Change – I asked for it!

ChangeOk, so I asked for it!  Somebody can argue with me anytime they want about answered prayer and God not responding to the desires of the heart and I’ll give them a HUGE earful.  Here’s the story…change is in my life.  Welcomed change…big change…in some way, frightful and exciting change.  I can’t get into the WHOLE story because it spans a lifetime…but here’s the story in a nutshell.  I have been a professional church person most of my professional life…I started as a youth pastor when I was the tender age of 17 and a 1/2.  Then, after getting my BA in Religion, it was off to Seminary.  Seminary led to other professional ministry positions (not only in youth ministry but in conference ministry, music ministry, camping and retreat ministry) and after four years not only a MDiv but also ordination into the Lutheran Church.  From 1980 until 2003, I served four different congregations…mostly large ones except for the three years where I labored for the Lord while God was "reconstructing" a deconstructed life…my life which was torn apart by years of overwork, burn out, a broken marriage and a relational/ecclesiastical suicide.  By God’s amazing grace, I had the opportunity to serve a very small but wonderful congregation made up of mostly gray hairs who were used by the Spirit in miraculous ways.  I listened to their stories…ate their cookies…buried their loved ones…and preached/taught my heart back to life.  Then it was on to California for some great years in a church in OC.  In 2003, I left the institutional church after having received a "call" from the Spirit to lead the Youth Leadership Institute…a five year grant program funded by the Lilly Endowment.  The journey at Azusa Pacific University has been fulfilling and challenging.  It was during the last four years that I began my doctoral program and also began to teach biblical studies courses through the Haggard School of Theology.  As the grant ends, my full-time job comes to a completion…but my Adjunct teaching continues.  Unfortunately, not enough income to go it on its own.  So, NOW WHAT?  Well…here’s a peak from behind the curtain:  for years, I’ve been praying about doing life and ministry bi-vocationally.  I’ve bought into a new paradigm…a new lifestyle…a new way of doing "church".  In the past, people who I served paid my salary…now it is time to do something different.  The way I see it is like this – I want to use a couple of people from my current faith community (Re/New Ministry – http://www.renewministry.com) as an example – let’s call them "Joe and Pam".  I’ve been doing life with Joe and Pam for two years in our community.  We’ve been growing and encouraging one another…living the Kingdom life in the context of our community.  We meet on Tuesday night and Sunday nights (alternate weeks) to gather and pray, share our lives, learn, worship and exhort one another in being whom Jesus calls us to be.  That community journey has been a breath of fresh air to my soul after years in institutional religion.  NOT TO SAY THAT THE OLD PARADIGM IS WRONG OR BAD (comment made for the benefit of my pals Nate and my son, Aaron)…I was in a time of my life where I needed and wanted to give some of my dreams a test drive and I discovered that I want to buy in to a new way of doing Kingdom.  Now, I need a job…so I can either turn to Joe and Pam and say, "this is the way it worked for me in the past – people paid me to be their leader in Kingdom matters – open up your checkbook and it’s time to start that process OR I could join them in a bi-vocational lifestyle.  In this snapshot, we all get our financial concerns in life addressed by jobs in the marketplace while still laboring together in the Kingdom vineyards utilizing our God-given giftedness and passions (living missionally).  Well, as I said, God heard the rumblings of my spirit and heart…I got offered a full-time job today in the Funeral Industry that will give me a chance to not only continue my Adjunct teaching for APU and enable me to have our family’s bills paid but will open new doors for living for the Kingdom.  Like I said at the outset, I asked for it!  Now, change is in the wind.  I would have NEVER EVER EVER guessed or anticipated walking into this new time of life…there was a time where I thought I would be on the church’s payroll for the rest of my life.  Truth is, there MAY come a time where our community does get to a point where some one might be needed to organize and lead a more sizeable community…but at that point, IF the community wants to do that, it will be THEIR idea NOT my demand.  Now at least, I can look Joe and Pam in the eye and KNOW what it looks like and "lives" like to be working in the "world" and living for the Kingdom…building relationships like every other person does…using my gifts and abilities in a servant’s manner where "church" expectations no longer exist and where Kingdom opportunities can come in fresh, new ways.  Now, before I close this "dia-dribble", permit me to say "thanks" to those who fed this different mindset – in fact, let me say, "thanks alot!" to:

Nate Barnes
Jim Palmer
Spencer Burke
Mike DeVries
Mike Erre
Sally and Roy Miller
Johnny Baker
Andrew Jones
Brother Maynard
Len, Alan, Mark, Rickard and the Allelon "gang"
Don Miller
Brian McLaren
Lesslie Newbigin
NT Wright
Len Sweet
CS Lewis
JR Tolkien
Eugene Peterson
Dave Moore
My entire community and family (who will remain more or less nameless)
Blind Beggar
Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Trace and Becca Bundy
Chris Yambar
Dennis Hixson
Tim Burke
David Fitch
George Barna
Troy Murphy
Mike Frost
Steve Peisner
Heidi West
Mitch Majeski
Murray Flagg
Dennis Olkholm
Alan Hirsch
And a number of others (frankly, I don’t want to embarrass anybody else)

Each of these people had some say in how my heart and mind is being reshaped.  I hold them responsible!  I"m not going to link each name…too many peeps.  Google them on your own!  So, I’m entering the "change"…I asked for it!  More to come…

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Taking a few days off…

Yep, going to take some time away from my blog…family is here…we’re having fun…computers remind me of a few things – work, work, and doctoral dissertations…so I’m walking away from it for a few days.  See ya soon!

Merry Christmas and happy 2008!

Day SIX of O Antiphon! Got your “O” on?

December 22 – Jesus as King
Readings:  Zechariah 9:9-10 / 1 Peter 2:4-6

O King of nations,
the ruler they long for,
the cornerstone uniting all people:
Come and save us all,
whom you formed out of clay.

Jesus is both King and Cornerstone.  As King he governs by His gracious reign of forgiveness and peace as King of kings.  As Cornerstone He sets all the angles square and unites His church together as one.

He is the potter, we are the clay.  He is the King, we are His subjects.  He is the Cornerstone, we are living stones built into a temple for His Name.  We want this, and then again, we don’t want it.  The sinful nature resents the potter, refuses the king, resists the cornerstone.  Sin is the overthrow of God’s reign, the attempt to be a god in place of God.  It is the rebellion of the clay against the potter who shaped it.  It is our attempt to determine the lines of our future and destiny, to be our own cornerstone.

The outcome is chaos and death.  A kingdom in which everyone is king is not a kingdom at all.  It is anarchy.  A building in which every stone is the cornerstone is a pile of rock.  Individualism ends in isolation.  It is death to family, to community.  It was not good that man was alone.  God put us into community.  Sin erects walls, both visible and invisible, barriers to community.  We define the boundaries of our own little kingdoms and vow to defend them to the death.

Christ has come as King and Cornerstone.  His coming was without the trappings of royalty.  A virgin mother.  A manger crib.  He rode atop a donkey to his death.  He wore the purple robes of royalty only as He was mocked.  His crown was made of thorns.  His throne was a cross.  He is a beggar king in a kingdom of beggars.

The crucified King is the King of kings.  The rejected stone is the cornerstone.  As His second advent draws ever nearer, we are reminded that His kingdom is not of this world, that His rule is eternal, that He governs with the sword of His Word.  As His baptized believers, we are privileged to enjoy His reign even now through faith, to live under Him in His kingdom, and to serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.

Day FIVE of O Antiphon! Got your “O” on?

December 21 – Jesus the Morning Star
Readings:  Isaiah 9:1-7 / Malachi 4:2 / Revelation 22:16

O Dayspring,
splendor of light everlasting:
Come and enlighten
those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death.

Today is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.  And the longest night.  Though it is the darkest day, the Advent candles burn brightly.  The church calls from the darkness to her Lord, the Dayspring from on high, who is “the joyous light of glory.”

God is light, and in Him there is no darkness.  God spoke light into the darkness.  Light means life.  Without light there is no life.  Darkness is death, the silence of God, the absence of God.

Our sin plunged the creation into darkness and death.  Sin loves the darkness and hates the light.  Sin loves the death and hates the life.  Man turned away from God hides in the darkness.  Adam hid in the darkness of the trees.  Judas betrayed his Lord at night.  Sin seeks shelter under the cover of darkness.  Darkness cannot produce light.  It is nothing, formless and void, empty.  Light must be spoken into darkness from the outside.

God sent His Son, the light of the world thrown into darkness.  He is the light no darkness can overcome, the light of God’s love, His promise of mercy.  “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.”  Jesus is the Morning Star, the Dayspring, the signal of the coming morning.  Day is at hand.  The Dayspring has risen.  The sun of righteousness rises with healing in His wings.  He was born in darkness that we might be reborn as children of the light.  He died in darkness that we might live in the light of His life.  He rose at dawn to usher in the new day of His resurrection.  He shines into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who works through the Word, dispelling the darkness, killing the death, bringing light and life.

Advent calls us out of the darkness to live in the light of Christ, to be the children of the Light that we are.  “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  The night is over.  The Day has dawned.  Christ has risen from the dead.  He has cast the bright beams of His light upon you.

