Latest Thoughts

A Prayer for The Philippines

Posted by on Nov 10, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Father God, Creator of all things,

Of moon and sun, of stars and planets, of wind and waves and mankind and creatures.

Your hand brings beauty yet evil warps it.  Your breathe provides breezes that calm the face and refresh the spirit.  Yet the brokenness of this world turns them into typhoons that wreak destruction and destroy your people. 

We pray for the people of the Philippines.  They are your people and thus our hearts join with yours and beg your mercy for them.  We mourn with those who mourn the loss of family and friends.  We mourn with those who mourn the loss of home and well-being.  We mourn with those who mourn the loss of security and prosperity.  We mourn.

We pray protection in the aftermath of the storm.  We pray you keep disease away so that more harm does not befall them.  We pray the weather become clear so that no additional hardship be upon them.  We pray that as they walk through the debris, their spirits not be broken.

We pray your Spirit to move amongst the Church in the Philippines.  We pray you provide the words your Church needs to minister, the hands your Church needs to care, and the monies your Church needs to repair.

We pray your blessing upon these, your people.

In the name of Jesus.


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6(66) Ways to Not Be A Bad Christian On Halloween

Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment

I come from a long line of Halloween celebrators.  I was born a poor Lutheran boy — well maybe not poor, poor, but we ate hamburger helper by the case and used powder milk "to save money," so there was definitely an austere element.  Halloween, therefore, was by no means an expensive affair.  But it was an affair.  A dress up, candy-seeking, quasi-terrorize the neighborhood affair.  We knew how to celebrate it.  Went all out.  (Mind you this was before Christmas lights went all orange and migrated back two months to Halloween, but that's a whole other rant for later.)

I meet many Christians unsure how to treat Halloween, especially when the doorbell starts ringing.  Halloween has changed over the past few decades.  No surprises since we've moved beyond "Christian" to "Post-."  But the fun part still exists.  So let me suggest living out the fun side of Halloween with your next-door neighbors.  Show them some respect and see what bridges you can build.

Here are 666 :>) things you might consider as you do Halloween well.

1.  Buy great candy.  Don't buy the cheesy, no-name stuff.  Buy Almond Joys and Twix bars and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  Buy Twizzlers and full-size bags of Skittles.  Halloween is synonymous with candy.  Reinforce the connection so that the kids double back to your house.  Throw sugar caution to the wind.  Be THAT neighbor.

2.  Get yourself a costume.  Something fun.  No need to freak out the little preschoolers.  But get into it.  Pretend you're back in highschool.  Become the cool neighbor who always dresses up for Halloween.  Work it.  Go lightly on the blood, perhaps, but heavy eyeshadow might suit you.  Work it.  If you're one of THOSE KIND of people, you could even get something for your pet.

3.  Stay home.  Some of you want to skip out and go elsewhere.  "I hate those little kids." No you don't.  You're just confused.  You think children are made to torment you.  (Maybe it's because you need to lighten up so God routinely sends under-age tormentors?)  Seriously.  Stay home.  And don't go hide in your entertainment room and watch Jason Bourne kill people or some Real Housewife of Beverly Hills spend $1,000 on a hairdo.  (Like that's Christian entertainment.)

4.  AND LEAVE THE FRONT PORCH LIGHT ON.  Thought you had me there, didn't you?  "He said all we had to do was stay home, Joyce, and we'd be good little Christians."  Turn on the light.  Send the signal you're ready and waiting.  Even set up a chair on the front porch.   Make yourself known.  Be present.

5.   Give out lots of candy.  Don't be stingy.  Christians aren't stingy.  If you are, then slap yourself.  Go find your baptism certificate.  (If you don't have one, ask your pastor why not.) Grace is our middle name.  Should be.  It's your God's middle name.  Be generous with the candy.  Give out so much they need help lugging the bag off your porch.

6.  Compliment the costumes.  Find something nice to say.  "Wow, your zombie makeup looks real.  Oh, you ARE real!"  "Wow, I didn't realize we had pirates in this part of town.  Nice peg leg."  "Whoa, now that is one scary ghost.  Nice sheet."  Treat them like they're your spouse fishing for a compliment and you want the evening to be a great one, so you give it…even if you have to make it up.  Seriously.  What's it going to cost you?  End result: your zombie goes home with a word of encouragement in her re-born head.   

You've been sent to your neighborhood.  Be a good neighbor.  Be a Jesus neighbor.  Don't rain on your neighbor's Halloween.  Let the weather do that.

You might even hang up those tacky Halloween lights.  

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Cosplay or No Play? What You Say?

