Biblical Time…

More than ever, I’ve been in conversations that have made me think of time from a biblical standpoint. We live in a world where we have weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. And, when something goes wrong or nothing goes on for a bit (like a week or two), we start to stress and worry if what we’re doing is making any difference.
The Bible, however, talks about generations and time spans years, seasons.  The one that sticks out the most is 40 years in a desert. I think about the plight of the Israelites in the desert and how I too would be grumbling and complaining after a few months of daily walking in the desert. Or how I might be tempted to melt some gold after a few decades.
I’m reminded of pace. I’m reminded that we must “daily” give our lives to the Lord and trust that the Holy Spirit will do the rest. I’m further reminded that faith is: “to be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1).

The Manna Project

Israel, Egypt, and the Exodus

Where we see ourselves…

The old testament is filled with story.  When we typically read any story, we find ourselves choosing a perspective.  This perspective is typically the one of the protagonist/hero or the victim/oppressed in need of saving.  Very rarely if at all do we read ourselves into the role of the antagonist/villain.

A call to repentance…

God poured out grace to Pharaoh.  He was allowed the opportunity to repent and free the Israelites.  His heart, however, grew harder and his stubbornness became impenetrable.  Egypt was an empire and Pharaoh was the center of its leadership, authority, and power.  Its economy demanded more so that it could consume more.  It was oppressive in nature because of the demands for excess.

The desert…

God calls us into the desert in order to simplify and purge out the strongholds that have become mini-gods in our lives.  It is a trying time that sometimes leads us to believe that God is absent more than He is present.  It’s a time where we feel displaced and unsure of our survivability.  We feel like we’re living backwards because we hold on to the belief that adding things to our lives creates our identity.  It is in the desert, however, where we learn to wholly depend on God and truly discover that He is all we need and the source of our true identity.

Manna…

God is our provider in every way.  When the Israelites were walking through the desert, they began to hunger and so God provided manna.  The caveat of manna was that you were only to collect what was needed for the day.  If they collected more (hoarding), it would mold.  Why would God do this?  Maybe the better question is “Why would we do this?” Hoard that is.  Maybe it’s because deep down they didn’t trust that God would provide for them day after day.  Deep down they weren’t sure about God.  Are we any different?

Present Day Significance…

We are facing one of the greatest economic crises in history.  We are a credit-based community and it has now reached a point where we are over leveraged and our debt must to be paid.

Who are we in the story?  Are we the Israelites in need of saving? Yes.  Are we the Egyptians who are held captive to a self-power driven, empire model of life? Yes.

In either role, we are a people being called to repent and a people called to the desert where we can once again learn that God is our sustenance.  We are to relearn discipleship – a genuine following of and trust in Jesus.

What will we do? Where do we begin?

I believe that we are to examine our lives and make some changes.  There needs to be an evaluation of our life that includes: what we buy, who we buy from, how much we consume, how much we give, etc…

We can begin by taking an inventory of our assets (money and goods).  And, as we pray, we can consider what we need and what is genuine excess in our lives.  This is not a “get rid of our junk” session. It’s a time to be honest with God and with ourselves about who and what we live for.

Next Step?

My conviction is that we are to take our excess and find some way to match it up with those who are in need.  There are still questions (i.e. how do we determine who is in need? Or how do we find those who are in need?) that are unanswered, but this is version 1.0 of this conviction that God has given me.  I share it with you for your feedback, your counsel, and potentially your support.

Worthless Religion…

as i’m continuing to study the book of james, i realize more and more the connection between what we believe and our day to day actions. james goes so far as to say that the lack of an outward expression of our faith makes our religion worthless!!! (1:26) in fact, we deceive ourselves if we think that don’t live what we believe. i was reading an excerpt from ReJesus where it talks about Shane Claiborne (author of The Irresistable Revolution) taking a survey of a group identifying themselves as “strong followers of Jesus” and asking them, “Did Jesus spend time with the poor?” 80% of the group replied “yes,” while 20% responded “no.” The more baffling and humbling statistic is when the same group was asked if “they spent time with the poor,” only 2% responded that they did. I think that James would call their religion useless. sounds harsh doesn’t it? but it’s truth. even if they were some of the nicest people on the planet, their lack of action makes their religion worth nothing at all.

so… what happens when we read the Bible? do we read it as if it were an entertainment magazine? do we read it to stimulate our minds? or do we know it as the breath of God that gives us life and directs our life? it makes all the difference in the world! it may be the difference between true religion and one that’s worthless. it may be the difference between life and death!

next week, i’m going to be sharing a new initiative that i’m starting over the summer called the “manna” project. if you have been reading my blog and are interested in being a part of changing your community and living our your faith, then stay tuned next week and please invite everyone you know to connect with me here!!! 🙂

redefining good in a bad way…

i was reading an book on raising infants and it raised a really interesting and insightful truth. why do we refer to babies as “good” or “bad” when it comes to their actions? if a baby cries, doesn’t sleep, and is unconsolable we refer to him/her as a “bad” baby. but if he/she eats well, sleeps well, and rarely cries, we refer to him/her as a “good” baby. interesting… how does that make them good or bad?

i’m wondering if we start redefining things in our lives when things don’t match up. and then i’m wondering if we take these new definitions and use them to evaluate everything… even God. for instance, a “good” baby is one that doesn’t disrupt our lives and makes our lives easy. so now, a “good” God is one who doesn’t disrupt our lives and makes our lives easy. hmmmm… that’s maybe why we ask ourselves the questions, “why would God do this?” “if God is good, why would he make me suffer?” “how could a good God allow pain in my life?” So, is God good? if we define good as not interrupting our lives, not transforming us, not helping us, and making our lives as easy and as comfortable as possible, then maybe not… So, maybe it’s time for us to look to Him to our definition of good and to see Him as truly God. Maybe we should approach God with humility and brokenness so that we can be formed and informed by Him.

