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The Smallest Peace

the Gospel is the only way to love without holding back…

Finding a Place Where Gravity Doesn’t Work

I’m gonna temporarily 23756790253_a5d6769c2bappeal to raw emotion. I just want to “be,” I don’t want to be in constant preparation for the next event or completing a strategy, or anticipating a “breakthrough.” I’m tired of churchgames and the up and down of Sunday morning experiences. When I look into the lives of actual people most of the life-change I see comes from those who move from non-involvement to super-volunteer; very rarely (apart from celebrate recovery and similar programs) do I see the unbeliever move out of darkness and into marvelous light. And I’m not referring to a conversion story, I think by now we all realize that salvation is a process that begins in the heart and continues over the course of life not a singular prayer with dual action hand-raising crescendo.

So what am I looking for, and what am I criticizing? First of all, I don’t condemn any effort to preach the gospel whether it be among a crowded Sunday morning service or crazy guy with a sign on the street corner. I assume All efforts to save the lost and hurting are sincere and meaningful for the individual doing the work (though not all efforts are equally effective). Nor do I go out of my way to make a point about how others are “doing it wrong.” There is a flavor for everyone and it isn’t my job (or yours) to change the flavor to our own taste.

But I am looking for something, I want to see Jesus on the fringes, with the weirdos and outcasts, a generation unafraid of change and willing to take on the life of God without fear and shame. I want to see a centered life where the gospel is more important than my style and opinions. Come with me, let’s find the edge of the Earth together…

Jesus as a Chiasm of the Father

All Things are Yours

One of the cooler, and somewhat less frequently talked about features of Biblical text is the frequent occurrence of chiastic structure throughout the Bible.  Chiastic structure isn’t by any means unique to the Bible, as it occurs in a variety of literatures – but it is definitely a very popular feature in the Biblical text.   In case you haven’t heard of chiastic structure, it is a form of reverse parallism – and it’s easier to show it to you than to try to explain it.   So to demonstrate it, I’ll reference just one of many excellent blog posts on chiasms in the Bible from https://biblicalchiasmus.wordpress.com, in this case somewhat randomly choosing the blog entry where Jeremiah 5 is analyzed for its chiastic form.   Chiastic form is where the flow of ideas builds to a certain idea and then reverses order and goes back over similar ideas again…

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Deus ex machina (man vs. the machine and lesser arches)

animatronic-headAre you the Body of Christ or the machine of churchdom?

As I sit considering where my efforts are going to be laid in this new season for my family I’m deeply contemplating the true nature of the church.  As i attempt to build and dream and develop into the future there are specific questions to answer. At the forefront is this one.

In an attempt to help separate these two norms in modern Christianity I wrote out some defining characteristics of Body vs. Machine.

  • A body is organically organized… out of experiential need. It requires nourishment from its surroundings and can be directed from internal responses. It is ALIVE, growing from living cells that replicate and can reproduce themselves naturally with no outer force. A body works alongside other bodies (even opposing ones) to accomplish forward progression. A body’s agenda is to live and breathe and move and find its “being.”
  • A machine is programmed… out of structured forethought. It requires resources and energy from some directing agent. It is ANIMATED, but not alive, growing by addition to its frame and functions only by “outer force.” A machine is forced into its surroundings and unable to adjust or acclimate to its surrounding without disrupting or altering its environment. It cannot adapt, but forces living structures to adapt around it. A machine’s agenda is controlled action/response by its programmer.

I don’t want to express that the machine is unnecessary, one area that the machine accomplishes well is long-standing vision. This is an area where organic movements tend to flexibly lose control of.  It isn’t that I’m against one and for the other, I’m merely managing my investment more critically.

Reading Christian Stuff: books and insights for those who feel faint

??????????????
why so many books, it smells like my aunt’s house?

Help! I want to grow in my faith but everyone keeps suggesting I read their favorite book… where would I even start?

Here’s my quintessential guide to the “Christian Starter Pack” (ignore all Pokemon references):

My first suggestion is always the easy one. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. It doesn’t have to be read through as one book and can easily be picked apart and read whenever a subject interests you.

Next is a little more complicated… I’m sure you read The Bible but we need to learn to walk through reading it for specific purposes, this pattern helps:

  • John – to know about Christ and the gospel
  • Romans – to know about Christ and human nature
  • Ephesians – to know about Christ and us as part of the church

(write a lot of stuff down especially if it seems difficult to understand or surprising)

After that is another simple book,  “The Divine Romance” by Gene Edwards – This book gives a short history of all people from God’s perspective. It helps us become the kind of Christian that truly values other people regardless of where they come from or what “group” they belong to. It also re-focuses us on an intimate relationship with Jesus instead of religion.

