A special message I gave to my doctoral students that works for ANYONE celebrating Thanksgiving!

GiphyHere's something to think about today…consider the Good Samaritan parable. Think about that powerful story of Jesus illustrating to us what life looks like from a Kingdom perspective. You may even want to read it (see Luke 10). Great story! Now, what does it mean?  REMEMBER, in biblical interpretation, CONTEXT is key. In the context of this section, a religious "expert" ask Jesus about eternal life. Now, the translation of "eternal" here is a bit deceptive because it would probably be BEST translated "abundant" life (something that Jesus talked about often…Kingdom life is eternal life but it is life here and now AND in the future). This "religious" guy is trying to figure out the way to live the best life possible. Jesus say, "live by God's design." You see, the LAW (Torah, first five books of the bible) are really books that lay out God's design for human life. Many people see the Torah as restrictive when Torah was said, at the time of Jesus, to be "the way, the truth, and the life" (sound familiar?). Jesus quotes the Old Testament which he says is summarized as "loving God and loving our neighbor" (a friend of mine, Dr. Scot McKnight calls this "The Jesus Creed").

The expert could be seen as looking for a loophole with his question about the neighbor. You see, for most people loving God is easy…it is a journey that many people feel good about in terms of their worship and prayer life. I don't know many people who would have a problem with God. The BIG problem has to be in loving our neighbor. People, well, they are messy and it is difficult to really love someone else when they are often seen as the source of all our anguish. I've told numerous people that life would be absolutely great if we didn't have other people around. Most of the problems I have in my life are because of people. Think about it…you know I"m right!

Seriously, the issue of, "WHO IS THE NEIGHBOR I'M SUPPOSED TO LOVE" is the contextual background to the parable. The answer Jesus provides in the parable is pretty clear…anyone who is in need. Loving others includes those who we feel comfortable with as well as those who, once we are involved in their lives, "costs" us something. The Samaritan (in the Jews eyes the LEAST LIKELY PERSON to help a Jew who is in the ditch) is the one who loves the broken, outcast and "left for dead."

Maybe you and I feel like we can't make a difference in the world. We are ONE PERSON living on a planet where there is so much suffering and pain. Jesus says, "loving our neighbor" is powerfully healing. We don't see too many people lying in ditches, but we DO see people all the time with needs. For example, TODAY as you share Thanksgiving with your family, there will be someone who is in need. It would be easy to "walk right by" that suffering and hope it goes away on its own. But Jesus is calling you to love the broken. Yes, that might make you uncomfortable…it will cost you something to engage that family member or friend who is seen by some as a real "downer" on a day of celebration. But according to Jesus, loving that "other" is the way TO EXPERIENCE life to the fullest. It just seems to make sense to me. From an interpretive perspective, looking for Jesus in this parable is good but not really the point. Yes, it is good to see how Jesus can be the one who heals the broken or is the broken. I get that…but the CONTEXT tells us differently. The context is about OUR actions and OUR loving of others. It is time, according to Jesus, for us to "go and do the same."  Today is a day of thanks…show some mercy to those who push your buttons, or that relative who always complains, or to the person who overcooks your favorite part of the meal. Show some mercy to that child who isn't behaving or to the family member who only wants to sit and watch another football game. For whatever reason, many of the people you may hang out with tomorrow will be "lying in some proverbial ditch"…love them anyway. Jesus says that's the way to really living! Happy thanksgiving friends!


One more UPDATE on Abby – check out the abbyupdate.com blog

Crying-out-to-god-3-jpgFriends and readers, this is the last update I will give you via MY blog.  I encourage you to follow abbyupdate.com for updates.  As of TODAY, it looks like Abby will be going home.  She does have to return to the hospital three times a week for further chemo treatments, injections, and blood level measurements.  But for NOW, a day or two at home will be a HUGE blessing to her and our family.

