Friday, March 30, 2007
My brother is a dirt bag. He is a drug addict, a womanizer and a thief. He has repeatedly stolen from our retired, senior citizen mother to get loaded, leaving her to pay the debt. He is selfish and arrogant to the core. He wrecks everything he touches. He uses people to get what he wants. He is an adulterer, a jerk, a pervert and a liar.
Even I want to kick his butt for what he has done to people. I leave my family in the dark about much of it because to reveal even a little would cause worlds of pain. Because there is still the possibility of legal action being taken against him, I can’t be too specific here. With all that being said let me also say: I love him! He is my brother. He is my flesh and blood.
I know him better than any other person alive. Because I am simultaneously his sponsor, therapist and priest, I hear it all. I know the nauseating details of where, when and with whom. There is nothing that he cannot and has not told me about his life.
When I got the call from Rob, part of me was thinking, “Oh, please, here we go again.” I wanted to tell him to kiss off, that he deserved any and all trouble he was getting, but I didn’t. Instead, I tried to calm him down. I tried to reassure him that everything was going to be all right. I tried to help him make sense of his world and the days to come. In spite of my own outrage and anger I simply loved him.
This wasn’t easy. It was work! I was constantly trying to keep him from escaping reality into a drug induced nirvana, counseling him on his next move (not killing himself) and reassuring him of God’s forgiveness.
Even though all I had to do was “talk” with Rob, every conversation took a toll on me. I grew exhausted. Even though my own life is full of complexity and trouble, I never took a break.
Over the course of several days we were in constant communication. I carried my cell phone on me at all times; while at home, at church and at work (which is not allowed). I took his call anytime he needed me. I talked with him in my car, in the stockroom of my work, and just before leading our church community in communion. Over a three-day period we connected about thirty five times.
Sometimes Rob would try to get me involved. “Would you speak to them for me?” he would ask. “Could you call and straighten things out for me? They will listen to you!” he would plead. Though he may have been right, I didn’t step into it. I know that I could have helped the situation and even alleviated some of his pain. However, I chose not to. He needed to stand on his own two feet. He needed to straighten things out on his own. He mixed his own cocktail and now he had to drink it. There were issues of ownership, responsibility and accountability in play.
As I was dealing with Rob, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is how God feels sometimes about his creation. I read Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The Message puts the same verse like this, “ But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”
The amazing part of this verse can be found in God’s action of sending the Christ so that we might be reconciled to God before we even cared about God! “While we were still sinners…” the NIV reads, “…Christ died for us!” (exclamation mine) God acted on our behalf, gave his love to us, despite our repeated and ongoing rejection of him. God loves sinners and dirt bags like Rob!
It’s one thing to love others who love you, however, it is completely different to love those who hate you, don’t want your love and could care less if you existed or not.
When we turn and go crawling back to God, the trip is never very long. As we turn our backs on him and walk away it seems as if God creeps up behind us -- not to scare us or to pounce on us when we screw up, not even to laugh at us when we fall -- to pick us up and nurse our wounds when we are confronted by the reality of our own wisdom and choices.
Five different times, The Psalms record the writer(s) plea for God not to be far from him (22:11; 19, 35:22, 38:21, and 71:12). On the flip side, King David writes in Psalms 145:18-19, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.” God is the constant lifeline waiting to be grabbed in a moment of crisis.
This was driven home to Rob as he struggled to understand how God could still love him and not condemn him to Hell straight away. His grave circumstances insured in Rob’s mind God’s total rejection of him. But this was not the truth; joy truly does come in the morning or in a few mornings (Psalms 30:5).
It is not God’s general practice to remove us from the effects of our bad decisions. He may save our soul, but not our pride, our finances or our life. This is all laid out in the sowing and reaping analogy in the Gospels. This is not proof that God is mean or cruel, but just the opposite. By allowing us to face the consequences of our decisions and disciplining us when needed, God is again showing his love for us.
What kind of father does not discipline his children? A father who does not truly love his children, the author of Hebrews writes. God’s discipline is for our holiness, not for our torture or his amusement.
It turns out that because my brother reaped the whirlwind he has turned to find God standing with open arms, offering peace, security and hope. There is still a long journey to undergo with many perilous corners, potholes and forks, but Rob has moved closer to God as a result of his latest devastation.
So, as I love Rob through his journey, I can’t help feeling that I have moved closer to God too. Through this whole ordeal it is clear that God is ever responsive to our cries for help, unending in his mercy and undeniable in his love.
