Category Archives: Local

Messy Stories

Faith is a never ending messy story of how we live out our relationship with God.

Tonight, I taught a class on how to live your life on mission, as part of our joining our church. Last week was part one. Tonight, was part two and we talked a lot about our faith story.

I shared with the class my faith story and how my story hasn’t ended. I told them that I still don’t have it all together. I still don’t have all the answers.

One of things I look forward to most is hearing everyone that’s in the class share their story with each other. They share in small groups where God has brought them from and what God is doing in their lives right now.

It’s amazing to hear God at work in people’s lives. At work in families. At work in messy situations.

I was reminded last night of how messy our journey is. I was reminded of a few quotes from “Messy Spirituality” by Mike Yaconelli

“Spirituality isn’t about being finished and perfect; spirituality is about trusting God in our unfinishedness.”

“…it turns out that what disqualifies you and me from “spirituality” – the mess of our lives and our crippledness – is what most qualifies us to be chosen by Jesus… Some of us actually believe that until we choose the correct way to live, we aren’t chooseable, that until we clean up the mess, Jesus won’t have anything to do with us. The opposite is true.Until we admit we are a mess, Jesus won’t have anything to do with us.”

The power of our story is that our story is a beautiful mess. A mess that is filled with real people, real situations, and real questions. A mess that is beautiful because it is filled with real people, real situations, and real faith.

As we talked tonight, I was reminded of how messy my faith journey has been…and of how it’s not missed yet.

I’m so thankful for my journey and where God has led me too.

I’m so thankful for the church I am in that allows people to lead a beautifully messy journey as they discover how to follow Jesus.

A Quad Espresso and A Man Hug

I walked into a coffee shop a few moments ago and got a man hug from one of the baristas.

This is the first time I’ve eve been here. It’s a pretty cool place.

Soft chairs. Good espresso. Free wifi.

But I don’t want to come back because of any of this things. I know of other soft seats and other places with good coffee. I have wifi at home.

I will come back because I got a hug. A man hug.

I’ve been here once//but I feel like I belong here.

I’ve known the barista since I moved here almost 2 years ago. I never got hugs back then. But he learned my name. Learned about my job and my wife.

When I came in today we asked me about all those.

I will come back because HE CARES!

I will come back because HE LISTENS!

I will come back because HE HUGS!

That’s how I want my ministry and life to be.

Youth Drop In Pics

For the last 3 nights some of our students have been apart of a youth drop in center.

Students from all over the Shankill area will be here tonight with a 3rd opportunity to share their story and to talk about following Christ.

Our students have spent the last two night building relationships with these students and now our students are running the show tonight. 3 students are sharing their testimonies, performing a stomp routine, and giving students a chance to make Jess everything to them.

May God become everything to these students as we choose to lift him up and make him everything!

Nudity and The New Humanity

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Genesis 9:18-29…The sons of Noah who came out of the ship were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah; from these three the whole Earth was populated. Noah, a farmer, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank from its wine, got drunk and passed out, naked in his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and told his two brothers who were outside the tent. Shem and Japheth took a cloak, held it between them from their shoulders, walked backwards and covered their father’s nakedness, keeping their faces turned away so they did not see their father’s exposed body. When Noah woke up with his hangover, he learned what his youngest son had done. He said, 
Cursed be Canaan! A slave of slaves, 
a slave to his brothers! Blessed be God, the God of Shem, 
but Canaan shall be his slave.  God prosper Japheth, 
living spaciously in the tents of Shem. 
But Canaan shall be his slave. Noah lived another 350 years following the flood. He lived a total of 950 years. And he died.

Noah is known most as the man who saved the world from the flood. But what happens next is kind of an odd way for the author to conclude the story of Noah.

The writer of Genesis, Moses, some hundreds of years later, retells this story to the Jewish people to a group of wandering slaves in the middle of a desert.

Why this story?

Why speak of a drunken Noah and naked Noah, if they were to be like Noah?

This story really isn’t even about Noah if you look a little deeper than the surface. This story is really about Ham and his two brothers.

It’s a story about the way God intends people to treat those around us and the result of the way we treat the people around us.

Nudity

The Jewish people believe that modesty is the foundation of Jewish values and is one of the fundamental underpinnings of the Jewish family. Tz’ni’ut is the Hebrew word for modesty (meaning simplicity, a touch of bashfulness, and reserve). But perhaps above these, it signifies privacy. It is the hallmark of Jewish marriage, and the rabbis refer to it as the specific quality to look for in the ideal mate.

Tz’ni’ut also means discreet habits, quiet speech, and infers the avoidance of grossness, raucous behavior, and even “loud” ornaments. This is not merely a series of behavioral niceties, a sort of Bible’s guide to etiquette, but a philosophy of life.

The idea of Tz’ni’ut was intended to preserve the sanctity of the human being from assault by the coarseness of daily life.

The problem comes when Ham does nothing about his Father lack of Tz’ni’ut. Instead, he just goes and tells his brothers.