Yesterday, Abby was verbally "crying out to God" for healing and understanding.  From what my wife Vicky told me as well as my daughter Tiffany and son-in-law Mark, it was said "out loud" and continual.  I've joined her in the vocalization of those prayers!  Our family continues to covet your prayers as this journey continues.  I'll let my daughter Tiffany fill you in with this post:

Well, Abby isn't quite ready to go home.  Her phosphate levels are too high without the help of IV fluids to keep them down.   If her nausea gets better, she may be able to drink enough liquids to keep them flushing out of her body.  Her uric acid levels are too high as well.  She is too nauseous to eat anything and hasn't kept anything down yet today.  So, all of those things together mean she needs to stay in the hospital a bit longer.  We will see how the week unfolds.  She has more chemotherapy tomorrow and Wednesday and Friday (all of which include those nasty shots in her legs).  Hopefully we can find a good combo and/or plan for the anti-nausea medicines so that she can get more on top of it.  Her port sight is getting less tender so that's good.  Her spirits are low.  She is trying to work through so many things right now.  We had a wonderful visit from her previous oncologist, Dr. Smith, and his nurse Sara, that were as good for Mark and I as they were for Abby.  As Sara sat and talked to Abby she emerged from her shell and for that we are very grateful.  Sara is a very special lady.  She saw Abby through the whole ordeal last time.  She and I were pregnant together with our third babies.  She has the rare gift of being able to gently assess what's going on, take charge of the situation, and stay on a heart level with you the whole time.  She is very perceptive and has a ton of experience with cancer kids and a ton of experience with Abby.  Dr. Smith (deemed "Dr. Sniff" by Abby back when she was 3) is wonderful too, we are so glad he is on the team to fight this with us. So, right now Abby is sleeping, with the help of some medicine. Mark and I went out to dinner last night while my wonderful mom stayed with Abby.  So many lovely people on this road.  We couldn't do this without each of you.

Our granddaughter’s cancer has come back…the Abby update 2015

Abby_1 Blogger-image--658788013

Abby Has relapsed

After 8 years of being cancer free, our granddaughter Abby has had a relapse of Leukemia.  She is 14 now…that being, approaching her 14th after the Christmas season.  Though we are confident that Abby will be OK in the long run and that the Leukemia will be "beat," it is still a personal and family "challenge" that we have to face.  The backstory is extensive…for Abby's family had just moved to Japan to teach at an international school and follow Jesus in sharing the Kingdom in the city of Tokyo. This was a call from the Lord that we all affirmed!  But now, after having the diagnosis a little over one week ago, Abby's family has returned to their former home in Colorado so that Abby can enter Leukemia treatments.  This is a three-year journey and when Abby fought it years ago, she was three years old and needed assurance and love but was easily distracted.  NOW, Abby is 14…she is intelligent, self-aware and knowledgable about what she has to face.  She knows what is ahead in terms of treatment and is, justifiably, struggling.  We ask for your prayers for the Lord's healing in her body and that (specifically) the treatment's demands will continue to be faced with courage but with the promise of God's comfort, peace and healing.  In addition, that Abby would have the stamina to now consciously face these treatments with the miraculous presence of Jesus.  

Below is a post from the abbyupdate.com blog that our family is resurrecting for this journey.  Check it often as Abby's dad and mom (as well as myself) will give updates for prayer and support.  In the meantime, let's give thanks to God for HE is good and HIS MERCY endures in every situation we face. This season of thanks needs a specific focus and even when we all face the challenges of life, we know for certain that Jesus is present, feeling what we are feeling and speaking peace and promise to our hearts and lives.  

Here's Abby's dad, Mark Schreiber, in his own words describing the decision to come back to the USA and seek treatment for Abby.  Like I said, follow the story on abbyupdate.com.  The two pics above are Abby at 4 fighting Leukemia and Abby at 13 resuming the fight!

This week, we pulled the eject lever, and rapidly came back to Colorado to start treatment for Abby's Leukemia.  Below are some excerpts of emails that I've sent this week to my friends and family from both sides of the globe.  We leave in 30 minutes to the Children's Hospital in Denver and we will once again have a better view of what this journey will look like soon. From Wednesday night after diagnosis to some great guys in my life:

****** "Well, it looks like this will be our 2nd time that we get to walk down the road of Leukemia treatment.  But right now I'm in Japan so I need your wisdom and I have about 2 days before I need to make preparations. Basically, our big fear came true today, when I took her downtown to St. Luke's (the International Hospital).  They did another blood test that I requested and detected blast cells (they shouldn't be in your blood stream though).  So to get the definitive answer, they asked to get a bone marrow sample.  They got the sample and 90% of her marrow is blast cells (that means she has Leukemia again).  They will know the specific type of Leukemia tomorrow. " **** And to our Colorado Friends once we had made the decision to fly home for a bit: ******

