Thursday, October 29, 2009

What Makes the Good News Good? Seeing the Glory of Christ" :: Desiring God

Video of What Makes the Good News Good? Seeing the Glory of Christ

This is a good sermon on what we are trying to preach this weekend.

1. The Gospel of the Kingdom is the promise that in Christ the quality of life of heaven is available now
2. The Cheif characteristic of heaven is the presence of God
3. The chief characeteristic of the quality of life of heaven is direct, intimate relationship with God
4. The kingdom of God is available means intimacy with God is available.
5. The Gospel promises intimate relationship with God. (John 17:3; John 4; Romans 8:15-17)
6. This relationship with God is life transforming . (2 Cor 3:16-18: Phil 4 (cast anxiety....)

1. Believe in the promise of life transformation through relationship with God
2. Pursue intimacy with God.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Todd Hunter Explains What is Wrong with Emergent

Todd Hunter Interview where he says the following:

In the interview, Todd Hunter mentions “two big problems” with the Emerging movement. (I have my own problems with the movement but we’ll discuss those at another time). Todd’s problems with the Emerging movement are:

“First, the emergents are so sensitive to issues of community, relationship, egalitarianism, and being non-utilitarian in their relationships, that evangelism has simply become a synonym for manipulation—a foul ball, relationally. If you and I were work colleagues and I built a relationship in which I could influence your journey toward Christ, that would be considered wrong in these circles. I cannot be friends with you if I intend to lead you to Christ. “

As Todd points out, the Emerging Movement isn’t something you can “broad-brush”. It’s much too slippery to get a handle on enough to make any real, substantial criticisms, (which is one of my problems with it, but I digress).

In Todd’s response I would tend to agree, as he states it, but I would also agree with those who feel it’s manipulative to make friends for the purpose of evangelism. I guess I would amend Todd’s statement to say, “I cannot be friends with you only because I intend to lead you to Christ.” It’s the recruitment motive that bothers me, and I think a few others, when it comes to targeting people as conquests rather than learning to love people no matter what their faith, or whether or not they eventually become followers of Jesus. I think what has to be intentional is our love of others, not evangelism itself. I believe in intentionally loving someone and praying for God to reveal Himself to them, but I do not believe in intentionally targeting someone simply to convert them to my faith.

One helpful question I believe we should ask is, “Am I willing to be someone’s friend for the rest of my life, even if they never convert to my faith?” If at any point in the relationship I would abandon the friendship and move on to a better prospect then, I believe, we’re not really fulfilling the Lord’s command to love others. Love isn’t conditional. It should remain and be sustained regardless of whether or not it is reciprocated. Love should continue apart from agreement on matters of faith.

Todd’s second problem is the one I take the most issue with.

“Second, after 10 or 12 years of the emerging church, you have to ask where anything has been built. Evangelism has been so muted and the normal building of structures and processes hasn't moved forward because there's no positive, godly imagination for doing either evangelism or leadership.”

Thanks for saying this for all us who value the proclam,ation of the Gospel and the use of wise method as opposed to the emergent organic way.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bono - Rebranding America

This Bono Article explains why the president might be able to have great effect on global peace by attacking extreme poverty and fulfill his commitment to
“... support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year’s summit with a global plan to make them a reality. And we will set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time.”

Monday, October 05, 2009

Surfacing the Problem by Knowing the Destination – The Ultimate Goal

But the Wedding is in New York
Picture a man preparing for a trip to New York. He begins planning maybe a few months in advance. He books a room. He books a flight. He packs his bags. He prepares the agenda for the event when he arrives at his destination. In this case, the man is very excited about the trip because he is going to be the best man in his best friend’s wedding. He has prepared a speech and prayed that he will be a blessing to his friend. He has even prayed for his friend’s marriage that the couple will find purpose, friendship, and satisfaction in raising a healthy family together.
Our traveler rides to the airport with his wife and is filled with a sense of peace and confidence. This is going to be a great wedding, he says to himself. His flight is flight 87 for New York. He checks his bags and finds the gate. He sits next to another man in the waiting area. He gets his boarding pass and boards the plane. The planes are all lined up waiting their turn to accelerate down the run way.

