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Showing posts from November, 2008

Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy

This Sunday is the first Sunday in the season of Advent. Advent means “expectation.” For many this marks the beginning of the Church calendar, the beginning of our shared story as Christians. I was reading an article by Conrad Hoover on Advent, and he wrote that for the Church, “the new year is not marked by drunken and numbing merrymaking on December 31, but rather by joyful anticipation and urgent exhortation to stay awake and be watchful on the 1st Sunday of Advent.” But if those of us who call ourselves Christians should be waiting in expectation during the season of Advent, what are we expecting? If we are called to be awake and watchful on the 1st Sunday of Advent, what is it that we hope to see or experience?

My guess is that for most Christians we would offer up some sort of Sunday school, saccharine-sweet response like, “We’re expecting the birth of Jesus, the coming of the Prince of Peace, the arrival of the Messiah.” Most of us who call ourselves Christians will say …

Reflections on Being 40

So yesterday I turned 40, and I don't feel much different than I did the day before when I was 39. I shouldn't be surprised by this, but I remember thinking when I was 20 that 40 seemed pretty old. It doesn't seem that old now. Some older friends have informed that they can't even remember what it felt like to be 40. I suppose these kinds of comments are designed to make me feel better about reaching middle-age, or something, but I really don't need any bucking up. Right this second, I am sitting on the back porch of my in-laws house in North Carolina. The sun is shining in my face and it 's perfect. I spent the day yesterday with my family, laughing, eating barbeque, sharing stories, playing golf with my four year old son, resting, reading, drinking coffee, walking the dog, breathing in the crisp mountain air...it was a good day.

Today is Thanksgiving. The big house where my inlaws live in North Carolina is coming to life. The Macy's Thanksgiving Parad…

Right Down To My Last Lepta

When I was growing up, the conservative, evangelical churches that we attended all had this thing about “tithing.” Apparently, as near as I could gather, Tithing was inexplicably connected to Salvation in the churches of my childhood. If you were among the saved, you tithed. If you were bound for an eternity doing laps in the Lake of Fire, you didn’t tithe. And tithing meant giving 10 per cent of your income, more or less. The ten per cent thing was a doctrine that appeared to be connected to the Old Testament and to stoning. I grew up believing that if I didn’t give God ten cents on every dollar from my allowance, I ran the risk of being taken out behind the church to be stoned, and then I would go to Hell.  After awhile, I figured out that no one in church ever really got stoned for not tithing. I also realized that there were other signs that indicated someone was a Christian---like showing love, acting with mercy, sharing grace, and not telling people they weren’t saved bec…

Emergent Thailand & Holy Ghost Conviction

Tonight my wife and I had dinner with her cousins Mark and Alisa Langley, who are two 40-something former Registered Nurses who gave up a nice life here in the United States and moved to Thailand to live in intentional community with the Thai people.  Their organization provides scholarships for about 16 Thai teenagers to attend school, live and work together in community with Mark, Alisa, their two children, and their mission partners.  They embrace the outcasts in Thai society---tribal hill people, those who are infected with HIV, the poor---as an outpouring of their Christian love.  There's no door to door evangelism here, no huge healing services with loud, boisterous, hellfire and brimstone preachers.  Just simple people living among the world's poor, demonstrating the kingdom of God.  
Their ministry to those who are infected with HIV is incredibly moving.  In Thai culture, misfortune is heaped upon those who are wicked or inherently bad.  If you are infected with HIV it&…

Introductions: My Part of the Emergent Conversation

Recently, I've had a few friends who have expressed their curiosity over my use of the term "emerging" or "emergent church" so often in my writings.  I've also been approached by a few colleagues--pastors, for the most part---who have asked me for some pointers on starting an "emergent" worship service at their churches.  In both cases, there was a need for a wider explanation about the emergent church conversation that has been taking place for quite some time now, and in both cases I found I had to sit and think a bit before forming an answer.  This is more of my sitting, thinking, I suppose.  But maybe there will be some answers in here, too.   Several years ago--almost ten, I guess---I was given a book called "The Continuing Conversion of the Church" by Darell Gruder from Princeton Theological Seminary.  That book started me thinking about what it meant for the Church to become more missional than preservationist in its theology and p…

The Tie That Binds

Not long ago, I had a lifetime member of my church ask that he and his family be removed from the church's membership rolls.  He told me that he no longer felt that he could remain a member of The Presbyterian Church (USA) because he felt the denomination had moved too far away from what he believed to be true Christian doctrine and praxis.  Interestingly, he said that he didn't want his request to jeopardize his relationship with the church that he had called home for his entire life.  Essentially, he told me, he desired to withdraw from the denomination as an act of conscience, but wanted to continue journeying with us in our particular aspect of the Body of Christ---as long as we would have him, he added.  I assured him that we wanted him to continue journeying with us as he felt led.  I also expressed my admiration for his desire to act with integrity while making what must have been a very difficult decision.  I was inspired by his act of conscience, I told him---an act t…

Prayers for the President

The other day I was watching TV in the gym while I ran on the treadmill.  I don't do that as often as I should---the treadmill part, I mean.Anyway, I was watching a story on CNN about the reaction around the world after Barack Obama won the election.  I saw people gathered in pubs across the United Kingdom, who cheered exuberantly and raised their glasses in a toast.  I saw students in Indonesia, where Obama once lived, jump for joy and exclaim his name over and over.  I watched Obama's family in Kenya throw a huge barbeque and heard that the entire country of Kenya had declared the day after the election a national holiday.  The cameras captured similar celebrations in France, Japan, Australia and several Latin American countries as well.  
As I sat there running on the treadmill, the images that I saw hit me like a ton of bricks.  And then the tears came.  At first, I thought it was just sweat getting in my eyes, but the knot in my throat told me otherwise.  I was overcome by…

Remembering The Nap Rock: Reflections on Sabbath Keeping

I like a good nap now and again.  It sets things right.  I want to tell you about the best nap that I ever took.  It was at Lake Tahoe in July.  If you have never been to Lake Tahoe in July, I am not telling you this so that you will feel poorly toward me, although I would almost assuredly understand if you were.  The weather at Lake Tahoe in July is pretty much like the weather in Heaven.  Clear, slightly warm in the day, but with a cooling breeze, slightly chilly at night, but not cold.  Now I could probably stop right there, but there's more to tell.  The nap in question took place on a rock that was about fifty yards from the shore---right smack in the middle of the Lake.  And my wife was with me.  We waded out in the freezing cold water of the Lake, got on top of the aforementioned rock that also happened to be warmed by the brilliant Nevada sun and we just laid there while a cooling breeze blew across our bodies.  And brother, I have to tell you that I slept, and slept good.…

An Open Letter to The Church - Post Election

I sent this letter to my congregation, but it could easily go to the whole Church...
Election 2008 has finally come to an end. For those of us who have been suffering from election fatigue these past few weeks, it's a welcome relief, to tell you the truth.

But now, after months and months of being made aware of all the ways Americans seem to be divided, we will begin to hear (and quite rightly) that we must come together. In president-elect Obama's victory speech last night he spoke directly to this when he quoted Abraham Lincoln, who also presided over a divided nation. "We are not enemies but friends," Lincoln said after the Civil War, "though passion may have strained...it must not break our bonds of affection." These are fine words. We can't escape the sense of history in that they were spoken by an African-American who has been elected President of the United States in Lincoln's home state, and in Chicago, the very city where Lincoln won the…