Colorado friends, I had lots of catchy subject lines for this email.  Like, "Dusting Off the Old Abby Update Page"  or "What are the Odds?"  But, in the end I decided not to even do an executive summary and just put the news right in the subject line. Yes, Abby was just diagnosed again with Leukemia.   8 years off treatment she has relapsed.  This is very very rare, kids don't normally relapse like this… but when has our family ever been normal.  I will find out what type of Leukemia it is in a couple of hours when the results come back. So yes, we are dusting off the old "Abby Update" blog from 8 years ago and I'll be recording some new entries. Or maybe I'll do a Facebook page but those are kind of the least of my concerns right now because I'm still in Japan.  I definitely didn't see this coming. So here is the nitty gritty.  We are coming home for a bit. Abby is doing remarkably well.  We caught this really early.  She still has an ok immunity and we are praying for that to hold up for another week or 2.  She has a bit of time before she has to get on treatment, probably a week.  We've talked to a lot of people and prayed a bunch and both the people here in Japan and our doctors in Colorado agree that we should get treated in the USA, especially for the first month.  So, we will be flying back to Colorado with 10 suitcases this weekend or early next week.  I'll post info on Facebook as I know and send out links to other ways you can keep in the loop in the future soon. On to the heart stuff.  This is hard.  It's going to be a bumpy road again and we are already pretty worn out from all of this transitions that we have just gone through.  I am optimistic that Abby will be cured again.  And I also know what the treatment will look like.  It will be long and tiring, there will be days again when I don't think I can do another day.  And then I will do that day, and the next and the next.  This time Abby is a teenager, she will also face this struggle much like Tiffany and I will.  It will leave some marks on her, some more battle scars, some more physical scars too but we all need to continue to remember that our life is not our own and that we are not in control.  That illusion of control has once again been stripped away for the Schreibers and I'm going to trust that we will experience God's freedom in new ways as we all walk this out together. ~The Schreibers

The “hebrew” way of thinking and its implications on how we look at the bible…

The Hebrew Mind vs The Western Mind

"Hebraism and Hellenism – between these two points of influence moves our world."  William Barrett, Irrational Man


Doing vs. Knowing


William Barrett, quoted above, explains that one of the most fundamental differences between the Western, Hellenistic (Greek) mind and the Hebrew mind is found in the area of knowing vs. doing.  Says Barrett,


"The distinction…arises from the difference between doing and knowing. The Hebrew is concerned with practice, the Greek with knowledge. Right conduct is the ultimate concern of the Hebrew, right thinking that of the Greek. Duty and strictness of conscience are the paramount things in life for the Hebrew; for the Greek, the spontaneous and luminous play of the intelligence. The Hebrew thus extols the moral virtues as the substance and meaning of life; the Greek subordinates them to the intellectual virtues…the contrast is between practice and theory, between the moral man and the theoretical or intellectual man."


This helps explain why so many Christians are focused on the issues of doctrinal orthodoxy (however they may define it) often at the expense of godly living and action (theologically and philosophically called, “praxis.”  In many Christian circles, what one believes or espouses is treated as more important than how one lives – i.e. how one treats his or her neighbor.


In Biblical Judaism, it is precisely the opposite. Christians are inclined to subject each other to litmus tests of orthodoxy, while Jews are concerned mainly with behavior.  Belief in God and acting ethically were inextricably linked.   There is no division being “doing and being.” This does NOT mean that DOING “saves” us.  But the “BEING” of a person who follows Jesus is bound to affect and have profound effects on our “DOING.”  God demands right behavior more than anything else, including right ritual and right belief. 


Jesus said, “why do you call me Lord and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)


Here is a brief history lesson – it was Hellenized Christians, influenced by Platonic philosophy, who both intellectualized and systematized Christian doctrine. Worse, they radically changed much of it to fit dualistic categories. The Biblical Hebrews, and the Apostolic Era of the Church, had no formal theology as such. Nothing was systematized. The believing community had no entrenched hierarchy or magisterium through which all doctrine had to be filtered and approved. As with the unbelieving Jews, opinions varied from sage to sage.


What the apostles taught about any given subject was either learned directly from Jesus, then passed on, or determined situationally — on an "as you go" basis. They determined “Halakha” for believers in much the same way the sages of Israel did – as circumstances changed they rendered decisions about the application of Torah (cf. Matthew 18:18). Acts 15 provides an account of how at least one teaching concerning requirements for gentile believers was formed around 50 AD. Note the participatory nature of the discussion. The whole of the Church (Acts 15:4,12,22), not just an elite hierarchy, was involved.


