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So for the past week back Leslie and I have been just readjusting to a regular routine of having a 10 month old baby at home. And that has taken most of our down time. But at the request of family members here are some snapshots of us in California with Eden. This above picture is her with her favorite singer, Nat King Cole. Since day one, whenever she was fussy L-O-V-E worked like a charm. And although she can’t read yet, she’s pumped just to be sitting on the sidewalk.

Here’s Leslie and Eden on the Santa Monica Pier looking all cute.

This is us at the La Brea Tar Pits. I’ve always been fascinated by this place. Eden however was not.

This is at the Getty Museum. It’s filled with amazingly beautiful scenery as well as artifacts from ancient Rome.
Here we are at the Burbank Lookout. And if you want to see the Hollywood sign, all you have to do is photoshop the smog out of the way.

This trip was a blast. Not only is Eden a great baby at home, but she’s also a great baby to travel with. All 4 times she’s been on a plane she hasn’t cried once. Which is just great for us, because we’d like to make a lot more pictures like this in the future.

In an unrelated note, after preaching yesterday I met and visited some with Jim Nantz. Some of you may not know who that is, he’s one of the most famous sports commentators in the world. He works with Lance Barrow (the director of CBS sports) who’s a member at our church. He was a super cool guy, and didn’t carry himself like he thought he should be treated like a celebrity.

But I find this ironic. I spend a week and a half in L.A. shamelessly looking for celebrities (a practice I condemn theologically but still do often), and then the first week home, one sits behind me in church.

Here’s hoping everyone has a happy memorial day.

“There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."’ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are…”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King wrote these words back in the politically charged days of the battle for civil rights for African-Americans. Every time I read this letter I get choked up. I wonder if I would have had the guts to stand up for others if I would have lived during this time.

These words were written to 8 white moderate clergy men who were vehemently opposed to King’s tactics using the whole “don’t rock the boat” logic. These men weren’t inherently evil, they just bought into an idea that justice takes time, and some evil should be tolerated. But in the words of Dr. King, “oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.”

This letter is a great read, you can check out the entire thing here. But here’s my question. Where are today’s Dr. Kings? One of my biggest hopes for my life is to be a part of a community who fights for the upside down world of Jesus, and it’s implications.

So what about you? Have their been times in your life that you have found yourself fighting upstream? Are their areas of your life that you feel are counter-cultural? If so you are in a stream of redemptive history that goes back to Bethlehem, and you may find yourself writing your own letter.

But don’t worry, all the best letters come from jail.

On May 18, 2009


Kevin Roose was a student at Brown University. He grew up sans religion and found himself at an ivy school unable to understand religious conservatives, and so he did the only thing that you would expect someone in his position to do.

He enrolled in Liberty University for a semester.

That’s the college that Jerry Falwell founded and administrated. Kevin Roose enrolled and befriended people without telling anybody that he wasn’t a Christian. He went to church, joined the choir, prayed with people, went to accountability groups, and even had a mentor discipling him.

And he did it all without converting. He wrote a book about this experience called “The Unlikely Disciple” and it’s a great read. Roose is witty, poignant and has a lot of great advice to give Christians. The satirist P.J. O’ Rouke once said that making fun of Christians is like “hunting dairy cows with a rifle.” So to be honest, I was a bit skeptical. Roose is irreverant at times, and there are several things I disagree with him on, but to be honest I found myself saying often, “yes, that’s exactly how I feel.”

One such story was with his experience with a spring break mission trip he went on.

Now I have led 9 different Spring Break Campaigns, so when he talked about this my ears perked up. Roose talks about how he was trained to go up to total strangers and manipulate a conversation toward Jesus. Now Roose understands the story of Jesus at this point. He knows why they care enough to give up their spring breaks to try and convert people, but he absolutely hates the way they are doing it. He felt like they were exploiting people, that is looking past them in the name of a gospel that actually wants to makes people more human. He noticed that these sweet Christian people (who he had grown to love) actually came off as gruff and inconsiderate when trying to share their faith.

He says he felt like the grinch who stole Spring Break.

I think this is an interesting perspective on the way we have tended to do evangelism. His point in the end was that the Christians who have made him seriously consider Jesus in the past weren’t the ones who were trying to force a superficial conversation on him, but those who had an actual relationship with him.

