Follow up to my post “

1Follow-UpI would encourage you to follow the link HERE and look at all the comments on Scot's blog. There is good discussion, decent/God-honoring push back, and thoughtful response.  In a way of following up on some of what I was attempting to communicate, I'm posting something on my blog that I offered on Scot's this morning:

Looking forward to having a conversation about this post…I wrote it knowing that "language" would have to be parsed, engaged critically and "pastorally" evaluated. In response to a couple of you who seem to imply that ALL churches and ALL pastors should perform all weddings just because it is culturally "accepted" does not take into account that serious minded, loving, humble and compassion Jesus followers don't agree on this issue. My idea puts the responsibility in the "performing" of the marriage "covenant" into the hands of people in faith communities who share a commonality of values as well as specific scriptural adherence. I do not agree that just because the law of the land allows (soon to be) any form of marriage that the local faith community is obligated to jump at the culture's whim. In that case, we would NOT have had the scriptural and historical witness that we do. A Jesus following movement that submits to cultural norms that are built upon a divergent worldview than that of a biblically informed worldview is essentially not one that "stands" for anything. Many of us (not all) would agree that many of these issues are being informed more from a relativistic, individualistic moral/ethical deliberation than that which struggles with the promised "two edged sword" of scripture. I thought that one of the justices actually made a good point yesterday when he remarked that in our culture it is NOW assumed that if you do not accept specific legal definitions of ethical actions that you are now essentially being told that you "hate your neighbor or come along with us." My hope is to have some conversation. I'm at a place where I would let the state be in the "marriage" business while many of us (again, not all) look at marriage from a covenantal, even "sacramental" perspective anew! Talk about your "ancient/future" perspective!

I believe it is time – division of STATE licensing of marriage (civil ceremony) and a SPIRITUAL blessing of marriage

1gods_design_for_marriage_umjrOk – this is bound to be a bit "controversial" for some of you.  For others, it will be a no-brainer.  I believe it is time to separate the civil and "religious" ceremonies of marriage.  In light of the conversations, issues of civil rights and cultural discourse that has surrounded the issue of marriage for "centuries" (believe me, for you students of history, we are not the only people who have struggled with what marriage means – monogamous, man/woman, polygamy, etc. throughout history), it is time to revisit what some countries already practice – first, have EVERY couple seek a marriage license and a state marriage validation through the civil processes.  Get the Justices of the Peace busy with every wedding sought by people within whatever civil definition prevails.  Secondly, for those couples who would like to have a marriage "blessing" from the church (note that I used the small "c" because there is not even unanimity in opinions about the definition of marriage even among relgious communities), have them seek that wedding blessing from within the definition and faith/belief system to which they adhere.  That way, for those faith communities who believe that marriage IS defined by one woman/one man, these communities can continue to abide by their faith/doctrinal systems and embrace their definition of marraige from within the protection of religious liberty.  In this way, NO MORALITY is imposed on the culture in any manner.  In this way, faith communities can continue to practice what many of us feel is an issue that is non-negotiable, that being, a biblical worldview perspective, a biblical narrative/story perspective on the institution of marriage.  For some of my pals this might be seen as a bit dualistic.  I'm NOT trying to imply a separation of the spiritual and material realms.  I still believe we live in a God-soaked world in which there is NO separtion between the secular and sacred.  God's presence in reality as Ultimate reality implies that there is NO SUCH THING as secular space or pure secular living.  What this DOES DO  is give followers of Jesus an opportunity to practice our faith and celebrate our "culture's" adherance, commitments and obedience to our hermeneutic and application of the biblical story (in regards to human relationships, our understanding of family, marriage, etc.).  I don't think there was EVER an expectation within the biblical story that the faith community would be in agreement with cultural norms.  In fact, there are very clear perspectives throughout holy writ that imply that there WILL BE a differentiation with culture.  So, I think it is time to do this with marriage.  In actuality, I think I'm going to begin some discussions with my friends, faith community and fellow scholars about how this idea may take shape in creative action in the days to come.  In this way as well people of faith can support civil rights and NOT get bogged down by accusations of bigotry or hatred due to the legality of ONE issue.  I have compassion and humility with this issue…I also have strong feelings and long-held beliefs about what Christ followers are supposed to uphold when it comes to sexual and relational ethics.  By splitting the two "realities," we live in the best of both worlds.  So, push back anyone?  