In the First Testament (what Jews call, “Torah” or the books of Moses) there is an intermingling of two realities.  The “Law” is viewed from two distinct lens:


A – Haggadah – which answers the question of identity, “who are we?”  In other words, there is a narrative/story dimension to the law.  This is who God’s people are…what makes them distinctive.


B – Halakah – which answers question of lifestyle, “what are we to do?”  In other words, these commandments are the legal code dimension to the law.  This is how God’s people are to act…what makes them distinctive.


The Torah was NEVER one or the other.  A problem did arise in Jewish history when Rabbinic Judaism looked at one at the exclusion of the other.  The New Testament (the Apostle Paul specifically, stressed Haggadah, the story aspect of God’s works in the righteousness of Israel.  In bringing up Abraham in Galatians and Romans, Paul reminds us of the story aspect that we are a part of that as well.  When Jesus said that he “fulfilled the law,” he was in essence saying that he, Jesus, completed or fulfilled the story.  But it is the STORY that transforms behavior.  We who live in God’s story act as God’s agents in that story.  The story FORMS us and our action/praxis.  THAT is why Jesus can simultaneously talk about “good news” and judgment…act in grace and mercy yet demand “go and sin no more.” 


In some Christian circles, it is often more important to believe and espouse "the right thing," than to live the right way. This is why we are so obsessed with creeds, doctrinal statements, Systematic Theologies, orthodoxy vs. heresy, and creating "Evangelical" or "Sabbatarian" or "Trinitarian" theologies. This mode of thinking is thoroughly Western, utterly Greek or Hellenized.   For many of us, the Hebrew mindset is so strange, so alien, so impossible to fathom, that we quickly snap back into the comfort zone of the Hellenistic mold when studying the Scriptures. We then impose this distorting grid over the Hebrew text – or for that matter, over the Greek text of the New Testament.


We think, for example, in terms of "prophetic timetables." Here again is the Western concept of time – points on a line. The Hebrew minds thinks of "the day of the Lord" – that is, the day or time when the Lord acts. The sequential order in which God will do things is of no concern to the Hebrew – only that he will act. The Western mind wants to have the "prophetic timetable" neatly arranged in time and space. We want to "tick off" events as they occur according to the pre-ordained schedule. This mentality is foreign to the Hebrew mind.


In Western theology, we have sometimes abandoned the literal interpretation of Scripture in favor of allegorical interpretations. This too is very Greek. It opens the door to a myriad of "creative" expositions that leave the student of Scripture confused and disoriented.


In the table that follows, we compare the Hebraic mode of thinking with the Western, Hellenistic mode in a variety of categories. 


Hebraic vs Western Thinking – A Comparison

Western Approach

Hebraic Approach

Life analyzed in precise categories.

Everything blurs into everything else.

A split between natural & supernatural

Supernatural affects everything.

Linear logic

Contextual or "block" logic

"Rugged Individualism"

Importance of being part of group

Equality of persons

Value comes from place in hierarchies

Freedom orientation

Security orientation

Competition is good

Competition is evil (cooperation better)

Man-centered universe

God/tribe/family-centered universe

Worth of person based on money/material possessions/power

Worth derived from family relationships

Biological life sacred

Social life supremely important

Chance + cause & effect limit what can happen

God causes everything in his universe

Man rules nature through understanding and applying laws of science

God rules everything, so relationship with God determines how things turn out.

Power over others achieved through business, politics and human organizations.

Power over others is structured by social patterns ordained by God.

All that exists is the material

The universe is filled with powerful spirit beings

Linear time divided into neat segments. Each event is new.

Cyclical or spiraling time. Similar events constantly reoccur.

History is recording facts objectively and chronologically.

History is an attempt to preserve significant truths in meaningful or memorable ways whether or not details are objective facts.

Oriented to the near future

Oriented to lessons of history

Change is good = progress

Change is bad = destruction of traditions

Universe evolved by chance

Universe created by God

Universe dominated and controlled by science and technology

God gave man stewardship over his earthly creation. Accountability to God.

