Monday, October 29, 2007

Jesus Was Homeless

A little story about the "Jesus was homeless" shirt…as told by Shane Claiborne...

City of Brotherly Shove
Jesus teaches that it is nothing extraordinary to love our friends and relatives, people who think and look like us. He says, "Even the pagans and sinners love their friends" (Matthew 5). But we are to be extraordinary; we are to love people who don't think and look like us, even our enemies.
One of my favorite passages is where Jesus tells us how to throw a party in Luke 14, only he doesn't actually call it a "party." He's talking to a bunch of religious folks, so he calls it a "banquet," but he's talking about a party. He says, "When you give a banquet do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed." I had never really been to a party like that. All the parties my friends threw, Christian or not, were ones where you invite people who are like you – friends, relatives, rich neighbors, yep. We must have not highlighted that verse. Here's Jesus telling us not to throw parties like that.
A few years ago, I caught a glimpse of this kind of party, although it got us into some trouble. Philadelphia had begun to pass anti-homeless legislation, making it illegal to sleep in the parks, illegal to ask for money, illegal to lie down on the sidewalks (which they chose to implement on Dr. King's Birthday!). Ironically, the hub for many of these laws was Love Park, which is a historic site in Philly known for its skateboarding (which was also made illegal). Love Park was a place where homeless folks hung out. It was visible, safe, and central. Folks knew they could go there to give out food or clothing to folks on the street. It's where we used to go back in college, and there are some nice steam vents that kept people (and some big rats) warm. One of the boldest moves of the city was passing an ordinance that banned all food from the park. It specifically reads, "All persons must cease and desist from distributing food." And they began fining those of us who continued to share food. We started wondering what in the world it meant to love our neighbor as ourselves, when they were being jailed for sleeping and eating. As St. Augustine said, "An unjust law is no law at all." What did it mean to submit to authority and yet uphold God's law of love? Either we had to invite them into our home (which reached capacity), or we wanted to be out with them, in solidarity. So we threw a party in Love Park.
About a hundred of us gathered in Love Park with homeless friends. We worshiped, sang, and prayed. Then we served communion … which was illegal. With clergy and city officials there in support, and police and media surrounding us, we celebrated communion. Most of the police sat back and watched, not daring to arrest anyone, especially during communion. Then we would continue the "breaking of the bread" bringing in the pizzas. It was a love feast, and we then slept out overnight in the park with our homeless friends. We did that week after week, with police watching over us and media standing by. And then one night after the worship, as we slept under the "Love" sign, which we had covered with a big question mark, the police circled the park and came in and arrested all of us there. Not the best wake up call. We were taken to jail in handcuffs. Many of us continued sleeping out over and over and were arrested over and over. Sometimes the police were very sympathetic and agreed that we should not be arrested for sleeping.
A bunch of big-wig lawyers called offering to represent us. We were very thankful and invited them to come and support us, but we decided to be represented by a homeless friend, who might not have fancy lawyers had he been alone. So our buddy, Fonz agreed to be our spokesperson.
As we stood before the judge, I wore a shirt that read: "Jesus was homeless." The judge asked me to step forward, and I did. He read my shirt aloud, and said, "Hmmm. I didn't know that." I said to him, "Yes sir, in the Scriptures Jesus says that 'foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'" Then the judge paused pensively and said, "You guys might stand a chance." And we did.
As we went before the court, we read all of the Scriptures where Jesus warns the disciples that they will be dragged before courts and jails and they had new meaning. He warned them not to worry about what to say so we didn't. When the time came for us to testify, Fonz stood up in court and said, "Your Honor, we think these laws are wrong." We said "Amen. What he said."
The prosecutor had her stuff together. In court I accidentally called her the persecutor. She was not amused. The District Attorney was not joking around. We faced numerous charges, jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, and hours and hours of community service (imagine that!). The judge said to the court, "What is in question here is not whether or not these folks broke the law, that is quite clear … what is in question is the constitutionality of the laws." The DA shot back, "The Constitutionality of the law is not before this court." And the DA threw her papers on the table. The judge retorted, "The Constitutionality of the law is before every court. Let me remind the court that if it weren't for people who broke the unjust laws, we wouldn't have the freedom that we do have. We'd still have slavery. That's the story of this country from the Boston Tea Party to the Civil Rights movement. These people are not criminals; they are freedom fighters. I find them all not guilty, on every charge." The papers called it a "Revolutionary Court Decision." And the judge asked us for a "Jesus was homeless" t-shirt.

