I admit it – I’m a U2 fan for MANY reasons…

3292882551_4c9d8880fc Good music…great guitar work…I've seen them live and have most of their recordings.  U2 continues to shape music as well as issues that have to do with making present God's Kingdom in real life through their recording and personal efforts.  Are they perfect?  No…just as you and I aren't perfect.  But ever since the earliest days with "In the name of Love", through Joshua Tree and into their latest work, I'm continually amazed at what they have become as a band and as men. 

I read an article based upon a book (that I haven't read from 2005) about Bono last week…within the book is a snippet of an interview given by Bono with the book's author.  I love this stuff about Karma and Grace…if you haven't seen it or read it, I think you will enjoy it (Excerpt from the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas)

Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that's normal. It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.

Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s—. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled . It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That's a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it's close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world's great thinkers. But Son of God, isn't that farfetched?

Bono: No, it's not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he's gonna keep saying this. So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had "King of the Jews" on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that's farfetched

Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:

Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.


Selling the church building…what would we do?

Index What if we sold the church?

It started as a relatively simple email with a simple, common attachment…one of the leaders on the leadership team of our faith community sent an email out to the rest of the team with a summary of our discussion when we met a week ago.  Now, you can have “spell check” on your computer…you can have all the technological bells and whistles but sooner or later, a word or two is going to get past even the most sophisticated of technology traps.  As you might imagine, one word got by the computer sensors that caused a delightful discussion.  Here’s what happened – as our “note-taker” was attempting to summarize a brainstorming session, one of our leaders said we should consider “cell churches”…that being, the firm conviction based upon the words of Jesus that “Where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst (Matthew 18).  You see, those words define what a church is – like I've been telling the people of our congregation lately, “Peace (or any “Church” for that matter) is a congregation of ‘churches.’” Well, instead of the phrase “cell” churches being articulated in the minutes, it was posted (went through the gambit of technology) as “SELL CHURCHES”.  That one small glitch in spell check touched off a very interesting discussion among a few of our leaders who caught it.  One of the other leaders in the group emailed us and said,

“I guess we could add “Sell Church” to the list…especially if the Real Estate market goes back up…from a brainstorming perspective I wonder what ministry ideas would come out around a discussion of selling the church…a discussion on that topic could lead to a fantastic idea for ministry…yet be unrelated to actually selling the church”

Selling the church…now, I'm not proposing (at least seriously) that we all just go out today and get rid of our buildings…but think with me…what would we do?  What would YOU do?  It is an interesting and provocative question, huh?  So, for the next few moments, imagine with me, what if we did sell?   Here are some considerations that I shared with our "congregation of churches" last Sunday during my little talk…obviously, I am not including every word I shared…but this will give you the gist of what came out of my heart and mouth:

1.  We would live our lives as followers of Jesus – we would live out the presence of Jesus as those who are imbedded and indigenous in our relationships…in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces…everywhere we go and live our lives.  We wouldn’t be following personalities, historical movements, and we wouldn’t try to summarize our lives by thinking we possessed a membership in a club…we would simply identify ourselves as followers of Jesus, alive in Christ, living and relating to others through the leadership and power of the Spirit.

2.  We would find ways to connect with others who follow the same Lord  – Ephesians 4 say we share one faith, one Spirit, one Father…in other words, it is in our DNA spiritually to seek out others who follow the same Lord.

3.  We would seek out the other gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4) because there is something that we are missing when we don’t have all the gifts/parts of the body.  We all know that – if I’m a hand, I know I need more to be complete.  YES, I am complete in Christ but I am also a part of HIS Body.

4.  We would rely on ourselves for spiritual development – need we even talk about the "Reveal" study from Willow Creek again?  If you haven't heard about it, google it and take a look at what many of us have believed for a long time…program-driven methodologies DO NOT accomplish the purposes of God…they don't build disciples that are faithful to the call of Jesus to "make disciples"…they do produce program addictions and underscore the insatiable issue that "churchworld" has with consumerism…but I digress…this too is OBVIOUSLY a bigger issue to discuss…let me suffice to say that each follower of Jesus needs to take personal responsibility for their own growth and spiritual formation within the context of relationships and community.  We need to help people "own" their spiritual development (see Philippians 1:6)…

5.  We would find ways to worship, grow, and serve in community…that being, in vital relationship with those who serve and follow the same Lord.

