Monday, June 30, 2008

On The Selling of Donkeys, Bright Lights and Charismania

You need to understand something before you read this post. I love Graham Cooke. Of the men in my stream of Charismatic faith that I am most familiar, he is the one voice that I consistently love to hear. His understanding of the Father and His ways, leave others behind in the dust. His teachings have pulled us through so many hurtful times in our lives where we have brokenly asked the Father to give us some sort of revelation on what we were experiencing. Add to that my delight in reading him say that the minute he gets a business card from someone and sees the word “apostle” before the name he throws it immediately into the trash and I was a fan for life.

The other day though I listened to a short 10 minute clip (view here if you like) of a story he told of a man in the midst of going about his busy life, who suddenly hears weeping from his neighborhood that no one else on the sidewalk can hear. After a few days of feeling like he was crazy he understood it to be a sound that God wanted him to hear. It changed this man’s life and it has changed the neighborhood that he now lives in and loves.

I loved the story and am still glad that after coming out of much of “charismania” I still believe that God does things like this. But at the end of the story, Graham does something that I believe epitomizes the charismatic renewal and the major problem that I have with the whole thing.

He says this at the end of the story: “It makes you really wonder about what sounds we are too busy to listen to. And I wonder sometimes if we stopped on the street and listened in the realm of the spirit…Would we be able to hear the sound that God is hearing in a neighborhood, in a community. And if we heard that voice…what might God be asking of us? What request might come from heaven that might radically change our life.”

I'm sorry, but I wouldn't have gone there. My problem with the exhortation that Graham gives at the end is this: Why take this story and make it about us and what we need to be doing? Why not glory in the fact that we have a God who, when He wants us to hear Him, makes sure we can. A God who wants to communicate with us. A God who will not be missed. A God who, even if we are busy on our own path - as this man was - will still break into our world and speak to us. Why take this story and then make it something that we have to do? Something we have to replicate?

This story is not primarily about us trying to hear God!!! It is about God making Himself heard! (and of a man's obedience when he hears God) It is a story of hope. It is not a story of “should” or duty.

In my old church - we would have used this story to start a new ministry of going around our neighborhoods trying to hear the voice of God. It would bring the guilt of not doing something (in this instance - listening for the voice of God) and the anxiety that we would miss something big - which always seemed to be accompanying my life :)

And that is what charismatics do so well. They take a “happening” of God. A healing, a time of visitation, a time of soaking, a time of laughter and joy, a time of weeping or a really great story and try to duplicate it the next night and the next night. Suddenly you have the “anointed” one that will bring this “happening” to your group. Soon he will have conferences to speak at and books to write so that others can have this happen to them too. It becomes about the man or woman and not about the God who did a work one day in a specific place at a specific time.

Of course we should have our ears attuned to what God has to say. Listening for the voice of God is a good thing to do. There is nothing evil in what Graham is saying - In fact in his defense I know that I were sitting with him and discussing this post I am sure he would agree with me. But it is a brilliant example of the replication of the charismatic experiences that we see today.

He loves me. He wants to communicate with me. And if he has something important to say He might just show up and knock me off my proverbial donkey, blind me with a bright light and speak out loud to me.

Now here's hoping that if that does happen I won't go towards the mass marketing of the selling of donkeys and bright spotlights and calling it God.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Missional Village Water Wells

This is an entry into Rick’s call for a Missional Syncroblog

After leaving our “church” last year and experiencing the loneliness that comes with that and at the same time understanding that the whole plan of “come to our church” was really not missional, I found myself stuck. What did it mean to reach out to people? How do you meet those pre-Christians if they are not going to come into your building (especially if you are not in the building) How do you make disciples? Heck, how do you even make friends with someone if you don’t go to meetings with them?