Thanks Shane

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

God's Mercy or God's Justice

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
-Micah 6:8 NIV

Imagine standing by a river and seeing a person struggling in the current. You find a way to rescue the person. then, moment later, you see another person in danger of drowning, and then another, and another, and another... Each time you pull a person out of the river, you are showing mercy. But eventually, someone needs to say, "we need to sent somebody upstream to see who is throwing people in the river." When we take action to stop people from being thrown in the river, we are doing justice. -Jim Wallis

We as Christians need to stop blaming people for their situations.... In the last 200 years western Christianity has taken a wrong turn. Most Christians in the west focus on personal guilt and judgement. The common theme seems to be "If everyone would just be good enough, then God would come back and take us home." This is a dangerous stream of thought professed most notably by the Pharisees of two thousand years ago.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

This time Mr. Piper has missed the point...

" 'Christ unites; doctrine divides.' Those who say this have simply replaced a proposition with a word, and they think they've done something profound...and fresh. But in reality, they've done something old, and stale...and deadly." -John Piper

At first it almost seems as if John Piper has said something quite profound. And maybe he has if you are an English major... However if your more concerned with theology then Mr. Piper has completely missed the point.

The point is stated much better by Pope John Paul II,

“Further along, the council remarks that the catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these (other) religions. The church has a high regard for their conduct and way of life, for those precepts and doctrines which, although differing on many points from that which the church believes and propounds, often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men. However, the Church proclaims, and is bound to proclaim, that Christ is “the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6), in whom God has reconciled everything to himself. The Church is guided by the faith that God the Creator wants to save all humankind in Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man... The holy Spirit works effectively even outside the visible structures of the Church.”

-Pope John Paul II Crossing the Threshold of hope

The popes approach seks to avoid twin dangers . On the one hand he avoids a relativistic solution. He doesn't say "Everybody's okay, it doesn't matter what you believe - just believe somthing." On the other hand, he seeks to avoid a divisive tone. This is essential because in a world torn by division and hatred, people instinctively feel that a faith that adds to the division , that fules the hatred, that erects barriers rather than bridges, is part of the problem not the solution.

The goal is not doctrine! And one of the worst things we can do as humans is think we can build a doctrinal structure that can hold the creator of the universe. Seriously do you believe we can completely understand God? And even if we could (which we can't), do you believe we could flawlessly put it on paper and teach it to others.

Now some make the argument that the bible as Gods divinely inspired word describes God. But the bible is not doctrine! The Bible is the story of God reaching out to humans... Doctrine is our attempts to reach him, our Tower of Babble .

Deadly indeed, Deadly to our institutions. But it is a breath of fresh air for the organic church.

** Please note this is not a jab at John Piper. After reading some of his other books I believe his heart is in the right place. However Like most of us sometimes he misses the point.**

Friday, September 07, 2007

We die for love!

The body’s failing, and my heart is breaking

Hell is awakened, the souls it’s taking

We’re taking back where they belong

You cannot make us stop You’ll never make us stop

It’s not about the songs, it’s about our God

Who will stand and rise against injustice?

Take up the cause of the unwanted ones?

Who will stand to fight against us?

We live, we fight

We live, we die

We fight for love

We live, we fight

We live, we die

We fight for love

Church windows breaking from people living outside the walls The bride must be ready for Jesus’ imminent return

Disciple Lyrics
"Disciple Fight For Love lyrics"


Thursday, August 09, 2007

are we "vain"

What does it mean to use the Lord’s name in vain? This is a question that might seem self-evident to most people in western society. Whether you are religious or not, you would not even hesitate with your answer...

I often struggled with how to reconcile my faith in God with my occasional under my breath damming of something or other. So I've done some researched on the original words used, naqa (vain), I read several commentaries, researched on-line, and prayed. These are the best explanations I have found.

