Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not Better, Just Better Off

Hugh Hollowell from Loves Wins a ministry to the homeless in NC had this post a few days ago. I think it communicates a message that we all need to hear most effectively.

Why did I grow up in a house with parents who loved me, who passed on a work ethic and taught me how to dream, how to set goals, how to love? I had nothing to do with it – it just happened. I was in the right place at the right time.

Why did my friend Jimmy* grow up in a house where his mamma’s boyfriend beat him with a fan belt, where mom had to sell her body to survive after Daddy went to jail and where the only male role model in his life was the local pimp? He did not pick that life. He was in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

If you are going to work with broken people, the first thing you have to realize is that you are not better than the people you will be working with- you are not smarter, you are not more in God’s favor, you are not morally superior. You are not better, you are just better off.

How would your life have turned out if you had to steal food in order for your little sister to eat? If you had to go to school three days in a row in the same clothes? If you had to sit on the porch in the cold while your momma is ‘entertaining’ men for money so you can eat tonight? How would you have turned out if your momma had a crack addiction, or if the only time you saw your daddy was on visiting day at the prison, or if you were raped regularly from the ages of 7 to 16?

If you are going to work with broken people, you have to understand that there are all kind of reasons that people are broken, and it often has nothing to do with their salvation, or their walk with God, or their eternal destiny after their death or whether they said some prayer.

Some of you are resisting… Hugh, Do you mean that the relative wealth I enjoy (and if you live on more than $2.50 a day, you are wealthier than half of the planet) is not God’s gift to me, but luck, or circumstance or the result of my race and culture inheriting the wealth produced by enslaved people on stolen land? Yup. That is what I mean. You were born into the right place, at the right time.

You are not better – just better off.

Read more from his blog

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chicago City Government Finds New Ways to Exploit The Poor

I really feel strongly that the people who sit in government office, lack a key skill for governing. It's called common sense. The alderman for the city of Chicago are being wood by Insurenet to use their existing network of surveillance and red light cameras to catch prey on uninsured motorist as a revenue stream.

I wanted to bring just a small pinch of common sense to counter the wild claims of millions of dollars in revenue being preached by Insurenet all for the small cost of their 30%. Insurenet projects Chicago earnings as much as $350 Million annually. Though the alderman all already misty eyed with the combined emotional surge that only greed and pork barrel spending can bring, I hope they might consider these realities.

1. People who drive unisured vehicles do so because they can not afford the insurance.
2. Many of these people once fined will lack the resources to pay their fines as demonstrated by their lack of resources to carry auto insurance.
3. In order to deal strictly and swiftly with those who feel that not paying the fine is their only financial recourse the city will have to incarcerate those parties that are unable to meet the camera levied fines.
4. Each incarcerated citizen will further cost the city money, rather than accomplishing the stated goal of raising revenue for the city.

(Dooms Day Scenario Following)

5. In the end the network will cost the city $200 million per year to pay Insurenet their expected 30% for identifying the unisured motorist and the remainder in the increase costs in the penal system to incarcerate basically law abiding citizens for their offense of being poor and marginalized.

This is the kind of justice that passes as "good government" in America today. Personally I am quite glad my citizenship is in another kingdom.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Sometimes we WAY over "churchize" what it means to just be Jesus in the world. This is not a commentary on anything other than that this cute little comedy reminded me that being Jesus on the earth, starts as small as a Smile.

Validation - TJ Thyne

Thanks to Erin for posting the video on her FB profile!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Did You Ever Know That You're My Hero

We all have people in our life who inspire us to keep moving forward. For no reason other than that I respect and admire these people, I decided to honor 5 of them today. My goal is to do this more regularly. That made it much easier to condense to my list to 5 people. The rules of this first round, is they must all live in Chicagoland area, and I must have at least marginally regular contact.

#1 - My Wife Christi
In addition to being the love of my life, she is my hero! I have never seen a person become so alive in a year. My first nine years of marriage, were always great because she is my best friend. They are a dim comparison to this last year. God has come alive and lives nearby to a person who always kept him so distant. That transformation inspires me to pursue looking more like the Jesus who is her first love. She really is my better half.

#2 - My Mentor Chuck Miller
I have a great father, and in another one of these post I will most certainly honor him. However next to my dad, no man has had a greater leadership role in my life than Chuck. Although I have sat through some of the most painful conversations of my life with him, as he exposed the darkness I attempt to keep well contained, each of these has left me stronger and wiser. I would never have matured into the man I am without his shepherding these many years.

#3 - My Co-Worker Dan Blume
One of my favorite places at work is over in the room where Dan works. He is a hero to me because he makes being nice to people look so easy. Dan always has an encouraging word for everyone. We have had some unlovable people work here over the years, and even they knew friendship and kindness from Dan. Dan is the living expression of indiscriminate love, and we could all use that modeled in front of us a lot more often.

#4 - My Friend Stephen Lamb
I like to talk a lot about the gospel for the least of these. I like to lecture, and soap box about what it means to live like Jesus. I can debate the best of you on the real meaning of taking up your cross daily. Stephen though lives it out. He is an intelligent, dynamic personality that could be working for about any church he wanted to, living any life he desired. Instead he works in an integrated church with an attendance just about 100, and he lives in a place where he stands out like a giant white q-tip. (He is Tall) Stephen doesn't talk about the least of these, he lives among them.

#5 My Friend Linnea Lang
Adversity is a word most people, myself included, cringe at. Linnea lives it every day. Though confined to a wheelchair, she towers above a crowd of people eeking out a life half lived. I am always inspired by the depth to which she seeks to be a part of God's work in the world. It would be easy to live a life of defeat while permanently seated in a chair, and yet she will have nothing of the sort. She is seeking to bring the Kingdom of God on earth as is it is in heaven, with the the best of them. I am reminded by her, that nothing separates from the redemptive work of Jesus in the earth.