Material goods = measure of personal achievement

Material goods = measure of God’s blessing

Blind faith

Knowledge-based faith

Time as points on straight line ("at this point in time…"

Time determined by content ("In the day that the Lord did…")

Sources: Irrational Man, by William Barrett; Christianity With Power by Charles Kraft; Hebrew Thought Compared With Greek by Thorleif Boman; Judaism and Christianity – The Differences by Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, Our Father Abraham, by Marvin Wilson, God in Search of Man by Abraham Heschel.


When we bring our Western "scientific" approach to the study of Scripture, without due consideration for the mentality behind it, we may find ourselves producing exegetical distortions. To understand the Hebrew cultures of Biblical times, as did those who lived through those times, is to experience culture shock. Their worldview was very different than ours. Their patterns of thought were often quite distinct from our own. Their values and perceptions were also radically unlike ours. The whole Bible was written in a pre-Scientific age. The Hebrew language itself is quite unlike our own in many respects. Much has been lost in translation.


When we study the bible, or when we consider the nature of the early New Testament Messianic community, we must take into account the myriad differences between Hebrew and Greek thought. Intellectually, we are Greeks/Hellenists, not Hebrews. We apply Aristotelian, Socratic and Platonic thought patterns to practically everything. It is surprisingly difficult to escape these patterns and enter into the Hebraic mindset. We insist on rendering everything into logically consistent patterns, on systematizing it, on organizing it into tight, carefully reasoned theologies. We cannot live with inconsistency, contradiction or paradox.  We feel compelled to think antithetically. The Godhead must be tightly defined and structured. We cannot live with the Hebraic idea that God is simply ineffable, and that the bible doesn’t lend itself to systematization. As Abraham Heschel wrote, "To try to distill the Bible, which is bursting with life, drama, and tension, to a series of principles would be like trying to reduce a living person to a diagram" – God in Search of Man by Abraham Heschel, p. 20.


The Western mind, when seeking to understand the bible or what it means to be a "Christian," creates its own exegetical and theological dilemmas. ("If God is all-powerful, could he build a rock too heavy for himself to lift?" or "If God is love then why does he allow…?" or “if we are forgiven why do we have to do…?”) We relentlessly attempt to organize everything into manageable intellectual blocks and structures. We want all questions answered, all problems solved, and all contradictions resolved.  In our relentless quest to turn the bible into a systematized textbook of theological answers about God, we have ended up distorting its meaning time after time. We have turned it into something that it is not.


We have sought to understand the incomprehensible God in concrete, yet abstract, terms. But, "To the Jewish mind, the understanding of God is not achieved by referring to a Greek way to timeless qualities of Supreme Being, to ideas of goodness and perfection, but rather by sensing the living acts of His concern, to His dynamic attentiveness to man. We speak not of His goodness in general but of His compassion for the individual man in a particular situation" (Heschel, p. 21). In other words, God is not "known" in the abstract, but in the specific situations into which He has asserted Himself. God is what He has revealed Himself to be, not what we have theorized Him to be.


Heschel points to the reason for Western confusion about God, "The categories within which philosophical reflection about religion has been operating are derived from Athens rather than from Jerusalem" (ibid. p. 25).  If we are to understand the Bible, and what it means to be a follower of Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah), then we will have to understand it Hebraically, not Hellenistically. This will require a philosophical and intellectual paradigm shift on our part. It will mean coming at Scripture from an entirely different angle. It will mean learning to think like the Hebrew who thought more like God.


Heschel also writes, "The Greeks learned in order to comprehend. The Hebrews learned in order to revere. The modern man learns in order to use" (ibid. p. 34). We want a religion of utility. We want techniques we can apply situationally to get into, or out of, some situation. We see much "technique-oriented" Christianity these days. We want techniques for understanding, systematizing and structuring the "prophetic timetable" so that we can know "what’s going to happen next" or so that we can know when to stock food and flee into the mountains to await the Lord’s return. Some people want to know so they can have something to market to other Christians who want to know. These are they who seek to gain from "godliness" or religion (cf. I Timothy 6:5).


A writer I admire homiletically states,


“We seek "Christian" techniques for inner healing, outer healing, exorcism, financial prosperity, or for receiving spiritual power. This way of thinking is alien to the Hebrew mind.  In our culture, we have commercialized everything, including Christianity. We no longer preach the Gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons and make disciples – we market tapes, booklets and trinkets. We make music, not to worship God, but to sell CDs. Evangelists are selected because they "know how to get the dollars in the door" or "attract the crowds" or "get the numbers up." Ministerial power has been commercialized and politicized as much as that of regular politicians. Christian publishing houses publish celebrity Christian books – not because they are well written, or because they say something important – but because they will sell and make money for the company.