The planes on this runway are all 737s and they take off to the East and fly over the Los Angeles basin before realigning themselves as needed for their ultimate destination. Our traveler has taken this flight before and likes to look out the window over the great deserts of Arizona and Texas as the flight takes its path to the South before heading up the East coast to New York. This particular flight lands in New York near sunset and the view coming up the eastern seaboard and into Manhattan is profound. After flying over 2,000 miles of desert and then the farms of the Eastern United States, the astute passenger can see the great massive city in the distance. As the plane draws nearer, you realize there are 8 million stories in this city. You feel as if you can see into the apartment windows and into the lives of the various cultures of New York: a Puerto Rican family here, the famous Italian and Irish districts there, Harlem and the birth of Jazz to the North of the city, wall street and the New York stock exchange. I picture the history of so many of the American people groups. My mind thinks of African Americans listening to a Joe Louis fight around a radio with hope of freedom and dignity. As the plane enters the city and fly’s out over the Atlantic, the statue of liberty comes into site.

I remember when I first visited New York with my soon to be wife. We rode the subway into the city from JFK airport. We got off the subway and walked up the stairs to the streets. When I stepped out onto the street, I could not control the emotion as I began to cry. The massive skyscrapers are like no others on earth. The racial tension is palpable. The story of humanity is distilled in every scent and every sight.

All these memories fill our traveler’s mind as he prays for his family back home. The plane hovers over the LA basin and begins to gain altitude. With his eyes closed, he hears the pilot speak over the PA system as the plane backs to the North. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to flight 87. We will be landing in San Francisco in 56 minutes”. Our traveler’s eyes dart open as he realizes, he isn’t going to New York.

The Meaning of the Parable
God puts in our hearts a visions for the great city. He has shown us that we can arrive at our destination just as the first century church did. Our model is Acts chapter two. We are part of a great story of each generation struggling to build a community immersed in the presence of the Holy Spirit and directed into holiness by the teachings of Jesus. Contemplation of this purpose and the hope of arrival is in itself life transforming and filled with peace and joy.

As communities begin to launch down the run way toward their destination, they all look similar. The accelerate down the same runway all headed in the same direction. This is Christianity. We all have the same faith in Jesus as our savior. We all have the same ticket. We are all on flight 87. BUT the fact is we all have different visions of where we are going. Some understandings of the ultimate destination are quite mature and biblical. Some are merely going on a vacation. But ultimately, it is the pastor, the pilot in this analogy that will determine the ultimate destination.
Not to offend any Bay Area residents, San Francisco is a beautiful city and all, but it ain’t New York City. The Transamerica building isn’t the Empire State Building. Oakland isn’t the Bronx. Berkeley isn’t Greenwich Village. There is a Broadway street in San Francisco but it isn’t the Broadway. So too if we seek to become like the successful church down the road, we will not find ourselves in Acts 2.

Acts 2 or The 20th Century Models
There is only one destination for the New Testament church and that is to model itself in principle after the prototype church of Acts chapter 2. The New Testament has a wonderful statement that teaches us to look to God’s model and not each other as our goal. Paul said of some early Christians, “They compare themselves with themselves and have no understanding”. It is not unless we seek as our destination the New Testament ideal that we will travel in the proper direction and find unity in the body.

The first and most important key to understanding the Acts Chapter 2 community is that the Holiness and beauty of the Acts 2 community is impossible to attain naturally. As we set the target or the preferred future to which we are going to strive to enter, the vision must elicit the response, “We can’t get there from here”. A key principle of faith is that apart from God it is impossible to get from “our here” to “God’s there”. This is true in our individual lives and it is just as true as we set our vision for our corporate life. So often, we settle for less than God’s vision because we cannot see how the community we are part of could ever get from here to there. So instead, we set more “practical” goals. We choose to attract people through natural means. We use good music, a naturally charismatic speaker. We avoid challenging the listeners with the uncompromised biblical standard of sacrifice. We catter to people’s natural inabilities and

The Standard of the Acts 2 prototype is so beautiful that this ideal reveals to us our wretchedness and sin. It is the uncompromising contemplation of this biblical model of community that brings us to a place of mourning and spiritual poverty. In the Acts 2 church no one had any needs that were not cared for. In our communities, if a man loses his job is it not possible that he could lose his home as well. Is there not someone in the church to pay his mortgage for a time and another to offer him a job? Is this love the norm in our community? If it is not, then contemplation of the biblical model drive us to ask why is this not our experience and what do we need to do to align our lives with the kingdom model.

