Monday, December 27, 2010

Living in The Now

I find that as I go through life here I often compare it to my life in the States. One of the dangers of thinking too much of the past is missing the now. When we lived in St. Paul, we thought so much of Seattle that we didn't get fully into the life that was there. We were convinced that true happiness was to be found in Seattle. As Kim and I were talking about our new life in Kwaj she said that she really wanted to enjoy all that was now, she didn't want to repeat the mistakes we made in St. Paul.

I think there is great wisdom in that. We can be so focused on either the past or the future that we miss the now and the now is the only place we can really live life in anyway. Gratefulness is best practiced in the now. Prayer can only happen in the now and God speaks to us in the now.

We are learning to live in the now and to enjoy what God has given us now and to lean on Christ for our struggles in the now. I noticed that as we went out in the lagoon yesterday on boat for a little while we were able to enjoy the wonder and beauty of this place and to simply be present to what is. That is the gift and part of the learning of this new adventure.

The obvious thing is that you don't have to be living in Kwajalein to be open to the now, it is available in all places but only one time: now.

Matthew 2:13-23

This past Sunday was my fist Sunday at IMC. It was fun and interesting preaching in an open air chapel with the wind blowing. Trying to hold the Bible with the pages blowing is somewhat difficult. Fun though.

Looking at Matthew 2:13-23 I noticed a few things in my study of the passage and other resources. I noticed the last line about Jesus being from Nazareth. This is the most simple and logical explanation of the verse and it lifts up an important fact of the humanness of Christ. He lived in a real place, had a real home town and you can visit his hometown today. This is important because we can't have a dynamic interpersonal relationship with someone who didn't exist. Someone who didn't exist can't die on the cross for our salvation. In the Apostle's Creed we are specific, it is Jesus, "born of the Virgin Mary and suffered under Pontius Pilate". Jesus was and is a real person and therefore we can have a relationship with him. We can follow him as Teacher, Lord and Savior. We can speak to and hear from him, he can guide our lives and shape our hearts. He can be the dynamic living center of our individual and corporate lives. All of this comes from a real person. It is so central that the first Alpha talk is "Who is Jesus", which is a fine talk to get a deeper understanding of Jesus.

Also we see that Jesus is confronted with Sin early in his life. Herod is so power crazed that he would kill countless children rather than lose power some day. At this point in Jesus' life he is not in a place to confront "Sin, Death and the power of the Devil" head on. Yet later in his life this is exactly what he will do through his public ministry which culminates with his suffering, death and resurrection. through the resurrection Christ disarms the power of "Sin, Death and the Devil".

Yes, there is still suffering in the world but it does not have the last word, Christ does. While we wait for him to come again we know that he is present in our suffering. This is one reason it is so important that he is a real person. This real Jesus is present with us in our real pain bringing hope, strength and grace to any and all aspects of our lives.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gift of Love

Tonight I preach for the first time in our new setting. It is always interesting and different preaching in a new setting. While preaching at MLC I was preaching to friends and here I am preaching to people I don't really know. This is part of the adventure and learning that God has in this place.

I will be sharing tonight that the birth of Christ is really about God's gift of love. Christ is the clearest expression of God's love for us. We have made so much of religion and Christianity has so many expressions which sometimes agree and so often disagree. Yet at the heart of it all Christ is a gift of love for all people. This gift is so beautiful, wonderful and gracious.

Christ as the gift of love enables us to experience God's love in a real and profound way. We are given the gift of love so that we can love and live as a friend of mine said "more deeply in Love". We can live in love because Love has become incarnate in Christ and therefore our humanity is captured and clothed in this great love.

The gift of love enables us to have joy, peace, forgiveness, healing and grace. All of these flow as an expression of the gift of Christ. All that we ever really want can be found in Christ. The malls can't stock the things that we deeply want and need. These come as gifts from God through our Beloved Christ.

I feel that we should be like the shepherds who when hearing this good news left their fields and went to see the newborn Christ. Friends let us open our hearts and minds to a deeper relationship with Christ who is the gift of love.

Monday, December 20, 2010

More on Stuff

This island is by nature against consumerism. There are so few things to buy compared to the States. There are more things that I expected but not a lot. In the States we are used to having everything all the time and if we can't get it online shipping takes little or no time for an item to arrive. Here there is one grocery store and the refrigeration unit on the in-bound plane wasn't working so this week's shipment of dairy and fruits was not on the plane. That means we won't see any new items in that category until next week. The word got out and Kim along with many others "stocked up" for the week.

That notion is freaky to some who are living off island. We think that we need to have what we want or what we need all the time, we are used to it. On the island we learn or are forced to "fast" or make do with what is here. We learn or are forced to practice the discipline of abstinence. There are several disciplines of abstinence that Christians can practice to grow in their reliance on God. A discipline of abstinence is simply giving up something that we normally have. The best known example is not eating for a period of time. This is fasting in a classic sense. We fast in order to learn to rely on the strength God alone gives. Jesus fasted forty days before he was tempted to have the strength for such an intense temptation.

When we fast we can give up TV, music, food, facebook, texting or a host of things we think we need. Fasting shows our dependace on these things and it also frees our time for the Lord. If we miss a meal we have more time for prayer or study. If we are not online we are free to be with people in person or to journal and refelct on our life with God.

We just don't have a lot of stuff here and I am learning that for some residents that is fine, they have learned to adjust to less and having a more simple lifetyle. Others spend a lot of time shopping online and when they are on vacation they shop tons. I am hoping that as we live here we will learn to live with less and to be more creative in how we can spend our time and money. There are many lessons to be learned living here and I hope I am open and available enough to learn them.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


We are here and doing well so far. It is always challenging to move to a new place and to meet new people and learn new things. I am finding it an intense process to learn both place and job at the same time. I am working in a new environment (the DoD) and living on a small tropical island. Doing this is a humbling experience and since humility is a virtue and something the bible commands us to be I am finding myself thankful for the opportunity to grow.

Life should be about growing spiritually and I find that if we are open to God's movement in our lives there are always opportunities to grow and change. I guess this is why journaling is so important or for me this blog.

I am also finding being here a humbling experience. This is such a unique place to be let alone live and call one's home. There are so many things that are truly different about this place. Let me list a few

My commute to work is 3-4 minutes on my bike.

The children all come home for lunch, they ride their bikes home by themselves because it is safe here to do that.

The sea life is rich an abundant. We have seen sea turtles, nurse sharks, land crabs, birds and fish without getting in a boat or snorkeling.

There is one grocery store.

The chapel is open air.

We had fresh coconut last night.

Everyone rides bikes everywhere.

It is 85 every day.

This is such a hard place to describe but being here and wondering what I did to be able to deserve this is humbling because I did nothing to deserve this, it is a gift like all in life. All that we receive is a gift from the Lord, even in what we would consider the mundane. That is is why is it so important to practice gratefulness in our daily lives.

In the midst of our newness we miss the familiar. We miss the people at home, our family and friends. We miss the people at MLC. I think about how wonderful the Christmas music worship will be on the 19th. We miss our relationships and the process of moving here has taught us in such a powerful way how important relationships are how we should always strive to be people who love others and invest in their lives.

I will try to write more but we are still working through Internet access and I am being trained daily about how life is here since starting Tuesday (Monday in the states) I am on my own (not really since Christ is always with me).

Lots of love and peace.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


It is weird having my stuff on a boat, in storage and at our parent's house (thanks). It has made me think about our need for stuff. We need to have things, we always have had and probably always will. It is not having things that I have thought about it is what things to have that I have been thinking about.

We were given a weight limit to Kwajalein (which is small and you can go over but it costs money) and the restrictions on storage. It was a good exercise to go through all that we own and ask the question do we need this to be successful for the next few years. We found out that we have a lot of stuff that we either don't need for want and we realized again that certain things don't need to be ours (we can use the Kwajalein's warehouse) and certain things need to be ours(pots, pans, clothes, beds, couches). We also talked about how different people need different things (our children need the most).

It reminded me that we need to use things and that we can treasure things but we should guard against being attached to strongly to things. The old adage "It's only stuff" has a lot of wisdom. One of the dangers in a materialistic society like ours is that we can become enslaved by our stuff. In a very real way our stuff can own us and not us own our stuff. I am thankful for the reminder of the proper place for stuff.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Share your testimony, how you were called into ministry, and tell us about your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. How is God working in your life today?