A few years ago I baptized a guy named Bill in a bathtub. I had just met him in upstate New York and after talking with him for a while he wanted to become a Christian. I really liked Bill and was ecstatic to introduce him to the Lord.

And I never heard from him again.

Bill never got connected to the church we introduced him to. But I can’t blame him; he didn’t know them, he knew me.

I recognize that there is some good that has been done from these fly by night evangelism techniques, but those seem to be the exception not the rule. The story of God coming in the flesh can’t be told at a distant, physically or relationally.

So what about you? I know that a lot of people out there have tried this kind of evangelism, did it work? How should discipleship and spiritual formation inform the way we approach this?

On May 15, 2009

Seeing Calvin

So I have been wrestling through the tiny book of Philemon for the past few weeks. It’s one of those tiny, postcard like books of the Bible. Paul is writing to a slave owner who is a Christian and telling him to receive back his runaway slave without punishing him for running away. But Paul doesn’t stop there. He tells him that he shouldn’t receive him back as a slave at all, but better than a slave…as a brother.

I’m telling you this because when I work through teachings in my head. I talk to myself…a lot.

I was walking through Downtown L.A. Tuesday, running an errand for Leslie, and preaching to myself. I had to look like Rain Man. I was just getting to this point about how Paul is teaching Philemon to see people differently, to see his former slave as a person. And then I passed Calvin.

Calvin is one of many homeless people in the area. And he was asking for change. I’m sure you may have had this experience before too. My immediate response is to pick up the pace, I told him that I did in fact not have any change, and he mumbled something that is inappropriate to write here.

But the irony is that I was just preaching to myself a lesson Paul taught thousands of years ago. A lesson about seeing people.

One of the most compelling things about Jesus is his ability to see people. It’s easy to get caught up in the miracles of Jesus, the excorcisms, the freeing from oppression that he seemed to do on a daily basis. But the biggest miracle of Jesus wasn’t that he healed the leper, but that he saw him.

So I get the irony of walking in Downtown L.A. preaching about seeing people, and then writing off a homeless man, and I turn around. I tell Calvin I don’t have any money but that I do have a Debit card and that since he is sitting outside a Wendy’s is he hungry.

He is.

I then offer to get him something to eat, and ask him to go in there with me. To which he replies, “I only have one leg man.”

Sidenote: Always check for missing appendages.

I don’t say this to brag. I don’t do this often, and I don’t want you to think that I’m trying to pass myself off as Mother Theresea. I say this because I wonder why it’s so hard for us as followers of Jesus to see others.

Maybe the greatest transformation God will do to us here is in giving us new eyes. Eyes that can see past all the junk and labels that we seem to look for. Because we will never treat people better than we can see them.

And I think that’s the gospel according to Philemon.

On May 8, 2009


Quick update on what’s going on in our lives…Leslie, Eden and I are in Malibu. We just spent the week at the Pepperdine Lectureships. Rick and I did our teachings on Post-modernism and faith for some of the best leaders in our fellowship.

Being here has been like a breath of fresh air. Literally and metaphorically (we are right by the ocean) these people give me hope for what kind of brotherhood the churches of Christ could be. Today we taught on the problem of when churches exclude others, and what a Jesus-like response would be to other world religions and homosexuals.

Every time we talk about this we are overwhelmed by responses. People who have a gay aunt or son are glad to hear that Jesus loves them too. I think this shows how deficient in grace our responses have been in the past.

While we miss our home church in Fort Worth, that Pacific ocean sure is nice, and so Leslie and I are sticking around for a few more days. We plan to hang out here till Wednesday. We’re gonna catch a Dodgers game, hit up a couple of museums and chill on the beach. Some much needed vacation time for our little tribe is in order. So I’ll be away from the internet for a few more days. Thanks for all the prayers and help with thinking through all these Post-modernism teachings, I’ll be back writing in a week.



On May 4, 2009

Promises and Prophets

We have a nighttime tradition around our house. After feeding and bathing Eden, Leslie or I read her a couple of stories from the Children’s Bible. It’s kind of like the Bible’s greatest hits, all with fully animated pictures. It’s a great resource for kids, but it bugs me to death.