Shem and Japheth take action. They grab a sheet, walk backwards, and cover their father. The Israelites are descendants of Shem.

There is more going on here than drinking and nudity. More than too much wine.

The New Humanity

Remember Moses, the author.

He was writing to the Jewish people, who had no identity. They had been slaves so long they didn’t know how to live life God’s way.

What’s he trying to tell the Jewish people in this story?

Don’t be like Ham.

Deuteronomy 10:12-19…Israel, what does the LORD your God want you to do? He wants you to fear him, follow all his directions, love him, and worship him with all your heart and with all your soul. 13 The LORD wants you to obey his commands and laws that I’m giving you today for your own good. 14 Remember that the sky, the highest heaven, the earth and everything it contains belong to the LORD your God. 15 The LORD set his heart on your ancestors and loved them. Because of this, today he chooses you, their descendants, out of all the people of the world. 16 So circumcise your uncircumcised hearts, and don’t be impossible to deal with any longer. 17 The LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, powerful, and awe-inspiring God. He never plays favorites and never takes a bribe. 18 He makes sure orphans and widows receive justice. He loves foreigners and gives them food and clothes. 19 So you should love foreigners, because you were foreigners living in Egypt.

Don’t be like Ham. Don’t be like Egypt.

Don’t walk away from those in need.

Dare to preserve human dignity at all costs.

Care of orphans and widows. Make justice happen. Give to foreigners.

First Dates and Sushi

I love sushi.

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A little over 4 years ago (May 27th,2005) I went on my first date  with my future wife here to Fishbones. We talked, held hands, and ate some great seafood (she got sushi). We dated for 8 months and got married July 14th, 2006. She is my best friend. I am so glad I went to Fishbones that night because for 4 years my life has been richer, deeper, and more beautiful than I could imagine.

I remember my first date (and lots of others as well). I even remember some of the food we ate.

sushi-bar-close-up.JPGOn our honeymoon in Ft. Lauderdale,FL we discovered our favorite sushi place called RA Sushi. The sushi was some of the most amazing we’d ever had (we went twice while there) and loved the design of the restaurant.

I used to hate sushi.

The first time I tried it, it almost made me throw up.

Some of my favorite memories take place around a table. First dates, honeymoon sushi, birthday celebration, and holidays all take place around a table.

The table  and food are one of the most central themes in scripture.

Communion. Feasts. Kosher. Love Feasts.

The table and food are not one of the central themes in most of our lives.

Not just eating food. We do that very well in America. But the table. The place where no one sits higher or lower than anyone, where everyone takes and shares, and the place where laughter, love, and life happens at its best.

When is the last time you can down with a group of people for a real meal?

Think Thanksgiving on steroids. Think Christmas ham. Think Easter dinner.

Why only then? Why not tonight?

Broken Heart

Broken_heart_by_fabu.jpgArt by Fabu

I got a phone call yesterday.

It was someone I wanted to meet with, so we planned to meet a few hours later.

It was great to be able to hear from this person since I haven’t gotten to talk to them for a while. We talked causally for a few moments and then they broke down.

They told me about how wrecked their life was.

How one moment seemed to erase years of hope and joy.

How someone stole from them their innocence, their purity, and their peace.

I don’t plan for days like yesterday.

(I can barely finish typing this blog because of the tears streaming down my face)

Why?

How?

I don’t have most of the answers. My heart is broken for my friend. My heart is broken for people like my friend who have had their innocence, purity, hope, and joy stolen from them.

But…

Because I believe and live in the kingdom of God, I have hope for a better way of life and of a better way.

I have this great hope that people who’ve been broken by others will be restored.

I have this great hope that people who’ve been exploited and used will be remedied.

I have this great hope that people who exploit and break others will be redeemed.

For now I pray.

Will you pray with me, for this kingdom, for this healing, for this hope.

Theology Fail…pt.2

epic-fail2

In the previous blog we looked at the present ‘crisis’ of theology we are facing in our churches. Not in that we don’t have proper theology (for the most part) but rather that we have failed to communicate properly to students.

There are 3 kinds of thinking about God I hear again and again in my conversations.

1) Buddy Jesus
•    Friend
•    One of the guys

2) Clockmaker God
•    Far away
•    Uncaring

3) Dictator Jesus
•    Demanding
•    Enforcer

What we find is that Jesus, the image of our invisible God, is not like any of these Jesus’ and our inaccurate picture of him has caused us to miss our on the role he intends to play in our families, homes, jobs, and relationships. It’ not our theology that’s the problem (that is original Christian thinking)…its that no one knows what we believe or what to believe anymore.

We’ve failed to communicate to entire generations the truth of who God is and what he wants to do in and in our world…the problem is our approach.

The Education Problem

Students have been taught to sit in classrooms and absorb information and to take tests.

The problem is true spirituality isn’t a test and its not information.

So if we spend our services, our gatherings, and our small groups teaching information for a test that won’t ever come in written form, not only will they fail in truly living out their faith but we will have also failed.