazing possibility of uniqueness. We all have been created out of purpose and character that no one is able to duplicate. It is tempting to see the programs and systems and paradigms that others have created and to simply follow suit.

I want to be me. I don't want to be anyone other than me.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


I'm sitting here listening to Iller Than Theirs "To Be Ill". You should check it out, its great hop/hop. Every friday i hang out with a couple guys from Anwatin Middle School in N. Mpls. We do math, geography, and Play Station. We work first, eat lunch and then either play basketball on the courts outside, turn on the PS2 or go to the computer lab and search the for ridiculous web games. So far the award goes to "Bike"; this game uses only the arrows...that lame. In the computer lab we can also listen to music with headphones. Usually the volume is loud enough for everyone to listen in. My guy, Devon was busy singing along with Chris Brown, but next to him i heard this song with nothing but drug words, sex words, curse words, fighting words, and the infamous "N" word. Honestly, it reminded me of some of the music i used to love.

When i first got my drivers license i was introduced to Master P's "make em say ughh". I thought it was amazing. From there i moved through a whole realm of different styles of rap/hip-hop with a mixture of offensive material that would make a grown man cry:) As a youth there is this pull to offensive music. Maybe because it hypes you up, it's mindless, against the rules. Maybe its because of the great bass. I can identify with the pop/addictive kind of guilty music but as i've gotten older i have realized its depreciation; a numbing of the senses. I used to abhor leaders who would question the music i listened to and now i am that leader. What's interesting is that even though i liked the music as a kid, grown men were making the music. Its a tough place to be able to cipher all of the different substances that go into a man and then justify or condemn the content but we cannot cancel all of the "music man's" responsibility.

I don't ask "is that secular music?!" I ask, "what's in that music?" As I have become much more infused with the urban life and its pursuit, i have become so sick and tired of pop*club*gangster rap. We have resorted to glorifying drugs, abuse, money, violence, and im sure a lot of its by-parts. I was reading an essay by Cornell West on Afro-American music and its influence. It was mostly directed at the subsequent genre's beginning with spirituals and ending with early hip/hop such as Grandmaster Flash. He makes a brief reference to this new form of rap that has lost its original substance. He denotes this drop due to the lack of "self-love".

I agree that everyone's voice should be heard and its all well and good to talk about what you are going through. I think there's a difference in the communication style of sharing what you are going through contra glorifying what you do. I can say, "i did what i had to do to make things work due to my environment" or i can say "Look at how cool i am because of my pursuit of ignorance and i don't care if you are affected or not" Do you hear the difference? In light of the first response i agree with. Get your voice out there, talk about the grimy experience, tell me how it has made you a better person, give me true emotion and pursuit, but it becomes extreme and skewed to place sickness onto a victory box. Let's promote change, positivity, survival with an up-ward tonal note. Im trying to get at the heart of what makes diseased music sick. Its the wrong mentality.

We make this music because we have done a poor job in promoting self-pride...mostly black-pride. There are white rappers out there who didn't grow up in blighted areas who jump in the pool of 'hard-knocks' but lets leave them out today. If you don't know, America has a history of racism, segregation and oppression; all of which are still present. I think we have got to do a better job with exemplifying not just black history but black-pride and self-love. What does it mean to be african american? It is priceless. We need to get to a place where all of us equally appreciate our own and each other's heritage. A month for black history and 200+ years of european or what is now anglo teaching material and text-books? Are we doing a good enough job leveling historical appreciation? I don't have any answers right now but i am thoroughly distressed at what to do with urban revitalization and the conditions of its popular music. We can talk about rural music and its shortcomings in a different blog. There are a lot of possible tangents within this discourse but try to stay focused.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Crutches hurt!

Have you ever twisted an ankle or broken a leg? If you have, you might need crutches. the crutches you get from the local drugstore that must have been hand-crafted in 1921. The wood kind that need two hand towels wrapped around the armpits for comfort. If you have any experience with crutches they begin to hurt and to hurt bad.