I find myself over and over again wanting to say, “No, that’s actually not what happened Eden.” For example, tonight we were reading about the prophet Elijah, how after he stood toe to toe with King Ahab he went through some real bouts of depression, he even wanted to die. But it doesn’t mention that, just that God fed Elijah with birds. I guess ravens are more kid-friendly than depression. The showdown on Mt. Carmel ends with the prophets of Ba’al being embarrassed, not murdered.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am glad that Eden doesn’t hear all the gory bits of the Bible just yet. But the problem comes when we grow up and keep reading the Bible the same way.

This weekend a friend of ours from Harding was murdered. Leslie and her were in the same club in college, she was a kind, sweet girl named Micah. At first, everyone thought she was just missing. People combed through her neighborhood for hours, and they prayed and prayed for her safe return.

A preacher buddy of mine was a part of search party looking for her while they thought she was lost. And after everyone realized what had actually happened, someone anonymously left the comment on my friend’s blog: “Could someone please tell me where God was when all the praying was going on?”

What a great question.

Over the weekend I also did a graduation ceremony. And the verse I heard repeated several times was Jeremiah’s famous statement in chapter 29 “For I know the plans that I have for you. Plans to prosper and not harm you.” It’s a really inspiring verse. With only one problem.

Taken out of context, you might forget that before that verse there were 28 chapters of God telling Jeremiah that he is about to make life really hard on the Israelites. They are going to be captured, enslaved and oppressed by another nations. And that’s just the lucky ones.

The Bible is filled with hope and promises of blessings. But that’s not all it’s full of. It’s a story filled with the messiness of God partnering with flawed people. It’s filled with God allowing people to feel the brunt of their own choices, and sometimes feeling the brunt of other people’s choices.

I think this is a large problem for American churches. We love to read the promises of God, the hope of the story. Nobody’s favorite verse is Elijah battling depression; but if that’s all we know than we are in trouble. Scot Mcknight says that when we take these promises of hope and restoration out of the context that they are in, and put them on a Daily Bible calendar, we lose something.

And we figure out what we’ve lost when we hurt. We find ourselves asking where was God when we prayed? We find ourselves confused and disappointed when God didn’t stop tragedy from happening.

I don’t know why God allowed such a sweet kind girl to lose her life. I don’t get why God ca seem so absent when we are at our lowest. But the Bible tells a story that doesn’t white wash over these moments. That actually, it is in these events that God is the most present, suffering with us. And in light of the darkest times of our lives those promises really stand out.

That there will be a day when God restores all things. When the sorrow and pain of today will be a distant reality. Where swords are beaten into plowshares, and the lion and the lamb lay down together. Where death gives back what it owes.

And that’s a story I want Eden to know.

On May 1, 2009


So I’ve never done a graduation speech before. I’ve been asked a couple of times, but always had a scheduling conflict. But to be honest, speeches like that don’t really get me too excited. I’m not a public speaker, I’m a preacher. But tomorrow feels a bit different. I’m speaking to the graduating class of the very homeschool organization I graduated from.

To be honest it’s a pretty weird feeling. Ten years ago I sat in a crowded church auditorium and listened to a guy tell me something about the future, and all I could think about was how scared I was.

I assume it’s a pretty different feeling graduating from homeschool/highschool. It’s not that my family isolated me from other people, we have a pretty large organization of homeschooled families. It’s that my world was always pretty small. I had never flown on a plane, been out of the country, or even the tri-state area. And now I was being told that I needed to go off to school somewhere.

I actually just wanted to do construction work for a living and preach at a few different country churches on the side. But there were a few people who believed in me and recognized the fear behind those decisions, and they called potential out of me that I didn’t even know I had.

And so I left everything familiar and went to the large metropolis of Searcy, Arkansas.

Okay, so I took baby steps to a larger world.

That’s why I’m excited about today. I hope I can be a voice of encouragement for this graduating class. I know how scary this can be, but I also know how rewarding it is.

In the next few months, they are going to meet people who are going to be their groomsmen and bridesmaids in their wedding. They will meet friends that will be dear for the rest of their lives.

They will also get a whole lot of homeschool jokes. Were you the valedictorian? Who was voted most likely to succeed in your school? Who’d you go to prom with? Your mom?