I don’t know why I waited for so many years to do this – “Baptism Celebration”

1baptism_celebration_bannerYes, I've performed baptisms…TONS of them.  I wouldn't even venture a guess about how many…children and adults in baptismal fonts in the front part of sanctuaries of worship…hot tubs, beaches, pools, rivers…sprinkling or immersion – as one of my friends says often, "it's all good."  Even so, usually I've done baptisms "one at a time."  In other words, we have intentionally focused on ONE LIFE at a time.  That's important and significant and has always been a blessing.  But I've NEVER done a "Baptism Celebration."  What is a "Baptism Celebration?"  Well, in many faith communities, baptisms are celebrated IN GROUPS as Christ followers come together and have a BUNCH of baptisms happen in one gathering.  I've talked about this before and actually planned a couple of times to do it…but never have.  UNTIL yesterday!  What a celebration!  You can check out some of the pictures if you desire to on our ministry's website ( – look at the picture galleries at the bottom of the home page).  All I can tell you is that it was moving and like a HUGE party…we had some babies and some adults.  We had some who were baptized with a little water (splash) and some with TONS of water (just poured some water on them or pushed their head into a big horse trough). Again, to quote my pal Joe, "it's all good."  There were many (if not most) in our faith community who had never witnessed a celebration like that…it was powerful.  For many, not a dry eye!  God does amazing things.  Something SO simple is SO powerful.  The touch of love and hand of grace…that's what baptism is.  It is a courageous act and also an amazing gift.  I wish I had done this earlier in my life…but I tell you one thing, I'm doing it again.  Really soon! 

21 years and counting!

DSC00378-8Yes, this is my anniversary blog post.  So, for those of you who were looking for some intellectual encouragement, spiritual insight, emotional support or anything other than shameless, self focus, you came to the wrong place today.  

This week, 21 years with my lovely, talented, wonderful, inspirational, and beautiful wife Vicky! I'll stop there…the rest is too personal and sometimes boundaries are important.  Especially when the NSA is watching!  

I know, more “heavy” stuff but this time I’m writing more of a bible study for you!

Some Biblical and
Theological Reflections – what it means to have 
Christ being “formed in

little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until
Christ is formed in you!” Galatians 4:19

Contextually, this section of
Galatians is dealing with the issue of identity and transformation
(sanctification).  The grace of God is a
gift…given to us from a sacrificial God who died and rose to free us from the endless pursuit to save ourselves and to bring us into adoption as His children. 
Adoption is a key word in this section of Galatians.  Adoption is a paradigm shift – from exclusion
to inclusion – from alienation to relational intimacy.  “Adoption” is also a significant issue in a
Jesus-follower’s identity.  A disciple is
“re-branded” or, to utilize contemporary imagery, “has their operating system
replaced.”  There is an essential
transformation -  from separation from
God to that relationship that is embodied in the words, “Abba Father”  – from servant to “son/daughter.”  Paul emphasizes again, lest we forget, are
tempted to deny or take personal credit that all this occurs THROUGH Christ so
that we can be Christ can be formed in us. 
The context shows us a frustrated Paul who cannot understand why people
would desire to return to such an alienated identity.  After the loving reception he had from these
people…people who embraced him and his “gospel”, they are now (to utilize a
phrase from Romans) exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  This brought Paul to a sense of personal
desperation (phraseology that utilizes the pain of childbirth in verse 19) and
disappointment but also inspired him to bring admonishment and correction to
the Galatian faith community.  As he
states in the verse immediately before verse 19, just because he is not present
does not exclude him and his authority/influence from having an impact on these
people that he (and Christ) loves. 
Christ, not the Law or condemnation or a “performance based religion”,
needs to be FORMED in disciples.

“Christ formed in us”

1.   Disciple in/of the Kingdom of God

  • Come to Jesus – fall into Jesus’ grace and mercy
  • “Deny self, carry your cross, follow Me”
  • Personal submission of all we are, have and do to
    the Lordship of Jesus
  • Willing to be reviled and rejected
  • Potentiality of “standing out” – known by others as
    disciples (“salt/light” – Matthew 5:13ff)
  • “Bearing
    fruit” – “Good works are simply fruit
    falling off a tree. If you sink your roots deep in Christ, who is your life,
    you not be able to stop the fruit from coming forth.” Leonard Sweet and
    Frank Viola The Jesus Manifesto

2.  Son of God being formed in us –
Sanctification “process” (not event)

  • Personal
    spiritual formation always goes back to Jesus (His Holy Spirit given as gift –
    John 14-16)
  • We
    “learn” Jesus as disciples
  • We
    share in the Son’s incarnation – we actually repeat the journey of Jesus in a
    contemporary “incarnation”
  • Through
    the Holy Spirit, Jesus indwells in us
  • Philippians
    1:21 – “for me to LIVE is Christ”
  • 1
    John 4:17 – “As HE is – so are WE in the world”
  • Life
    that Jesus LIVED in the past is LIVED in us (Body Life) in the present
  • We
    allow Jesus to live His divine life through us
  • We
    have the mind of Christ – 1 Corinthians 2 – we don’t hope for that, or pray for
    it or ask for it – it is part of our new identity

3.  Christianity is NOT an allegiance to a
complex doctrinal system or an ethical standard.  It is NOT a cause but a life – again, the
LIFE of Christ formed in us.