In the days when Jesus’ Kingdom movement was known as the "Sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5,14), being a "Christian" was about relationship with God and with fellow human being (Matthew 22:36-38; John 13:34-35). In the centuries since, we have de-emphasized relationship, and at the same time have intellectualized, politicized and commercialized the "faith once for all delivered." These three deleterious influences have radically changed the nature of the Church. The spirit of anti-Judaism and later anti-Semitism has done much to destroy the original personality of the believing community. This explains why it is so difficult for many to understand either Testament.  To truly grasp what it means to be a follower of Yeshua, one must return to the Hebrew roots of his movement, and of the documents we now refer to as "The New Testament."

A stroll through Disneyland while thinking about churchworld…

I wrote this article on this blog over 10 years ago…I ran into its text in searching for something else and it caught my attention.  I think what I'm trying to say in this post is still relevant…so take a peek!  I decided not to change one word of what I wrote in the past…I might (myself) quibble with some of what I wrote if I were to look at it critically…but the 'spirit' of the post is true…we need less emphasis on memories and money and more on trust, dependency, risk and living in the "winds of the Spirit."


"Clutching a fistful of pocket change and a full ticket book, I remember running into the “Magic Kingdom” as a kid.  Yeah, it was 1970 and, yes, I’m old but give me a break…everyone who is a bit “younger” should let “old people” have their little walk down memory lane.  OK?   The “Ticket Book” for Disneyland was full of tickets with letters on them; the higher up the alphabet, the more exciting, imaginative and awe-inspiring the ride.  I remember hounding my grandfather for his “E” tickets.  I would promise him the world…take out the trash all summer, mow the lawn, walk the dog, wash the dishes…whatever it took to get more of those coveted “E” ticket rides.  “D” rides were good on most days, but those “E’s”. 

Disneyland for most of my life had always been a place of imagination and fascination.  From the very beginning of the park’s inception, Uncle Walt desired to make Disneyland a place where magic occurred on a regular basis.  Disneyland was supposed to be a place where not only a kid, but also an adult was “encapsulated” in a world of fantasy that emitted the sense of awe and wonder in the heart of the visitor.  I have to admit, I took the bait.  I loved going to Disneyland.  Even when my family moved to California in 1971, I made my way back time and again to see things that were only in the creative mind's eye.  Even when the “all park pass” replaced the “E, D, C, B, and A” tickets, Disneyland was still the place to go for a dose of ingenuity.  It was not only fun but also exciting to be engulfed in somewhat of a mythological world.  Inanimate objects moved and appeared life-like.  Robots didn’t look like the metal contraptions that scientists thought they would look like in the early days of robotic technology.  These “characters” moved and spoke and even looked like people.  I remember the chill that went up my spine (even when I was in my 20’s) when Abe Lincoln would stand and recite part of the Gettysburg Address.  I remember having a blast seeing pirates magically chase women and appear drunk with pigs.  They all moved!  They were my heros…er, the technological geniuses behind my fantasy were my heroes.  It was cutting edge at the time.  And I looked forward to going year after year because it was a place where I thought, “hey, if they can do this, imagine what we can possibly do in the future”.  I wondered at the time how the Disney “family” was going to keep up with the future…but even as new rides were rolled out, the sense of wonder and awe stayed the same.  There was hope for fantasy and magic. 

Match that up with a recent trip to Disneyland that I took with my wife.  For a few years, we were season pass holders…more for the date night strolls down Main Street for people watching purposes than for the excitement and instigation of wonder.  The Disney “family” has transformed into the Disney Corporation.  Profits are now what run the Park.  I can’t remember a new technology or an “attraction” that is really anything that ventures close to something we might call “cutting edge”.  Things called “Memories” and “Money” have replaced “Creativity” and “Wonder”.  No, I’m not some old scrooge getting cynical about a treasure of Americana.  Rather, I’m simply pointing out that keeping “guests” engaged in a new world…challenging people’s imagination and fantasies…being the purveyors of “Imagineering” seems to no longer be what drives the Disney engine.  Walk Tomorrowland sometime…there’s nothing there!  They closed the best ride in the park, Space Mountain, to make “improvements”.  There’s nothing “Tomorrow” about Tomorrowland.  The Starwars ride you can get at any video arcade or miniature golf park.  3-D movies…been there, done that.  Going around in circles on a “rocket”…I put my granddaughters on those types of rides all the time.  That’s it!  Even California Adventure is a rehashing of the old…nothing that spurs the sedimentary heart and mind.  This article has nothing to do with cynicism; it has all to do with just calling a spade a spade.

