500 Years…a Prophetic Perspective

500Remember every 500 years there has been a monumental shift in the face of the Church.
In the first 500 years we saw the establishment of the Creeds, Councils, Canons. During the next 500 years we witnessed in 1054 the split between the church of the East and the church of the West. Then in 1517 we heard the cry for a Reformation that ended in a Protest. Now we are at the end of days of the last 500 year period 1517-2000…we have been crossing over and in fact are now more than ever facing ideals, philosophies, theologies, moralities that are being forged, formed and foaming.
ship stormWe are to close and at times so personally caught up into all that is happening in the church and in the world as the tectonic plates under us and around us are shifting. We need to realize that these are critical times and we are in desperate need for a global council of truth that is well beyond a denomination, or the latest advertised conference or the voice of any one man. To stand alone in these days may sweep many off the shore of spiritual safety and into a rouge wave for which there may not be any hope of survival.

The sea is churning an undercurrent of sands that are making the waters murky. Yet Pixelswashing up on the shore are some new sands and washing out some old sands. A new day is dawning. No one knows exactly what is happening at this crossroads of our life and times. There are no words to properly provide a caption; there are no images that provide enough pixels to see clearly at this time. We are as uncertain at this time as was Martin Luther and the Roman Catholics 500 years ago. But rest assured that Jesus is Lord, in the center of the universe there is established a Throne and the One who sits on it is Faithful and True, Holy and Incarnate, Just and Merciful.

History tells us to not sit on either the right or the left, the north or the south. The winds are still swirling about and it will take decades to work through and work out all of the particulars and by the time we do another 500 years will be starring us in the face.
Yet, do not become paralyzed or placid. Let us hasten the day…we have a resurrection to attend! I am not talking about the resurrection of the dead (end of the world stuff), but the resurrection and life…of Christ and his kingdom still coming to the world all around us. This is our day, this is our time, this is what we have been waiting, living, breathing and preparing for…thank God we have been born out of due time.

pendulumAs Thomas Oden wrote in “After Modernity What?” (1990) “The image of a moving pendulum may help grasp the way in which the Christian community is constantly seeking an equilibrium of tradition and renewal. Since it swings through lengthy historical epochs, where a single stroke might take half a century, its motion is imperceptible. A pendulum is only useful when it is in motion, working with tension filled polarities. The best trained for modernity are least prepared for the consequences of modernity. The reversal of the pendulum’s direction today is best understood both as a gift to be received and a task to be accomplished.”

Q: Does the future have a church? If so, what does it look like?

There are times of change and there are times of transition. Transition is much harder and Transitionis the result of a multitude of changes that must be brought forth. It will be messy. My example is from the time when a woman with child goes into transition, it is the time of delivery that brings about the most excruciating pain, the greatest sense of being out of control and the most sensitive time mentally and emotionally. The birthing canal is being expanded to bring forth the expected life…it is a time of stretching, tearing, bleeding, yelling, crying…it is an upheaval at every level beyond what is tolerable or bearable of all physical, psychological, emotional, and volitional capacities. But it is all necessary to bring about the unsurpassed joy of new life.

We are passing into the beginning of the transition…just like my wife has me as a coach, so you also will need a coach…an encourager to help you keep “pushing” past the pain…otherwise it is possible as the prophet said to have all the pain but give birth to nothing. Isaiah 26:17-18

Jesus-and-his-ApostlesTransition is such an emotional time. Everything is so volatile and the emotions are moving to two opposite directions (ecstasy of bearing life and excruciating pain to give life). That is how it feels…death works in me so that life can work in others (2 Cor 4).

When I shared this with my wife, Diana, she said, that the place that helps turn the pain of transition towards the joy of delivery is when the doctor tells you that the “head is crowning.”

Giving birth does not a have a due date, but we are in labor until Christ is formed in us…may you and I and the Church of the 21st century hear the words…the HEAD is Crowning!