But I believe God honors risk. And so what I hope to tell them today is that when anybody steps out in faith, that they can make a difference, it may be an uphill climb, but if they stick with it…they can do something significant.

I love Margart Mead’s quote, “Never doubt that a small group of people devoted to a cause can change the world. It is, in fact, the only thing that ever has.”

And if not, at least they can always fall back on spelling bee’s.

On April 28, 2009


The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis First 100 Days

Did you see this last night? Jon Stewart had the President of the Center for the Defense of Democracies on the Daily Show. The guy’s name is Cliff May, and he was very likable, friendly, and a good debater.

And he was in favor of torture.

To be fair he would say he was against torture except in extreme circumstances. And he laid out in a thoughtful way what those circumstances might be. Now John Stewart is about as left-wing as you can get, so they obviously were coming from two very different view points, but it was a great interview to watch.

So here’s my observation/question. I have noticed that a lot of the times the same people who say that we need to bring America back to being a “Christian Nation” are the same ones who would say if the situation got bad enough than we should empower our government to be able to torture enemies.

Does this seem ironic to anyone else?

We follow a man who actually was killed by the worst form of government approved torture. Flash forward a couple of thousand years, and then some of his followers are calling for these same tactics to be used on others.

Jesus, and the earliest Christians, were brilliant with how they talked about the cross. Rome used it as a symbol for the way their power worked. Mess with us and we will destroy you. But the early Christians realized that the symbol could work the other way (think Colossians 2:15). They were actually claiming that the Cross wasn’t Rome’s symbol of victory over Jesus. It was Jesus symbol of victory over Rome, and actually all evil anywhere.

I want to start a blog series in a couple of weeks on Christian ethics, but consider this an early post.

Just for the sake of discussion, let’s just say that torture does work. It gets information that leads to lives being saved. Does that justify doing it? Also, what role does fear play in this discussion? And how do people who claim to believe in a resurrection talk about a fear of death? Those may seem like leading parameters, but I think they are core to starting off this conversation.

So what do you think about this issue? How should a Christian approach this topic? Can a Christian condone torture, ever?

On April 27, 2009


So one of my favorite movies, Good Will Hunting, came on T.V. again over the weekend. It’s such a great movie, (but the cable edited version may work better for a house with kids) the plot is fantastic, the dialogue rocks, and the acting is phenomenal.

There’s a scene where the title character, Will Hunting, is visiting with Robin Williams, the therapist. They are finally getting to a break through in Will’s therapy, and all the years of physical and emotional abuse as a kid get peeled away. Will starts to get really defensive, and Robin Williams just begins to repeat over and over again, “It’s not your fault.”

    In Mark 5, Jesus is just getting to the shores of the Gerasenes after a long night and is met by a demoniac. Not your most anticipated welcoming party, but Jesus doesn’t flip out. They have a conversation where they exchange introductions (but the whole scene sounds like it was written for the Poltergeist) and then Jesus does his whole thing, and gets rid of the demons. 

    Now Mark writes the story on several levels. On one level this story stands as symbol for Rome. Rome was occupying Israel at the time and the way Mark writes the story is the “Legion,” same word for a platoon of Roman Soldiers, goes to the bottom of the sea. Which is exactly what happened to Pharaoh’s army when Israel was being delivered from captivity. 

    Mark also uses resurrection language here. The same command that was given to the post-excorcism demoniac to “go and tell” is the same language Jesus uses to instruct his disciples after his resurrection. It’s the only other time this phrase is used in the gospel. 

    And this is what I want to focus in on. 

    Post-modernism has done a great job of pointing out the deep flaws in modernism, but it is a reaction that offers no real solution. It knows what’s wrong. But there is no alternative solution.

    Despair is the easiest emotion to give into, isn’t it? The world is filled with victims. I don’t say that patronizing. I mean it. Almost every person in this world probably has a good reason for doing the stuff that they do. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be that way. 

    The Demoniac asks Jesus to let him go with him. And Jesus says no. Now you haven’t been rejected till you’ve been rejected by Jesus. He tells him to stay here and to tell others about what has happened to him. 

    Think about this. This guy is the thorn in the town’s side. You just couldn’t have a good funeral, you couldn’t have a good wedding without this nut busting in and ruining your event. He is less than popular. He’s got no formal education, no friends, probably no family. 