Some people believe the reason why this is a violation of the third commandment is because people are using God’s name in a “vain,” “worthless,” or “empty” way. In this case, to say “God damn it is not the same as seriously calling upon God to damn something or someone. For these people, if you say it seriously, fine, but if you say it casually, then you have used His name in an empty way and thereby broken the third commandment.

If the principle that we are going by is that we are not to use God’s name and not really mean it, then I believe that we are very inconsistent in what we take offense to as a culture. Why don’t people get offended when others say “God bless you?” Do you think that every time someone says this that they really mean it? Do you think that in their mind they are talking to God, beseeching on your behalf for a blessing? Just about every email I get ends with the phrase, “God bless.” I seriously doubt that that person actually said a prayer for me before he or she hit send. If this is the case, then why is saying ”God bless you” not just as much a violation of the third commandment as saying “God damn you?” Is it more biblical to ask for God’s kindness or judgment? I don’t think anyone who is honest with themselves can say that they are consistent in this regard. Saying “God damn it” and not meaning it should be just as bad as saying “God bless you” and not meaning it.
This is the most important so I have saved it for last. In fact, if what I am about to say is true, then other arguments really make a difference. The question is this: What does it mean to use God’s name in an empty or vain way? What does the third commandment really mean? It is hard to tell from a simple word study on the Hebrew term naqa (vain). As well, our understanding of a “name” and what it signifies is much different than what it meant in the context in which this commandment was given. What we have to do is to try to understand what it meant then, so that we can understand what it means now. It does us no good to anachronistically impose our understanding upon an ancient text. This is eisegesis (reading into the text what we presuppose), not exegesis (letting the text speak on its own terms).
Briefly, here is what I believe your studies will show. The nations to which the Israelites were going had many gods. They were highly superstitious. Their prophets would often use the name of their god in pronouncements. The usage could be in a curse, hex, or even a blessing. They would use the name of their god to give their statements, whatever they may be, authority. To pronounce something in their own name would not have given their words much weight, but to pronounce something in the name of a god meant that people would listen and fear. They may have said, “In the name of Baal, there will be no rain for 40 days.” Or “In the name of Marduk, I say that you will win this battle.” This gave the prophet much power and authority. But, as we know, there is no Baal or Marduk. Since this is the case, they did not really make such pronouncement and therefore the words of the prophet had no authority and should neither have been praised or feared.
God was attempting to prevent the Israelites from doing the same thing. God was saying for them not to use His name like the nations used the names of their gods. He did not want them to use His name to invoke false authority behind pronouncements. In essence, God did not want the Israelites to say that He said something that He had not said. This makes sense. God has a reputation to protect. He does not want anyone saying “Thus sayeth the Lord” if the Lord had not spoken. All of you have experienced this. You have had people say you said something you did not say. This can be very damaging to your character. It is very destructive to your name. Why? Because it makes you out to be something that you are not. How much more important is it for God to protect His character? It is fitting that God would have put this as one of the ten most important commandments as the nation of Israel moved towards Canaan.
What does this mean for us? Well, for starters we understand that the third commandment is certainly not focused on something so trivial as saying “God damn it!” The funny thing is that while some people may never think of using that phrase, people all over the Christian religious landscape are breaking the third commandment every day, damaging the Lord’s reputation. “Thus sayeth the Lord . . .” “God told me to tell you . . .” “God says that if you send in this much money, you will be blessed.” I could go on and on, but you get the point. Using the name of the Lord in vain means that you do damage to His reputation and character through false and unsure claims. Think again before you say “God said . . .” Make sure that He has really said it. If you are unsure, make your statement reflect your uncertianty. Saying “I think God is telling you to . . .” rather than “God is telling you to . . .” may not be as authoritative, but it will keep God’s reputation safe and keep you from breaking the third commandment.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A parable of and by the emerging church

If the people who built the railroads in the united states were actually interested in transporting people, they would now own the airlines. But they don't! The industrial historians tell us that the reason for this is that once the railroad companies had completed the huge task of driving the lines across the US, they lost their focus. Instead of continuing to pioneer ways of allowing free movement of people, they lost sight of the key end and focused internally on the one means to that end that they had made.