Common Prayer
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light:
Look favorably on your whole Church,
that wonderful and sacred mystery;
by the effectual working of your providence,
carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation;
let the whole world see and know
that things which were cast down are being raised up,
and things which had grown old are being made new,
and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer Woman Warrior

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the Wizard of Oz in the Heartland

Tin ManPeople who are stuck in life or love many times act like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, searching or reaching for an Oil Can to help stop the squeak and retard the rust.

Offering relief to the immediate need is certainly a welcomed gesture to help them move forward. However, continuing to treat the obvious need(s) may not be meeting the need that is the most obvious.

People in counsel want the oil can treatment of “How To”.  They want to be given answers, the process, the steps, tools, tricks of the trade to work on and through their impasse, trouble, and need.

However, gaining all of the so called solutions to fix it without personally becoming the solution, instrument, and vehicle of change yourself, is like offering the Tin Man an Oil Can without a Heart.Judy Garland, Jack Haley, Ray Bolger Film Set Wizard Of Oz, The (1939) 0032138

At the heart of counsel is to reclaim the heart of every man and woman. If you do not have a change of heart then all of the steps to so called success become a burdensome technique to follow. They may easily become rules that rust or reduce you into a robot.  Many times the Tin Man continually seeks out the latest or newest external techniques…like a new or improved synthetic oil, rather than a new heart.

The Tin Man without a heart moves mechanically through the motions without any of it becoming realized in him or as him. The only purpose of the oil can is to keep you lubricated so you can continue down the yellow brick road toward gaining a new heart.  It is a means not the end.

I know you WANT answers, but what you NEED is mystery. The mystery of finding and living from your heart is the perpetual “Oil Can” that comes with the Manufacturer’s (God) warranty to never rust out. You must become the solution not just get a solution.

Words in 3D coloured lightsThe lullaby life of…Somewhere Over The Rainbow comes from loving God with all your heart (Tin Man) all your soul (Lion), all your mind (Scarecrow) and all your strength (Dorothy) and loving your neighbor (Toto…a picture of man’s best friend) as yourself.

There’s no place like home…because that’s where all your dreams really do come true. The promise is a wholehearted life. Anything else is just a bag of wizardry and tricks. You have to go on the journey of a lifetime to find and become your truest self. If you’ll do that then the Oil Can becomes a gift not a gimmick to a new heart, new home, new life and a love that is new, unconditional and eternal.

When you get back home to Kansas you’ll recognize it as the Heartland!

Heartland

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Who am I to Judge?

“Who am I to judge?” -Pope FrancisVATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

For many in our times that only means, who am I to judge others?  However, it must also mean, who am I to judge God?  If God has already spoken and judged something plainly, then who are we to say God is wrong?  Who am I to judge what the Judge has already judged?  We have become defenders of the creature rather than worshipers of the Creator.

Fall of RomeGod knows and has judged what is good and right for people and the planet, if you chose in your heart to go against what God has deemed best then you have simply believed the original Lie, that you shall be god and you shall judge what is good and evil. This is not about anybody’s personal rights but God’s! God gives you free will and if you use it to choose your “rights” over his rights then don’t whine and complain about the hurt and pain of choosing your will over his rights…see the wisdom of Proverbs 1:20-33 (don’t skip it, read it!)

Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
    in the markets she raises her voice;
21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
    I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused to listen,
    have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25 because you have ignored all my counsel
    and would have none of my reproof,

Self Destruction

26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when terror strikes you,
27 when terror strikes you like a storm
    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
    when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
    they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel
    and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
    and have their fill of their own devices.
32 For the simple are killed by their turning away,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
    and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Love destroysWhen Jesus said “judge not” he meant “do not condemn,” not “do not discern.” Our culture and much of the church has lost the distinction.

I don’t tell my children “no’ or correct or discipline them because I don’t love them, but because I actually do love them and judge their behavior and action against things that I know will hurt and harm them and or others. God is a great Father and loves his people and all of humanity enough to judge them by telling them No and by correcting and disciplining them.

A good portion of the church is in love with love, not in love with Jesus.