Christ is my life. Everything good, beautiful and wonderful is a gift from his scar stained hands. Without him I would be lost, alive but dead and my life would be meaningless. In His infinite love and mercy he saved me, a lost and sinful person. He has given me a new life in this world and in the world to come (Romans 6). His presence brings me strength and hope (2 Corinthians 12:10). It is my joy to follow him as his disciple, learning to obey what he has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). I have come to know him as Lord, Savior, Master and Friend. He is my Beloved Lord and I am His.
I am in ministry because of Jesus’ call on my life. I first sensed this call through regular Bible study and prayer. I went to seminary based on this sense of call and the affirmation of my friends and family. The Lord has confirmed my call to ordained ministry call and I am so blessed to serve Christ and minister to God’s people. I delight in watching people grow in their love for Christ.
Today the Lord is teaching me about his steadfast love, the sufficiency of his grace and the joy of being his disciple. He is helping me grow as a father, husband and pastor. I am profoundly thankful for his providential action in my life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

True Self

There is always a temptation to be someone we are not. Throughout the course of our lives we try on different "masks" or identities. We wear the clothes of the group, talk like the group or think like the group. Sometimes even in Christian circles we tend to want to be like other people and not be truly authentic, to be who we truly are. Jesus frees us to be ourselves. He frees us from Sin which is the ultimate force twisting and distorting our lives. He opens to us the kingdom of God where reality can be seen for what it is.

This encounter with Christ is the force that rights the ship that is our lives and puts us on a true course, heading in the right direction with the right instruments to navigate by. Following Christ doesn't make us someone we are not, instead it is the path of becoming who we truly are. God knows who we truly are and he has given a path by which we can grow in freedom from what is false.

We gain the freedom to no longer wear a mask but to be authentic and true to God and to ourselves. This is a great gift and one of the most significant fruits of the Spirit.

We are created in the image of God and therefore love is at the heart of who we are. Sin alienates us from that love and the source of love. Being in Christ puts us into the heart of love and allows us to be ourselves, people made by love, filled with love and destined for love; all while being held in love.

Let us grow into our true selves and out away the false for this is what were made for.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Love and Worship

Psalm 48:9

“We pondered your love-in-action, God, waiting in your temple” The Message

“We ponder your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple” NRSV

This is a beautiful description of worship, pondering the steadfast love of God. I like how The Message describes steadfast love as “love-in-action”. It is tempting to think of God’s love as something abstract or removed from daily life. The simple fact is that God’s love is a constant force and action in life.
The cross is a historical event that echoes from the past through the present and it into eternity. The cross is just as current as our breath and just as relevant. The cross is God’s ultimate sign of love-in-action because it is at the cross that our brokenness meets our belovedness. If we take a long and honest look at our lives in light of the Ten Commandments we will quickly realize that we are sinful people or that we are broken people. We all are aware of how we have wounded our lives and the lives of others and so we are broken people who are as one author says “ a mass of contradictions”.
The fact of our brokenness can be cause for shame, despair and depression or they can be cause for thanksgiving and joy. It may sound odd that our sins can be a cause for joy but when our sins and brokenness take us to the foot of the cross we run right smack into the truth of our belovedness. St. Paul says that we are clothed with Christ through baptism (Galatians 3:27). Therefore our lives are now hidden with God in Christ, which means that we are God’s beloved people, the redemption of our lives is a sign of God’s steadfast love. The cross has transformed our shame into God’s glory and we are new people, driven by and destined for love. In the end God’s love in Christ is all we need for any and all things. It is the greatest power in the universe. God’s love is grace, mercy, forgiveness, strength, hope, peace and joy to name a few.
Notice that God is the subject, not us. It is God’s steadfast love and therefore our brokenness or failures or sins or whatever cannot stop this love in action. It is God’s will to be love-in-action and to show us steadfast love through Christ. Our very life flows from this love in action.
We come into the temple to ponder this love. We don’t come to worship to “get anything out of it” because we have already been given everything through Christ. We come to celebrate this love, to proclaim this love, to share this love. We sing of love, we love one another; we grow in our ability to integrate this love into our lives. In the end worship is about God and God’s love for us in Christ. The great joy and privilege of life is to know God’s love and to celebrate that love with others.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Some thoughts on community

I am beginning to become more convinced that forming a spiritual growth community takes a strong commitment to a common spiritual practice(s) and to each other. This takes courage because it requires each member to take responsibility for their practice(s) and for their availability to the group; we can't come to consume. It asks each member to practice in season and out of season. To do things they may like and may not always like. Their commitment to a shared way of life is part of the powerful bond that joins them.

For example maybe a spiritual community practices the same morning or evening office, maybe they are reading some of the same scripture texts. Then when they come together they are sharing their journey, what is God is teaching them. This group is based on love for God and love for each other and begins to grow in availability and openness.

Hurry and Gratefulness

Hurry is one of the barriers to practicing gratefulness. When we are hurried we are not present in the now and gratefulness happens in the now. A large part of gratefulness is being aware of the gifts that are happening now. For example I can be aware of the gift of my fingers as I type, the computer that I am using and the ability to read and write. This whole post can be an act of gratefulness.

If our inner life is hurried then we blow right through things and miss the now. Notice I wrote that hurry in our inner life is the barrier. We can have a full schedule and meet many needs and demands without being hurried. We can learn to move through life centered and grateful with a still center. To do this we need to take time to sit, be still and experience what it is like to be centered and grounded in the Spirit's presence now. From this place we can then learn to expand this centered lifestyle into the other aspects of our life.

When you sit to pray, start with being aware of the gifts that are there such as your chair, couch, roof, clothes, etc... In your prayer give thanks for each, be silent then move towards any intercessions. Be silent again. Then say the Lords prayer and move on with you life and come back to gratefulness as often as you can, giving thanks to God throughout your day.

Peace be yours.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


One of the great joys of being a follower of Christ is the increased capacity for love. We start out wanting and needing love and along the way we are hurt when don’t receive the love we desired. Maybe it was a parent who could not offer the love or a first boyfriend or girlfriend who dealt rejection and pain. Whatever the case for most of us life has reduced our capacity for love.

Yet it is this love that makes us most human and connects us most with the Divine. The Trinity is bound by love and God is defined as love. Jesus is love incarnate and he showed a boundless capacity to love through his death on the cross.

Being connected to Christ is the beginning of our ability to love once again. Through Christ we receive limitless love and are brought into the heart of the Trinity and therefore into the heart of love. Paul says in Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from this love. So much of the spiritual path is healing from our past wounds and losing our shame and guilt. This healing opens the heart to love and no longer do we love from our own energy, we love from God’s love poured into us and through us. We become vessels of love, both receiving and giving love.

There is such richness and depth to this way of living. It does not happen overnight but it does happen and Christ works this love in us. So much of our spiritual practice is learning to be loved again and to touch this love in our prayers and see with love as our eyes. To see with love is to see as Christ sees. It is a heart that is reformed and reforming through love that transplants our eyes to eyes of love. These eyes see the unlovely as lovely and then direct the feet and hands to serve the beloved. To see this way is to see Christ in all and through all. Oh how I long for this lifestyle.

Friends let us surrender to ourselves to Christ’s love and seek to love as he loves.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Recap from Bible Study two weeks ago

Sin and sins

Sin is the power, rule or reign that works in our lives to shape us toward behaving in sinful ways and to separate us from God. (See Romans 6-8)

Sins (with a lower case “s”) are the individual actions, attitudes or habits (which are often addictive), which result from Sin.

Through Christ Jesus we are freed from the power and reign of Sin to live in the kingdom of God under God’s gentle rule and reign.

Temptation is the lure to live back in the dominion of Sin and to let it rule our lives rather than the Holy Spirit.

To pray lead us not into temptation is to deal with temptation through prayer and the support of the Christian community.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Would like to write more soon

With being on vacation and preaching twice this month most of my creative space for blogging has been taken. I am looking forward to creating more space in the schedule to allow for creative and prayerful thinking and writing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Conversion is about the continual reorientation of our lives. Conversion is not something that happens once for all, it is something that happens on a regular basis. Conversion is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in forming our hearts, minds and actions to become more like Christ. Therefore conversion is a gift and a work. God gives us the gift of himself and we give God our time and discipline. The exchange is not a quid pro quo; it is all grace, mercy and love. Remember even the desire for conversion is a gift from God. The mystery is that we have a role to play in our conversion and it is a vital, but not equal role.

The temptation is to stall our conversion in the initial stages. The initial stage of waking up to the reality of the kingdom of God is so delightful and full of bliss. Look at any new or renewed person, they are full of joy and energy. The temptation is to think that is the final destination. One thinks that is has to be, it is so good and full of life and vitality. These initial stages rarely last too long and it is easy to allow ourselves to fall back into the old life with only small modifications.

We now maybe attend church or give financially, maybe we even volunteer but other that that our lives are largely the same as they were before and we long again for the days of initial conversion and growth. At this is the stage that we must begin to set a course for continual conversion of the heart. This is the time to engage in spiritual practice in earnest and to find a guide and a supportive community. The path of conversion is too important to leave to us; it is too easy to have the devil work against our growth.

