Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More Shane...

This is Shane Claiborne talking about who he is and giving you some of what he believes. It is a good insight to the man and the ministry. I will be writing more about nuggets I drew from Shane's talk soo, but I thought this would be another good intro. He is all over YouTube by the way, so if this interests you, check him out. I also added the Another World Is Possible web site on the right. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Meeting Shane Claiborne

Tonight Angela and I went to see Shane Claiborne speak and chatted with him for a few minutes afterwards. If you don't know who Shane Claiborne is, he is the author of The Irrisistable Revolution and founder of the Simple Way, a ministry to the poor in North Philadelphia. His book is a must read. Really, it is.

Shane's talk was primarily what he talks about in his book. He is a little crazy, which you know if you have read his book. He started out by leading us in a blue grass song that the people in his community wrote. Here are the words:

Come now and join the feast,
From the greatest to the very least,
All are welcome at the feast,
here now in the belly of the beast.

To be honest, that pretty much sums up what he is all about. The words of the song are a snapshot of what his ministry is. There is a feast going on that he is inviting everyone to be a part of, and it is now. We are not holding out for heaven, but expect justice and victory now, on this earth, the enemy's territory.

He, of course went on to tell about his upbringing, how he was saved, how he befriended some homeless people in college who captured his heart, how he went to Calcutta India to work with Mother Theresa, how he traveled to Iraq in the wake of 9/11 to minister to the Iraqi people, and lots of other riveting stuff. I will write about that in the weeks to come. But ultimately, Shane is a normal guy who is living out the message of Jesus. It is amazing how he is the quintessential combination of a normal guy and the completely polar opposite of normal. It is what he calls an "ordinary radical."

Oh, how we need more people like him, being the hands and feet of Jesus in our world. May we reach out to the Calcuttas that are all around us, and may we be great lovers of people, "from the greatest to the very least." It is what God is calling us to do.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Little Less...

More from Donald Miller's Searching For God Knows What.

If you ask me, the way to tell if a person knows God for real, I mean knows the real God, is that they will fear Him. They wouldn't go around making absurd political assertions and drop God's name like an ace card, and they wouldn't be making absurd statements about how God wants you to be rich and how if you send in some money to the ministry God will bless you. And for that matter, they wouldn't be standing on a beach shouting about how they are God, twirling around in the waves.* It seems like, if you really knew the God who understands the physics of our existance, you would operate a little more cautiously, a little more compassionately, a little less like you are the center of the universe."

* Donald refers to Shirley Maclaine doing exactly this as she describes in one of her books.

The primary thing I like about Donald Miller is that he is a thinker and he makes his reader think (I guess that is two things). I love how unconventional he is at arriving at his point. It is refreshing. It is logical.

I want to focus on two ideas that are related. The first is the fear of God; the second is his last sentance above. My frind Chip (who has a blog here) has done a better job of explaining the idea of the fear of God than anyone else. I must say that it has always been a bit of an elusive idea. Fear, in our context, is not a good thing. And God is our friend; he has called me a friend and even a lover, so why should I fear him. Chip explains it like this: It is similar to the way you feel as a little kid when you break something, and you realize that they will be home any minute. You fear the punishment and the soon inevitable facing of whatever you did. You never worry that your parents will not love you or kick you out of the family. That is how Chip describes the fear of God, as a fear that can never be separated from love. That makes sense to me, I guess, but how is that different than conviction? I am getting off track. I think you can tell a person who really fears God from one who is just using Him. I have spoken on here before about how perfect I think C. S. Lewis' portrayal of God as a lion is. How appropriate to select the king of beasts to be the archetype for God. I think we make God into a teddy bear too much. The danger is when we make him the lion but without any love.

The second point is the last line; what a great statement: It seems like, if you really knew the God who understands the physics of our existance, you would operate a little more cautiously, a little more compassionately, a little less like you are the center of the universe. That is the second thing I think you can tell about a person who knows and loves God, that they are a little bit less the center of the universe than others. I like how he says "a little less," because we all know how selfish we are if we are honest. As I was pondering this, I thought that may be the element that one could use to identify Christians...that they are a little less all about themselves. Then I remembered that the Bible says something different, that Christians are known in that they love one another. But how different is that, really? When you love your neighbor, you focus on them more, you serve them, you care for them, you are kind, not because you want something, but just because. I think that is pricisely what Donald is talking about. But, man, is that a lifelong journey or what?