Who am I to judge the I AM?

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Life as Participation

TrumanAfter conversion, you don’t look out at reality; you look out from reality.

In other words, God is not “out there”; you are in God and God is in you. You are in the middle of Reality! You’re a part of it. It’s a mystery of participation. After his conversion experience, Paul is obsessed with the idea that “I’m participating in something that’s bigger than me.” In fact, he uses the phrase “in Christ” around one hundred sixty times to describe this organic unity and participation in Christ. Paul has the best one-liner of all to describe himself after conversion: “I live no longer, not I; but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Now that’s a transformed person!

This is a completely different experience of life. I don’t have to fully write my private story. Truman 4It’s being written with me and in me. I am already a character on the stage. I am being used, I am being chosen, I am being led. You will know that after conversion. You will know that your life is not about you; you are about life. You are about God. You’re an instance in both the agony and the ecstasy of God that is happening inside of you, and all you can do is say yes to it. After transformation, it’s not about doing it right; it’s about doing it with pure intention. It’s not about being correct; it’s about being connected.

Truman 2After conversion, you don’t experience self-consciousness so much as what the mystics call pure consciousness. Self-consciousness implies a dualistic split. There is me over here thinking about that over there. The mind remains dualistic until you have a mystical experience. Then the subject/object split is overcome. You can’t maintain it forever, but you’ll know it once in a while, and you’ll never be satisfied with anything less. In unitive experience, you’re freed from the burden of self-consciousness; you are living in, through, and with another. That’s the same as the experience of truly being in love. Falling and being in love, like unitive experience, cannot be sustained at the ecstatic level, but it can be touched upon and then integrated within the rest of your life.

True union does not absorb distinction, but actually intensifies it. The more one gives Truman 1one’s self in creative union with another, the more one becomes one’s self. This is mirrored in the Trinity: perfect giving and perfect receiving between three who are all still completely themselves. The more one becomes one’s True Self, the more capable one is of not overprotecting the boundaries of one’s false self. You have nothing to protect after transformation, and that’s the great freedom and the great happiness we see in converted people. There’s no “little richard” here that I need to protect because it’s precisely that little richard that got in the way, and has now passed away–with no noticeable losses. Or as Paul puts it, “Because of Christ, I now consider my former advantages as disadvantages . . . all of it is mere rubbish if only I can have a place in him” (Philippians 3:7-8).

Fr Richard Rohr

(pictures added)

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Inflatable Jesus Easter 2015

Jesus Balloon“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?” -Jesus

The growing trend for the past decade has been for churches to compete to see who can have the largest Easter Egg event in the city.  This year the post modern church of the cool brand image logo and one word motivational titled “church” are outdoing all of us… except Oprah.

I’m not against Easter Egg Hunts, they are fun for kids, but when Youth Pastors become Lead Pastors and we are still using gimmicks and giveaways to get “adults” to come to church on the hallmark day of our faith, Jesus’ Resurrection from the Dead….then Yes I will cry, FOUL!

0420_NWS_JL-egghunt-07.JPGHere is just one example of a local church that I have to compete with: Their social media marketing extravaganza identifies their Easter as One of Colorado’s Largest Easter Egg Hunts with 52,800 candy filled eggs, TONS of inflatable games and prizes including bikes and Ipods, 5 weekend getaway prizes (last year was two weekend vacations) and 5 dynamic worship experiences (“Baal gives you a worship experience”….Eugene Peterson).

Jesus InflatableSo I decided to “go all in” and see if I could bewitch a 100 or 1000 people to come to ‘my” church through my own Madison Avenue marketing campaign around Easter.  You’ll see posted throughout this blog some of our big incentives to woo people to come to “my” church.  This is my SNL spoofed version of the modern marketed, super soul sundae (yes I spelled it Sundae), Jimmy Fallon pastored church of 2015!

Nevermind that these churches cleverly forgot to mention Jesus or the Resurrection in their marketing.  God forbid, that would not have been good for business.  We all know that the church wants more followers (think Twitter) than Jesus.