Posted by on Oct 25, 2013 in Blog | 2 comments

Cosplay.  I'm slow and didn't know what this was until just recently.  But it started showing up in my Google feed.

I'm working on Sunday's message.  It's on Colossians 3, our identity in Christ and the clothing that goes with that identity.  Halloween is an obvious tie-in.  But there's also this cosplay phenomenon.  If you're not familiar, go here for the definition.  Do a Google image search and the images will sear you somewhat.  Beware.  The word was created by a Japanese artist in 1983 while attending a Sci-Fy convention in Los Angeles.  It's a joining of "costume play."

Go cosplay and you'll find anime, movie, comic, and gaming characters.  Some people make a living out of it.  Of course.

Have any of you ever attended such a convention?  Did you dress up?  What do you think about the traction cosplay is getting?  How does it relate to our baptisms, our identity in Christ?

I'd be curious to know your thoughts.  I think cosplay is a bigger trend and speaks to a profound issue.  

Or not.

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Waiting to Take Detroit

Posted by on Oct 24, 2013 in Blog | 2 comments

Recently I heard from a man with a heart for Detroit. He's in intern-ville, with one more year of on-campus seminary after that.  But deep down, his heart has already moved to the rusted steel skeleton of what once was.  That's where he wants to plant a church.

I'm not a Detroit fan.  Too cold.  Too far north.  I don't understand their accent, nor they, mine.  But I admire people who love that city because it is God's city, after all.  They're His people.  He knows them all.  And He's always looking for men and women who share His passion.

Said Detroit fan wanted to know what to do with his desire as he waits.  I was reminded of Psalm 37:4

Delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Here are the seven thoughts I penned for him.  If you're in a waiting time, looking to start a ministry, I encourage you to wait this way.

KEEP PRAYING.  Keep doing what you're doing, asking God to reveal His heart to yours.  There is a lot you don't know.  Ask Him to reveal His vision for Detroit that He wants to be brought about through you.  Ask God to reveal the hurts, needs, and resources for a ministry to His people in the city.  Turn your heart over to His and allow it to be formed by Him in this process. 

WRITE IT DOWN. Write your thoughts down in a living Detroit document.  Refine it.  Share it occasionally with a close friend.  Allow this time and information to form and shape this vision.  This waiting time is a working time.  Keep a record.

TELL YOUR DESIRES TO THOSE IN AUTHORITY. In this man's case, a district president needs to be informed.  Denominational leaders are always looking for men and women to take back the city.  Especially Detroit.  Make yourself known, and remind them you're there every 6 months.

BEGIN GETTING YOUR HEAD AROUND BEING A WORKER PRIEST. Unless God provides a benefactor, you'll probably need to have another vocation to provide income for you and your family early on.  Time is money, and money is time.  So if you don't have one, you'll need the other.

PRAY FOR BENEFACTORS OR RELATIONSHIPS THAT WILL HELP FUND THE MINISTRY. We have not because we ask not.  Someone said that.  Be bold in your ask of God.  Be bold, and trust the results to Him.  If it's of His will, He will provide.  This prayer is asking Him to provide a specific financial way.  Generally He provides just enough, just when you need it.

TALK WITH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT EXPERTS. This is a huge need in Detroit.  Begin thinking about what community endeavor or business partnership could provide both a bridge into the neighborhood and financial revenue for the ministry.  Talk with Oscar Benavides of LINC-North Texas or Mark Junkans of LINC-Houston.

PRAY SOME MORE. Pray for those strategic partnerships or alliances.  Pray for insight and understanding of how God wants to reform the city.  Pray for relationships with people you can learn from.  Pray for people who will join you in this divine cause. 

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FiveTwo Wiki’13 Keynote Video

Posted by on Oct 7, 2013 in Blog | 3 comments

Many of you have asked for my keynote from Wiki'13. Here it is:

Feel free to forward it to friends and leaders.  I pray it stimulates much discussion and even more action.  Remember: Start Something Sacramental Right Now.

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Window Washing Via Michael Frost

Posted by on Oct 5, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Michael Frost is a bald, metaphor machine, and the window metaphor he shared at FiveTwo’s Wiki’13 changed my understanding of following Jesus.

Perhaps you have heard Frost before.  I had not.  I had heard of him from Alan Hirsch.  I spent a year with the South African Obi Wan and others in FutureTravelers, a wonderful journey of large-church pastors learning how to more effectively reach and disciple those dissatisfied with the local church.  We Jedis traveled from Austin Stone to Soma Communities to Community Christian with each layover bringing new insight and fascinating stories.  It launched me and CrossPoint on a journey that aims for the blue ocean.