May we learn to fear God more and more everyday. May we never use God as our ace card, to further our own agendas. May we, every single day that we are on this earth, operate a little less like we are the center of the universe.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Misrepresenting God

Here is some more from Donald Miller in Searching for God Knows What. Here he talks about media heads who claim to represent God, but in actuality, are misrepresenting him. He tells the sad story of the conman Robert Tilton (you may recognize as the "farting preacher") who was outed for collecting money from sweet (yet stupid) little old ladies to fund his greed. He goes on to say this:

The real thing that made me sad that day was that God, who I think is quite good, was being misrepresented so terribly in the media. I realize it isn't popular to say such things, that as a Christian writer I should keep my mouth shut and kiss everybody's butt, but it is difficult to do so when there are so many media-savvy idiots pretending to represent Jesus. just this morning I watched a fellow on his Christian talk show talk about what we should be doing in Iraq, how we should be starving out clerics and sending more troops to shoot more bullets and drop more bombs. He's a preacher, for crying out loud. Why doesn't he just tell people about Jesus?

If I weren't a Christian, and I kept seeing Christian leaders on television more concerned with money, fame, and power than with grace, love, and social justice, I woulodn't want to believe in God at all.

This could not come at a better time, with 'ol Pat Robertson again making all Christians look like idiots and predicting a major terrorist attack this year. Thanks for the kind words, Pat. Way to stay positive.

Seriously, though, why isn't the Christian message in the media balanced? We seemed to have somewhat balanced political banter, why can't we have balanced Christian banter? Why are the Christians you see on TV all the time the weirdos?

I have a theory, of course. The Christians you see on TV tend to be in the prosperity class of ministers (i.e. those who believe that God wants you to be healthy and wealthy). That message preaches much better to Americans, sadly, than the true Gospel, where Jesus basically says, "Come, follow me. Everyone will hate you, and you will have to give up everything, even your own life, but you will get fulfillment through me, and your life will not be boring." As Donald shares when he speaks, take Peter for an example. He owns a successful fishing business. Jesus calls him out of that to follow him around confused for a few of years. Then Peter denies him and generations read about it. Finally, he and his wife get crucified upside down (according to church tradition). come on and sign up, y'all. That won't sell as many prayer shawls on TBN.

I understand that my thoughts on this are all over the place. I am basically just ranting. In the end, the point I want to make is that Christians in the media have been misrepresenting God for years, and I, for one, am sick of it. May we never give into pop Christianity. May we never comprimise the message to what is easy and comfortable. I choose to follow Jesus, for He is my reward.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Simply Simplicity, Part 2

Simplicity "is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle." Both are equally important, because the outward lifestyle without the inner reality is legalism, but the inner reality without the outward lifestyle is not simplicity either, but hypocrisy. Yesterday we discussed the attitudes of the inner reality. Today I will share Foster's "ten controlling principles for the outward expression of simplicity." He notes that these should never be taken as laws, for that borders on legalism, but simply as an attempt to flesh out what simplicity means in our culture.

1. "First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status."

Our culture is plagued by status seeking. My question is how much should we as Christians be involved in that? As Foster says, "Stop trying to impress people with your clothes and impress them with your life." I think he makes a good point. We could all do better to remove the seeking of status through material things from our lives.

2. "Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction to you."

I think we all are addicted to something. Food. Shopping. Attention. Whatever it is, we need to get control of it in our lives. By definition, to be addicted to something is to not have it surrendered to God. May we all live addiction free lives.

3. "Third, develop a habit of giving things away."

This is key. As I have said before, the only way I can continually break the grip that materialism has on me is by giving stuff away. When we think of giving, we primarily think of money, and probably rightly so. But I think we can do good by giving away possessions as well. I had a good friend in college give me the shirt off of his back, literally (he had one underneath). May we give stuff away and show that possessions do not possess us.

