More Courage than I have

Robert Webber is a brilliant man…passionate about God, worship, teaching, "ekklesia" and the Kingdom of God.  He is the author of some of the finest books of the last decade…including the Young Evangelicals and a powerful teaching series on Worship.  Below is an email that he just sent out concerning his latest battle…this time with deadly, and I mean deadly,  cancer.  Read it for encouragement…inspiration…prayer.  Praise God we have people like this in the Kingdom of God.

Robert Webber (Ancient-Future Talk)(www.ancientfutureworship.com)

Many of you know that I was diagnosed with advanced stage IV pancreatic cancer on August 25th, 2006. Many of you have been praying earnestly for my healing and sending me e-mails to encourage and support me. I have been overwhelmed by the numbers of people who have upheld me in prayer and I want to update you on my condition and say a special word of “Thanks.”

After months in and out of the hospital with ever possible complication (kidney failure, emergency operation for a pierced bowel, massive infections, and chemo/radiation) I was sent home on December 9th with the words “You have two to four weeks left to live). On December 9th I was a virtual invalid. My wife had to bathe me, dress me, feed me and walk me. I slept 16-18 hours a day and rarely moved any place except to my bed and couch. I even went under the care of palpable hospice. However, instead of getting worse and dying as predicted, I gradually began to improve. Now, two months later I am practically leading a normal life. I care for myself, walk without a walker, go out to eat, work out (to pound weights) and write every day. I attribute this improvement, however long it lasts, to answered prayer – yours and mine, my wife. I have literally bugged and argued with God!

So, in light of my improvement, how do you pray? I want to ask God to heal me but what if he already has. But, I’m also reluctant to be presumptuous and tell everyone I’ve been healed given the statistical downside of pancreatic cancer and the fact that we are foregoing any definite tests for now, like a MRI, CT scan or PET scan.

So, here is how Joanne and I solved our dilemma. We live and pray one day at a time. We pray each day and say, “Thank you God for the healing you gave me today. Please heal me tomorrow.” It has occurred to both of us that if we were truly spiritually sensitive, we would have prayed that way all of our lives but it took the threat of imminent death to bring us to this point.

We cannot begin to tell all of you how we have benefited from your consistent prayers. We’re convinced that God is answering those prayers and that all the improvement thus far has come from God’s healing powers and that He is the source of all grace. I am confident that God sustained me today but I’m also painfully aware that I am “terminal,” at some point, in the larger sense of the word, as we all are. Thanks be to God that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and we all face a great future.

Please continue your prayers for both of us. Joanne will see her doctor and have some tests done as her stomach tension and discomfort continues. We think it’s “caregiver’ stress but want to be sure. Also, although I’m better, my strength is fragile and I fatigue easily. Some days are better than others. We appreciate the way everyone has maintained our privacy and ask that you continue to do so.

I hope that you all know that the love and prayers you have “sent” our way are being returned to you from us. We are so deeply moved by them on our behalf.

Robert_webber

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The Dark Side of Leadership – from an unlikely place

055338205501_bo2204203200_pisitbdp500arrSteven Pressfield’s book on Alexander the Great has some very provocative and applicable sections for leaders…he dives into Alexander’s "dynamis" (his will to fight) as well as his "daimon"…another word for the "dark side" of a leader.  In this novel, Alexander does not "conquer" his daimon.  He discovers from a sage near the end of the novel that, unless checked, the daimon will lead to his destruction. 

"The daimon is inhuman," Telamon states.  "The concept of limits is alien to it.  Unchecked, it devours everything, including itself.  Is it evil?  Is the acorn, aspiring to become the oak?  Is the fingerling, seeking the sea?  In nature, the will to dominion is held within bounds by the limited capacity of the beast.  Only in man is this instinct unrestrained and only in that man like you, my friend, whose gifts and preeminence transcend all external governance…a man must kill himself to slay his daimon"  (page 312).

I’ve thought about this quite a bit since I read it…unrestrained power, control, dominance, and authority in leadership can lead to huge downfalls.  In pastoral ministry, as has been exclaimed in many places of late (see David Fitch’s great blog on Senior Pastors), focused power through positional "CEO" type of leadership is fraught with a plethora of possibilities of abuse and downfall.  Unchecked, and the "shadow side" of leadership (ego, autocratic temptations, lack of communal checks/balances, even pride and arrogance) can come sneaking in and lead to destruction.  I know my story is loaded with examples of times where "my daimon" went unchecked.  I’ve listened carefully to many, many voices of late…but this novel about Alexander (who died in his early 30’s and never could conquer his own lusts and dark side) reminds me that we should only be trusting those who have "put themselves to death".  I know that is what needs to continually happen in my life…how about yours?

Some Missional Quotes I ripped off

"It’s not the Church of god that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church."  Rowan Williams

"The church must realize that it is a product of mission before they can be an agent of mission."  Eddie Gibbs

"Missional communities consists of followers of Jesus who are
seeking together to be faithful in their place and time."  Eddie Gibbs

"The church in the West has got to learn to suffer.  We like Easter, but we don’t like Good Friday."  Eddie Gibbs

Incredible Prayer!