It is easy to use situations in our lives as crutches. Crutches that we lean on so we are able to puff ourselves up or stand a little straighter. Even to the point of thinking that we are better than others. Isn't it true? "I endured this_________...have you? I didn't think so." "I'm going through this_________...U? That's what i thought." Instead, we are to be humble in our actions and our thoughts. How much more does it mean to someone after you have been around someone for some time to THEN hear about a particular characteristic or experience that person has been through that causes verification of who they are.

I was walking over to the library and I began to ask God to give me a thankful heart. My thoughts then moved to why am i asking God for a thankful heart? Shouldn't i just be thanking him instead? So i began to thank God for all that he has given me. From the experiences in life to the shoes on my feet. Thank you God for allowing me to be a part of your life. Thanks for your love for me that gives me breath in places i would otherwise lay dormant. Thank you God for the food that i eat and the friends i have. For my family that you have given me.

If all of us walk around with truly thankful hearts, there is no room to boast. There is nothing that can stand in the way of humility. We have become thankful for all that God has given us and are not competitive, envious or prideful.

Give us thankful hearts...or...Thank you God for providing. Let us practice the latter of the two.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Saved by Grace...then what?

So i just finished a sermon brief on the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. While researching I found a website that had addressed the church's giving today. So here is the statistic found at empty tombs, inc. you can google it and look around, but here's what they say.

It would cost 30-50 billion dollars to meet most essential human needs around the world.
If church members gave 10% of their income they would raise $65 billion. Today the average giving per member is 3-4%.

We are saved by grace, yes, Martin Luther writes 95 theses and dismantles church authority and paying money for salvation and forgiveness ridding of "justified by works."
I hear this Scripture:
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast."

It is by grace that we have been saved...and grace alone. Otherwise I am able to take credit for the work of salvation through Christ. I am able to be the provider and distributor of my own salvation. But what does Scripture say after the previous verse we read?

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do"

So there is an after-party. Something follows justified by grace.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the audience was a group of Pharisees who saw wealth and riches as blessings for obedience and Jesus was showing the holes in this belief system by painting the picture of an ill and dying man who had just had dogs licking his oozing sores being carried to heaven. The rich man dies, is burried and ends up in hell. (note: this particular parable does not have any eschatological weight.) The rich man asks for water on his tongue. Abraham (father of all Israel) delivers the message of his irreversible fate. So, the rich man realizing his paralysis pleads for Abraham (God-figure) to send Lazarus back to earth to tell his brothers about this and prevent them from sharing in his pain.

This is the interesting part:

The rich man says,
"if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent." Repent? repent from what?

Abraham answers,
"If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

The rich man realizes that the way he has lived was wrong. He saw Lazarus out in front of his house dying and hungry and had no compassion. For this he is talking about repentance. Isn't it interesting the word "faith" is not mentioned? The message is pointed sharply toward the idea of stewardship and how we use our resources.

So we are justified by grace but "Grace" is a condition. If there are no symptoms of grace then there must be no condition present in our lives. Symptoms, in this story, specifically toward wealth and selfishness.

So what kind of things are mentioned in the law and the prophets(Old Testament)?

"There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."
-Deuteronomy 15:11
There is a lot more in the Old Testament in regard to Social Ethics but I would need a lot more room to discuss this. So for now, Deuteronomy 15:11 i think is ok.

In conclusion: IT IS NOT THE AMOUNT GIVEN, RATHER THE CONDITION OF THE HEART THAT GIVES. WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY GRACE ALONE WITH SYMPTOMS OF Stewarship and helping the poor and needy. This is not to be confused with handing dollars to those on our street corners, it is funding projects in order to heal the root problems of social need wherever it may be.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Please go away!

Prosperity Doctrine...please go away!

Where did the theology come from that if you tithe enough money you will be able to buy a Mercedez Benz? I will tell you how Prosperity Preaching Preachers bank accounts get big...from your bank account! From the money that was "tithed". Of course you have a new house, a new boat, a motorcycle, money to shop with...because we paid you.

"From the external and visible world there comes an old adage: "Only one who works gets bread." Oddly enough, the adage does not fit the world in which it is most at home, for imperfection is the fundamental law of the external world, and here it happens again and again that he who does not work does get bread, and he who sleeps gets it even more abundantly than he who works.