6.  We would disciple others naturally…we would go and be amongst people we knew and we would share our lives and gifts.  All we would be doing is being bold enough to live out our identity as disciples of Jesus. 

7.  We would be ultimately more dependent upon the Holy Spirit and NOT co-dependent upon the church.  That’s a bigger point than you can imagine…but let’s suffice to say that our dependency upon the Spirit would NECESSARILY skyrocket.

You see, in the Transfiguration story that is shown to us in Matthew, Mark and Luke, we see a very important spiritual paradigm.  Jesus NEVER INTENDED for us to set up booths or memorialize or attempt to repeat past spiritual experiences.  You get stuck with too big of a rear view mirror and you can’t see where you are or where you are going.  So many idolize their past (which breaks the 2nd commandment about worshipping other gods)…for many their “god” becomes the past…they can’t follow Jesus now because it isn’t the way that “we’ve always done it”.   Don’t mistake me…the past is important in shaping us but our God is a God of the NOW…it is the Spirit of God that is moving in our lives NOW…how are we listening and responding to His leadership in our lives?

8.  We would be the church instead of go to church…look at that sentence carefully because it is significant. 

9.  Lastly, what would happen, and I write this in love, eventually we would build another building and eventually get to the point where another pastor or leader or teacher or prophet would have to ask the same question we began with…

Well, that's about it…I had to end my message time on Sunday by assuring people that we were NOT going to sell the church building.  We thank God for what we can all do in the meeting spaces that have been built over the decades…we thank God for the sacrifice and love that has been poured into places of worship, learning, disciple-making and service that countless saints have provided us as a gift of faith…but still, the question alone should be a wake up call.  In a way it can snap us back to reality and help us examine what we really believe and how we live out our call from Jesus as His disciples.  Followers of Jesus were never meant to be warehoused…the buildings we have are wonderful conveniences but are not necessary for life in Christ…what is necessary is faithfulness, courage, openness, listening and responding to the Spirit and sharing in such a life together in community where people see, celebrate and experience the love of God which is beyond measure.

In the age of entitlement, a “voice of reason”


I've often thought that what some people need is a good dose of reality.  We could talk about that theologically…but that's not today's "point".  In a time where everyone seems to want to affirm the special giftedness of every child (which IS important) at the expense of reality of life (its brokenness, unfairness, the law of undulation via CS Lewis, etc.) sometimes a fresh "voice of reason" needs to remind us all that life doesn't bow down to a person.  Not every child will make it to the pros…get a full-ride college scholarship…or go to the moon.  Children as they "grow up" will experience failure…get a bad grade…not get a ribbon for every event…not get that job that they want after they submit their first resume…they will get chewed out by the boss…get into debt…and not be treated as special by the highway patrolman when they are pulled over for speeding.  So, watch this for a good palete cleaning…enjoy!

There’s an app for that!

Iphone-app-store2 I saw the following story on my google page…it caught my eye so I thought I would read the entire article.  Apparently, the Catholic Church has approved an iPhone app that helps guide worshippers
through confession.  I thought, "what a great idea" and ONLY for $2.00!  Here's how it is described:

Described as "the perfect aid for every penitent", it offers users tips and guidelines to help them with the sacrament.  Now senior church officials in both the UK and US have given it their seal of approval, in what is thought to be a first. The app takes users through the sacrament – in which Catholics admit their wrongdoings – and allows them to keep track of their sins.  It also allows them to examine their conscience based on personalised factors such as age, sex and marital status – but it is not intended to replace traditional confession entirely. Instead, it encourages users to understand their actions and then visit their priest for absolution.