Jesus Church InflatableIn the 1987 introduction to Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles he writes about pastors, “They attract alot of customers, pull in great sums of money, develop splendid reputations.  The marketing strategies of the fast food franchise occupy the waking minds of these entrepreneurs. I don’t know any other profession in which it is quite as easy to fake as in ours. We can impersonate a pastor without being a pastor.  One friend calls it sprinkling holy water on Cabbage Patch dolls.”

Jesus HatYes, I am outraged at the buffoons who market a spoof product of the church that I love. Their ends (church attendance) do not justify the means.  How quaintly they forget that Jesus made it difficult to become a follower…let the dead bury the dead, eat my flesh, drink my blood…these are hard words, go sell all and give to the poor…then come and follow me.  ENOUGH! of the tomfoolery in these den of thieves that they dare to call a Church.

To the twenty and thirty somethings who only a few years ago (2003…) longed for an ancient future faith.  Where did you go?  Could you not tarry with me even one hour?  I thought you had enough of the entertainment church?  I can’t believe you are still nursing on milk and have atrophied into a consumer of easy cheesy cotton candy Christianity.  Why did you chose a Fraternity house over the Father’s house for the forming of your interior life and the discussion of ultimate things?

Jesus Thumbs Up“Disciples do not want to hear a watered-down modern reinterpretation. They want nothing less than the substance of the faith of the apostles and martyrs without too much interference from modern pablum-peddlers who doubt that people are tough enough to take it straight.   It has not been until the last quarter century that there has been wholesale devaluation of the currency of Christian language, symbolism, teaching and witness-a total sellout and bankruptcy to support the fixed habits of modem addictions.  We have blithely proceeded on the skewed assumption that in theology-just as in corn poppers, electric tooth-brushes and automobile exhaust systems-new is good, newer is better and newest is best.  So the “best” ones have by this logic cut themselves systematically off from sustained discourse with classical Christianity.”  – After Modernity, What? by Thomas Oden

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The Church is Judging Me

apostles“As an evangelical, I discovered while I was at Wheaton College that it was possible to dismiss the entire church as having gone off the rails by about 95 A.D. That is, we (evangelicals) with our open bibles knew better than old Ignatius or Polycarp or Clement who had been taught by the apostles themselves…We knew better than they just what the church is and what it should look like. Never mind that our worship services would have been unrecognizable to them, or that our church government would have been equally
unrecognizable, or that the vocabulary in which we spoke of the Christian life would have been equally unrecognizable. We were right and the Fathers were wrong–that settled the matter.

The trouble for me here was that what these wrong-headed men wrote
about God, about our Lord Jesus Christ, about His Church, about the Christians
walk and warfare…what they wrote was so titanic and so rich and so luminous
that their error seemed infinitely truer and more glorious than my truth. I
gradually felt that it was I, not they, who was under surveillance. The
glorious company of the apostles, the noble army of martyrs and the holy
Church throughout the world, to quote the ancient hymn, the Te Deum, judge me, not I
them.

house of GodIgnatius, Polycarp, Clement, Justin, Irenaeus, Cyprian, Cyril, Basil, the Gregorys, Augustine, Ambrose, Benedict…it is under the gaze of this senate that I find myself standing. Alas, how tawdry, how odious, how flimsy, how embarrassing seemed the arguments that I had been prepared so gaily to put forward against the crushing radiance of these men’s confession.

The church is here, in all its antiquity, judging me.”  -Thomas Howard

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Intravenous Incarnation

drip bagThe people who we minister to everyday have to be slowly persuaded with an impersonation (read incarnation) of the love of Jesus intravenously through a drip bag. Its slow, relational, personal, making disciples, not at all like “church as usual”…in fact, we get so close you can watch their tears fall down their face upon his feet, you can hear the vase of their alabaster hope crack open when his fragrance floods their parched souls, you can literally watch the weight of shame drop off shoulders when he writes in the sand of their sin.

Thanks to all who support us and the work we do in His Name.

 

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