Flee the darkness.  Confess your sin.  Expose the darkness, the death, to His light.  Cling to the light of His Word.  Live in the warm brightness of His Light.  “You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Day FOUR of O Antiphon! Got your “O” on?

December 20 – Jesus, Key of David
Readings:  Isaiah 22:15-25 / Matthew 16:13-20

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel,
you open and no one can close,
you close and no one can open:
Come and rescue the prisoners
who are in darkness and the shadow of death.

Keys represent authority.  The one who has the keys has authority.  Shebna was King Hezekiah’s chief-of-staff.  He held the keys to the palace.  He misused his authority by having his tomb carved where kings were buried and to enrich himself at his master’s expense.  The servant wanted to be king.  And so he was stripped of his office, and Eliakim was called to replace him.  Shebna had to turn in his keys.  It’s a dire warning to all who hold authority not to use it for personal profit.

God used this little bit of palace power politics to prophesy something greater:  “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.”  Those words are applied to Christ in the Revelation.  He is the one “who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.”

Sin locks the doors on us.  It makes our lives a prison house of fear.  Like the disciples in the upper room on Easter evening, we are locked up into ourselves, locked away from others.  We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.  No matter how much we struggle against the chains and rattle the bars, we are unable to break out of the prison.

But Christ has come and entered the prison house.  He took on the Law’s death sentence.  He stormed the gates of death and hell with His death.  He turns the key to our prison cell.  He is the key, the key that unlocks us from the Law and breaks the chains of death that bind us in fear. He sets us free to live as free children in His free city.

Jesus is the key of David, who opens and no one can close, who closes and no one can open.  And He entrusts the keys to His church, to bind and loose from sin in His name.  He established the office of the keys in the church, that is, the office of the ministry.  That is the office that turns the keys, which bind and loose.  We don’t have to wonder where the keys to heaven are.  They are in the mouth of Peter and of the pastor God has called and ordained to speak forgiveness to you.  His mouth is the Lord’s mouth to forgive you.  The sins he forgives are forgiven; the sins he retains are retained.  He turns the key that unbinds you from your sin and frees you.  He does it no on his own authority, but by the permission of the One who is the Key of David.

Advent disciplines us in the discipline of being forgiven, of living in the freedom of forgiveness, of delighting in the Key of David that unlocks us from our sin.

Day THREE of O Antiphon! Got your “O” on?

December 19 – Jesus the root of Jesse
Readings:  Isaiah 11:1-16 / Revelation 22:16

O Root of Jesse,
standing as an ensign before the peoples,
before whom all kings are mute,
to whom the nations will do homage;
Come quickly to deliver us.

“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.”  Leave it to the Lord to make an homely root his banner, the flag at which all kings will be silent and all nations will bow.  Roots are best-left unseen, underground, invisibly drawing up nutrients from the soil, feeding the branches, which produce leaves and fruit.  Expose the root and the whole tree dies.  But cut down the tree even to a stump and it will return, as long as the root is alive.

The Root of Jesse is God’s Promise that David’s throne would stand forever. That a son of David would establish his kingdom and sit on his throne.  That promise is the root of Israel.  Even when the tree was cut down, when Israel was reduced to a lifeless stump, the Promise lived in the Root.  “Then shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”

Our sin goes all the way to the root.  Not only the fruit, but also the whole tree is bad, roots and all.  The axe of the Law must be laid to the root.  We must die and rise anew.  It’s the only way to save us.  We must be grafted to new rootstock.  We must be joined to the stump of Jesse, fed by the Root of Jesse, nourished by the Promise of God to save.

God grafted His Root to our sin, nailing it to a cross.  The Root of Jesse became a banner for the world to see.  Jesus of Nazareth.  David’s son, David’s Root, David’s Lord.  “"I am the root and offspring of David,”  Jesus said in the last of His I AMs (Rev 22:16).   He was lifted up on the tree of the cross, a banner for the nations to see.  As Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness as an emblem of healing, so the Root of Jesse was lifted up the cross.  Here is how God saves from sin and death.  He sets the axe of the Law against His own Root, His Son, and then joins you to His death.  The cross is the meeting place of God and man, Law and Gospel, wrath and mercy.  There the Root takes up your sin.  There He feeds you His righteousness.

You were grafted to the Root of Jesse in Baptism.  Don’t let the graft dry out; always keep it immersed in baptismal water.  Draw on His forgiveness, His life, and His salvation.  You are living branches grafted to the living Root of Jesse. Jesus is your Vine and your Root.   Apart from Him you can do nothing.  Joined to Him, believing in Him, you bear much fruit.