It is different in the world of the spirit. Here an eternal divine order prevails. Here it does not rain on both the just and the unjust; here the sun does not shine on both good and evil. Here it holds true that only the one who works gets bread."
-Soren Kierkegaard

How is it we use a worldly standard to gauge faith? It is absurd that we use what the world uses to exemplify power. Money is to be used, yes, to live; to feed the hungry; to house the homeless; to educate; to give health; to empower; to mobilize; to bless...not to horde.

I have heard preachers talk about the financial blessings God wants to give us if we only pray and read and tithe the right amount. That your financial status and your house size is in proportion to your faith...what in the world??? Does that ring true for the countless martyrs across the world? Are you going to sit down with a believer in India who is about to be killed for their faith, their families infected with starvation, no roof over their head and explain to them that if they only had tithed enough money last offering everything would have been ok?

I tell you, whenever God speaks of "prosperity" it is linked with social justice. God provides so that we are able to give back to those who are in need. God does not give so that you can boast about that new paint job you placed on your H2.

This is my second point...

If God gives us money based on our faith...Donald Trump must have "great faith". Saddam Hussein must have been tithing a lot in order to build that palace. Money does not dictate faith.
Paul leaves the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20 with 2 things before he heads to Jerusalem nearing the end of his life:

1. "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me"
2. "I have shown you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"

If i knew I was reciting my last words I would make them count.

Monday, January 7, 2008


i am reading this book entitled "The Unknown American Revolution" by Gary B. Nash. I can't put the book down. The author's intent is to bring recognition to those who helped establish North America's independence as a nation.

"We cannot capture the "life and soul" of the Revolution without paying close attention to the wartime experiences and agendas for change that engrossed backcountry farmers, urban craftsmen, deep-blue mariners, female camp followers and food rioters--those ordinary people people who did most of the protesting, most of the fighting, most of the dying, and most of the dreaming about how a victorious American might satisfy the yearnings of all its peoples"
-Gary B. Nash

The names of those who did not make the cut into our history books have been short sided. It used to be "unpatriotic" to speak of other men and women who played major roles in the Revolution besides George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Frankline, John Adams, etc. But we see that when we leave out the names and exploits of the individuals who bore a great burden; to see liberty and justice be for ALL. Not just those who are in the "state of society" and not for those who didn't measure up to be included in so.

One of my favorites is a Quaker named Joshua Fisher who in his last years of life, 1776, freed all of his slaves and spent ten years traveling in order to locate and buy the freedom of any of his past slaves offspring no matter where they were geographically. Or Samuel Hopkins who was a minister at the Congregational Church in Great Barrington, where years later W.E.B. DuBois grew up. Hopkins shaped his sermons around anti-slavery and presented them to his congregation who was full of slave owners and slave traders. In 1773, Hopkins and Ezra Stiles sent a letter out to all of the New England Churches promoting a complete ban of the slave trade. Someone who stood up for what he knew was to be truth.

The list will go on and on. So why is it that these names are not brought up when talking about the "independence" of America? Why is it that we hear the great deeds of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson only? These men who owned over 100 slaves and were "treacherous in private" have become the only stories told which is unfair. Yes, these men did great things for our country but they hardly were the only ones who were fighting for independence and equality. Ben Franklin had advocated abolition yet he owned 5 slaves until he died and instead of freeing them upon his death, he signed them over to his daughter.

The question is...Who fought for liberty and freedom?...True justice, liberty, freedom and equality.

If we look at a more rounded picture of America in it's historical movement we find a magnitude of individuals who fought and died for a dream. A dream that came from the hearts of ALL of those who lived and died in America. They saw a nation that was diverse and equal and they were strong enough to do whatever it took to make it happen even if it meant death. There were so many hangings for those who had committed "treason" but in my mind i didn't see it as treason, i saw it as committing true equality. The ones who died for a good cause might have used force, but looking at the circumstances they were in I do not hold it against them when nothing but force had been experienced.

People whose names find their ways into the historical books are not the only ones who made a great impact on this nation and might not even be justifiable. So, instead of looking to do something great that might possibly make it into the history books...desire to be great. Recognize the greatness of seeing the best in everyone you come into contact with. Recognize your ability to make a difference in this country without even being admired for it. This is true greatness...Fighting for what is truth without an audience. God give us strength.