You know, the Church isn’t much different.  Creativity, Imagineering, wonder, awe and excitement are often replaced by the “bottom line”…memories and money.  The status quo needs their memories.  In fact, the Church is addicted to memories…an addiction that prevents many in its hallowed walls to be in denial about the real world and internally “satisfied” with the lack of spiritual engagement and impact on a world that is desperately looking for a “big story” filled with wonder and awe.  I remember going to the student ministry group that eventually was instrumental in “reintroducing” me to God.  There was something in those meetings that moved me.  Awe, wonder, astonishment, ingenuity…the leaders took a “meta-narrative”…a story that was bigger than the universe…something that by its very nature was exciting and compelling beyond belief and presented it in a manner that engaged my life.  Over the years, I was told that approach was something that was purely for “high school kids”.  Someone, in fact, many “some ones” told me without reservation and with a pasty smile on their face that I would get “over” that approach and come to appreciate the “old” ways.  And you know what?  I did appreciate the “old” ways.  They are worth appreciating but not living on as a steady diet.  My experience of the church became like my experience at Disneyland over recent years…something that I did to remember what it felt like to really love and be passionate about God.  Risk in the churches I attended was constantly put through the “memory” and “money” filter.  Either we “couldn’t afford it” or “couldn’t do it” for some unknown, unspecified, unspoken, unquestioned reason.  Over the years, a trip through the pews and sanctuaries of the churches I was a part of felt like a trip to the old “Country Bear Jamboree”…I knew every line, all the jokes, all the inside workings of the attraction…overtime, it all became just one big act to get me to remember and to give to support the memory.

Ministry and Christ-following in Community should be something that sets a heart on fire.  Participating in the greatest story and endeavor in the history of humanity include more than saying a bunch of things that people have said and sung for centuries.  I’m looking for wonder.  I’m looking for a group of Christ-followers who are spiritual “imagineers”…looking to use earthly tools to construct a taste of the Kingdom.  I want to have a “fistful” of excitement when I urge a friend to come and join me as a bunch of people get together to play with wonder.  As much as we have tried to analyze and exegete the Church, you think we would get it right.  But that’s been part of the problem!  Exegeting the movement of the Holy Spirit is exactly what we should NOT be about.  Exegeting is a science…it borders on something that smacks of a material, natural world…not the supernatural.  Trying to comprehensively understand a phenomenon leads only to the science of “copying”.  And there’s a major problem with that…copying what God is doing that is exciting in one place is like Knott’s Berry Farm attempting to copy the Matterhorn.  It’s outrageous!  Why not just “put up a sail” of openness and willingness to be led by the Lord and simply see where He will lead.  I know that sounds “mysterious”…but it should sound that way.  I know of church plants within certain denominations that only happen when a measurable group of denominational adherents agree to form an institution based around the workings of a constitution that has as a part of it a built in structure, polity, financial structure and religious practice.  In that model of church planting, all you add are the memories and money and, wonder of wonders, a church comes into existence.  No wonder (pun?) the church as a whole is losing its grasp in this culture.  I guess inspiration, wonder and the leading of the Spirit have to take second place to “memories and money”.

The church today needs people to take the risk of being on the edge!  Little gatherings of believers who are passionate about a risen Savior and Lord need to expose themselves to the danger of newness in order to engage people in the wonder of God.  When I was leading a church in Utah, I remember many people coming from the “predominant religion” in the state and finding in the worship experience something they had never experienced before.  I remember people leaving wondering, “What was that?”  It was then we were able to point to the “wind of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”…a wind that blows and you have no idea from whence it comes (cf John 3).  The Church needs that again.  No more “memories and money”.  No more denial of what is really happening.  As far as I’m concerned, Disneyland can close until they regain the mission they once had.  As far as I’m concerned, let’s close as many churches as possible until we start to regain the passion that kindled the fires of heart of people who turned the world upside down centuries ago…let’s close as many churches as possible until we see the Spirit of God ignite a new fire which leads wandering hearts and lives into heavenly wonder, imagination and awe."