Conversion of the mind is deeply connected to our reading, studying and contemplating the scripture. We are commanded to renew our minds. “2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2). Regular encounters with the scriptures will begin to form the mind of Christ in our minds. We will begin to think differently about our lives and the life of the world. We will begin to have a different value system then those around us. The renewing of our minds is directly connected to our ability to discern the will of God. Conversion allows us to know the will of God and to know what is “good and acceptable and perfect.” To come to this depth of knowledge takes a lifetime of practice and dedication to the renewal of our minds. I can think of no greater task for the human mind than its renewal.

Conversion of the heart is deeply connected to our prayer life. It is in prayer that we are connected to the Lord in the deepest and most profound sense. The initial stages of prayer are about receiving, or having our requests answered. While intercession always accompanies our prayer life we must not stop there. Conversion of the heart happens by being in the presence of God in stillness and attention. We stop what we are doing and center our whole selves before God in open attention. We simply obey the Lord: “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10a). We don’t bring our agenda, our need to impress or manage. We leave all the image management behind and learn to be with God in our naked being. We often can’t stand our nakedness before God, it is too raw, too honest and we are ashamed. It is only in our nakedness with all our sins, failures and contradictions visible before Almighty God that we can truly receive grace. It is in this totally exposed moment that the arms of Christ embrace us, that his scar stained hands hold us and we know the power and depth of the cross. If we hold back from God then we will always wonder if we are truly accepted and this doubt will make God’s love feel conditional and limited.

When we receive the forgiveness of Christ in full view of all our sins, failures, and contradictions then we will know that we are in fact beloved sons and daughters of the Lord. The power of this moment is infinitely more powerful than the atom bomb will all its power to destroy. The power of forgiveness flows from the infinite power of God who created the atom and this power of God is the power not to destroy but to save, redeem and sanctify. Never underestimate the power of the love of God in Christ Jesus. Prayer puts us in the place to be touched by the powerful yet tender love of God. Just like conversion of the mind, conversion of the heart takes time over time. We simply make to be with our Redeemer. In this time of simple being we come to Jesus in simple trust, we come to him like a little child, totally dependent and totally open. Holding our hands open in prayer is a way to symbolize this openness to Christ.

Conversion of the action is to look at our actions in light of what we are doing in prayer and scripture study. It is easy to deceive oneself and to feel self righteous and spiritually superior. Conversion of action is to review how we are behaving and to try to see why we are behaving this way. It is not something to do without grace and tenderness. We are not aiming at perfection in action or trying to create despair. We are simply trying to see any patterns and learn a little self-reflection. Too few people have the capacity for self-reflection and it seems even fewer are willing to take responsibility for their actions. Conversion of action is aimed at helping us mature into people who can self-reflect and be responsible. The ability to these things flows from our being radically grounded in the grace of Christ. Knowing that God has said “yes” to us allows us to practice conversion of action. This practice is best exercised with a journal and with a few close friends who are on a similar journey. The old adage “we create many of our own problems” has a great deal of truth to it. In conversion we try to see where we are creating our own problems, confess what needs to be confessed and to move forward in gratefulness.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Simply Learn

From my recent conversations it seems like writing about dry periods again makes sense. As we move along the spiritual journey we will encounter times when we are dry. There are also times we feel like we are moving away or perhaps backwards in the journey. This is all part of the journey, it is part of the process of formation.

An area for growth is learning to recognize these times, be aware of them and even be content with them. We may not like it, especially the type A personality but we must learn to simply learn. Much of the spiritual life is learning to learn from all the areas in our lives. We might not like what we are learning, we may not want to learn what we are learning and it may be painful to learn. Yes, yes and yes. Yet simply learn to learn. Simply be aware of all that is going on.

Be aware of the dryness, be aware of the pain, be aware of the lack of intention and desire. Simply give these back to God and allow it all to be there. Don't judge yourself or your progress or what seems to be a lack of progress. Give yourself the grace to simply let it all be there. Remember God is the great shepherd of your soul and is working in the deep and hidden areas of your heart. Maybe not seeing or knowing how God is working is good for you and part of the wisdom of God. Maybe not, only God knows.

Simplicity is such a helpful thing in the spiritual life and learning to be aware and to entrust ourselves, our whole selves to Christ is foundational and essential. The dry times force us to trust in God and to entrust ourselves, our whole selves to the One who is trustworthy. Learning this trust is one of the hidden blessings in the dry times. Humility is another blessing.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

More Photos

More photos are here

Heading Home

WiFi in our hotel in Istanbul was not reasonable so I haven't posted for awhile. I am in New York waiting to fly to Seattle. It is about 1:00am Istanbul time and it will be several hours until I am in Seattle. I am looking forward to coming home and sharing my experience. One thing I know is that it will take along time to process all that I have experienced and learned. I am so thankful for the experience and I have nearly 2,000 photos to go through and select the best to share. I will spend the summer preparing a teaching experience based on what God taught me through following the journeys of Paul and the early Church.

See many of you soon.

Peace and Love,


Some Istanbul Photos are here.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Turkey Day 10

Day 10 Pergamum

We visited only one site today because we had such a long bus day. Thank you for your prayers, I did well. In the morning the Lord reminded me that I could download books for my iPhone and so I downloaded a Jack Reacher novel. Those of you who have read him know that I made a good choice. Listening to a book made the whole trip so much better and I wish I would have done it sooner but better late than never.

The site we visited today was the ancient city of Pergamum, which is mentioned in Revelation chapter two. The city sits on top of a hill overlooking a beautiful valley. It has the steepest theater in Asia Minor with amazing acoustics for a theater with a seating capacity of roughly 8,000. You can stand on the stage area and be heard throughout the theater using only a speaking voice. We had one of our tours members go down and sing a few verses of a hymn while we were over half way up and heard him clearly, pretty cool.

The other mildly interesting thing is that we went to a Starbucks on one of our restroom breaks. It was fun being at Starbucks in Turkey, and yes it looks exactly the same only a little more expensive.

Tomorrow we go to Nicea where the Nicean Creed was formulated and visiting a well-known Mosque known as the Green Mosque. From there we are travelling to Istanbul.

For some photos click here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Turkey Day 9

Turkey Day Nine

Today we travelled to the ancient city ruins of Miletus. This is the city where Paul said goodbye to the elders from Ephesus before departing to Jerusalem. He was eager to get to the city before Pentecost (Acts 20:16ff). It was a touching seen in the book of Acts where we see the deep love Paul has for the leaders he served Christ with in Ephesus. While we were in the old theater Pr. Mark lead the Presbyterian elders and deacons who were are on the trip in their commissioning service (like our commissioning of council members) and prayed for them. During that time I couldn’t help but think of the people who labor with me and with our other staff members at MLC. I felt such a tenderness, respect and love for all who care so deeply about the mission and ministry of Christ in our community and who support our pastors and staff. I am truly thankful for you all and I lifted you before the Lord in prayer at the center of that theater today. Thank you.

From there we visited a leather factory showroom. High quality leather is one of the major exports to France, Spain and other European countries from Turkey. Most of the world’s fine leather goods are made in Turkey.

We ended our short day with a trip to the Basilica of St. John. This is church where St. John was originally buried. It is now in ruins but it was great being at the original site of his burial. He bones are no longer there; they are in museums in other cities.

Tomorrow is a huge day with somewhere around 8-9 hours on the bus. The early wakeups challenge me, as do the long bus days. Continue to keep me in your prayers, especially that I might not miss the wonder of the places because of my fatigue.

Much love to you all.


Photos are here

Monday, June 28, 2010

Turkey Day 8 Patmos

We spent hours on a boat on our way to Patmos. This is a small island about four and a half hours away from the city of Ephesus. Patmos is the island that St. John was exiled to in 95 A.D. when a new emperor took the throne in Rome who was very anti-Christian. It was on Patmos that John received the book we now call Revelation. We were able to go the cave where John received and dictated this book of the Bible. It is hard to describe the power of being a place where Jesus’ beloved disciple prayed regularly and also received from the Lord scripture. Pictures are not allowed in the cave, which makes total sense.

From there we went to a monastery started in the 11th century named after St. John. The monastery is still active with 15 Greek Orthodox brothers living and worshiping there. We toured the museum and the church before having lunch and then heading back for another 4.5-hour boat ride to Turkey.

Having studied taught and preached from Revelation it was a very special day for me. Most of the day was spent at sea but I am so thankful for this opportunity.

For some photos my Dad took of the monastery grounds and the city click here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Turkey Day 7 Ephesus

Today we visited one of the most visited sites in Turkey, Ephesus. It is estimated that nearly 10 million people a year visit this site, many of them coming from the ships. Since thousands of people go through the site a day it is hard to experience this site without a crowd but today we did just that. We were the first group through the gates and our guide was able to lead us through all the sites and we literally had the place all to ourselves, it was awesome. Very few of my shots have people in them and then it is only our group. We were the only people in the theater during which is so rare. The theater is mentioned in Acts 19 and I was able to read the passage with Mark in the very site mentioned in the Bible. Before the excavation this was impossible.

