The Tenderloin

This week I had the privilege to be part of a 4-day “Church Intensive” with We Are Church, the church-planting network founded by Francis Chan in San Francisco, California. We learned first-hand the heart behind their ministry, the ‘why’ behind their methodology, and caught a powerful vision of what the church can and should be in our communities. The following is one story from my time with them.

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A Message to the Church: You are Free to Love

It’s no secret the church, specifically the broader evangelical church, is in a state of crisis. Attendance and engagement is down, stories of financial, physical, and spiritual abuses are mounting, and any meaningful conversation regarding theology, philosophy, and morality in the cultural mainstream has become nearly impossible. Even the faithful in the evangelical church are becoming disheartened, weary, and have stories of frustration, disenfranchisement and hurt. This growing crisis should cause us to take an honest look inwards through the lens of Scripture, in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and with a heart of great humility before the Lord.

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Count the Cost

Count the Cost

Writing in the 1940’s during the height of World War II from inside Germany while defending the defenseless, speaking against the tyranny of Hitler and the Nazi regime, and protecting the integrity of the Gospel under threat from the state that eventually led to his arrest and execution, Dietrich Bonhoeffer has earned a rightful position in history. He has joined the ranks of many that have gone before him, and through his writings, those who would desire to identify with Christ today are confronted with a life-changing question, “Am I sure I want to do this?” Continue reading “Count the Cost”

Is Religion for the Weak?

Luke 4_18

It’s often been said that “religion is for the weak”. I remember a time in my teenage years when an older man said this to me as I was sharing about my family and our commitment to attending church. I don’t know if he was trying to be helpful by sharing his perspective on life or intentionally attempting to demoralize me. Either way, it stuck with me as being rude and somehow incompatible with the God I knew.  Continue reading “Is Religion for the Weak?”

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

I’m guilty. Guilty of constantly changing the narrative of the story to put myself in the best light and come out looking better than I actually am. I introduce slight variations and constantly tweak the story. I consciously avoid specifics or other elements of the story that make me look bad or cast a negative light. Or, I simply justify my attitude and behavior based on what I want to hear or believe about myself.

If you were to ask me anything about my life and rate it on a scale of 1-10, even in my best attempt to be honest and vulnerable, it’s highly likely my number would be no less than one number above what it truly is. “How is your personal joy today?” I give it a nine (it’s really a seven). “How is your daily prayer life?” A seven (more like six). “How about your feelings of bitterness and frustration?” Yikes, getting real now … a six, I need some work here (try four — maybe three — this week). I’m a mess.

Adam and Eve had the same problem (recall Genesis 3).

God, “Who told you to eat from the tree?”
Adam, “The woman did!”
Eve, “The talking serpent made me to do it!”

Now I know where I get it from, it’s in my genes.

The natural operations of our heart is to blame-shift, self-protect, avoid, self-justify and falsify authenticity. Even in our best and most honest efforts, we maintain a corrupted, distorted, and prideful sense of self. After all, we’re creatures under the fall and distant from glory. So often, this also is our approach to reading Scripture. We fail to see the real message, identify the real need, and rightly apply the gracious and wonderful hope to which it speaks into our lives today.

So what do we learn from the story of Jesus who heals the paralytic that was lowered through the roof of a first-century Galilean home, and the call of Levi the tax collector? How do these stories from Mark 2:1-17 apply to our discussion here? A simple, profound, and healing message: Jesus restores sinners.

Gospel Slavery or Freedom?

slavery_hands

I’ve been spending time in the book of Philippians lately. I love this letter from Paul and Timothy, self-identified slaves – yes slaves (see Philippians 1:1) – who belong to Jesus Christ, joyfully and boldly sacrificing their lives for Him. In this letter, Paul and Timothy encourage the church at historic Philippi to do the same: willfully give up your hopes, dreams, comfort, social status, citizenship, and your life for the greatest joy – living for Jesus.  Continue reading “Gospel Slavery or Freedom?”