Does the lady in the pew next to us in church know how to get to our houses? Are our lives and our communities intimate enough that we take our meals together and meet regularly in one another’s homes? Is such intimacy threatening to us? If it is, can we say that the gospel has set us free from shame? Are we free from the curse in Adam if we still hide and live guarded lives?


Friday, October 02, 2009

Fear of Man and Fear of God - Piper

This is very good. Set aside 45 minutes. This sermon is about death to the real root cause of unbelief - ego.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Jubilee - What The Bible Says about Economics Part 1

Great Graph from Paul Krugman

This image is powerful...What does this show? Well the great times of wealth polarization were 1928, directly prior to the great depression, and the first decade of the 21st century. Why does wealth polarization lead to depressions? It is very simple. It is like monopoly, when the common person, the middle class, has very little discretionary funds, then demand falls and depressions/recessions happen.

In the 2008-2009 example, the falling demand was temporarily held at bay by increasing the value of homes and thus giving the false perception of wealth to any people. These people then leveraged their wealth by taking out seconds on their homes. This cycle put cash in people's pockets and a surge of demand. But when the bubble burst, the true lack of wealth amongst most consumers was revealed and consumer confidence, (i.e. demand) fell drastically.

So the real cause of the problem is the polarization of wealth. Thus, the biblical solution - Jubilee. Jubilee is a time of wealth re-distribution and the forgiveness of debts. In our day this is known as, bankruptcies and loan modifications.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My Story

I was asked to give my testimony on Easter so I thought I would post it here:

My story is the story of a seeker. This process of seeking began when I was about 10 years old. I remember at 10 or so I saw a World Vision television show about the 1973 famine in Tanzania, East Africa. Prior to this documentary, I was unaware of the problem of poverty. The contrast between the affluence of my neighborhood and our nation with the reality of suffering in other parts of the world was irreconcilable. To me as a teenager I was profoundly aware of this ethical idea. What alarmed me even more than the suffering itself was that no one else seemed to care. My awareness of poverty and of the apathy of people around me was reflected in the music I listened to, the clothes I wore, and my relationships with my peers and my parents. It even affected how hard I studied.

At university I began to study the root causes of this problem of poverty and I discovered politics. I was studying to be a medical doctor. My major was Medical Anthropology and I wanted to work on the most fundamental problems of infectious diseases and clean water with an emphasis in East Africa. As I studied the historical roots of these people's suffering and the realities of global trade and economics, I came to the realization that the problem was not only human apathy but was the result of the intentional acts of the powerful. What was needed was a political solution. Needless to say, I took a serious turn to the left.

Our test case was the problem of South African Apartheid. My activism got me face to face meetings with some very powerful people. We spoke truth to power, but I was profoundly struck by these men's stubbornness. Eventually our frustration resulted in an escalation of the conflict, and my friends and I found ourselves in jail. At this time y heroes were Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Jesus. All spoke truth to power, met resistance with courage, and died well fighting for the poor. When I graduated from college my understanding of Jesus was of a political activist motivated by compassion who was killed as a result of his advocacy for justice and his compassion for the poor.

After college, for some reason I remember I attended a youth group at a church. I remember arguing with the youth pastor, who appeared rather square to me, that Jesus did NOT die for his sin. His advice was that I read the Bible and start in the Gospel of John. Never one to back down from a challenge, I went home, found a Bible and opened to the Gospel of John.

