25 December 2011

Welcome to Your World

Dear Baby Jesus (said with the accent from Talladega Nights),
       Welcome to your mess ... I mean world. It is beautiful, and horrible. It is hopeless and full of hope.
       On this Christmas please hear my confession and my hope:
* I confess that our material and consumer selves are a human obsession which draws us away from what is most important in life;
* I confess that we have de-mystified your incarnation, often reduced it to platitudes;
* I confess that many "Santas" compete for my time, attention, and devotion in our non-second 21st century.
* And yet I hope ... I hope deeply and am confident in you, Jesus. I hope for and see tiny signs of your Shalom in your world;
* I hope that as you enter our mess in 2012 you will do the miraculous - that Jew and Muslim and Christian will worship the One True God, who is you.
* I hope that we your people will be faith - full. That is, focused and determined in the right directions, that your will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.
So welcome to the world, dear baby Jesus.

13 December 2011

A Great Video

This is the promo video for the Cru Christmas Conference in Denver. Really well done.

12 December 2011

"Does God cause the Broncos to win because of Tebow?"

Oy vey! Christian America is just goofy. Last night I am sitting in a TGIFridays and a guy at the table next to me comments, "The Denver Broncos are winning because of Tebow's faith in Jesus." God is calling the shots in the NFL these days I guess. I wonder if He has money riding on the game also.
       It raises all sorts of questions for me that God might be on Tim Tebow's side on the football field:
* If I pray that the Denver Broncos win and my Christian friend Troy prays for the Bears to win (since Troy is from Chicago), who does God listen to?
* If the Broncos lose a game later this season, is it because Tim Tebow did not pray enough or read his Bible that week?
* If I say that God is not involved in determining the outcome of sports, then what else is He not involved in? Is this the slippery slope to Deism?
       We all love formulas that we can figure out and determine what God will do. The "Tebow Formula" is one of those - Tim loves God so God causes his team to win. Ugh!
       I respect Tebow - largely because of his humility and not calling attention to himself. He honors his coaches and teammates. He articulates that football is just a game and it is not the essence of life.
       And I appreciate that Tebow knows that God is not primarily about the Broncos winning or losing a game! How refreshing.

11 December 2011

Returning to The Gospel of the Kingdom

I get distracted easily. I love to multi-task and sometimes that gives me blurry vision. Yet by God's grace I often refocus and ask what is the gospel of the Kingdom to which I am called? THAT is the question.
       Thanks to theologian George Eldon Ladd the phrase "gospel of the Kingdom" is a lot more understandable to day than it was a generation ago. The gospel of the Kingdom is the message of Good News that Jesus has inaugurated the Kingdom of God on earth.
       This coming Thursday we will launch the Isaac-Ishmael Initiative website and Facebook page, thus officially going public with this movement to promote Shalom in Jesus toward Jews and Muslims.
       The gospel of the Kingdom is at the very heart of the Initiative. It is about the People of God as the agents of announcing the gospel of the Kingdom, and Jesus Christ as its King.
       George Eldon Ladd put it this way toward the end of his book, The Gospel of the Kingdom:
       This is the mystery of the Kingdom: Before the day of harvest, before the end of the age, God has entered into history in the person of Christ to work among men, to bring to them the life and blessings of His Kingdom. It comes humbly, unobtrusively.
       It comes to men as a Galilean carpenter went throughout the cities of Palestine preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, delivering men from their bondage to the Devil.
       It comes to men as his disciples went throughout Galilean villages with the same message. It comes to men today as disciples of Jesus still take, the Gospel of the Kingdom into all the world.
       It comes quietly, humbly, without fire from heaven, without a blaze of glory, without a rending of the mountains or a cleaving of the skies.
       It comes like seed sown in the earth. It can be rejected by hard hearts, it can be choked out, its life may sometimes seem to wither and die. But it is the Kingdom of God. It brings the miracle of the divine life among men. It introduces them into the blessings of the divine rule. It is to them the supernatural work of God's grace.

06 December 2011

Extravagant Generosity "Run Amok"

In the New Testament book of Acts there is a verse we tend to "wink at," sort of saying, "Well that's a great example, but we're not supposed to do that today!"
     The verse says: "And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met." (Acts 2:44-45, The Message)
       I have pastored in a number of contexts - from Geneva to Amsterdam to Denver - and my churches have prided ourselves on giving a tithe (10%) of all contributions to mission. When we met that goal we felt like we had "arrived" as a church.
     Acts 2:44-45 challenges this attitude. Personally I would LOVE to be part of a Christian community which turns this formula on its head - that the community would give away 90% of all the gifts provided by the people. Every month we would pray and dream about how God would have use give, give, give His resources provided through the community.
     My hunch is that we would then be closer to an Acts 2:45 community.

02 December 2011

Dragging my bones to Shabbat

It is Friday and I slept 5 hours last night, having arrived back in Denver late from Indianapolis due to a delayed flight. Today I am dragging my bones around the office, eagerly awaiting the beginning of shabbat.
       A group of us (25 or so) meet once per month on Friday evening to celebration the sabbath with a meal and a short liturgy. Tonight is the night, and I cannot wait for it!
       For one thing it is just casual and relaxed and we are all there to remind each other that there is a "time to work and a time to rest." And tonight begins the weekly rest.
       Another reason I enjoy it so much is because the people who gather are REAL, trying to figure out the rhythms of life with God and in community and they are not perfect at it either. I feel in good company with them.
       For my birthday in October Susy made me an incredible piece of pottery (see photo). It is a ceramic scroll she hand-crafted and then fired in the Raku style (thus it looks cracked).Then she made the Hebrew letters to spell Shalom. I have the image on my desk in the office and also on my iPhone. A gentle reminder of God's call to practice sabbath and shalom on a regular basis. Can't wait.