From there we went to the rarely visited church of the Virgin Mary where the third ecumenical council met to discuss the nature of the Virgin Mary. I remember learning about that in early Church history and it was wonderful to be in the place where it happened. Mark read to us from Revelation 2 which is the letter to the church at Ephesus. After that I helped him with the words of institution and we shared the Lord's Supper with the group. It was very special.

After that we went to Turkman carpet shop. There we had a wonderful presentation on the process of making a Turkish rug, which is one of the cultural treasures of Turkey. The shop is likely the best in Turkey. We have the afternoon off since we are getting up at 4:45am to go to Patmos tomorrow. Patmos is where St. John lived and where he received the Revelation.

I am enjoying the rest and I feel relatively "normal".

Here are a few shots.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Turkey Odds and Ends

Turkey is about the size of Texas, a little larger.

It is fertile here. Driving around the country reminds me of being in a combination of Napa Valley, Eastern Washington and the Sierras.

The mountains are amazing, with high numbers of rock peaks and some large walls. It is a climber’s dream and I often find myself dreaming about the countless routes up these peaks.

It is a secular state. That is right, Turkey is a secular state ruled by a democracy. It is the only country whose population is primarily Muslim (90%) that is a democracy. They are trying to show the world that it can be done. Therefore, you see women dressing from totally secular to heavily religious and everything in between.

Apartments are the predominate style of living, very few people living in a single family home. The big cities have literally hundreds of apartments buildings decorated in bright and bold colors.

A large majority of people grow grapes for shade and therefore they are seen all over the country.

The people speak Turkish, which is related to Finnish, Hungarian and Korean.

Day 6 Hieropolis and Afrodisias

I am feeling better today, thank you for the prayers. I skipped dinner and slept really well last night.

Today we were at Hieropolis which is a biblical city and very interesting. Surrounding the city are hundreds of tombs from the ancient world. Also it is a popular tour spot with the Russians because of the hot springs there. These springs were popular thousands of years ago and it was a draw to the city because they were thought to have healing power. The water flows from a nearby fault in the Earth so the water is rich in minerals. When the water evaporates it leaves white calcium deposits and the hillside is white with all of these deposits.

We also went to the city named after the god Aphrodity. While not a biblical city is one of the most impressive sites in Asia Minor. It has so many different parts of city excavated and it really helps give one a sense of the wonder of the ancient world. I am getting a much better sense of the world in which the Bible was written and the one where Paul was called to preach the good news.

Here are a few photos.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Turkey Day 5 Antioch Pisidia and Laodicea

Early start today with a bad nights sleep due to a room that was too hot made for a challenging day today. It was also a very special day because when we reached the church in Antioch Pisidia Pastor Mark asked me to read with him St. Paul's first recorded sermon. So we took turns proclaiming God's love through the scripture using the very words St. Paul used in the very place he preached. Co-preaching the sermon was a truly amazing experience for me and I am thankful Pastor Mark was kind enough to include me in this way.

From there we went to Laodicea (see Revelation 3:14-22). We were able to visit some rarely visited sites and we saw exactly why St. John made the reference to being lukewarm in 3:16. Having studied and taught Revelation I am honored to be in the sites where these churches are.

We spent 7 hours in the bus today to accomplish seeing these sites. Needless to say I am tired and praying passionately that I will be given the rest and strength from the Lord to be able to soak in the gift that this trip is. Tomorrow is another long day with more important biblical cities.

Today was very special for me, one I doubt I will ever forget. I am thankful to my parents for the gift of the trip and my congregation for allowing time for continuing education, I am learning a ton.

With love,


Here are some photos.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Turkey Day Four

Day Four Tarsus and Travel

We spent six hours on the bus today. It is hard for me to sit in the bus, which sometimes has good airflow, and other times is really hot and stuffy. Needless to say I am a little tired today. We went to Tarsus where St. Paul was born. Very little of the ancient town is left. There is a well that the people used and so Paul would have used it and there is a small section of a Roman road that Paul would have travelled on. The big deal today was being in the birthplace and home of Paul.

Tonight we are sleeping in Konya, which is a very important site for Muslims because it is the home of the 13th century mystic poet Rumi. He is revered throughout the Islamic world and the monastery, which he started and where he is buried is now a museum. It is a very special site for Muslims and we saw many people making pilgrimage to their holy site. The quality of the antique Turkish carpets displayed was amazing as was some of the calligraphy and some of the manuscripts of the Koran.

Tomorrow is an even earlier wakeup was another long day travelling to Antioch Pisidia.

Here are some photos

Turkey Day 3-Antioch

Today we went to Antioch, which is the site of the first Gentile church. It was truly amazing to be in the church where Paul pastured for over a year. I can only imagine the sermons he preached and the worship that they had there. The Bible says that Barnabas worked with Paul and that Peter came to Antioch to visit. Tradition has it that Peter was the first bishop of Antioch and so the church is named after him.

It is hard to describe what it is like to be in the church that Paul pastored. I think it will be hard to fully integrate the power of a place like that. I know it makes it hard to sleep some nights thinking about all of the events of the day. The church is nothing to look at; it is a glorified cave. Christians were persecuted so they went into to hills above the city to worship and the church was in those hills.

During the time of Paul Antioch was one of the largest cities in the area; it was a true cultural center. It was kind of like New York is today. For example Mark Anthony and Cleopatra came to Antioch to be married. The city had over 400,000 making it a large city in those days. Due to many earthquakes over the years, one, which killed 250,000 Antioch, is no longer the cultural center it was in antiquity. To help us get a sense of the beauty and wonder of the city during Paul’s time we went to a museum in downtown Antioch.

We saw some of the most beautiful mosaics. Most were from the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. and some of the other artifacts were from the time of the Assyrians (7th century B.C.) and the Hittites (14th century B.C.). These were a wonder and I took a lot of photos to help us get a sense of what the city was like.

To see today’s photos click here.

Turkey Day 2

Today we went to a pottery art gallery as our first activity. These folks are true artisans creating very high quality unique art. The studio is owned by fifth generation artisans and is an entirely family owned operation, which creates most of the pottery in house and hiring some additional artist t help with the special (think expensive) pieces. The pottery from this part of Turkey is world-renowned and is shown in art galleries around the world.

After the gallery we traveled to an underground city. The city is completely underground and was created originally by the Hittites as a way to store their produce and wine. During the first century the Christians in the area would retreat into the city to flee persecution from the Romans. The cities could hold 1,500 people and sometimes 2,000 people. The city was four stories deep with designated areas for worship, water, storage and other life. The ventilation shafts were often camouflaged so that their air supply wasn’t cut off. They would cook at night so the smoke wouldn’t have been seen. When the persecution passed they would return to the villages above and then use the caves for food storage.

The city was used heavily until the third century when Christians were no longer persecuted. They were used again in the 6th and 9th centuries, as marauders would pillage the Christian towns. I was reminded how thankful I am to live in a country where we don’t have to hide in caves or be secretive about our love for Christ. I was also touched by the worship space in the city. In the midst of persecution the Christians would sing, pray, hear messages about Jesus, the One they were being persecuted because of. I find this very inspirational because we can so easily take our relationship with Christ, the Church and fellow believers for granted. We can get caught up into consumer Christianity where our congregation is there to meet our needs; when we want, and how we want.

This is just the opposite; it is all about Christ and faith in Him. Life becomes about living our faith and passing on the faith. If those Christians had renounced their faith then Christianity in this part of the world during that time period would have died out. Instead, it grew and was passed on from generation to generation for almost three hundred years until Constantine ceased persecution of Christians. We can learn a lot about what it is important from these ancient people.

Dad and I are doing well. The schedule is a little tough for me but I am still holding up well. I am able to rest this afternoon and go to bed early tonight which is good.

The food is very good in all the places we are going, I am enjoying going to local places and eating local dishes. Tomorrow we are going to Antioch, which is a very important Biblical city.

For some photos of todays trip click here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Turkey Day One-Cappadocia

We made it! We were delayed out of New York so our 9.5 hour flight turned into a 12 hour flight while they fixed the airplane while we were seated. That made us miss our connection in Istanbul so we waited 6 hours in Istanbul for our flight to Kayseri which was over an hour late so it was really 7 hours. That means we were traveling for about 32-34 hours before arriving at our hotel.

Today we went to Cappadocia. It is an area known for its rock formations and cave dwellings. It is an important site for Christians because St. Basil the Great lived among the caves in the area. He is one of the early fathers of the Church, especially for the monastic life. He emphasized community life and a community rule among other things. He battled the Arian heresy that said Christ was not fully human or divine, he was somewhere in the middle.