This is ingenious!  Frankly, I don't know why I didn't think of it before they did.  I was wondering how to raise a few extra bucks?  I was thinking that maybe we should put communion in an app too!   You know they have an app to simulate drinking a beer…why not have a piece of bread or better yet, one of those styrofoam wafers and a small glass of wine…or for an extra fee, you can have a common cup and drink as much as your conscience requires.  In fact, we can do baptism by app as well…unless of course you want to be immersed..that will be a bit more complex…but give me some time and I'm sure we can come up for an app for that!  You have sermon apps already…pretty soon you can have an entire faith community app where you can sit wherever you are an pretend you are living in community having real relationships.  I guess James got it wrong when he encouraged us to confess to each other…maybe he was simply prophesying about apps…I'm sure he was, come to think of it.  Soon we won't have to do anything with pesky relationships…who needs real people…a real touch…a real sympathetic ear or word of forgiveness or reassurance.  We'll have apps for real living…we can sit back and pretent to have a life.  Real living?  There's an app for that!

A “Burning Platform”…basically, a wake up call!

Burningplatform I like this post not because I am a business leader (although some might debate that with me) but rather because it asks some very important questions and raises important issues of the urgency at which we live life.  So much of the time in the life that I live especially in my relationships and in my passion for the Kingdom, I get into skimming…just living in a survival mode trying to put one foot in fronot of the other and neglecting the bigger questions.  I put many things on hold and then pretend that they will go away…only they don't.  They smolder and eventually bring down the house of cards that I've been pretending is really a house built on a solid rock.  I need to keep diligent in paying attention to "burning platforms"…not skim, not just "deal", not put off or put on hold…but deal with today's fires today. 

It is a good post…from a thoughtful source…I'm going to include a portion of the post that you can read by following the link below it…but here's the gist:

"More often than not – in our businesses, our careers, our relationships, and in our very lives – we stand atop our own “burning platforms”, resisting or ignoring the clear signs that we are in danger and that a radical change in behavior is needed to survive or to lead a life worth living.

And, as individuals, we should be asking ourselves…

  • Do I love what I do? Do I have a purpose? Am I accomplishing my goals and following my passion? Or am I settling/playing it safe?
  • Is my marriage or relationship fulfilling? Do I regularly give my best to my family? Am I still in love?
  • If nothing changes, if I continue down this path and look back on my life in 10 to 20, will I have any regrets?
  • What am I pretending not to know?

No matter how successful your company or your life, we typically have at least one “burning platform” smoldering at any given time. Take this opportunity to confront it and engage in some radical behavior change today.

http://www.fierceinc.com/blog/?p=1332 – from the Fierce Blog

Open Source Discipleship…

20081217044913!Wikipedia-logo I wasn't too familiar with Wikipedia years ago…I remember the first time I saw it online…frankly as a part of the Guttenberg generation, I thought it was heresy!  How could an article on some topic of interest be "aired" publicly if it wasn't written by a "expert"?  Couldn't that get us into trouble?  For some "odd" reason, for years I simply accepted encyclopedias, dictionaries, commentaries, etc. because they were proportedly arranged by and delivered to the "common person" by the smart people (intellectually gifted, authoritatively elite) within our society.  I never gave it another thought…if it had "Encyclopedia Brittanica" on the cover, I put my trust in the so-called experts.  Well, times have changed.  Now we have open source, collaborative definition…as stated by the following:

"The open source model includes the concept of concurrent yet different agendas and differing approaches in production or analyzation and definition… it is in contrast with more centralized models of development such as those typically used in the past.  A main principle and practice of open source development is peer producttion by collaboration with the end-product being available to the public for its collaboration as well".  

Open Source is just that…it opens definition up to collaboration and relational accountability.  It is, in many respects, like facting an adaptive challenge vs. a technical challenge…in other words, that which is "expert driven" versus that where it takes an impassioned and focused community in which to address a particular problem or dillema.  Now, don't get me wrong…I can understand the limitations of open source materials…in fact, in some of the college teaching that I do I still ask students to move beyond that which they can access online by getting their information from something called a book in something called a libarary.  But I had to come to some hard realizations as someone who is living in a "new world"…a Google-driven, wiki-world…to deal exclusively with the printed page was not cutting it.  There was something broader and richer that I was missing in my "head in the sand" resistance to anything "wiki".  So, I came to appreciate "open source" definition…

So, lately I've been taking this open source thinking for a bit of a spin in other areas of life…put it this way, I think the same can be said of being and growing as a disciplewe used to be dependant upon the so-called experts…those who had the training and expertise to guide and take responsibility for the production of so-called Christian living or successful, "faithful" church life.  There were books written as well as conferences, seminars and courses taught by the experts who were more than ready to give the humble and receptive there prescription on how to live the life they've discovered or to build a church just like they had built.  All one needed to do was consult the experts and the rest of thinking had been done.  In fact, I heard more about trust in experts than I did on trusting the Holy Spirit for many of my tender years as a follower of Jesus. 