And it introduced me to the persona of Michael Frost.  “One of the best communicators in the Church,” said Hirsch.  After Wiki’13 I would agree. 

Frost’s window metaphor paints like this:  If the mission of the Church is to announce and demonstrate the universal reign of God through Christ, then we who are Church are simply called to help people see that reign present in this world.  The challenge, however, is the room in which pre-Christ people live: it is dark and dank with grime covering the windows.  No light seeps through.  No sun rises or sets are visible.  No beauty can be seen or birds heard.  Yet we who live in the kingdom of God by the certainty of baptism united to the certainty of crucifixion and resurrection know this Kingdom is real (I fleshed out the sacramental link).  We can already see heaven.  The smell of the wine is in our nose and taste of the bread, on our tongues.

Our windows are clean.  Our worlds, lit.  The images live in our minds by the power of full cross and empty tomb.

Our task, then, our mission, is to clean windows.  To expose friends and family to the reality of Jesus’ universal reign.  To remove the grime that hinders people from seeing Jesus and His Kingdom. 

According to Frost, Christians clean windows in two ways: by announcing and by demonstrating.  Words and action.  Sharing and doing, especially in the areas of reconciliation, justice, beauty, and wholeness.  (Frost admits the first three areas come from N.T. Wright but adds the last for completeness sake.)

Thus, if in the world to come no hatred or prejudice or racism will exist, how can you be an instrument of reconciliation when another color moves in next door?  If in the world to come have-nots will not exist and widows will not have to beg deaf judges, how can you be an instrument of justice for your co-worker who has been maligned, so that she gets a glimpse of God’s kingdom today?  If in the world to come the beauty of creation and music and food and art will be the norm and everywhere, how can you bring beauty, how can you leverage art to demonstrate Jesus reigns right now?  And if in the world to come the whole man will be whole, with no illness or demonic possession or debilitating addictions, what can you do to bring release and healing to the woman who has struggled for twelve years?

The mission of the Church is to move into the neighborhood – to be the sacrament of God in Christ – revealing the salvific reign of Christ for all.  That happens through announcing and demonstrating.  Through both word and deed.

For me, that means my widow neighbor whose husband recently died of pancreatic cancer eight (!) days after diagnosis needs to hear and see the “kingdom to come” today.  Through me.  Right now.

What about you?  Whose window do you need to wash today? How do you need to be God's sacrament right now?

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Ignorance At Its Best

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013 in Blog | 4 comments

Last week the Supreme Court ruled on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, basically saying the federal government needed to agree with however the states define marriage. While the decision resonates with those in favor of states rights, the wording in the decision reveals an underlying belief that if you are against same-sex marriage, you are anti-human, a bigot and void of compassion for your fellow man. It even played the child card, claiming that children raised in same-sex homes would be confused when the love and commitment between their parents weren’t recognized by law.

We live in a time where confusion swirls around marriage and since marriage is at the heart of family, confusion swirls around family. From the beginning of time and throughout every society under the sun, marriage was a relationship reserved exclusively for a man and a woman. This in large part because marriage was understood as fundamental to family, which involved the procreation of children. It also stems from biological and physiological realities like the fact that men and women were designed to physically fit together while men and men and women and women were not. Bottom line, there are obvious but compatible differences between male and female, differences that when paired together bring companionship to couples, wholeness to homes and propagate progeny.

Recent trends, however, show a government more and more desiring to parent the children, and thus just who parents the children in the home is not that necessary. Marriage can be redefined because it’s divorced from creating offspring; divorced from life-long; and certainly divorced from God’s doing.

In our attempts to equalize the sexes, we have negated the beauty of the sexes, beauty found in differences, uniqueness, and the sum of the parts being greater than the whole. In our attempts to elevate the individual, we have lost sight of the family and thus, the future, for a family without a male and female at the head teaches only one-half of creation, one-half of how the world works. A family without a covenant between that male and female teaches relationships are temporary and expedient, geared for the adults rather than the child.

While the world is not saved through the government, while morality in the heart is not an edict of law, the government is responsible for protecting its citizens, for protecting its society. This recent decision failed for the simple reason that laws in the name of love, void of truth and full of ignorance as to how the world works, ultimately destroy the very society they aim to protect for they destroy the very foundation on which society is built.

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Speaking So You’re Heard

Posted by on Jun 28, 2013 in Blog | 5 comments

The church in the US is in a post-Christian society, which is the equivalent in many ways to a pre-Christian society only more difficult because Christianity/Church mean something in a post-Christian society, but almost always something negative that has to be overcome.