The orthodox (right teaching) is that Christ is both fully human and fully divine (which is important on many levels). The Nicene Creed (which was from the Council of Nicea, here in Turkey) states that Christ "is one being with the Father". So today we were at the home of one of the most influencial leaders in the early Church. We saw the caves they lived in and the churches that they worshipped in. The frescos (think paintings) dated from the 9th century and some from the 13th century. Pretty amazing stuff. We also toured the countryside and saw the unique topography which draws tourists from all over the world.

The weather is good, not too hot and not too windy. I am feeling pretty good considering all the events and I am very thankful for that. For those of you who are praying for me it is working so keep it up!! Also this year I brought my father-in-law's camera (which is better than mine) and I am delighted with the shots (210 today).

To see a small sample click here

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I was asked recently how much or what part do we play in our transformation by the Spirit. Some would say none, it is all God and while the sentiment is good it is not totally accurate. Yes it is God who calls us and woos us but we still have a part. If we had no part then all people would be transformed since God desires that all people be transformed.

I like to think of it as 99.5% God and 50% us. I know that the math doesn't add up but let me explain. The overwhelming work of transformation is done by Christ through the Holy Spirit. I also believe that God wants us to be participants in our transformation, we must desire to be transformed. Desire and intent are the keys that unlock the door to spiritual growth.

Desire and intent shape our lives and if we begin to desire God and intend to follow Christ then we will begin to be open to the Spirit and to spend our time in ways that help us encounter God. Our desire may be weak but is a start and our intention may wain but it is a start. We must ask ourselves the question do we desire to grow closer to Christ? If so what do we intend to do about it? Desire and intent are the 50% because at first it seems like we are choosing and acting in order to know Christ and once we get started we realize that almost all of the work is done by God.

After a while when the rapid growth stalls and we are in a holding place with God then desire and intent resurface because it is easy to grow complacent in our relationship with God and to be satisfied with a little knowledge and a little experience and not dive into to the deep ocean and rapid current that is God. We get scared and hold back in the shallow water, we say "we are saved and know Christ". Yet brothers and sisters there is more waiting, there is an endless abyss of God. Desire surfaces again and so does intent, this is what I call the second desire and second intent and this is again the 50% participation.

This second intention and desire is what helps us grow to the next place in our life with God. Fear is our great enemy at this point and many Christians hold back because of fear and never experience a fuller and more intimate relationship with God.

Friday, June 4, 2010


The other day I had the chance to go hunting. While I was out in the woods glassing clear-cuts I had the experience of God's presence gently coming over me like a wave. In these moments I feel so whole and well. So often living with chronic illness I can feel broken and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be fed and nourished by the gentle and loving ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In those moments I also realized again how thankful I am for all the people who come around and alongside me in my life. I was especially thankful for my wife who does so much for me and for our family. I was mindful of family and friends who support. As my church community came to mind I was again filled with gratitude for the many people who help me in life and ministry.

God has this way of ministering to us in just the ways we need. So often this ministry is right before our eyes and it takes a little space from the ordinary to be able to see God's blessing in the ordinary and also we need to be away from the ordinary to receive God's blessing that comes from those times as well.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Yesterday I was watching my daughter play tee ball. My daughter is petite and she is fast. Her gift is not to hit the ball hard or far but it is to run fast, she is really quick. During the games she runs the bases well, and frequently while running from third to home will out run the pitcher who has a shorter distance to run. She is great at the unintentional “squeeze play”. Her coaches just smile while she beats the tag. I also take great delight in watching her run.

Yesterday while watching her run and taking great delight in her abilities the Lord reminded me that he takes great delight in watching us, his children in Christ using our gifts. He gently whispered in my heart that he takes delight in my preaching. I felt loved. It also reminded me that it is important to help people discover and use their gifts for the glory of God and good of the body of Christ. We should do this because God delights in it and it brings joy to the heart of God when we use or gifts. It was such an encouraging time and I hope it encourages you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reflections on Leadership, Conflict and Conversation

During my first call I had some significant disagreements with the members of the congregation about the direction of the congregation. At one point the president of the council resigned so that he could have a voice and vote since the chair of a meeting has no vote. When I asked him why he told me “I have such a strong disagreement with you about the direction of the church that I feel it is my duty to ‘buck’ you and vote against all changes”. Looking back some six years later I realize that I may have been right about “mission” and “vision” but I know I was wrong about the way I dealt with the council and congregation.
I first gained support for my “side” and we would talk about why we were “right” and the other side was “wrong”. At the same time the other “side” would gather and do the same thing. When it came time to go to council and “fight” for our position we wouldn’t listen to each other. We weren’t open to the other person, they became an “enemy” and I must say that neither side obeyed Christ in “loving our enemy”. We didn’t see the other as created in the image of God and redeemed by Christ. They became someone in our way and in my most self-righteous moments someone in God’s way since they were against the “mission and vision” of the church. When someone is “against God’s ways” it is easy to attack them as “Pharisees” and feel good about it during the process. What I forgot is that Christ died for each person in the congregation and in that they are His and I was to treat them as such.
What I have come to realize is that God does care about the mission and vision of each and every congregation. God cares about what we do and don’t do. I have also come to realize that God cares deeply about who we are as people and as a congregation. He cares more about who we are (that is the kind of people were are) than what we do because what we do flows from our character and inner life. If we are people who are greedy then we will act accordingly, if on the other hand we are generous then our actions will be generous. One of the primary works of the Holy Spirit in the Christ follower is to transform our inner life so that we are as St. Paul would say, “lead by the Spirit and not the flesh”. So while I may have been battling for the “mission” of the church I was revealing my lack of Christ-like character and we as a council weren’t behaving in ways that gave glory to or testified to the greatness of God. The following are a few of the insights I gained from those meetings and my time there.

1. Psalm 103:8 “ The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”.
God’s nature is mercy, grace and slowness to anger. Often in our meetings we are not merciful with each other. We assume they are wrong and attack the idea with all our energy. This is the way we were taught in a competitive educational system but it is not the way we are to be with each other. We need to give each other mercy and grace since God in Christ has shown us mercy and grace. When someone brings and idea, no matter how off the wall or offensive it may seem we are called to listen openly and honestly and give the community a chance to discuss the idea without attacking the person. We need to learn to keep our anger in check. Too often we are quick to anger when God is slow to anger.
Steadfast love is a love that is not easily dismissed or discouraged. It is a love that can be count on and that weathers storms and the test of time. In God’s case it is a love that never fails. This is the ideal that we strive for and what the Spirit is working within our hearts for the brothers and sisters in our community and within the world. The greatest commandment is to “love God and love your neighbor”. After too many of my council meetings I left feeling not loved and I am sure that the people I fought with didn’t feel loved either. What a great failing. We should strive to love each other.

2. Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts and we also have forgiven our debtors”
We are forgiven people in Christ. God has secured our forgiveness on the cross and has bound himself to that promise. We are called to experience that forgiveness and to live out of the abundant mercy, grace and tenderness that forgiveness brings. In my conversations with the council I was not forgiving, merciful or tender. I was hard, sharp, pointed and accusatory. While I proclaimed the forgiveness of sins each week and presided at communion it was clear that I was not living forgiveness. I was not tender with each person in the congregation or the council. I judged others because I thought they were slow and just “didn’t get it”. I would “debrief” my meetings and what I was really doing was gossiping and judging people, saying things like “they don’t care about the congregation or Christ’s mission in the world.”
Our meetings should be seasoned with tenderness and bathed in forgiveness. When we over speak, lose our temper of become accusatory we should be quick to recognize this and seek to restore our relationship. Jesus says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24) It seems to me that God cares more about our relationships than our ritual worship because restoring relationship is worship.