In this I can take comfort: God loves Rob. He loves the dirt bags, the dregs, the scum and the rebels: Noah the drunk (Genesis 9:21), Abraham the liar (Genesis 12:12; 20:2), David the adulterer (2 Samuel 11:4), Solomon the womanizer (1 Kings 11:3), Zaccheus the cheat (Luke 19:7-8), Peter the hothead (John 18:10) and Paul the murderer (Acts 9:1; 22:4; 26:10).
I personally find solace in believing He can love an angry, judgmental, bitter, egoistical, self-centered, lustful, lazy, immoral, neglectful, hypocritical, miser…like me.
Please excuse me now, I really need to take this phone call…
(If you would like to encourage Rob on his faith journey or have taken any encouragement from his story, send him a note at: FeelingLikeGod@evergreenlife.org)
1. Created for Community by Stanley Grenz- 335 pages
2. Theology for the People of God by Grenz (again)- 691 pages (holy crap!)
3. Beyond Foundationalism by Grenz (again!) and John R. Franke- 298 pages (a walk the park!)
If you have read any of these ,let me know what you think. I have #3 for class a while back, but I want to re-read it a little slower this time.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
28“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
I recently came across a pastor's thoughts on this set of verses. This is the second time I have heard the same application made from these verses.
The first was while I was in seminary. It came from a professor who was a great practitioner of Christ's love, Dr. Thom Wolfe. Dr. Tom (or simply "bro", you just have to know him) delivered the single best 3 hour lecture in my whole academic career (it was titled, "The Most High God"). He also was the pastor who revitalized a dying church called, "Church on Brady" named after the street it was on in Los Angeles, California. 30 or so years later that church has a new pastor and a new name... the pastor is Erwin McManus and the church is Mosaic. I digress...
The second place I came across a similar application was in a book on prayer from a well know Calvary Chapel Pastor. Jon Courson was relating these verses to the tabernacle and the priest's cloths.
Here is the quote:
Now the court yard was fenced in by linen curtains. According to Ezekiel 44, linen was the material of the priest's garments. Why? Because the Lord said that priests were to wear nothing of wool, nothing that caused them to sweat. I like that! There's not to be sweat in ministry or service. Anything we do in serving the Lord should be enjoyable and cool. If it's burdensome, obligatory, or heavy: if it causes you to perspire and worry, its not what you're called to do. "My burden is easy and my load is light," Jesus said. This is not only relates to ministry, but also coming into the presence of God."Wow, ministry is to be easy, without stress, strain or worry? I'm sorry, but as one of my pastor friends put it, "Hasn't this guy read Paul?"
Now, both men who made this allusion to Matthew 11 are godly pastors, but I think they missed the mark. I think Jesus was talking about how, unlike the Pharisees, the relationship with God that he was offering was full of grace, mercy and love. Inherent in being yoked to Christ is freedom, forgiveness and strength for the journey.
Luke 11:46The Pharisees never offered any real help or hope for the human condition. I will stick with a quote attributed to Spurgeon. It goes something like:
46He said, “Yes, and I can be even more explicit. You’re hopeless, you religion scholars! You load people down with rules and regulations, nearly breaking their backs, but never lift even a finger to help.
If one can do anything else other than preach, do it.Ministry is difficult, it is wearisome and a burden, but not one that will not crush the minister. Ministry is likewise joyful, refreshing and exciting. I believe it takes both side of the coin to fully realize and appreciate the power of God working through us.
I am expected to work a 50 hour work week.
I have between a 5-7 hour commute each week to and from work.
I have 3 growing boys at home,
and a wife who need my me.
I teach a class for our home school co-op.
I am adding to the time I spend serving at Evergreen.
I have a library of books that need to be read.
There are articles and books that I should write.
Then there is my own personal sanity to think of.
How can I get it all to fit? So what is the solution? Which of these can I cut out? Really, none! I can juggle them around but that's about it.
The best solution I can think of is to cut out something not on the list. Something that happens everyday, for a good chunk of my day (or of my night, as the case may be). In my pinch for more time, I am going to limit myself to only sleeping 7 hours or less at night!
Now for some, if you actually got 7 hours of sleep each night it would be a wish come true! But honestly this is a stretch for me. We will see how it goes.
Last night I got off work a little after mid-night. Headed home, stopped for some milk and once I got settled at home, read until after 1:30am. The turn around to this morning was OK. I was up by 8am.