Finally is the most complicated of the starter series but essential for growing into a more mature faith, “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee

This can never take the place of reading the bible with a small group of people that will allow you to figure things out for yourself and help by encouraging you to dig deeper; but this is a firm foundation that will make you stronger in your understanding of the gospel and its power.

Deism and the Other Faiths

“Basic Deism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all basically teach the same things about God… right?”

I get that the ideas are interchangeable but they are only partial revelations without Christ binding them. I have the same issue with Islam that I do with 15th century Catholicism… the purity of moral and metaphysical reason gets muddied in trying to appease (and convert) pagans. So much so that a central message of repentance and spiritual discipline turns into an elaborate copy of pagan ritual and state-ism. Christianity isn’t what most Christians says it is. It is at it’s core a fullbore pursuit of God through his express self-revelation (Jesus). anything else is froth and trappings. Many Christians would have to leave modern Christianity to find Christ… and that’s not a diss on the church as a whole it is merely an observation I’ve seen first-hand. Most of our ritual is steeped in egotism and pastor worship; breaking that down is difficult without direct discipleship and most leadership likes it that way.

Frank Viola and Sweet wrote a great book breaking down a lot of this called “Pagan Christianity.” Another good read would be “The Pastor Has No Clothes” by Jon Zens

I’m bright-light2all for seeking truth on your own terms, it makes you a better seeker and helps you see through the lies that are offered on the surface, ultimately religion is a thing you do and the gospel is a renunciation of doing for the sake of gaining and replaces tradition with a living breathing, speaking thing. A lot of Christians worship the bible and if not the bible directly then at least some core teachings in the bible. But Christ says, “study the Scriptures thinking in them you will find life, but these are testimonies of me.” [John 5ish] Truth “about” God comes from the bible, and nature, and philosophy or meditation, good storytelling even, often simple openness to unchangeable truth; but the truth “of” God, his substance and communion, are in Christ alone.

So the religion side of islam (the do part) and Christianity and to a larger extent Judaism are all the exact same (disregarding the fringes) even their honor and exaltation of the creator are the same, but when it comes to relation to God, redemption – mediation – unification, they veer into completely different realms. It is the inner-life, the heart and soul of men that God seems to be overly concerned with, and there in that place there is no substitute, it is wholeness or destruction. And not God ordered destruction; God honoring, God pleading.

Christians  don’t have the authority or the spiritual awareness to send anyone to hell (if they even understand that term to begin with) nor does the God of the bible (at least as far as the text is concerned) but there is room for you to condemn yourself. In essences He is Judge and Jury, but execution comes down on a deafening cross. The gospel is exactly that, no frills no extras. No other moral practice comes close to the inner freedom that comes from that awareness or the responsibility that follows. Unfortunately most teach backwards from sin instead of forwards in grace.

Epic Journey: Beginning to Begin…

Modern church is a mess; but not an ugly mess, more like the acceptable mess of your room when you were in high school. Yeah it wasn’t pretty and it could use some work but hey, at least i know where stuff is, right?

The fact that the mess is acceptable at some level is cause for enough alarm and a clue that maybe we are not doing something right. While I agree there is room for a little clutter, a little messiness, still the whole thing shouldn’t be a spaghetti wrap of ministries, people, and missed opportunities, should it? Church should be something beautiful (broken and beautiful), it should be interactive and not relegated to a room or website “mission statement.” It should be vibrant, so i’ve gotten away from calling it church altogether, the word church to me is a misdirection of the “idea” of ekklesia. We should be “living” toward something not “going” to a building. So for lack of a better term (most people give me curious-frowny-face-eyes when i say ekklesia anyway) I say community to catch that whole package.

COMMUNITY
It’s a place [regionally defined],
a people [personally interactive],
and an idea [wholly shareable?].

I’m attracted to community because it embodies my ideal situation, which is, “living with others to effectively grow closer to God and my own purpose while experiencing life to the fullest.” For me that community is in portions at this point in my life but I hope to live toward making it all encompassing. I want to go dancing, to listen to live bands, to encourage others to live out their dreams all within the safe and open arms of the gospel and a gospel-centric people.Now to get to that place I’m going to need leaders. And leaders grow, I see leadership like the apostles… just dudes living and learning together how to effectively impact the place they live… some stay and build, others go and build somewhere else, there is no competition, it is cooperative and self-reproducing (some would even say “organic”). This type of leadership doesn’t require intense financial backing or ornate strategy sessions, it requires a call from God and a passion for unity. That’s it, passion, unity and the call.

temple growth
So maybe i’m crazy but just living with people out in the open, no building, no central ideal, just living and breathing and invading already defined spaces (work, parks, schools, theaters, shopping centers) maybe that’s the way to go? I want that, I want those places, I want redemption to matter there, not enclosed in a sanctuary.

