Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Snow Day

We are taking a day off from things here in Jerusalem today because of snow! IN this photo, the valley between the hill and me is the valley of Gehenna (or what is referred to as hell). So if you ever gave something a "snowball's chance in hell" today there is a good chance!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Elephant in the Room

As my family looks into returning to America and leading a church we consider returning to our home in Southern California as a favorable option (although we still have some other areas we are considering). We are grateful for the support and humbled by the kind words many of our friends have shared with us regarding our future plans. In my own selfishness, I would love to return to our area and serve in a gathering of people who connect with my style of teaching and thinking. If this option works out, we also know that there is an "elephant in the room" that I am hereby letting go.

The truth is that returning to an area that I have lived in for 8 years also happens to be the same general area where the church that I worked in for 8 years still exists. Unfortunately over the past 4 years many people have left that church for a whole variety of reasons and those reasons are not ours to speculate about. In that area my wife and I know quite a few people who no longer attend any church or they only attend and "hide" in the back because for one reason or another have lost hope in the Church. In fact, in my 13 years of working in churches I too have been hurt and have even seen some of my hope in the "Bride of Christ" diminish. I know that by returning to the area, a potential exists for some to see this as a move to "compete" with my former church. In fact one person from that church (not the leader so please do not rush to judgement) already asked that I do not return to the area because "that will stir up problems". For one, I do not believe that my return would have any effect on that church and secondly, my return would not include a "competition" mentality.

The truth is that my former church wants the same things I do and that is to help Jesus become a reality in the community. It also happens that my ecclessiology, my missiology, and some of my theology are not the same so our appeal is to an entire different person. The most important truth is that only through Christians modeling love and grace can we truly help the world to see the true power of the Risen Lord. I love my former church and the people there and I want them to succeed in all they do. They just hired a person to replace me there and I honestly wish him well and from what I hear he will be a great fit and probably do a better job than I could do right now.

The point is this. If I return to that area to serve in a church one goal is to provide a place where people can have hope restored. I want to be a part of a place that walks in love and grace and pursues justice and peace and the things Jesus spoke about. I want to be in a community where my friends who are not followers of Christ can come and truly feel the love of God through each person and where they can take a step closer to knowing the creator of the world. I want to live a life of reconciliation which includes walking in peace with all local gatherings of followers.

My possible return to the area is not a move to hurt any church in that area, but on the contrary, is to help make them stronger. If any would choose to journey with me and who harbor feelings of hurt or bitterness towards any other gathering, today is the day that I ask you to let it go. Let us forgive, let us love, and let us pray for those who persecute. Let us not gossip, let us not slander, and let us feel the weight of forgiveness and the joy of true community even if those sentiments are not reciprocated.

Today I thank my former church for the years we had together and today I pray for your future. I may soon be a partner in your community and you may even see some old familiar faces serving with me (you also may not). From this day forward the elephant has left the room. There is no need for feelings of competition or jealousy. Today we (me and all like-minded) choose to fight for those who have no voice. We choose to love those who no one loves. We choose to follow the God of the Bible who changes lives through a revolutionary message of love and not through manipulation. We take seriously the command to "take care of the alien and stranger (even if they are illegal aliens)" and we do not fear those who believe differently or act differently. We choose to be part of an ancient revolution.

Since I am slipping into "preacher mode", allow me to end with this quote from a Jewish scholar named David Flusser. "... I believe that the contents of his [Jesus] teachings and the approach he embraced have always had the potential to change our world and to prevent the greatest part of evil and suffering".

This is what I want to be about so all who want a competition or who want to live by making comparisons, you will journey alone because I will not be joining you.

There. The elephant has left the building.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Pastoral Primaries

When our time here in Jerusalem is over and I am forced to end my retirement and re-enter the work force we have endless possibilities. We can move anywhere and do almost anything. As of right now, I do feel that it is the time in my life where I want to go somewhere long enough for my kids to make friends and make it through school. I also am at the point where I will probably work as a senior/lead pastor for the next phase of life. (This or possibly be a driver for UPS)! Obviously I want to go where God leads us and all of this can be changed by things I can not anticipate so please do not hold me to the following conclusions.

I have found inspiration from the presidential primary season in America in helping me to decide where exactly I would like to work when returning to the country. I have decided to do my own "primary" that will work in the opposite direction of states choosing a candidate. In this, it will be the candidate choosing the states. The best way to do this is to work through a process of elimination so at the risk of offending readers from all over (as if there are readers from all over) here are the first states to be eliminated:
All states east of California and south of I-80.
Arizona, New Mexico, Alabama, and Louisiana are too hot.
I was born in Georgia but don't drink Iced Tea.
Florida is a better place to visit than to live.
Mississippi is out because I do not speak the language.
The Texas state sign says, "Proud home of George W. Bush".
Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and the Carolina won't work because I cannot even name one country music song.
I also have eliminated Kansas, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, the Dakotas, and Iowa on principle.
I eliminated most of the East Coast because I do not dress "preppy" enough to live there.
In fact, lets be honest most of the country is eliminated because I just wont fit in. Some of the New England states are still in but drastically trailing in the polls. St. Louis, Chicago, parts of the upper Mid-west, and Denver have some appeal but probably won't make the cut because they are just too cold. So it is the West Coast that leads in the polls but that only makes sense because I am from the West Coast and because after living for a year in Israel where people are uptight, I think I need to return to the land of "casualness".
So in the next few months I will use this site to include all of you in an open dialogue in shaping some ideas for church. The important thing for me is to be a part of a gathering of people who are interested in following the God of the Bible and not one that has been confined by the limits of often faulty theology and manipulated by political motivation. I am interested in joining with the churches who are waking up to the reality that the American church has lost touch with the world in which it lives and it has lost the revolutionary power that the universal Church had in its origins.
Part one of "shaping of the church" will come later this week so please join in the process.

By the way, this is my disclaimer to God. If you really want my family to move to Texas we are willing. Just remember that we already are spending a year in a place like Texas where 1) we are not fluent in the language, 2) where everyone man and woman carries a gun, 3) where they like to build big fences to keep people out, 4) where we are the minority religion, and 5) where the people would be willing and eager to fight any country up for the challenge.

Friday, January 11, 2008

When Words Don't Work

Today we found out that our 5 year old son's best friend was just diagnosed with a rare heart disease that requires a heart transplant. Nothing we can say can add understanding or comfort to the parents and no words can even help a 5 year old understand exactly what is happening to his friend. So today from 5000 miles away we try to pray and we eagerly await his surgery that happens tomorrow that will hopefully give him some more time as they wait for an adequate match for a transplant.
So today I ask all of you to pray for this boy and I leave you with these words from the songwriter Rich Mullins;

"Hold me Jesus, because I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my Glory, now be my Prince of Peace"

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Now I know I am a college student

This post is evidence that even though I am a few years older than most college students, I still possess the same qualities that are required to be a successful student. You see, right now I am writing a short paper that is due this week. As you can see, by "writing" this paper what I mean is that I am finding many other things that absolutely need my attention at this time. Like any good college student I will probably keep finding other things to do until the night (or morning) before the paper is due and then I will get it done without a problem.
Just the other night one friend emailed a link to a web site and asked my thoughts about the ideas presented so I immediately checked the site and replied to him with a two page response. To be honest, I was impressed with my response and even graded my own paper, giving myself an A- only because some arguments were not as well supported as they should be, but nonetheless, it was a quality work. Okay, enough wasting time, NOW I must go and complete this paper and I will not do anything else until it is done.... unless one of you asks a question that requires response and then I will be happy to procrastinate.