4. "Fourth, refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry."

This can be a deep hole to fall into. When you start to buy the newest and best stuff, you tend to just want newer and better stuff and you are never happy. I think this relates to the usefulness point above. So you need a PDA, fine, but do you need the $600 E-Palm 3000 that rakes your leaves and speaks to you with an accent? I think you get my point.

5. "Fifth, learn to enjoy things without owning them."

Foster makes a good point here encouraging the use of parks and libraries. I admit that I struggle with this, because I like to own my own books. I am a not take and a resource guy, so I like to mark up my books and then reference them later. I guess I have to find the place to draw the line.

6. "Sixth, develop a deeper appreciation for the creation."

We don't need to all be entertained by tv, radio, and other noise. The sky, birds, smells, and other stuff in the world can give us a simpler pleasure. When we shut off the noise, we appreciate the world around us.

7. "Seventh, look with a healthy skepticism at all 'buy now, pay later' schemes."

In other words, avoid debt. This is pretty strait forward. Be wise with what money you borrow. I think there are times when it is wise to finance certain things, but do your best to pay it off as soon as you can.

8. "Eighth, obey Jesus' instructions about plain, honest speech."

Foster says we should "avoid flattery and half-truths. Make honesty and integrity the distinguishing characteristics of your speech." In a world where much is fake and few people say what they mean and mean what they say, this sort of communication is refreshing. I think we would all do better to practice this more.

9. "Ninth, reject anything that breeds the oppression of others."

This is a tough one. First, it is an "out of sight, out of mind" issue. We don't typically think of where our stuff comes from. Secondly, oppression happens so often by so many big companies. According to Claiborne's book (left), Coca-cola, Nestle, Disney, Nike, and Gap have all been exposed for running sweatshops overseas and being militant and abusive towards workers. Some websites to check out are,, and

10. "Tenth, shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God."

"It is so easy," says Foster, "to lose focus in the pursuit of legitimate, even good things." May we keep our focus on the King and his Kingdom first and foremost, and may everything else fade into the periphery.

I will conclude with Foster's final thought: "May God give you--and me--the courage, the wisdom, the strength always to hold the kingdom of God as the number one priority of our lives. To do so is to live in simplicity."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Simply Simplicity, Part 1

As the New Year is underway, it is time for New Year's resolutions. There are many good ones, such as those made 2 centuries ago by Jonathan Edwards, and there are the most common ones. I have made two. The first is to lose a few of these marriage pounds I have put on. The second is to take a step closer to living a life of simplicity. Here's why.

Right before Christmas I finished an amazing book called The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. I honestly think that this is a must read for anyone who is serious about changing the world (You can purchase it on the left). It rocked me. Shane has a ministry to homeless people that you can read about here. Shane did an internship with Mother Theresa in Calcutta before she died and now has dedicated his life to working with the poor and homeless. It is an amazing story, and he is quite a theologian as well. After reading Claiborne's book, and wrestling with the fact that he makes his own clothes and shoes when one of my struggles is buying too many clothes, I made a decision. In the year of 2007, I am not going to buy any clothes (there are 2 small exceptions to that, 2 specific things that I will get, and then that is it). It is my small act simplicity to get my life moving that way.

As I continued to pray and study this, I opened Richard Foster's classic work The Celebration of Discipline, as I remembered some of his thoughts on simplicity. He has some great thoughts on what he separates out as Inner Simplicity and Outward Simplicity. Today, we will deal with Inner, and part two will look at the Outward.

Foster starts by critiquing our culture on its lack of simplicity (which is not hard, not even 25 years ago when Foster first wrote this). He states, "Covetousness we call ambition. Hoarding we call prudence. Greed we call industry." He then gives an overview of the scriptural examples of simplicity and the statements against greed. He then summarizes Inner Simplicity with three attitudes that we should all have. Here they are with my commentary.

1. "To receive what we have as a gift from God is the first inner attitude of simplicity."

Everything we have is from God, and we must always remember that. The simplest things that we depend on are typically the things we don't control anyway: air, water, sun(warmth). Realizing that we trust God for what we have and receive is very important to living a life of simplicity. It is when we see ourselves as the source that we can both succumb to greed and be gripped with the fear of falling with no security. When a person starts playing these games, it is hard to come back.