But times have changed…we are now in a time of open source discipleship…probably the most potent time in history outside of those early decades of following Jesus…yes, the apostles were around during those early years but make no mistake about it – it was the Holy Spirit that reigned.  It was the acts of the Holy Spirit that every one had access to and through whom those faithful early followers discovered what it meant for them to embrace their identity in Jesus, grow together in the bond of peace and appreciation for every gift that was brought to bear in their expontentially growing, disciple-making, fruitfulled lives.  In fact, you would be hard pressed to discover any other meaning in the New Testament other than what is said in Ephesians concerning the importance of the collaboration of gifts…

"…we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love"  Paul in Ephesians 4:15-16

I've search for intellectual elitism in this section of scripture…and I come up empty every time.  It seems that the more and more I look at this text and others, the more I am struck by the fact that we are living in a time where the Spirit of God is attempting to hand the keys of the Kingdom back to the people to which it first belonged…every follower of Jesus who is made alive in Jesus and who is empowered by the Holy Spirit.  It is "open source discipleship" time…as we collaborate together as followers of Jesus…each of us adding that part of the story that is uniquely ours and desperately needed for the larger story to be actualized in our lives.   

By the way, do you want to know a little bit more about Wikipedia?  Just take a gander at this video:

Finally, a conference that looks interesting…and real!

Finally, a Conference (The Epic Fail Conference) that might be interesting to attend!  No success strategies…no leaders with big cheshire cat smiles pretending they have all the answers…no book sales…no resources to buy or attempt to implant within our spheres of influence…finally stories of lamentation, woe, struggle and reality.  I've been to my share of conferences over the years…MOST have been done by humble people who KNOW in their gut that any apparent (world-defined, culturally acceptable and worshipped) success is ONLY a gift from God and NOT of their choice, desire or goal…but there have been conferences where it is obvious that the people leading it have a big chip on their shoulder…mostly the chip looks like themselves.  Anybody with a good idea or a "successful" ministry (i.e. large, big, mega, multi, profitable, etc.) hosts a conference to fill the world in on their little secret OR, more intriguing/nauseating, to market or franchise themselves.  So, it is extremely refreshing to see a conference for what most people know ministry to be – real…heart wrenching…painful at times…filled with broken people and no guarentees…thanks to my online friend Jamie for bringing this to my attention.  I can't attend…but I'll be happy to buy all the recordings, all the books and resources that celebrate that paradigm!  1

This picture does describe a growing reality…

I don't know where I downloaded this picture but it is starting to describe a growing reality for many people who are "in love" with technology.  A few months back I read a book on the mentality of technological endeavors – not only planned obselence but growing addiction.  Faster speeds, bigger downloads, high-quality graphics, more "life-like"…cell phones that can broadcast television shows, keep you locked on a visual of your pals and loved ones…talk to you about current events…you see where all this is heading, don't you?  Far be it from me to jump on a "bash technology" bandwagon for I love it like the next guy.  Truth is, when a new guitar pedal comes out or that long-anticipated upgrade to the IPad is announced…hey, I'll be there chomping at the bit.  But a "bermuda triangle" is forming for many of us…I can't remember the last time I just spent a hour or so NOT doing anything but being quiet…I can't remember the last time I wasn't tempted to check email, post on FB, do some blogging, read an article, work on an online course I am teaching, watch the latest cool youtube video, or play a mindless game of angry birds.  Some one told me a long time ago that the screen was going to soon be our "god"…frankly, it might not become a diety but it definitely demands our attention and can coerce us into being lost at the sea of life.  So, I think I'll stop typing for a bit…maybe I'll turn on the tv for a news update…er, no.  Oh I know – I'll go for a drive…now, where was my Ipod?  No, how about a little guitar playing – where did I put my pedal board…oh now, a post on Facebook!  Help!!!!!!