  • Jesus
    doesn’t need a theological system to analyze, explain or contain Him
  • We live
    a passionate love of Jesus by living a life that is rooted in living the “way,
    truth and life” (remember, Jesus didn’t say He KNEW the way, truth and life”…He
    proclaimed that HE embodied the way, truth and life”, in other words, we know
    the way, truth and life as we know Jesus).
  • Jesus
    is never separated from His Kingdom – that being, the manifestation of God’s
    reign and ruling presence – the Kingdom of God is not just a future hope but a
    present reality through Jesus Christ.
  • Being
    a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean that we simply “imitate” Jesus as much as it
    means Jesus is imparted and implanted in our lives
  • Christian
    living is not “WWJD” (what would Jesus do) but rather, “what is Jesus doing in
    me/us?  Through me/us?
  • Jesus
    doesn’t say, “follow my teachings, my meditations, my lifestyle” – but follow
  • Jesus
    is not just one way, a better way, a pleasant way on a good day – HE is the way
  • Jesus
    is not just one truth, a higher truth, a more personal truth – HE is the truth
  • Jesus
    is not just another life, a nicer life, a more abundant life – HE is life

4.  Here’s some stuff to consider when it comes
to “causes”:

  • When
    we say, “Jesus is Lord”, we do not mean Jesus is our core value or our cause
  • Cultural
    analysis:  since we cannot teach “values,
    morals, right/wrong” (character development) in schools these days, we have
    replaced the development of character with the development of causes – children
    are taught to embrace causes to give personal meaning and purpose in life (“be
    a part of the Green Movement, Gay Movement”, etc.)
  • Cause
    development has become an acceptable substitute for character development
  • Jesus
    is not a cause – He is the real, living, loving God who can be known, loved,
    experienced, enthroned and embodied.  To
    reduce Jesus to a “cause” is to do exactly what the Ephesians are accused of
    doing when John challenged them in Revelation 2 (all works, no love). 

5.  “Christ-likeness” is NOT the Gospel – Christ
being FORMED in/LIVING in/through us is the Gospel

  • Jesus
    did not say He was “like” God, He said He was/is God
  • Jesus
    did not tell us to be “like” Him – we could never live like Jesus
  • To
    pray, “make me more like Jesus” may cheapen the power of the Gospel.  Being “like” Christ puts living more on OUR
    terms than His.  In that instance, we
    would not need Jesus but simply His ideas and teachings.
  • Good
    News – Jesus does not want us to be like Him – He wants us to share His
    life!  He wants us to live in and through
  • We
    are called not to mediate the truth but to manifest Jesus
  • It
    is “safer” to be like Jesus – it is immensely more dangerous to be/live Jesus

Being “formed” in Jesus – is essentially a Trinitarian life lived in/through us
as individual disciples and as a community of faith

An old friend reminded me about this interview with U2’s Bono:

Just last week, Vicky and I were watching another television show that attempts to capture some aspect of what it means to be a Christian.  As usual, the protagonist comes off as a wacko which proves, once again, that the media cannot get what it means to be a Christ follower correct.  Now, I don't expect them to and when there is a televison or movie "portrait" of a Christian, my reaction is always the same – I'm immediately skeptical.  Even so, there are some cultural icons and what some would regard as "entertainer" who do get a chance to share something authentically.  Here's an older interview with U2's Bono.  An old friend brought this to my mind…I've had the interview in a backup file on my laptop so I thought I would resurrect it and post it for you today.  If you haven't read it, it is worth seeing how one person who is often in the media spotlight communicates a God-honoring worldview and perspective on life:

The following excerpt is from the poached egg and can be found at this link. 

Christians in a rock band?

Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.

Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?

Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?

Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.

Bono: Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows

Assayas: So you won’t be critical.

Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.

Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?

Bono: [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.

Assayas: Didn’t he put them on?

Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”

Assayas: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.

Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.

Later in the conversation:
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.