For a century or so, this was no problem because the rail road was still the best way to get around, but with the advent of the airlines the railroad companies were overtaken by a mode of transportation that was massively better. And their customers flocked to it.

Or at least most of them did. There were still a few old romantics who just loved the railroad and who continued to dress up in their finery, climb aboard, and drift along gently, talking to each other about how the railroad was the PROPER way to travel. About haw much better it was than this fancy airline stuff. They assured each other everything was going to be just fine, while the planes full of people shot by overhead.

New wine is currently being waisted by ruptured wine skins. And it outrageous to ask the workers to keep pressing the grapes when the vineyard keeps pouring it into old old skins, allowing them to rupture and spill the newness into the drains.

NOTE: This is a widely circulated parable among the emerging church movement. As far as I can tell it's author is unknown. I have heard it told several times, sometimes on podcasts sometimes in person. It has even been included in the forward to at least one book. But each time the storyteller explains they heard it from someone else... I believe this a mark of the emerging church, that we share stories and ideas freely. The ultimate goal is the healing of our world through the expansion of "The Kingdom of God."

Saturday, July 14, 2007


“The church is not here to meet our needs. We are the church here to meet the needs of the world.”- Erwin McManus

Friday, July 13, 2007

war and hate

Any view we take concerning the use of force to resist evil must have a deep and comprehensive view of the reality of evil in this world. It would be comforting if we could find refuge in a principle like “it is absolutely wrong to kill” or “it is absolutely right to kill in self-defense.” But the reality of this fallen world makes such certainty impossible.
While almost all wars have been immoral (just as many police actions and acts of personal aggression are immoral), it is not possible to demonstrate that all acts of aggression are immoral.
Most wars are an abomination in the eyes of God, and, regrettably, many Christians have identified themselves with many of them. I believe this greaves God... However, under certain circumstances, there seems no alternative than protecting the innocent against evil.One of the most serious mistakes that Christians can make is to believe that participation in a "just war" is grounds to ignore Jesus’ command for them to love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-47 ). Wartime propaganda always tries to arouse hatred towards the enemy by portraying them as unqualifiedly evil.

I believe when Jesus said love your enemies he didn't mean from 10,00 feet while dropping bombs on them...

I believe Jesus presented us with a third way.

Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek. Not pick up a sword and retaliate. But turn the other cheek is not just lay down and take it pacifism. See Jesus is giving this concept in the context of first century Jewish culture.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Money is the root of all evil?

Money is the root of all evil

This expression stems from the biblical phrase that says, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils" (1 Timothy 6:10). There is a big difference between the two statements. Money is neutral and can be used either for the good or for the bad. Money of itself is not evil, yet the love of it is the root of all kinds evil, like greed...

And really do you thing money is the root of ALL evil?

What about war (murder)? I know some wars are fought about money. But more are fought for territory or power. And while that can be closely related to money it is not the same thing. In fact I submit to you that instead they booth have the same root cause.

Evil says I need a bigger house, a faster car, more expensive clothing. While most of the world lives in shacks, walks miles for clean water, and only receives one pair of shoes a year.

Evil says my comfort is more important than anyone, or any thing, else.

Evil says as long as I can consume more then it doesn't matter if the rest of humanity suffers.

I believe the root of all evil is selfishness!

Monday, July 02, 2007

A terrable Paradox

So I took my kids to the neighborhood park today. It was filled with kids running, swinging, sliding, laughing, and playing.

The beautiful scene was broken when a marine helicopter flew over head. All of the climbing, swinging, sliding, laughing, and playing stopped. Some of the kids pointed, there were a few ohs and ahas, most just stared. One boy made machine gun sounds... And I was struck at the great and terrible ugliness of it.

Later in the day as we were leaving grandma and Grandpa's house we found their neighborhood had been converged upon by a dozen or More balloon crews. they laid out the hot air balloons in the front yards. The neighborhood kids gathered and laughed and played. They watched as these huge balloons filled and gently floated into the sky. Neighborhood children ran back and forth screaming with delight. No machine gun sounds this time. I was struck again by the peace and beauty of the whole scene.