The story begins with John the Baptist's first encounter with Jesus before Jesus even started any public ministry. Seeing Jesus walking toward him, John the Baptist says "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." This verse struck me. I read it again and again and I began to weep. In one moment, I realized that though Jesus did speak truth to power, this is not why he died. Jesus dies to actually solve the problem at the root of all our suffering and our apathy and our stubbornness. Jesus died to solve the root problem of our nature. For the first tie, I saw that I was also in the grips of a moral struggle with sin and my ego and that I was losing. I was convinced in an instant that I was a sinner and was fundamentally just as spiritually needy and destitute as anyone else. I realized in that moment that I did not know God but that I needed His help. Jesus dies to reconcile me to God and to transform me from the inside out. Jesus dies to save me from my demons. In an instant, I understood that our problem is not an economic problem or even a political problem but a spiritual problem: that my problem and our problem mattered to God.

Many of the things I learned through my searching as a young man I still believe, but where each of the roads I went down ended in a dead-end, I now have hope and faith that if God is with us, He can transform both us and those we meet because of the work Jesus did on the cross, and because Jesus is still alive, we are called to serve him and work with Him to expand His kingdom, His justice and to live according to His compassion

Monday, March 02, 2009

Balanace Sheet recession and the Revenge of the Glut

Revenge of the Glut - Paul Krugman

The best explanation of the financial crisis I have heard and it's solution came from an NPR expert from Japan. He explained how property owners are experiencing balance sheet problems.

The result is very obvious. Our balance sheets are wacked so we must recover by saving. This savings a has lead to a ridiculous problem of the paradox of thrift. The paradox is that if everyone attempts to repair their balance sheets at the same time and get financially health all at once, then the economy as a whole goes to hell in a handbasket.

Can I get a witness?

The solution is that we allow the government to temporarily and intentionally get its balance sheet into trouble and spend while we all save. I do see a problem with this fix. The trouble with this solution is that the government already has a balance sheet problem. BUT, nonetheless, if they government tries to fix it's balance sheet problem now, like Hoover did, then the problem will get as severe as the '20's.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Worse Than Expected on the Economy

Worse Than Expected on the Economy

The current economic crisis is a moral issue in that Christians are called to incarnationally empathize (feel with) the suffering around us. We need to prepare to be on the leading edge of the crisis. The fact is the economy is in a total melt down and we need to have answers for people, well being answers, for people who will be on the streets. The future is not going to be "OK".

Jesus calls us to understand poverty and God's provision as Jesus did. California is at 10.5% unemployment and this is only the beginning of the down turn.

People have told me that this is not "relevant", but nothing could be more relevant than real suffering. The Day of reckoning is here. Americans have not faced the facts of our ego-driven greed for consumption and we have found ourselves in incredible debt. Now our balance sheets are underwater. This has at it's root a spiritual problem.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Robert Reich: Finally a Progressive Budget

Robert Reich's Blog: Finally a Progressive Budget

This is so right on!!! Reich understands so thoroughly the real roots of the recession side of our economic problems.

Praise for the Obama budget. I am so partisan; it is funny

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Read Stuff..To be an asset to God's world

What I read and why I read it.
I use to not read at all. I know that sounds strange but for about 15 years I read only the bible and 18th and early 20th century sermons. I am still very glad I focused on this limited reading for so many years. I am a better person for it. BUT...this year I began to read other stuff...

I read:
1. Newspapers. I read a lot of news because I think the human condition and economics is on God's heart. People are suffering and understanding why they suffer and putting policy positions in historical perspectie and context is important. So I read...
2. Biography. In the last 12 months, I have read a few. Einstein, FDR, Lincoln.
3. Robert Reich and Paul Krugman....

just a bit about me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A discussion about the economy with Fred Mishkin, Mark Zandi, Nouriel Roubini and Nina Easton in Business

Thirty nine minutes but really good on the Obama housing plan. Basic outcome, they need to cut actual principle of the mortgages.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What the centrists have wrought

What the centrists have wrought - Paul Krugman
Here is the bottom line on the stimulus.
It is such a drag.
I sold all my stock.
We are in for the real deal. It seems Herbert Hoover has risen from the dead.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Luke 10:38 - 42 Someone Greater than John Piper is Here

If I was to think of anyone who I would like to have a mentoring relationship with, it would be John Piper.