I heard about this prayer from my friend, Tim!  This is powerful and beyond what many of us are able or willing to do.  Once you understand the context, it becomes even more powerful!  Read it and pray it carefully…

Prayer Regarding Critics and Enemies by Serbian Orthodox Bishop – By Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, Serbian bishop who spoke out against Naziism, was arrested, and taken to Dachau.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth; enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world. They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself. They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments. They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself. They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish. Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a [fly].

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

So that my fleeing will have no return; So that all my hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs; So that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul; So that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;

So that I might amass all my treasure in heaven; Ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies. Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies. A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

He can’t be ALL wrong!

President Putin of Russia has been accusing the USA of broadening the insecurity of the global environment.  You and I can think what we want about Putin and his Russian compadres…but he can’t be all wrong.  We (the USA) are building missle installments in his backyard (Poland and the Chek Republic).  I guess we wouldn’t know exactly how he is feeling unless some foreign government was building defense/offense systems in Cuba (some historical precedent there!), one of the Central American countries, or some other "close" geography.  I think you should take a look at the article in the NY Times…we can be good citizens but we can’t be blind! 

See Article by clicking here!

Disappointed with “Jesus Camp”

OK – maybe it is because I have taken my own advice and have had, over the years, a "variety of spiritual experiences", but the "Jesus Camp" film was not informative nor entertaining.  It was like rerunning old video tapes of some of the experiences, some of the people, some of the pastors, and some of the shortcomings that I have already witnessed within contemporary "church".  For people who don’t know about the "right" side of the Evangelical see-saw, it will be an education for you.  For those who haven’t experienced much about the "charismatic" movement, you will be "enlightened". For those who haven’t heard much about how many so-called, "Christians", have bought into the misguided doctrine that American is this age’s "chosen people" with the closest form of government to the heart of God, the film will show you what really goes on in many places around the country.  Trust me, there are still many people and many local churches that would rather throw out the pastor before they take the American flag out of their houses of worship.  So, for those of you who find yourself in one of the above "camps", "Jesus Camp" is for you.  For those of you like me who have a long history with rubbing shoulders with Evangelicals, all I can say is, "been there, done that".  No reason to watch the movie…only thing to really do is get on our knees and repent! 

Documentary Addiction…information overload is sometimes important!

99mI have been "enjoying" documentaries of late.  I guess it has to do with seeing television programs and movies that are so self-indulgent and meaningless…most of the shows that I have seen over the last few years make me feel, in most instances, "slimmed" (i.e. Ghostbusters)…at least documentaries have something "meaningful" to share.  It may be "skewed" toward a particular point of view, philosophy, political stance or personal passion but we all have to be honest, EVERY form of art is devoid of moral, political, even spiritual neutrality.  Every art form is attempting to expose the viewer or beholder to the artist’s worldview…with television shows and movies (and music for that matter), they shroud that perspective in "entertainment".  I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that "entertainment" has sought to influence culture’s thought processes and behaviors.  At least with documentaries, you know what you are getting.  They are meant to inform and spark discussion and debate.  They are snapshots of some person’s truth exposed to community/relationship. 

Tonight’s documentary is "Why we Fight"…produced in 2005, it is a very enlightening expose of the "military industrial complex" and why we as a country engage in military conflicts around the globe (some people regard as modern-day imperialism).  It is a good film…highly recommended.  Tomorrow’s "schedule" is the "Jesus Camp" film.  I’ll have more to say on that tomorrow.  There are some great documentaries out there…get on Netflix or Blockbuster online and take a peak at a few.  Good ones I’ve seen of late:  "Who killed the Electric Car", "Inconvenient Truth", "The Blues", "Bonhoeffer", "Beyond the Gates of Splendor", among others.  Email me anytime for a recommendation!

Something to think about…

Chuck_pondering_the_artist
I was giving some thought to the subject of preaching in the local church…how a vast majority of the time, the "pastor/teacher" holds him/herself up in their secret room for time alone with God and the text.  I’ve been thinking that out of that time spent emerges the "sermon" or Word from God for the congregation…I’ve been thinking that literally all of that time, the prevailing hermeneutic is individualistic.  Unfortunately, the prevailing hermeneutic of the text itself is community oriented…in other words, the Word of God is always interpreted in the context of community.  For a vast majority of us, we hold on to an Enlightenment "technique" or "value" of the sermon as the product of the religious expert to share with those who have little, if any, of the expertise or superior knowledge of the pastor/teacher.  It is a "one up/one down" paradigm that causes an insidious codependency upon the preacher/teacher to constantly bring the "goods" that only he/she has access to.  I don’t know…I’m working out in my mind and heart so much of what it means to have the community OWN the role of exegete and hermeneute…we have got to find ways to not only lift up textual/biblical values of community but we have got to also find ways to challenge faith communities (especially here in the West where the "expert" role is so often adhered to and underscored in praxis) to OWN the process of experiencing and working the power of the text/story without the need for the expert.  Until we deal with this, we will continue to hear the phrases, "I’m leaving because I’m not being fed" or "this is pastor you fill in the blank Church", or "what does the pastor say about that…"   Our "clergy-centricity" is not only killing faithful ecclesiology and missiology but it is killing the faith community’s opportunity to own the story of faith that the bible so incredibly illuminates and reveals.  As I said, I’m working this out…what do you think?