Wait patiently on this Root of Jesse.  He is the source of your life, who now feeds and forgives you, who nourishes and sustains you, and will come to raise you.

Day TWO of O Antiphon! Got your “O” on?

December 18 – Jesus as Lord
Readings:  Exodus 3:1-15 / Philippians 2:5-11

O Adonai and Ruler of the house of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the burning bush
and gave him the Law on Sinai:
Come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.

Adonai is Hebrew for Lord.  Lord is the substitute term for Yahweh, the sacred, saving, Gospel name of God in the Torah.  Remember, Yahweh is the translation of the “unspoken” name of God…pronounce “Yo-hey-vah-hey”. “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘Yahweh the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’”  This is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”  To say Adonai is to say Yahweh, the Name that saves.

“Whom shall I say sent me?  What is His Name?”   To have the Name of God is to have God Himself.  “Tell them Ehyeh asher ehyeh sent you.”  I am who I am.  Ehyeh.  I AM.  YHWH.  He is the One who is.  The God whose saving Name is a verb.  His Name is action.

Every day, in the morning and in the evening, the Name of the Lord was proclaimed:

“Shema Israel, Adonai eluhenu, Adonai echad.”  Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD alone.  There is none other like YHWH.  (Deut. 6:4)

Where God’s Name is, there He holy ground.  The Lord is present.  Where His Name is, there is Gospel fire, fire that burns but does not consume.  His burning love and passion to save.  Where His Name is, there He is mighty to save.  “I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment, and I will take you for my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am Yahweh, your God.”

“Hail, O favored one, Yahweh is with you,” the angel said to Mary.  “You will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, Y’shua.  Yahweh is salvation.  Jesus incarnates the Name of God.  He is YHWH in the flesh.  “Before Abraham was, I AM,” Jesus said.  To reject this Jesus is to reject the I AM of the burning bush, YHWH of Sinai and the Red Sea, the Lord of Israel, the Lord of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  There is no other Name, no other Lord who saves you.

To have a Lord is to have a redeemer.  Jesus is your Adonai, your Redeemer.  You didn’t make Him Lord.  He became your Lord by dying and rising for you, and by baptizing you into His death and resurrection.  He will come to raise the dead.  And then you will confess what you now confess by faith:  Adonai Y’shua Hamashiach.  Lord Jesus Christ.

Day ONE of O Antiphon! Got your “O” on?

This week’s blog posts are part of the long tradition of Christian history…they are called “The “O Antiphons”.  The O Antiphons refer to the seven prayers that are recited (or sung) preceding song of Mary (called the Magnificat in Luke 2) in worship. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the “Octave” before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.  By the way, ancient Christ-followers actually stayed up all night to celebrate Christmas.  They started worship at 11:00pm and didn’t stop until well into Christmas morning!  The exact origin of these prayers is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine monastery of Fleury (in modern France), the monastery leaders in descending rank recited these antiphons, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in worship celebrations in medieval Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrase, “Keep your O” was a commonly heard encouragement. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our worship traditions since the very early Church.  So, besides hanging with Bro Maynard’s journey through Advent and the Divine Offices, I’m posting these devotionals to keep our hearts focused!

December 17 – Jesus as the Wisdom of God
Readings:  Proverbs 8 / Corinthians 1:18-31

O Wisdom,
proceeding from the mouth of the Most High,
pervading and permeating all creation,
mightily ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Wisdom is God’s mouthpiece, the One who speaks the truth about God from the mouth of God.  By wisdom the simple gain prudence, and the foolish gain understanding.  Wisdom is more precious than jewels; wisdom’s gifts are worth more than gold.  Wisdom is a gift from God.  For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.  Wisdom is knowledge and understanding shaped by the fear of the Lord.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Wisdom left its mark on the created order.  Through Wisdom all things were created.  Wisdom was with God before all things, and through Wisdom all things were made.  The beauty of the stars, the splendor of the seas, the marvelous variety of birds and fishes, the intricacies of a DNA double-helix, the mystery of distant galaxies.  These are Wisdom’s fingerprints.  Science can dust for Designer’s fingerprints, but cannot see the designing hand.  That can be perceived only by faith.

Man turned away from God seeks knowledge without the Wisdom of God.    Study the creation without worshipping the Creator.  Worship the creature instead of the Creator.  “You can be like God,” said the original Lie.  “You can have knowledge without God.  Just reach in for yourself and grab it.”  That is not the way of Wisdom but Folly, foolishness, unbelief.  “The fool says in his heart there is no God.”  The end of Folly is death.