A fantasy might be that Piper called me up and said he wanted to be my mentor. He says that I will have opportunity to teach at the church he pastors and as I grow and prove faithful that my responsibilities would increase. If such an opportunity opened up to me, I would drop everything and do whatever Pastor Piper asked of me. I would work very hard to succeed. This would be the opportunity of a lifetime.

Well, the fact is that someone greater than John Piper is here. Maybe you would think of some other over achiever but you get the point. When Jesus offers us relationship with Him through the Holy Spirit, this relationship is "the one thing necessary". No longer does reading books really matter. TV and entertainment seem pretty irrelevant. Being mentored one on one with Jesus, being called to be a disciple of Jesus is the only really important opportunity in life that gives our life purpose. Seeing this relationship with Jesus as a more practical opportunity than if someone with power and position in the world offered you a one on one internship is a proper perspective on what the kingdom actually offers us.

When I remember this living relationship in these terms, I begin to strip down my life and prioritize my listening to Jesus and studying his word. Jesus, what spiritual direction are you giving me today? What skill set are you teaching me in order to be faithful in little so that I can receive greater responsibility in your church and with your people and on your earth? Jesus is the one with power and position in the big picture and He is the one who has the skill and the knowledge to teach us what is really vital in life to true success and true influence.


Friday, January 09, 2009

No Solutions- The Obama Gap - Unemployment Figures Dec 2008

The Obama Gap - Paul Krugman
Unemployment Numbers for December 2008
Even Paul Krugman, appears unwilling to say what the real problem is. The fact is the real problem is still not being solved.
The problem is wealth polarization and wage stagnation. This unwillingness to discuss the real problem makes the problem that much bigger.

The fact of the matter is that the only people who have the kind of money needed to jump start the economy is the rich.

I warned about this in September 2008 - The Solution is Wage Infalation via Tax Policy
and again in October 2008 - Stimulus and the Need for Wealth Distribution
The problem is simple. In order to compete on Wall Street companies need to make huge, huge profits. The result is even if a company makes huge profits, their stock prices fall because someone else makes huge, huge profit. So to be competitive companies must lower wages.

The only way to solve this is for government to change the rules of the game. A good example would be to return to income tax levels on the rich that are pre-Reagan.

In that there is no real solution (i.e. this is never going to happen), this is my last political post on this blog. For anything political see The Post-Partisan.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ross, Holbrooke, Haass To Serve As Envoys - Marc Ambinder

Ross, Holbrooke, Haass To Serve As Envoys

Huge news, Dennis Ross reported in as envoy/negotiator on everything Iran. All I can say is - OMG.

There is absolutely no doubt in Obama's very strong even hawkish pro-Israel position. This is fantastic news for Israel. I am reading Statecraft currently and, basically, Ross is a hero of mine.

Tactics for the Middle East, Barack Obama and The Mideast’s Ground Zero

The Mideast’s Ground Zero - Thomas Friedman's piece
piece this morning makes a few very important points on recent middle east historical events. I would like to expound a bit on how this relates to Christian support for president-elect Obama.

What we have currently in the Israel/Palestinian region is a shift in who the real power players are. Previously, the PLO/PA were the representatives of the Palestinian position. This made a two-state solution, given a few very difficult sticking points, a possibility. Today, we have a different scenario. With Hamas and Hezbollah in power on the borders of Israel the real power brokers are Israel and Iran. With the combination of a shi'a state in Iraq and Iranian puppets in both South Lebanon and Gaza, a two-state solution no longer is practically on the table.

This scenario has occurred at least in part as a result of a few huge tactical and even strategic blunders. The USA supported elections in Gaza prior to the setting up of a state with any constitutional institutional structure. The result is that Hamas, an Islamist party, took power. This total rookie move was basically putting the wine of democracy in a vacuous political wineskin. The wineskin of democracy MUST BE A CONSTITUTION WHICH PROTECTS THE RIGHTS OF ALL CITIZENS and institutions which solidify the development of a sovereign state. The result has been that Iran is now bordering Israel through its proxy Hamas. This is a decidedly anti-two state solution and the state that is threatened is Israel.