Later upon reflection I felt God showing me a bigger picture... What we put on the horizon, the next generation sees. It's up to us to decide what kind of world we want to create. It's up to us what kind of world they will dream of. A world filled with beauty laughter and wonder... Or fear terror and war.

Another World is Possible.....

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Can we please put to rest the war between Science and Faith?

Have you ever forgotten anything - an appointment, an important birthday, something at a store, where you left your wallet or keys? Have you ever had an automobile accident that was your fault - due to a laps in attention or judgement? If your mind is capable of having important memory lapses or being responsible for serious accidents, how do you know when you can trust it?

Is it possible that you're really insane, so insane that everyone knows it but you? Is it possible that everyone is just humoring you, pretending that you're normal, but you are actually out of touch with reality? Or maybe you are just dreaming,. Maybe you're a character in someone elses dream, and of course this whole thing seams real, since the other persons imagination wills you to think it's all real. How do you know these possibilities aren't true?

The Eskimos, I'm told, have dozens of words for snow. They would never think of saying, "its snowing," any more than we would say, "Weather is occurring." The statement is to general to be of any use. The specificity of their language causes them to see differences among types of frozen crystalline precipitation that are lost to the rest of us. Is it possible that your language similarly blinds you to many important spiritual distinctions and realities that others, who don't limit themselves to what they can describe or have personally experienced, can see clearly? And is it possible that all human language guides our thoughts into ruts that keep us from knowing reality in other, perhaps fuller, ways? Is it possible for out minds to go beyond the normal limits of our languages?

In ancient times everyone "knew" the earth was flat. Before Galileo's day everyone "knew" the sun rotated around the earth. Before the Civil War many people"knew" that slavery was completely justified. How do we know that many of the things we think we know today won't be shown to be false in the future?

Scientific knowledge is based on repeatable experimentation. As data increases, as hypotheses "work" under repeated testing, one makes an inductive leap form specific results to generalizations, which are accepted as "knowledge" or as "fact." There is a great little handheld game called 20Q. The makers of the game claim that if you think of an object and answer the games questions it will untimely correctly guess what you are thinking. And the game has done just that millions of times for hundreds of thousands of users. However there is a flaw in the game. If you think of gazebo, the game will not be able to guess it... Which raises a great question. Is something true just because it works consistently?

Consider for a moment the thoughts of Albert Einstein:

As far as the propositions of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain , they do not refer to reality.
- Ideas and Opinions

The supreme task of the physicist is the search for those highly universal laws from which a picture of the world can be obtained by pure deduction. There is no logical path leading to these laws. They are only to be reached by intuition, based upon something like an intellectual love.
-The World as I see It

The mechanics of discovery are nether logical nor intellectual. It's a sudden illumination, almost a rapture. Later, to be sure, intelligence and analysis and experiment confirm (or invalidate) the intuition. But initially there is a great leap of the imagination.
-Crossan, The Dark Interval

"A sudden illumination, rapture, intuition, intellectual love, a great leap of the imagination"... They sound like the words of a poet or prophet, not a scientist. But science is a creative process involving many faculties in addition to cold hard reason. The popular MYTHS of the objectivity and certainty not withstanding, knowledge and belief are not enemies. They are partners in the search for truth.

What then is the relationship between faith and knowledge? What if faith, instead of being a step back from the limits of our ability to know and understand, could actually be a flight beyond the rim? What if the word "knowledge," used to denote certainty gained by rationalistic and empirical means, is actually only appropriate foe mundane facts, pedestrian inquiries, common commodities? what if there is another category of reality in the universe, no less real just because it doesn't it doesn't shrink itself to our instruments and portals of "KNOWLEDGE"? What if that category, call it mystery or spirituality or even faith, dwarfs all of our knowledge, just as space dwarfs our little earth? Are we humble enough to look up from the little things we are so proud of comprehending and controlling, to face massive realities and humbling mysteries greater than ourselves, and therefore greater than our ability squeeze into out little boxes of "certainty" and "knowledge"?

Are you willing to step off the narrow ledge of knowledge to soar into broad spaces of faith?

*** If this has helped you in any way, then please consider watching Rob Bells "Everything is spiritual DVD, and or reading Finding faith by Brian McLarian. Both of these resources help me in the shaping and direction of this post.***