Hopefully I can get more stuff done, talk with more people and be more present to my family.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
If I were to plant a church (and I have thought about it) here are some foundational values that I would love to see be part of its DNA:
Within the pages of Scripture we find that God himself has come to rescue and restore all of creation through of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Next to the person of Jesus, Scripture is God’s best and most complete expression of himself and his activity on earth available to humanity. It is with this in mind we seek to make the Bible the primary focus in our pursuit of God, the teachings of Jesus and Kingdom living.Historically Informed:
It would be foolish to neglect or ignore the two thousand years of history that has transpired between the biblical world and our present day. Much can be learned from the tragedies and triumphs of the past. Without being constrained by tradition, an intellectual humility must be exercised knowing that we are not the first to experience the struggles of faith and life, kings and Kingdom or belief and doubt. To help answer or at least shed some light on these matters, the past must have a voice in shaping the future.Culturally Aware:
In order to speak to our culture we must know our culture. We must be conversant in its language, familiar with its icons and knowledgeable about its issues. This is not to appear fashionable or trendy, but to answer the question, “what does Jesus-service look like in our surroundings?” Words like “incarnational,” “contextual,” and “imbedded” all characterize this goal of knowing people and knowing what matters to them.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
For a couple of years now we have been thinking about planting a church. We have considered doing that here in Vancouver, WA for various reasons, but it doesn't seem to be the right place to plant the kind of church we envision. For the past two and half years we have been part of The Evergreen Community (www.evergreenlife.org) in Portland, OR. Evergreen is growing and considering how to take the next step to better serve both the community around us and the community within. I can take an active role in helping lead, teach and mentor others in a pastoral role. I am excited about this new opportunity and I am ready to be back in ministry again.
While evergreen is growing it is not able to pay me for my time just yet. Though we foresee a time when that will become a reality, it is necessary for Debra and I to raise financial support for our family so that I can cut back on my hours at work and devote some time to Evergreen. We will be preparing a letter detailing our needs over the next week.
This is an exciting turn. It is a chance for me to live my passion, to make Christ known to others as simply as possible. But we admit, it's also a bit frightening when we think of the financial teeter-totter it could become. At this point in time we are asking you to pray for us as we begin this next adventure. Pray that we will be wise in our planning, discerning in our choices and faithful in our steps. Also pray that God will provide so that we might me able to serve him by serving others.
- To start this will not be a "daily" blog. I will do my best to post a few times a week.
- I am dyslexic. I am sure we will have that with fun.
- I am educated, but not intelligent.
- Posts will be light and heavy, short and long, joyful and angry, egotistical and humble, orthodox and heretical, funny and sad. Take what you get and run with it.
- Most of the time Debra will not edit these posts.
- This blog is part journal, part soapbox, part therapy, part experiment.
- Comments are welcomed.
- There are no refunds or exchanges.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Friday, March 9, 2007
I am not even sure I like blogs. No, I honestly think they are kind of silly. Sort of web based exhibitionism (is that is a real world). Why in the world would I want to poor out my heart and soul and allow everyone to comment on what they see? I have seen "comments" left on some blogs or on YouTube: part criticism, part profanity, part humor, but rarely an actual constructive comment. Besides, what kind of an egotist am I, if I believe that people will actually read what I write. Am I cooler now than when I got up this morning because I am now part of the blogasphere (again a real word?)? What's next a tat or a body piecing?
What are the rules for blog anyway? Do they have rules? What am I doing?
See, I don't have an iPod, game console (Wii, PS3, Xbox 360), a PDA or a laptop. I think Blueteeth are annoying and my computer is about 6 years old. I don't even have a CD player in my car! We just got high speed internet and cable TV (only because my mom wanted it) last month!
A blog! What am I thinking?
Well, I have always admired that Debra journals. I have wanted to keep a journal, but for various reasons I haven't. Well, today starts my electronic journal. The jury is still on whether this is going to be any different than other journals I have started and allowed to died under the crushing weight of dust.
I had a professor one time that did say, "the better you write, the better you will speak." (thanks Dr. Sam) So, maybe this is the way I start to write more and speak better. I have written a few articles that have been published on a few known websites. I have proven that I can be a good and disciplined writer. The mental barrier of "length" is no longer a factor to scare me, 201 pages is nothing to sneeze at.
I guess this could be a way to keep up with old friends and possibly make new ones (if you leave mean comments...forget it).
We (ha again! "we" who am I talking to) will have see if this blog has legs.