    He’s a product of his environment. 

    He’s the poster child for victims everywhere.

    And Jesus calls him past that. He calls strength out of this man, that he didn’t even know was there. He delivers the man from his current situation on more levels than one. He sees something in this guy that no one else could see, and he asks him to live into a different reality. 

    And he does. 

    A few chapters later we find Jesus back at the village and the entire town comes out to meet Him. Because this man shared his story…they want to meet the guy who changed him. 

Which makes me think back to Will Hunting. Remember that scene at the end, the one where he leaves his past behind…to see about a girl? I think the reason that scene gets me every time is because I want to believe that is possible.

That the events that define our past, don’t have to define our future.

    It seems to me Jesus doesn’t believe in victims.

Now that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about the suffering that we have gone through. I think if we told him our story, he might say “you’re right, that’s horrible. I can’t believe he/she did that to you. I can’t believe you grew up around that. Why wouldn’t they give you a childhood that every kid deserved?” 

   But then he would call us past that. 

   Because Jesus knows a bit about being a victim. 

   But he also knows something about resurrection. 

On April 23, 2009

Miss California

So you’ve probably already heard about this week’s Miss USA pageant. Miss California was one of two finalists. For her question and answer time Perez Hilton asked her about the homosexual marriage, and the recent proposition 8 that was passed in California. That’s the proposition that banned gay marriage.

I think the question was unfair for a couple of reasons. One because of the explosive nature of the question. Perez Hilton is a well-known homosexual, and an advocate for gay rights. Miss California is a beauty pageant contestant, and a Christian.

Perez Hilton said later in an interview that when she answered that marriage was for a man and a woman she lost the title. He then went on to say with righteous indignation that faith and politics should be left out of Beauty Contests. But there is one problem with that.

Perez Hilton asked this political question.

However, I want to talk about Miss California. Yeah, it sucks that she didn’t get the title, especially if she didn’t win because she drew the wrong question.* She tried to nuance her answer somewhat, but now she’s going on every television station defending her answer.

So once more this question takes center stage in a culture war that polarizes an already divided country. People spin and angle for their particular agenda on both sides. And the stakes are a bit higher than a Miss USA crown.

Rick and I taught on a Christian response to homosexuality last Wednesday. We did it to help equip the church to navigate how a follower of Jesus should react to situations like this. And I think a couple of observations are pertinent for today:

1. Some conversations don’t need to happen on national media. The way of Jesus is incredibly personal, and when Christians disagree with others about social issues, maybe the first response isn’t to be a pundit on CNN.
2. Homosexuality isn’t the unforgivable sin. It’s one in a list of many for symptoms of living in a broken world.
3. Christians have done a lot of damage already to people who have a homosexual orientation. It’s hard for Christians to be able to lovingly disagree when there are so many nuts who say hateful things in the name of Jesus.
4. We Christians have to stop blaming homosexual for destroying marriage in America. Especially when Christians are divorcing at a higher rate than non-Christians in this country. We must get the proverbial plank out of our own eye, before mentioning the speck in our brothers. (That was Rick’s…brilliant).
5. This is not an issue. It’s real, living, breathing people who are made in the image of God. They needed to be treated accordingly.
6. Extreme people on both sides have made this issue hard to discuss kindly because we assume that “they” are “like that.”

Last week, a professor at Pepperdine came out with a suggestion that I happen to like for this issue. He suggests that the state stops doing marriage altogether. Since that’s a word found in the Bible, and defined by the Bible. Let the churches do marriage, and let the state respect legal relationships.

That’s across the board. Heterosexual relationships and homosexual relationships are legalized by the government for tax and will purposes. But churches are where you go if you want to be married.

I just returned from Burbank for the weekend, and this topic came up several times. Christians talked about how their gay friends were hurt by the churches political action against them. And they were wrestling with how to show them that not all Christians were trying to change the world through just political action.

So here is my question. How do Christians address this issue? It seems like the church should wrestle with this issue more internally for a bit. So what do you think? Do you like this idea? Why or Why not?

*For the lack of time I am going to ignore the reality that beauty contests in and of themselves seem to be a deeply un-Christian activity.