I’m reminded of the temple courts, how the lepers and the beggars and blind would sit outside the outer-courts and pray that people going inside would have mercy on them (since God was obviously punishing them huh) and religious people would have to walk over them into the temple court, and then the ultra-religious would go on into the inner-court, and the leaders would even breach into the holy place… and then Jesus comes along! …and He brings the holiest place outside into the open and heals lepers and redeems hookers and IRS agents and gives courage to cowards and morals to scoundrels… that’s the gospel I want to live out toward others, one that stands among the people and makes dirty things clean, profane things pure, weak things strong!

The gospel is God’s redemptive work through the cross of making those who are from from Him closer day by day by simple belief and reliance on grace.

Secret secrets: the other one.

So there are many problems in our modern teaching. It’s not the style or presentation that we need to be criticizing nor is it the broad vision or strategy of evangelicalism (with all it’s intricate problems). No, it is the literal content of our teaching, it’s the core of what we are imparting that is the true problem.

I will address the teaching of salvation, the faith, lack of suffering, and unity in the body later. Today I will address a severe problem in theology that will creep into the ability of a true seeker to continue in fervent seeking.

“The Mystery”

How often have you heard that “Trinity”, the whole of divinity combined in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is too difficult to truly understand? If you are anything like me then you’ve heard it multiple times especially if you’ve ever actually worked up the courage to ask a pastor or spiritual leader.

The problem here isn’t that it’s a crappy answer (although it is), it is much deeper than that. Getting to the heart of this problem forces true consideration that the cross is a mystery worth searching out to its end. God wants you to question the Trinity, not so you can doubt Him or bring your trust and belief lower but so He can elevate your spiritual life higher.

TriniteaMy deepest desire is that people that do not know the love of God in Christ might begin to experience love that pulls them in and wraps around every turn and desire in their lives; my next great aspiration is that the people who say they love God and know Christ would begin to live out of the Love that extends from the throne of grace. Unfortunately living out love and grace is so foreign to most believers because of the vast disconnect between (1) their understanding of grace, (2) their experience of grace, and (3) the actual extension of grace from the cross… now bear with me; I’m going to make a series of definitive statements, this is going to seem like a mental and spiritual stretch of a minimal truth but in all actuality it is the revelation of God in its most basic form…

People think they have a problem with God but in all actuality they have a problem with love. Love cannot be lived until it is experienced. Experience guides love. Most people have a single layered love, it is shared among those who have the ability or the intent to reciprocate it, but the Love of God extended in Christ through faith by grace to all people is multi-layered, it is full “in itself” so it can be sent out without any reciprocity; it is infinitely working out and in.  The greater the understanding of the “fullness of love” the greater desire to experience it. Here is where the Buddhist and the spiritualist, in his great wisdom, loses the race (or maybe begins the journey?). Knowledge of love and even accepting its existence will only give you a mental/spiritual awareness of it, this is no small matter but it is easy to mistake this “awareness” for spiritual breakthrough, after-all, great comfort and fulfillment exists in this simple acceptable truth. However, there is love that can only be invited in… it will not simply be mentally ascended, it requires more than connection. It desires to “know and be known.” Those are sensual terms, the most intimate kind and here is where Trinity comes in. Experiencing the love of God is rare because most Christians stop at the same place all other religions do, at mental acceptance, but faith in Christ “pierces the veil” to reveal the deeper truth, that love can’t be understood at all, it can only be lived in, no amount of moral superiority or meditative reasoning can attain love that permeates and pulsates and changes the core of everything it touches. Concentrate and meditate and consider and question. Contemplation of the Trinity gives the mind just the right amount of absurd dimensionality to break beyond mere allusion (yes allusion not illusion), because all other spiritual exercise is an allusion to a greater truth, untouched and unaltered outside the purview of man’s effort.