So the strategy now has to be to undermine the Islamic narrative of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. Nothing accomplishes this vital strategic necessity better than the support and success of Barack Hussein Obama and a changing of the face of America in the political mind of the Palestinians. America must convince the populations Gaze and the West bank and Southern Lebanon that their prosperity is not linked to Hamas and Hezbollah but relationship with the West. What is needed then is most likely a new political player other than the Palestinian Authority in the areas of the future Palestinian state.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Easy to Understand Krugman on Stimulus

Stimulus arithmetic (wonkish but important) - Paul Krugman

Around where I hang out, people are knee jerk anti-government. I avoid the topic as much as possible, but if anyone is interested, the above Krugman article explains the need for government intervention pretty well. Krugman has been very good over the past week so read all his blog and his op-eds to get what I think is at least an intelligent discussion of the options.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Why I am Not a Fundamentalist - A Brief Look at the Cosmology of Genesis 1

The "fight for Genesis" has been a rallying point of fundamentalists for over a century since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. What fundamentalists have been fighting for is the wrong headed defense of Mosaic or Ancient Cosmology. What such a reading of the text of Genesis misses is that the bible is not intending to communicate the ancient cosmology as a tenet of the faith. Therefore, to make ancient cosmology a creedal belief places the progress of human discovery at odds with faith in Jesus as the Christ. Such a link between Ancient cosmology and faith in Jesus places an unnecessary stumbling block to faith.

Instead, it is better to understand the worldview of the biblical writers as one of the tools the writer necessarily used to communicate the culturally transcendent truths about God's relationship with man throughout history from Abraham to the present.

For example, Genesis 1 states the following:
6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
Moses is stating that God separated the waters, some above in the heavens and some below the air on earth. The expanse between the two bodies of water was called sky. Later, Moses places the stars and the like in the sky. This is the Ancient cosmology. This view of how the universe is laid out was prior to our discovery of the water cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation and was a common sense explanation of where rain came from.

Remember, less than 300 years ago, human beings universally believed that there were four basic elements: earth, fire, water and air. No one had described accurately the idea that one element could exist in the three basic states of air, liquid, and solid. These discoveries which we take for granted today are part of our cosmology.

The key here is that you cannot expect an ancient writer to speak from a worldview that was not possible for him to comprehend. God inspires men to write, but, nonetheless, God uses human instruments to perform His work including writing the Bible.

So when we take into account the worldview of the writer, we must look to discover the BIG revolutionary "aha" that the writer was explaining to his contemporary readers. In Genesis, Moses was not questioning whether there existed two bodies of water separated by the expanse of sky. What he was questioning was the understanding that the different elements and objects of the universe were the creation or eminence of DIFFERENT DEITIES.

Moses the Prophet of Monotheism!!!!
In Moses' world, the Israelites had just come out of Egypt where there was a god of the river and a god of the frogs and a god of the Sun etc. The story of Moses is the story that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the One true God of Heaven and Earth and all that is on the earth and under the earth and in the seas and in the sky and the rain and the sun and everything.

Moses tells this revelation using the tools of his culture and ancient cosmology. To miss the radical proclamation of the Lord Almighty as Lord of All and instead focus on the cosmological understanding of human society of 4000 years ago is to not only miss the point but to place ignorance as a prerequisite to faith in God Almighty.

I do not think that the placing of such a stumbling block between faith and those God loves will be something that will be so easily forgiven.

They Used Us for Our Faith

Last night, my family and I watched the movie, Traitor starring Don Cheadle.

There was one line in the movie that I can totally relate to. The Cheadle character is speaking to his friend (who is a Islamist) and he says,
"They used us for our faith"
The Cheadle character is trying to show his friend how his faith made him committed and the politically minded used that conviction to their political benefit but distorted the faith in the mean time.

I can relate. What is so difficult about being in such a situation is that we as individuals haven't been down this road of serving God with our whole being before and it often takes years to figure out who is real and who is just using us for our radical comittment. Someties our desire to serve God in a tangible way makes us vulerable to being used by people with a worldly or political agenda.

I do not think the church has learned its lesson but the fact is, "They used us for our faith".