2. "To know that it is God's business, and not ours, to care for what we have is the second inner attitude of simplicity."

It is certainly wise to take precautions like locking the doors to your house. But, in the end, it is God who protects the house, and not the lock. For that matter it is God who ultimately protects everything we have; our employment, our reputations, our families. If we were to see ourselves as the protectors of these things, we could easily go crazy taking every precaution. We would be gripped with anxiety. It boils down to a trust issue, once again.

3. "To have our goods available to others marks the third inner attitude of simplicity."

Foster attributes our incessant need to hold onto our possessions and never share with others to one thing: fear of the future. We do not trust God to provide for us for tomorrow, so we hoard and collect so we will have enough for tomorrow. This is the exact thing that the Israelites tried to do with Manna, and they were corrected for not having proper faith in God to provide for them each day. Foster says, "If our goods are not available to the community when it is clearly right and good, then they are stolen goods." What a statement. I still think this goes back to the idea that we think we own what we have, and the truth is that that is not stewardship, because stewards don't own anything.

I am devoting 2007 as a year where I vow to live a life that can be more identified with simplicity than in the past. Maybe some of you would choose to make the same commitment. May God help us in this tough battle, and may we honor him by seeking his kingdom by living a simple life.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Crash

Allow me to share some of the recent adventures in my life.

I was in a serious automobile accident a week and a half ago in my 2003 Ford Escape. Let me first say that I am fine (most importantly). It was Thursday, December 21st, and I had been meeting with a student named Jacob for coffee at Starbucks. As we were sitting by the window at Starbucks having an awesome talk as student and youth pastor, we noticed that big flakes of snow were painting the ground outside. It was coming down fast. It had been raining all day, and the ground was cool enough for the snow to stick immediately. It came time for us to go and we headed out into our snowy world.

I entered highway 61 from 80th street traveling south-east. The snow/water/ice mixture was forming a sort of hard slush. About a quarter of a mile south of 80th, I hit a patch of slush that was jettisoning out into my lane. I was not driving fast, but we started skidding. I was familiar with correcting a skid, as I am no stranger to driving in bad weather. I had many times defensively driven out of a skid. This one was different though. For whatever reason, we began to slide sideways into the ditch. I remember saying to Jacob "Hold on!" as we were sliding into the ditch and facing the way we came. At one point we began to roll. We rolled one and a quarter times and ended up on the driver's side door. I said to Jacob, "You okay!?" to which he replied, "Yeah, you?!" I was. The passenger's side window had shattered. I helped Jacob get his seat belt off and get situated. There were already people there checking on us. We climbed up, out the passenger's side window and jumped down into the ditch. I called 911, and then my wife, then the person I was supposed to be meeting next, then the insurance company. Jacob called his parents.

The roof was partially caved in. The SUV was in pretty bad shape. It turned out to be totaled. For such a bad accident, it is amazing to me that we both walked away without a scratch on us. I credit God (please, get to know him if you don't already), seat belts (please, wear them if you don't already), and safe cars (they are worth the money). Looking back the moment was kind of surreal. It seemed to happen both very fast and in slow-motion. I remember Jacob's coffee spilling on me as we rolled (which turned out to smell like puke when it gets on your clothes...what's that about?). I remember adrenaline taking over. I don't remember the window shattering, or when we first leaned into the first roll, or smashing over the fence. It is interesting to think back on such an event and remember all of the things that happened.

It turned out that the insurance company was great (hooray Allstate!) and is giving me a great settlement. The cop who came out was great. Jacob and his parent were cool. Friends called to check on me. We planned to leave the next day for Ohio to visit Angela's a friend let me borrow his car for the 2,000 mile round trip. All in all, God really took care of me in this whole ordeal. And to think that I sometimes have a problem trusting fully in God.

A friend emailed me today and said, "You should be looking for God to do something special in and through you, soon. These things do not happen by chance." That is quite a thing to be reminded from an ordeal like this. I'm here for a reason. There is work left for me to do. Bring it on.