…but Christ can’t be God and not be God, God can’t reduce and increase Himself…

These concerns help pull our minds away from ideas and formulas and get us to the truth that we don’t know anything… we must invite a separate knowledge, a separate life into our own to help us. Christians who do not love others fully and accept completely with open-arms those who have not experienced the love of God yet have not drawn grace and power from the cross but merely accepted the most selfish of desires, namely to be accepted without merit or allegiance. The Holy Spirit glues all these separate realities together, the life internal (spirit & soul), to the life external (soul & body), to the life eternal (spirit & God). The bridge of death that we cower from and ignore is the place where the cross stands cleansing the world one heart at a time. [1 Cor. 2]

I had no intention of waxing poetic but i can’t help it, imagery and description are the only avenues to beauty that underpins reality . You don’t have to “understand” everything to accept anything… in fact, the simplest and most honest of prayers starts with, “I don’t know who you are” and ends with “will you show me.”

You see, God is love — God doesn’t equal love, God doesn’t “come from” love, love only comes from one place; your experience of it and your issues with it are actually disagreements with how you see love working in real life. Accept the fact that love might be different than what you experience with other people and certain surroundings and quaint little interludes… Love may be something that is trying to come into your life but will not breach your barriers until invited in by name.

Faith like [mashed] potatoes.

Brett says it like few others, open honesty and inclusiveness mixed with the perfect tinge of skeptic questioning that maybe everybody has got it wrong…

potato

Irresistibly Fish

ACID

i always get slightly nervous when i look at the back of a food product – like this Idahoan Mashed Potatoes packet i am looking at right now – and read citric ACID…

now i’m no scientist [clearly] but i have vague memories of school days where acids were demonstrated mostly burning through things, like metal for example [you remember metal? the substance my stomach is made of a weaker material than]

to really rub it in, they add in brackets, [to maintain freshness], which incidentally on this same packet it declares that sodium ACID pyrophosphate, sodium bisulfate and mixed tocopherals are already contained in this product for the purpose of maintaining freshness so how much does the citric acid actually add [and how freshness-losing is this packet of powder – that i need to just add water to – in the first place?]

FLYING

this is something i…

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Thanks but No Thanks

One of the best examples of the discipline of thanksgiving involves Jesus delivering food to the crowds. There are many good lessons here but I want to focus on lifting up and thanking God for the example that is about to take place. There is a special emphasis on Jesus attributing to God the presentation and the work of giving to others. Thanksgiving came from a heart that knew God is faithful and could provide. This trust precedes and create the space for thankfulness; the thanking is an outward worship of God and the result is a powerful display of God’s goodness. I often wonder if we are truly a thankful people, lack of adversity, lack of passion, and lack of power seem to be more a result of ungratefulness (rooted in not trusting) and even doubt toward God’s provision and desire to reveal himself through the outward expression of miracles and revelation.

As I read these stories and directions I find myself questioning more and more the efficacy of the ministry models and life application of thankfulness in my own life. Thankfulness requires far more attention and devotion than we’ve given it to date.

There are countless other areas of life that require mature discipline. I believe that the power of God and His mission cannot be displayed or enacted without discipline; there is no structureless guesswork in the Gospel… there is commitment and calling but even those are dependent on discipline.

lifting-breadOne of my favorite disciplines is seeking. I believe the desire for truth and the pursuit of God require much discipline. We can get so caught up in the action of church life that we miss out on the great mystery and adventure of finding the deeper life with all its paradox, passion, and wonder.

Another neglected discipline that is ever increasing in the lives of the people I revere most in my life is sacrificial living or as some call it, “giving until it hurts” or servant leadership (or whatever it’s called these days?)  I agree with T. Austin Sparks and Tozer about the outer-shell of life, namely that it is meant for the display and proclamation of the Gospel and was never intended to be adorned with frivolous pursuits. As disciples we must understand (or at least come to the understanding openly) that the call of God in Christ isn’t a call to “gain more to give more”, It is a full-bore call to the cross, to laying one’s life aside to be bread for others. This hurts, only a little at first because the gain is so much, but the further you go it seems the more that is asked of you, Christ becomes the treasure and the gain grows more and more. This is a discipline because if you do not devote to it the actual practice and power that comes with it will never develop. When I look at the landscape of middle to upper-class Christians in their comfortable pews and their cathedral-like buildings not embracing mission and neglecting their own communities this discipline is likely the most lacking in their lives, they read the scripture, they worship the same Lord, but they have forsaken the call to “give it all to get Christ”. Our own comfort and fulfillment is wrapped up in union with Christ not financial, social, or even “spiritual” accomplishment.

Join me in thanksgiving as a lifestyle, seeking as a motivation, and sacrificing everything for the Glory of God.

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