3. 1 Peter 5:5-6 “All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ’God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble and oppressed’. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
One of my seminary professors made the comment once that he thought all ELCA social statements should begin with “we might be wrong but,…”. What this does is recognize that we do not see perfectly and yet still need to move forward discerning what we believe is best. Some believe this would be wishy-washy but it is true, we might be wrong about a number of issues. What this statement really does is put an aspect of humility into the process. I was convinced that I was right on all of the mission and vision issues in my first congregation and I may have been. However, I was prideful in my approach and dealings with the members of the council. I was not willing to listen to them, ask follow up questions for clarity or even rethink my own approach. I simply countered each point (with the scriptures when needed) and then went away wondering how they could be so dense as to vote against me. What I failed to do was to help cultivate was an atmosphere of discernment, discovery and discussion. We did not work together to listen to Christ’s voice; instead we fought to have our own voice heard. All of us were prideful in our approach.
One of the results of our battles was that we became an angry group of people divided into “camps” or “factions”. Instead of being a place where “Christians are known by love” we became simply another dysfunctional institution. Visitors to worship could sense the tension and they were unlikely to get come back. Due to our fighting and lack of love we developed a highly anxious and unkind atmosphere in the congregation. As a result our regular members lessened their support of both finances and time leaving us with less people and less money. We blamed each other for the decline in worship attendance, money and parishioner involvement. Things from that point only went from bad to worse. The conflict showed that our spirituality was immature and that we really didn’t love each other. Both sides lost.
Looking back I would like to have had a better emphasis on who were Christians and I would have liked to strive harder to deepen our relationships with Christ and one another. I would have liked to been a person who stove to live differently in the midst of conflict and not succumb to the temptations of anger, gossip and over reaction. I hope in future conflicts I will remember those lessons and I hope I am growing into a different person.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Deep in the human soul is the need to be loved. I think that one of the greatest pains in human life today is the lack of love. We have more toys and more technology than before. We can communicate with each other faster and in more ways than even imagined a few decades ago. Yet I wonder, has our love grown as fast as our technology? Are we rich in compassion and mercy? Does joy pour forth from our being? Can we really delight in the now?

Perhaps in all our advances we have missed the real and replaced it with the quick and fast. Perhaps we have been chasing the wrong things and don't know where to go any more. We have lost our way and now are lost. We are surrounded by people and things and yet are poor and lonely.

Thankfully there is still a way to grow deeper in love and become people of compassion and mercy. It is an old way, a slow way that is often at odds with the current culture. It is founded by Jesus and trodden by his followers for centuries. Consistently when a person comes under his apprenticeship they encounter this way. Notice I didn't say "get religion" or "go to church". I didn't say become "spiritual" or "get the right doctrine". A person may need many of those things.

This way is about Jesus and spending time getting to know him and learning from him. It is to take seriously his call to "follow him" and to learn how that happens. It is not a glamorous path or one that leads to fame or fortune. Quite the opposite, it is a humble path of service. It entails unpopular words like: service, humility, patience, discipline, self reflection and sacrifice. It gets at our use of time and reshapes what we value. In short it changes us. We learn to be "lead by the Spirit" and not the "flesh".

The fruit of this journey is nothing less than living in and from the resources of the kingdom of God. It is a life that starts now and goes on into eternity. Jesus is the way and through him life in all its fullness opens itself. This fullness is marked by a deep and profound joy. It is knowing in the depth of one's being that you are loved. It is peace in the storms of life and wisdom that comes as a grace. It is knowing who you are and more importantly whose you are. It is hope in this life and a surer hope in the life to come.

The door to this kingdom way of life is open and no past mistake, failure or character flaw is a barrier to entrance. All that is needed is to accept Jesus' invitation to follow him and to learn from him as your ever present teacher and Lord.


"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 19:9

The process described above is called gleaning. God wants us to leave some of the fruit of the land (His land) to be available for those who are poor and those who do not have any of their own land (alien). The realization is twofold. First the land is not ours and second God gives enough for everybody if we can share.

Gleaning is the process by which we distribute some of the extra from the land to those who are in need. The county which I live in is starting a gleaning project. I am thankful that the secular world would obey God's command.

See their website here


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Some thoughts on the kingdom of heaven

The Basics of the Gospel

Today there are many who use the word gospel and as we use the word we assume that each other is speaking about the same thing, when in fact we might not be speaking about the same thing at all. Therefore, it makes sense to examine what the gospel is. The word gospel simply means “good news”. So what is the good news that Jesus preached?

The good news Jesus preached is the present availability of the kingdom of God. Carful examination of Jesus words will show that the good news he came to preach is the kingdom of heaven. “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God in other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (Luke 4:43). Jesus self identifies his purpose on Earth as the proclamation of the kingdom of God. “The time has come, he said. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent for the kingdom of God has come near” (Matthew 4:17). Notice the implied continuance of the language “from that time on”. Jesus continued throughout his ministry to preach, teach, live and usher in the kingdom of heaven. The present availability of the kingdom of God or heaven (the mean the same thing) is the good news that Jesus preached.

We need to get it clear in our understanding the central importance of the kingdom of God because very little in the scriptures will make any clear sense or be born out through lived experience outside of the present availability of the kingdom of God. Without a living interaction with the kingdom Jesus proclaims we will either: moralize, legalize, tame, distort or dismiss Jesus and his teaching.

In the setting in which I work (the Lutheran church) we tend to reduce the gospel to either social justice or forgiveness of sins alone. The former lacks any real spiritual power and Jesus is only necessary as an example of goodness. One of the prayer services used by Lutherans says that Jesus came to proclaim his gospel of “justice and peace”. Not so, Jesus proclaimed the availability of the kingdom of heaven.

Justice and peace are deeply important and have a solid grounding in the Bible throughout the prophetic books but they are not the gospel Jesus came to preach. Many of the people in the Old Testament did not hear God messages through the prophets as good news. Many of the messages contain what scholars call “curses” or “woes”. Living in the kingdom is good news because it alone can produce people whose hearts are shaped by agape love and therefore live from and make choices consistent with agape love as taught by Jesus. It is these people who can truly do the good God desires, which will resemble closely the social justice desired.

The gospel of forgiveness only is dangerous because it turns Jesus’ teaching into a ticket punching for a trip that happens at death. We hear sermons that are the fact that we are sinners and God forgives sinners so don’t worry about. It is true that we are sinners and it is also true that God forgives sinners through Jesus but forgiveness is not the ultimate purpose of Christ. Making available life in the kingdom is what Jesus came to preach and give his life for.

Forgiveness of sins in an integral and essential part of the kingdom, one might say that it is the entry point into the kingdom; it is part of repenting, or rethinking our lives in light of the present availability of the kingdom of God. God’s forgiveness in Christ shows to what extent God would go to make this kingdom available. Even our sin is no longer a barrier to our entry into the kingdom. There are no states of life that are a barrier to entry into the kingdom, perhaps only our lack of desire to turn to Christ. The wide availability of the kingdom angered the opponents of Christ and is one of the reasons he was crucified. To reduce the gospel to something manageable is to miss the point of Jesus teaching entirely.

A disciple is a person who is learning from Christ about life in the kingdom. S/He is a person who is learning in the very place that is their life what it means to live from the resourcing and power of the kingdom. It is a person whose life has come under the gentle rule and reign of God.

Some thoughts on love

The power of love

Love is more than a feeling. It is choosing and willing the good of the one loved. Sadly we have defined love as feelings, strong attraction or confused it with lust. We say that we “love” coffee and that we “love” our children. Really? Do we really have the same will and intent for coffee and our children? The “love” we have for coffee is simply desire to meet our needs and a strong feeling of satisfaction when we consume the coffee. This isn’t love; it is simply desire and self-centered satisfaction. So often what we pass for love is simply desire.

Love seeks the good of the one loved. God loved the world so he acted, he sent his son into the world (John 3:16). Christ knew that life is full of suffering so he suffered on our behalf and to connect our suffering to the paschal mystery. Every person who has ever suffered deeply is thankful for the suffering of Christ; in it we see and experience his love. We were dead in our trespasses; the wages of sin is death so Christ died for our salvation. We don’t know how to pray so the Spirit intercedes continually for the saints according to God’s will. God’s love is humble action for our good.

On the night in which Jesus was betrayed he washed the feet of his disciples showing them love. In this literal and symbolic act he was teaching them what the lifestyle of a disciple is. It is a life of humble loving service. It is not a life lived by self -centered desire; it seeks the good of the neighbor. This lifestyle among the disciples is to be obvious to the world; in fact it will be the primary witness to the world. They will say “look at how they love one another, they must be followers of Jesus”. Christ followers are to be known by their love, not doctrine, dogma, or denomination.

Being a passionate follower of Christ means being a person who is being transformed in their inner nature and character so that they can have the ability to love; that is to act for the good of their neighbor. In doing this they will be fulfilling all the laws and commandments. They will “love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength” and therefore, “love their neighbor as themselves”.

We have strayed from this definition and understanding of following Christ. Too few Christians are known generally by their love. People say that Christians are self-righteous and mean spirited. Fights in the church are plentiful and they are nasty with each side going for blood with “God on their side”. Far too often we seek ourselves and not Christ. Small groups and their agendas dominate the politics of churches all over the country.

We must learn again the habits and practices that God uses to shape our hearts so we can learn to love again. We learn to love in degrees. It is a gradual process that begins with those for whom we already have affection for such as our friends, spouses and roommates. We begin to become aware of their needs and then act accordingly, not with them as our audience but with our Lord as our audience. We live to please Him alone. As we learn to will and act for those we like then as we grow in Christ like character then we can begin to act for the good of those we like less. The culmination of this process is the ability to obey Jesus and “love our enemies”.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Singleness of Heart

Singleness of heart is one of the great needs in our time. The fast pace at which we live and the constant pull of media creates a multiplicity in our heart and attention. This fractured self struggles to be centered and present in the moment. It is so bad that we really don't know how to be present to God and one another. Jesus calls this singleness seeking "the kingdom first". Our hearts are to be focused and centered in the reality of Christ's kingdom in our midst.