Jesus Christ is Wisdom incarnate, holy Wisdom in the flesh.  He is the “power of God and the wisdom of God.”  “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  He reflects the very glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.”  He is the “glue” that holds the universe together.  Your cells, your DNA, a table, a chair – they hold together by the power of His word.  It’s what the scientists search for and long to find.  The ordering wisdom of the universe.  The intelligent Designer.  He is Jesus Christ – the One born in Bethlehem who hung on a cross and rose from the dead.

He teaches us the way of prudence, the way of Wisdom that leads to life.  That way is the way of the cross, of dying and rising, of repentance and faith.  This way is foolishness to the wordly-wise, yet to those made wise through His Word and Spirit, it is God’s holy wisdom to save.  He will come to raise us one day.

And then you who are wise in Him will shine as the brightness of the heavens.

New and Disturbing Information regarding teens and young adults…

Disturbed2

New Research published today in YPulse (thanks to Marko of YS for bringing it to our attention) tells of the reality of the ethics of teenagers and young adults.  You’ve got lying, cheating, plagiarizing, winning at all costs, and pornography all mentioned.  I tell you…no wonder we are fighting an uphill battle.  Remember, research also tells us that there is NO qualitative difference these days in the behavior of professed Christians and the rest of culture.  That opens the door to critique and analysis of the effectiveness of youth ministry in local churches…there are big issues out there affecting real kids…we have to have some serious discussions about what strategies are necessary to start seeing authentic transformation in lives.  Here’s the first article:

"The majority of teens surveyed (71 percent) say they
feel fully prepared to make ethical decisions when they enter the
workforce. Yet 38 percent of that group believe it is sometimes
necessary to cheat, plagiarize, lie or even behave violently in order
to succeed. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of all teens surveyed think
cheating on a test is acceptable on some level, and more than half of
those teens (54 percent) say their personal desire to succeed is the
rationale.  In a particularly alarming finding given recent cases of school
violence, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of all teens surveyed think
violence toward another person is acceptable on some level. Of those
who think so, the justifications for violence include settling an
argument (27 percent) and revenge (20 percent).  Pressure to succeed in school seems to be driving many teens’
opinions that unethical behavior is an acceptable means to an end. Of
the teens who think plagiarism is acceptable on some level, 37 percent
think a personal desire to succeed is justification — that number
climbs to 51 percent among the students who feel overwhelming pressure
to succeed.  Pressure to succeed in school seems to be driving many teens’ opinions
that unethical behavior is an acceptable means to an end. Of the teens
who think plagiarism is acceptable on some level, 37 percent think a
personal desire to succeed is justification — that number climbs to 51
percent among the students who feel overwhelming pressure to succeed.  The survey also found that teens have difficulty in understanding that
unethical behavior transcends the boundaries between private life,
school or work life, and online behavior. More than a quarter (27
percent) of all teens surveyed said it is not fair for an employer to
suspend or fire employees for unethical behavior outside of their jobs
and another quarter (26 percent) said they weren’t sure if it was fair
or not.  Additionally, more than half (57 percent) of all teens
surveyed believe it is not fair for employers to make hiring or firing
decisions based on material they have posted to the internet and
another 19 percent weren’t sure if it was fair or not. Illustrating
teens’ perception of different ethical standards for online versus
"real world" behavior, nearly half (47 percent) of teens said it was
acceptable on some level to illegally download music without paying for
it, but only 5 percent said it was acceptable to steal something from a
store."

And then…an article in USA Today – Health and Behavior Section:

"The researchers found that young men were much
more likely to use pornography: 86% reported that they viewed such
material in the past year. The study also found that one in five young
men said they viewed pornographic material every day or nearly every
day.  But only 31% of young women reported any viewing of pornography. Only 3.2% said they saw such material weekly or daily.  The gender differences in use and acceptance
raise a lot of questions, Arnett says. For example, will the college
students change their attitudes toward porn as they get older and form
stable relationships? Young women who say they are tolerant of viewing
Internet porn might not be so accepting of a spouse who’s visiting an
X-rated site every day, he says.  The study also linked regular porn use with
risky behaviors, Carroll says. Regular porn users were more likely to
go on drinking binges and more likely to have sex with multiple
partners.  Additional studies must be done to determine
whether frequent porn use leads to greater acceptance of such behavior,
which can put students at risk for a host of health problems, such as
alcoholism and sexually transmitted diseases, he says.  Children and teenagers are regularly bombarded
with X-rated and suggestive images that imply that casual hook-ups are
the norm, says Sabrina Weill, editor in chief of MomLogic, a website
that helps mothers deal with a variety of parenting problems."