In a post-Christian society, the Church and its representatives must earn the right to speak to the culture and its representatives.  It must begin that conversation in the language of the culture and then lead into a Christian conversation.  The Christian missionary in the United States (that's what you are if you are a Christian living in the USA) must not adopt a Christian sub-culture mindset (different language, different hangouts, etc.–think Christian radio stations and Christian bookstores) but rather discern how to speak the local language and dress in the local clothing without selling out the ancient Christian faith (think Acts 17 and the Areopagus).

This is the ultimate challenge of doing effective mission work in any culture and is more true than ever in our US setting.

For that reason, I believe that Sunday mornings must be "evangelistic outreach experiences that are worship services" as opposed to "worship services that are evangelistic."  They should lead with prophetic voices speaking truth but in a way that leaves the listener not belittled but rather cut to the heart.  They employ the local communication methods and craft the message in the language and colloquialisms of the community.  By adopting this mindset we are able to draw the unchurched person into a worship experience with no hurdles.  It speaks to them in words and images they grasp, drawing them deeper rather than making them change or adopt before entering into the presence of the cross.  The cross does not demand change before receiving; it creates change in the receiving.

Nota Bene: Do NOT discard all of the ancient forms/traditions/etc.  But rework and contextualize them so that today's radical heathen, totally-biblically-illiterate American does not have to leap through a mental hoop so that God's Spirit can work in His heart.  Embrace the ancient but decorate it with music, visuals and words from today's cultural language so digestion happens.  Wrap a high, holy view of baptism and the Lord's Supper in a very 2013 package.

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What is the FiveTwo Network?

Posted by on Jun 13, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve seen what happens when a congregation is willing to speak the language of the culture as it reaches into the community and as it worships with the community.  I’ve seen what happens when all sizes and shapes of “new” join together with ancient sacramental theology.  If I’m not providing an opportunity for the natives to worship Jesus in their language, then I am no better than the Pharisees of whom Jesus said, “You need a new paint job.”

I saw the power of this in south Austin when a former missionary to Japan was called to a start up church.  I saw the power of this in central Illinois when a 125 year old church in the most conservative circuit of the most conservative district of our denomination started a new worship service for people who didn’t have a church home.  I saw the power of this in west Houston when a small group of people started a congregation designed specifically for unchurched natives.

When ministries take seriously the First Article reality of taking on the look, feel and language of the indigenous community — of being God’s sacrament to that community in ways the community can understand and embrace — people previously stumbling through the dark become followers of Jesus.

FiveTwo wants to help your ministry accomplish this.  We are a network of sacramental church leaders — lay and professional — who have a heart for lost people and a heart for ancient, sacramental theology.  We believe they fit together quite well.  How God ordained the Church to work in Matthew 28 form.

One of our best resources is relationships.  Actually, relationships are our lifeblood.  Our network provides the relationship structure and relationship connectivity so that those who have been called into leadership of the sacramental church have an opportunity to find camaraderie and friendship with those who share their same passion for reaching God’s lost people in their community. We believe that if we can get people together on a regular basis around a common passion and common vision, introducing new insights and personal “how-to”, we can ignite a bonfire out of smoldering embers. Too often our institutional ways of relating pour water on the coals. We want to pour gasoline. We want to pour courage and knowledge and trust.

We want to help you be a part of something bigger than your local congregation, but we also want you to bear fruit in your local congregation AND local community. Everyone wants to make a significant contribution to a successful cause.  At FiveTwo, that successful cause is starting sacramental ministries for God’s lost people.

We need more people on the bus of starting something sacramental for lost people.  We want to ignite a movement of churches willing to adopt the godly values of their communities so the community can get to know the God who designed them.

Join us in a FiveTwo Local near you and join us at our annual WikiConference this September in Houston.

Common passion.  Common calling.  Camaraderie.

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Do you believe?

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Do you believe Jesus is able?  The suffering we go through, the events that pull us to our knees either to serve or to pray, there divine formation takes place.  There a life that matters is being shaped in us.  That’s the experience Jesus is using in our lives to deepen our dependence on Him, our belief in His abilities.

Do you believe Jesus can bring healing to your broken body, that He can arrest the cancer, reconcile the marriage, restore the sight?  That He has authority to unstop the ears, remove the paralysis, mend your back?  Do you believe the resurrected Jesus continues to walk beside you, that through your baptism His Spirit lives within you, that same spirit that raised the centurion’s servant from his sick bed, raised the young man from his funeral bier, and raised Jesus from 3 days in the tomb?

A life that matters believes in Jesus’ abilities, and so it gives generously, appreciates authority, and serves selflessly, every day, right here, right now.

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