So there it is! Round 1 - 5 Chicagoan people I am proud to call my heroes!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Discipleship Is Hard - Texting Is Easy

He said to them, “Go into all the stadiums & conventions centers of America and preach the gospel to every teenager. The one who believes and sends a text message to 38714 will be receive a ethereal fire insurance policy." - Mark 16:15-16 (TNT) - Tony Nolan Translation
So thanks to Internet Monk, I am in a cynical sour mood this morning. I guess technically he is not to blame, since he is only the bearer of the bad news. However, I was fine until I read his post from a few days ago, where he lambasted Tony Nolan and the Winterjam tour team for reducing the saving work of Christ Jesus to sending a text message that pledged your acceptance. Although I agree with his indictments, I think I would have rather remained ignorant to this new low for what passes a evangelism.

Honestly, as a person who strives to have genuine discipling relationships in my life, I am not about to pretend that it is a smooth road filled with rolling hills and soft meadows. Entering into life with people is hard. Being open enough to hear to the reality of people's dark underbelly, and being honest enough to reveal your own dark underbelly is no task that completed with out great personal cost. Participation in a community of support, to a person who is broken, and has no sense of their dignity and humanity can not be squeezed into a 25 minute time slot on the weekend. It can not be accomplished in any amount of time by a person who is not aware and repentant of the brokenness in their own life.

Reducing the gospel of Christ to anything less than choosing the way of the cross lived out in front of a world of watchers so that they see it is in the surrender of my rights and my life, that I have a deeper, more profound, more abundant life than the life of their selfish pursuits has brought them.

I read recently where the author stated "Jesus did not come to prepare us for death, he came to teach us to live." I think this is the true mark of discipleship. Evangelism is telling a story meant to cause an emotional feeling followed by a physical response. This outward response is made easier and easier, as the message is more and more watered down from it's roots in a grace meant for the living. Making disciples however, is a participation in the radical inclusive love of Jesus invested meaningfully into the life another, nurturing that love in them as it reveals their true identity as sons and daughters of the King of King.

Words like investment are difficult to hear in a culture obsessed with instant credit and promiscuous consumerism. Nurture is a foreign concept to a people who think food comes wrapped in plastic and sitting on a shelf. Inclusive love is an anathema to the heterogeneous comfort of the monoethnic monoclass monotheology character of the church on every street corner. So the difficulty that results for suffering with God, and participation in the divine life of Christ on earth, is replaced a trickle of truth that cheapens the gospel to a bait and switch comedy routine followed by the simple response of texting for Jesus! This is the real curse.

- Lee Shelton IV

Friday, March 06, 2009

A Bride, A House, & A Body

Have you ever read one of those books that articulated everything you already knew into far better words than you could articulate them? Have you devoured a book because it gave reason and explanation for truths that you merely feel? Have you ever known that this book you are giving your time and thought to, is to become a field guide for the journey you are already on? Have you ever finished a book with the words, "I need to buy a copy of that for everyone I know?"

I have had that happen twice in my life. The first time was several years ago when I read Tom Davis' "Fields of the Fatherless". Then the second was last night as I finished Frank Viola's "From Eternity to Here." This book rocked my world not because it introduced a new idea, but because it quilted together the very truth of God, and his passionate needs, desire, and longing for community with his creation.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section lays out the Biblical narrative in such a way that it emphasizes the church as the bride as an eternal passion of God from before the beginning of time. Perfectly connecting the heroes of the Old Testament, with the wonder and mystery of John's gospel and apocalypse, Viola illustrates that the church as the bride is not a metaphor to help us better understand the authority structure of the Christian home, but instead it is the deep mystery of God hidden in Christ before the foundation of the world.

In the second section, Viola repeats his wonderful ability to beautifully connect the Biblical narrative together to elevate in our minds the importance of God's search for a dwelling place. From the foreign land where he sent Abraham, to the tabernacle of Moses and the tabernacle of David, to Solomon's Temple, through the incarnate life of life Jesus, and ultimately into his church which is the House of God, the Lord's resting place.

Finally in his third section, Viola switches from story teller to scholar to reveal the depth of meaning in the gospels and in the Pauline writings about the church as the body of Christ. This section does not read with the majestic eloquence of the first two, and yet it's content resonates deeper, and more meaningfully than any other in the book. Once again Viola slaughters theologians desire to reduce the the realities of God's Kingdom into a metaphor, this time it is the body of Christ. Viola notes with meticulous detail how the church is the REAL physical incarnation of Christ on earth now. He reinforces our dependence on Christ and gives us truth to use as a weapon against Satan's attack on our worth and righteousness. As Christ is the head and mind of the church, we are it's body, and we are therefore in a mutual need of eachother for the life giving dependence of a physical body. He ties all the thoughts together, to note how if we are the "seed of heaven" then as a new species on earth we live not intertwined into the affairs of the old species, but as colonist of the new Kingdom which is fulfilled at the reconciliation of all things.

This book is Viola's magnus opus! I have read his other three books, and they are each great teaching. However, this work is not a book to be studied, it is a very window into the passionate erotic love of God for his creation, and for his desperate need to extend the community of the triune God among them. I say without reservation, this book will change the way you see God. It will set you free from the limited metaphor of systematic theologies. It will release you from the minimized boxed God of a religionist allegorical reinterpretation of the narrative of God. It will welcome you as participants into God's eternal purpose.

Erasmus famously quipped, "when I have a little extra money I buy books, if there is any left over I buy food." Reading this book is more important than any meal you will eat this week. If you must go hungry, and get a hold of the book. "From Eternity to Here" will feed you from a source that this world knows nothing about.