A person centered in the kingdom reality gives off a different energy than those who are centered on the multiplicity of the world. Those who are centered are more alert, sensitive, peaceful and truthful. They live life from a different place and with a different resourcing.

Slowing down, creating space in our lives is the first step. Solitude and silence are essential and returning to a prayer word or scripture phrase is essential in the pursuit of singleness of heart.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


The questions we ask reveal a lot about who we are and where we are going.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Yesterday I prepared the last of my venison back strap for the family. For those of you who do not know what the back strap is, it is one of the most tender and best tasting cuts of meat. Prepared properly it is a great meal.

What was interesting about using the last of the back strap is that I can't go and get any more. The deer season isn't until September in the earliest (assuming one goes for the high hunt) and so I have to wait until the season comes. This is blog worthy because in our American consumer society there is rarely a scarcity of anything. Occasionally toys or other collectables are hard to find but usually we can find what we want by going to other stores or shopping online.

This lack of scarcity leads us to believe that we can have whatever we want whenever we want it. With the use of credit we don't even have to wait until we have te money. Credit combined with abundance is the fuel of consumerism and materialism. It isn't until we are faced with the inability to have something that our consumerism is revealed. This has lead me to rethink the discipline of fasting. Fasting is a way of taking a break and saying no to something, we force the "no" upon ourselves to help break the cycle of consumerism and the temptation for a habit to become an addiction.

Frugality (simplicity)is saying "no" to unlimited consumption. We realize that if we have an "unlimited" amount of something it means that someone has to go without or we deplete the resource. Take deer for example. If we all had unlimited amount of venison then we would be back to the market hunting days which almost eradicated deer as a species. Today with the current hunting regulations and the practice of conservation there are plenty of deer. If I personally had an unlimited amount of venison given the current practices then someone else would have to go without.

Notice how unchecked consumerism leads to addiction, depletion of resources and the uneven distribution of resources (also known as poverty and injustice). The disciplines of fasting and frugality (simplicity) help us combat the force of consumerism and therefore help us break the addiction to more and unlimited stuff.

Also by saying no to consumerism then our resources become freer for others, we can share what we have because we have learned to be content through our practice of frugality and fasting. We have learned that food and stuff are not our source of strength and joy, God is.

I guess I learned more from that deer than I thought :).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Given into our hands

Stewarding the Earth in cooperation with and according to the will of God is the task given to humans.

We are to be proactive in our care for all that God created through Christ. As people who bear His name we need to keep in the forefront that this Earth and all its creatures who are his. They are not ours, they are his given to us to steward and care for. This stewardship includes the use of animals for food and clothing. This is a great gift given to us by God in Genesis 9:2. Shortly after Noah has rescued two of every kind of animal God gives an additional use for animals, to killed and eaten so that we can have life.

God is generous in not sparing even the lives of the animals for us. God who created and sustains all life has given us dominion over the lives of the creatures. This is an awesome responsibility and one not to be taken lightly. We must treat the life and death of animals with reverence because it is not us who gives life to all and it is only because of God's gift that we can take the life of an animal. We certainly don't worship the animal but we do worship the God who created them and treat them as a gift from him and a sign of his generosity and love. Therefore they are not something to abuse because in doing so we dishonor the one who gave them to us.

Love for Christ deems the necessity to use wise principles in how we manage our personal and societal impact on Christ's creation. We see this kind of wisdom emerging in many of the conservation organizations who are working hard to restore habitat to animals, manage their numbers through controlled hunting and create an awareness and care for the gift and beauty of nature.

While these groups are not inherently Christian I think that all Christians should support these groups. Currently the church is not poised to make the impact that these groups are and it does not need to. Christians can work like yeast in these organizations bringing spiritual knowledge and depth to the conservation movement. We have a necessary and important role to lay in the movement.

Living the gospel

I am reminded of men like Charles deFocould who longed to "cry the gospel" with his life. I think that sometimes we can get distracted by things that just aren't primary. We need to keep the kingdom of God first and foremost in our life and in our minds. We need to be looking at the ways that we are living into the kingdom and looking for the kingdom reality in our midst. I hear far too few Christians speak of the kingdom of God.

We speak of the church, the work of the church, society, even the gospel but yet not the kingdom. Far too few Christians seem to grasp the fact that Jesus came to preach the good news of the present availability of the kingdom of God. This is reality and it is this reality that we should base our lives and seek to live more deeply into. It is what we pray "thy kingdom come, thy will be done". We are people of the kingdom, servants of the king. A disciple is a person who is learning to live in the kingdom reality by learning from the one who brings the kingdom, Jesus of Nazareth.

This is living the gospel, it is a call to surrender ourselves to a God who gave himself for us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Learning from Christ through creation

Once while I was hiking during passing rain storms I came to a resting place just as the weather took a brief break. During that break I could see for just a moment the beauty of the surrounding hills as the clouds pushed through dropping their moisture on an already soaked earth. It was a beautiful moment. I couldn't help but think of Christ as the one in whom and for whom all things were created and in whom all things are sustained. It is the Lord's hand holding the vastness of the scene before me.

At the same time I was noticing the vastness of the hills I saw a spring flower that had just bloomed. The bush had many that were about to bloom but this little lavender flower had beat the others to the punch. Gazing upon that flower I felt loved. Let me explain.

That flower is beautiful and unique, it a treasure to be able to behold it. It exists because God wills it and nothing we create can match the beauty and majesty of what the Mater can do. In the same way Jesus tells us that God cares more for us than he does for that little flower or the rolling hills. In the vastness and wonder of creation Jesus teaches us that we are unique and that God cares for us in a special. What love the Lord has!


One of the words that I want to explore a little is re-creation, otherwise known as recreation. I made the prefix stand our because "re" means again and well creation is creation. The word then means to create again. We all need re-creation, we need times of rest and renewal.

Something I am hoping we will learn is how to integrate our spirituality into our recreation so that they truly become times of rest, renewal and an expression of the sabbath. Take golf for example. For many golf is a passion and a past time but it is not spiritual time at all, even for many Christians. Some might think of my notion of golf as spiritual sacrilegious.

Golf is outside in the world that God created and sustains by his word. Golf is generally done with other people, it is relational. Golf involves focus and ties our body and mind into a single activity. Golf is a privilege. Given the right approach golf can be a very spiritual experience, especially when: we give thanks to God for the beauty of creation, we recognize the holiness of the people we are with, give thanks for our bodies and the ability to golf and yield to the fact that we need re-creation as part of our humanness.

As we learn to re-create then we are refreshed for the work ahead and also we begin to build the awareness of God's presence in and through our entire life. We can begin to build a prayerful approach to life that will ground us in whose we are and who we are. Learning to be grounded and prayerful during re-creation will help us learn to be grounded in the more challenging times in life.

Many people will never go on spiritual retreats at retreat houses but they will hike, golf, fish, climb, hunt, boat and do a host of activities that have a spiritual element to them and with proper training can work like catapults throwing them into a deeper relationship with Christ.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Since it is Lent and Lent has a typical desert them I thought I would write on the desert experience a little bit. Jesus is taken to the desert by the Spirit and there he is tempted and succeeds. For me moving into the desert might be a calling from the Spirit, we know the Spirit is involved but I also have the element of my disease which can quickly send me into the desert.

For me the desert is a time of struggle. I struggle on many levels: physical, emotional, spiritual. Some of these struggles are temptations to doubt the goodness of God and to wrestle with the meaning of pain and suffering. Some of the desert is feeling not as close to God yet knowing at the same time he is closer to me than I am to myself. I find in these moments the practice of remembrance is powerful.

Remembrance is a significant part of the biblical story and a command of Jesus at the eucharist, he says "do this in remembrance of me". So what do I remember? I remember my times of closeness to the Lord first and foremost. I also remember my earlier desert seasons. This helps me to know that Christ is still present working in my life even if I don't always see it. This practices takes the sting out of the desert and makes it more like a normal cycle in life, nothing to be feared and nothing that will last forever. Knowing that life comes in seasons is deeply helpful.

I also remember the things I am grateful for and I bring those to mind, what a powerful practice gratefulness is! I remember the character of God. God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. What a good thing to know and remember! Also God is gracious and his forgiveness is like the very air we breathe!! Knowing that God is gracious to me allows me to be gracious and tender with myself while in the desert and not to get too high on myself when I am not in that place.