The Truth: God is a never changing constant and He is always good.

Dreams and Fears…

Our church is launching a new teaching series on ‘Fear’.  As we launch this new series, we’re asking people that we connect with over the internet to join us in the conversation.  We’re hoping to hear your visions and dreams that are lying dormant because of fear and we’re also hoping to name the fears that are preventing you from living out those dreams.  You can join in here at my blog by posting comments, our facebook group, or follow us at twitter.  Either way, I hope you’re willing to join us as we discover our fears as well as discover what the Scriptures say about dealing with them.
So, to get things kick started, I thought I’d share a fear of mine that prevents me from being free with my thoughts, words, and ministry.  I have a dream of this church (convergence) and in my journey to plant this church; I’ve encountered my own fears of criticism and rejection.  My fears of rejection actually prevent me from writing, talking, and broadening my communication of this message that I believe that God has given me.  It’s so crazy.  I sometimes catch myself deleting words that I’ve written for blogs, sermons, and other communication because I feel like “It’s not perfect enough” or because I convince myself that it won’t amount to much.

my dream is for a church that reflects our city (Oakland) in all of its diversity.  my hope is for a community of faith that would seek Christ with every ounce of its being.  i imagine a community that serves their city and emanates the compassion, mercy, and justice of Christ.

what are you dreams?   what are your fears?  let’s help one another live the life that God calls us to live.  let’s serve one another by breaking down the barriers that prevent us from living our fullest life.  let’s be liberated and liberate!!!

Speed…

so, my big question that i’ve been wrestling with for some time now that always gets rekindled when i come to a gathering of pastors and leaders is: “what does speed have to do with the power of the Holy Spirit?”

i ask this question because it seems that we’re mezmerized by the “fastest growing this…” and the “speed at which things get accomplished…”  oddly, it creates this anxiety in me that i’m moving too slowly and that i’m always fighting failure since i’m slowing down.  the affirmation of speed as it correlates to the power and presence of God also makes me feel like I don’t have that much power and presence of God in my life.  i’m sure i’m writing and thinking out of insecurity, but it’s hard when it’s in your face all the time and all around you.

what does the affirmation of speed create in me?  i think that i become more shallow.  i move from person to person because i don’t have time.  i’m very selective with my meetings in order to accomplish my agenda which needs to be accomplished quickly.  i work so hard that i can never “enjoy” the moment or the blessing right before me.  what’s worse is that i’m pretty sure i make others around me more anxious about moving too slowly and make them feel like lazy sluggards for not helping our community grow.  sorry…:)

i always think about the high probability that Jesus would be fired from most churches today because he wouldn’t be effective enough.  I think that he would be judged for only amassing 12 followers over the course of 3 years and the fact that 1 of them betrayed him only adds icing to the cake of the argument.  he deeply invested in his disciples and gave himself away.  he took the time to be with them and walked with them through ministry.

i fight for peace in my life all the time.  when someone asks how my church is going (codespeak for how’s attendance?) i always cringe a bit.  but, i believe that people in my church are growing.  i believe that we’re learning through the scriptures and through our experiences in our community.  i believe that strongholds are being broken and people are feeling more and more liberated.  i believe that we’re seeking after Christ and valuing our “relationship” with our Savior verus just trying to “fix” our junk.  so… i think we’re growing… really growing…

Weeds…

Sami and Jaci helping give perspective to my weed problem...

Sami and Jaci helping give perspective to my weed problem...

i’ve got weeds growing everywhere!!!  i put a couple shots of one patch that’s in front of my house.  One with my kids and car to give you some perspective on how tall they are and one that’s a bit closer up.  now, i’ve actually got to do some major work to get rid of these bad boys.  i can’t believe how fast they’ve grown.  this patch was dirt when we first moved in 9 months ago and now i can’t even see the dirt!  being a pastor and theologian, i can’t help but look at my weed garden and see the correlation to our lives.  i’ve put off taking care of my garden for almost a year and now i have

Yes, They're ALL Weeds!!!

Yes, They're ALL Weeds!!!

a serious problem that seems totally out of control and overwhelming.  i almost don’t know where to start.  i thought of weeds in my life that are now deeply rooted within me and think of how overwhelming they become when i choose to look away and ignore them.  when they started, they were just small little patches so i thought, “no biggie…  i’ll take care of it later.” after a while though, the crap in my life gets overwhelming and i feel like it’s a lost cause.  did you know that some weeds actually produce these little flowers that almost make them look pretty?  but no, they’re still weeds that grow out of control and start screwing up the rest of the garden.  weeds can be subversive that way.

i sat there thinking about all of the different strategies to kill them.  i’ve heard of different organic solutions (water and vinegar, boiling water, soap and water, etc.) but i’ve chosen to go the old school route of pulling them by hand.  one by one, i’m going to go after them.  since there are so many, i’ve asked my friend to help me out.  interesting isn’t it?  even in this, i can see how community makes such a difference in helping us figure out our junk as well as help us deal with it. wow, when i decide to deal with weeds, it actually brings me closer with people.  interesting.

weeds…  a curse, a blessing…

i’m pretty obsessed with my weeds right now…  enough talking about them.  time to get dirty and deal with them…