Leadership Encouragement from an Unlikely Place

Hey, I’ve been enjoying reading about the battle of Thermopylae from a historical novel, The Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield.  It is simply an incredible read…that’s all I can say.  You can check it out for yourself if you are interested in the story of 300 Spartans holding off for days an army of 2 million Persians under the leadership of a King Xerxes of Persia.  Along the way, Pressfield writes something profound and insightful about leadership…take a peek:

"A king (i.e. leader) does not abide within his tent while his men bleed and die upon the field.  A king does not dine while his men go hungry, nor sleep when they stand at watch upon the wall.  A king does not command his men’s loyalty through fear nor purchase it with gold; he earns their love by the sweat of his own back and the pains he endures for their sake.  That which comprises the harshest burden, a king lifts first and sets down last.  A king does not require service of those he leads but provides it to them.  He serves them, not they him…a king does not expend his substance to enslave men, but by his conduct and example makes them free…"

Not much more to say than that…except that Jesus said some very similar things.  It is amazing to me to watch "ministry leaders" demanding their own way, pontificating, not lifting burdens but creating them out of their own ego needs.  Something completely contrary to what Jesus was all about…don’t you think?

More on the “Fine Line” of Community

Exodus 14 was on the docket last night for the "one year" bible plan.  As I was reading the chapter, a select number of verses were screaming for my attention.  As the people of the covenant were making their first steps into the wilderness, they were deteriorating into an assembly of complaint.  What is interesting to me is that they were fresh on the heels of what some might regard as the miraculous…the "red sea" deliverance from the sure and brutal hand of the Pharoah and his gathering of chariots.  I guess it wasn’t enough for the people to be looking forward into the desert with a freaking pillar of cloud and fire ahead of them…for some reason, that simply wasn’t enough.  They start to beckon to those great and comfortable memories of the past…yes, they were enslaved but apparently one can overlook that reality if food is aplenty and even the slightest of comforts appear in hindsight like the Cairo Hilton.  Oh well…crying out for the past…distorting the present…actually preferring slavery to the freedom that only God can give.  Pathetic…

As many of you know if you have read my recent posts, that the issues of relationships and community have been preeminent on my mind.  The past year has been one of the most trying that I have ever experienced…our feeble attempts at trying to experience all that God has planned for us in Kingdom living in terms of relationships have fallen flat on the pavement time and again.  What is particularly maddening to me is how often what occurred in Exodus 14 is a repeated pattern in the craziness and dysfunction of our lives in community.  As I mentioned in the last post, there is a "fine line" of living in relationships, holding each other accountable yet loving as Jesus has loved us.  Yet, there is more to this "fine line" as you continue to examine it from the depths of your own relational experience.  The people of the Mosaic covenant startled us with what appears to be a "no brainer"  choice…for God’s sake, wouldn’t it be easy to trust God once you have walked across the Red Sea and continue to have your eyes pealed on the astounding presence of God?  But that’s not what happens…well, we aren’t much different. 

We know about how incredibly powerful community can be…we’ve all experienced the love in relationships that soothes the soul and brings meaning to life.  Yet, even though we have experienced all that we have, when we are being "led" into the wilderness of newness…when God calls us to take steps into relational health…when we are fresh from powerful events where true community has proven itself again and again, we prefer the "slavery" to past, destructive tendencies before we trust in God to lovingly lead us to the next oasis of relational refreshment.  Even when we are on the heels of learning again that we can trust those who say and prove they love us…even though we have seen in recent experience that people can be trusted, we prefer to go back to sick, dysfunctional insecurities and walls of hiddenness.  For some reason, NOT trusting others and NOT telling the truth and NOT falling into the "arms" of those who have shown themselves trustworthy time and again feels MORE "right" than doing just the opposite.  What is it in us that prefers slavery to freedom?  What is it, on a broader scale, that prefers to hold on to that which is "dead" instead of trusting God to hang on to and lean into new life?  It is the same in community…community is being hammered and destroyed by those of us who can’t take the next step into the wilderness because we would rather hold on to the past despite how the oft the past is dysfunctional and filled with failure. 

Why not trust God and your community with that first step into the wilderness and see what happens?  Don’t prefer the slavery of the memories of failure and failings…cast your gaze and place your attention on the times where tender words of love and commitment have been shared.  The future isn’t another opportunity for any of us to try those old, worn-out tendencies and feelings that have screwed us in the past…it is an opportunity for us to take the next step remembering how powerful love, companionship and relational trust can be in bringing us to the place we sincerely want to be in life.