All of this transforms the desert from an awful place to just a place. The desert becomes a place of grace and transformation, one that deepens and strengthens me and one that comes and goes just as the seasons come and go.

Thanks be to God for Christ and his love.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

God's Best

The other day I was talking with a mentor of mine and he used the phrase "God's best". He was specifically saying that a choice he made was fine but didn't feel like God's best. I had never really heard the term but I am coming to really like it. For me it is not a term of condemnation but a recognition that there is a better way.

So often we don't have the clarity or the courage to admit that something we are doing may not be "God's best" for us. It doesn't mean that we are sinning, it means that there may be a better way. For me there is a real freedom to seeing a better way, grounded in God's grace.

I wish that more people would have this sense of God's best in the world and in our lives. We need to learn to live in the tension even though we don't want to live in the tension. We want what we want now and we want whatever we are doing to be okay. The modern folk religion is that everything is okay as long as nobody is hurt. This dumbs us down and lowers the expectations when in many cases they should be raised.

There is often a better way and God calls us into this better way. Our belovedness is not dependent on living that better way but as God's beloved he desires for us to have life in its fullness, in other words "His best".

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Divine Branding

There is a time when the fire of Divine Love, that is Christ's Love brands our hearts. It leaves an indelible mark on our soul, like a brand or tattoo. We are never the same after it, the experience lingers in our soul's memory and sets a course or direction for our lives. We can try to ignore our branding, if it is minor or so we think. We can cover it up with business, good intentions, fun activities.

It will always be there and we should not fear the place it is calling us to. For it is not the mark calling us, it is Christ calling us deeper into his presence which is another way of saying deep into his love. For his love and his presence are bound, one can't be in his presence without being loved. Again, we can ignore love and that may lead to suffering in the lover but it doesn't change the love. Christ always calls into deepening our sense of belovedness, deeper and deeper still until we can't exist without our heart beating to the rhythm of his love for us.

Spiritual practice deepens our sense of belovedness, in Jim Smith's words it changes our God story and put new narratives in place. When we learn to live from those new narratives it means that our character has changed, it is more in line with Christ's. We receive greater freedom and our bondage is released.

Some thoughts

I've been listening to Therese of Avila's Interior Castle (it is a masterful work on prayer). One of the things that struck me was how easily she moves into prayer. She will be discussing a particular issue and then a few sentences later she is praising Christ or imploring him to make us experience what she is writing about.

This helps me understand how saturated she was in the Divine Life. She had our Lord constantly in mind and was aware of his presence in all things and had this deep and profound desire to please and serve him. It reminds me of Paul's letters where he calls himself slave of Christ. She calls Jesus, His Majesty.

She also lifts up the many ways we can grow slack in our prayer and let the Evil One distract us and keep us from growing deeper or, in her language, going into the next mansion. I know that it is easy to move away from our center and calling. There are so many good things to get distracted with. I find her insistence on prayer as primary in life to be so helpful.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


As part of my regular ministry I meet with people who are suffering. I notice one thread that runs through people who have joy in their suffering; they are people deeply marked by gratitude.

They are painfully aware of their suffering but they are equally aware of the gifts of life that are given every day. They deeply know the truth of James 1:17 "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows".

They wake up in the morning and give thanks for the day even though they know it will have trials. They give thanks for food, care givers, beds, TV, email, friends, family, animals, sun, rain etc... Their lives are permeated with gratitude.

They are most thankful for our Lord Jesus, the crucified man of many sorrows, well acquainted with grief. The one who "bore our infirmities". The meditate on his passion and crucifixion. They know he knows the pain they suffer and they know most profoundly the daily grace he offers and the promise of the resurrection. They talk about heaven with joy and expectation because they know our Lord is preparing a new and glorious life.

One doesn't have to be suffering to begin this process of cultivating gratitude. Try writing those things for which you give thanks to the Father of lights..

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I have been wondering what sparks a person's soul to where they are fixed upon Christ and desire to seek his kingdom first and trust the rest to him? What moves a person from simply an observer in life or one who is caught and drifting into a committed disciple of Christ?

Maybe it is reading about, seeing or being touched by another who has been engulfed in the flame of Divine Love and now burns with like the burning bush, burning but not consumed, transformed, not conformed. Maybe it is the gentle breeze of the Spirit or failure in life that open's a persons eyes to the reality and profundity of God's love and present kingdom.

What holds a person back from embarking on the greatest journey ever, that is following Christ?

Men's Ministry Thoughts

Men’s ministry is about discipleship; therefore it is about relationship. It is first about a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The first disciples spent time with Jesus, learning from him about the kingdom of God. He called a small group to learn to follow him. Therefore, discipleship is about our relationship with each other. One of the primary goals for men’s ministry should be deepening our relationship with Jesus and each other. The strategies we employ need to deepen these relationships.

Secondly discipleship is a learned skill. We need to learn how to follow Jesus. The first disciples spent three years full time learning from the Master. They quit their jobs in order to be disciples. We today don’t have Jesus in the flesh to disciple us but he does disciple us through the power of his Spirit and through time tested practices. After spending time with the men’s ministry a man should know how to be a disciple and how to disciple another man. I propose that we adopt a basic curriculum to facilitate this process. For that I recommend the Apprentice Series. It is probably the best place to start. The website is

So for me I think that every man should go through Alpha and then follow up with the Apprentice Series, specifically in a small group. This can be done after a bike ride, a round of golf, trap shooting or any other activity.

Evangelistic. We need to prayerfully explore the opportunities to reach the unreached and think about how our activities can facilitate building relationships with the unchurched.

Once a man has been through basic training: Alpha, Apprentice Series, Spiritual Gift Inventory then we can go more deeply into certain aspects of the spiritual life and help deepen our understanding of the nature and character of spiritual formation into Christlikeness. For this Renovare has the best stuff.

When we meet again I want to know who and how we will put this overall vision into practice. I would like to see a clear strategy with accountability to help us move forward and battle the devil as we seek the kingdom of God. I am thankful for all of you.

In Peace and Love,


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Water cooled

When I was younger I ran a lot. I ran a number of road races when I was in my early teens. When I would go for a run while it was running my mom would ask my why I trained outside instead of going to the gym. I told her I liked "water cooled" runs. I really liked being out in the elements.

Today I am planning on a run and it will be more challenging than any run I had when I was younger. Getting sick and older has made running harder and with the pain in my feet I know I should shift my focus to something inside with less pounding. Part of me still lights up at the possibility of a water cooled run. Since I know that those days are limited they are more precious now just as they are more difficult.

Being aware of things sliding away has increased my gratefulness for what is now and encouraged me to live into the now and leave less regrets. I think cultivating gratitude is one of the most important spiritual practices we can have. It transforms so much about life. When we begin to look we see reasons to be thankful everywhere and it is very powerful.

Later today when my feet hit the pavement I will be thankful that they can still hit the pavement. I will be thankful for the pavement, the rain, my shoes, clothing and a warm car and house to dry off and a change of clothing. I am thankful for time in my day to run and each breath (no matter how labored) I breath. All this is gift, grace and for that I give thanks to the Father of Lights who gives all good things.

Giving thanks to my Lord while running transforms it from a mere workout to an act of praise and worship. What a good God we know and serve.

Failed Contemplative

I have been listening to Eugene Peterson's book "Eat This Book" and in this work he uses the term "failed contemplative" and I have to say that I really like the term. Being a contemplative, that is a person who lives in the ever present reality of God and seeks the kingdom which Jesus proclaimed is a beautiful word. When I think of the great contemplatives my name is not among them, yet I consider myself a contemplative albeit a "failed" one.

I really like the freedom this term gives me. It calls me to the path of continual surrender to Christ in the present moment, to a life of abandonment to Divine Providence. I feel the call to seek the kingdom and live into it's reality now. I also lose my patience, forget about God and seek other things before the kingdom. I fail daily. I also experience the kingdom daily. I live both the kingdom and failure, I am a failed contemplative.

I really like that failure doesn't mean that I am not a contemplative and my contemplation doesn't turn into self righteousness. This term has a wonderful earthiness to it. It is like Luther's saint and sinner. I just like failed contemplative a whole lot better.

Monday, January 4, 2010

dying little deaths

As Christians we know that death is the gateway to everlasting life, Jesus secured that through his crucifixion and resurrection.

Much of the time life forces us to let go and die little deaths along the way. We let go of presumptions, plans, abilities and relationships. There is pain in each little death, grief and loss. This is a difficult process, yet Christ is with us every step of the way.

I find as we abandon ourselves to Divine Providence these little deaths are given new meaning because our meaning is not tied to these things. Our meaning is now tied to the seeking of the kingdom of heaven and being found and grounded in Christ's divine and fiery love. Abandonment brings a new freedom and focus for our lives and everything gets reshaped by a new vision of kingdom reality.