It was through another blogger who I have begun reading who said something that made me realize what I needed to find in my life to be truly missional. This was not the point of her post but it has stayed in my head as a missional idea since I read it. Jennifer at Et tu? wrote this in her post of Mommyblogging and the Water Well, (and again expanded on it here)

She writes:
“I remember back in those anthropology classes, I noticed that a common community setup was that there would be a central area where people, especially women, would gather as part of their daily work, e.g. a tribe might have one community fire pit for cooking, or there would be one spot on the river where the women would all gather to do the washing. In particular, one visual that stuck with me was that of the village water well: in some long-forgotten textbook I read the description of a tribal village that had one central well where the women would go to get the family's water. There was some sort of central oven nearby, and this area, of course, became a bustling hub of social activity.”

The need for wells has totally gone away with the convenience of running water. (For that...make no mistake.... I am grateful.) But the necessity for the social needs that wells provided has not suddenly disappeared with technology and as I read that post I longed for the old time central village water well. This was a place where you had to be a few times during the day where you would regularly meet some of the same people, chat about your day, find out the news of the village, keep tabs on those around you, let your children play for a bit while you talked, asking advice from those who had experienced something that you were going through, giving advice to those younger. This was a normal place. A place of community. Some place that you could do Matthew 28:19, “As you are going….make disciples” kind of place. You did not have to plan it, program it into your schedule. There was no “play date” to schedule, no ‘inviting over for coffee” needed, no dinner plans demanded. It was just a part of your day.

I think that “being missional” is, in part, finding those wells that still exist in our lives today. I need to find a well or wells around my city. Places where people naturally gather to do business or take care of their children or play. A place to meet people on a regular basis where friendships can develop. A place to hear others talk about their lives. A place to share my life with them. An “as you are going” kind of place.

Best Friend uses her workplace as one of those wells. She works as a nurse and has formed a community that loves and cares for each other from those she has met and worked with. It truly functions as a "well" and has been very “missional” for her. At this point I run my own business from my home and so a "workplace well” is not one that I can take advantage of.

As I walk out of the institutional church and into Grace I would like to find those naturally occurring “wells” where people meet. I can think of a few to explore and be involved in. Boy Scouts – we are just now getting our sons involved. A gym (maybe… as the ones I have been involved in were not very social) A bar. School groups – PTA and such.

Mostly I am stumped. Can you add to my list? Where have you found modern day “wells?” I’ll update this post if any of you leave an idea.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Update: Jennifer (I mentioned her post above) just published a post this weekend on how some children that have been coming over to her house to hang out are forming a community - a well of sorts - that Father is doing all by himself. This is totally what I am talking of and I love how it was planned and orchestrated directly by Father. Please read here (This Is How You Build a Community) and then read the back story to how these girls got involved in Jennifer's life.

(So far there are at least 50 bloggers taking part in this syncroblog. You can find them here:

Alan Hirsch
Alan Knox
Andrew Jones
Bill Kinnon
Brad Brisco
Brad Grinnen
Brad Sargent
Brother Maynard
Bryan Riley
Chad Brooks
Chris Wignall
Cobus Van Wyngaard
Dave DeVries
David Best
David Fitch
David Wierzbicki
Doug Jones
Duncan McFadzean
Erika Haub
Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Jeff McQuilkin
John Smulo
Jonathan Brink
JR Rozko
Kathy Escobar
Len Hjalmarson
Makeesha Fisher
Malcolm Lanham
Mark Berry
Mark Petersen
Mark Priddy
Michael Crane
Michael Stewart
Nick Loyd
Patrick Oden
Peggy Brown
Phil Wyman
Richard Pool
Rick Meigs
Rob Robinson
Ron Cole
Scott Marshall
Sonja Andrews
Stephen Shields
Steve Hayes
Tim Thompson
Thom Turner

The Journey Together

OK, I’m ready to write again. I wasn’t sure I was going to be. Let me explain.

See….. after the last post on God not keeping a list Marshall (Husband) got really concerned for me. He was worried that I was going off into a bit of a ditch and not seeing the whole picture of God. (I’m not going to give his reasons for what he was thinking because that is not really the point of this post. Maybe we will explore that in another post or two as I try and deal with some of his questions about Grace and who God is.)

I listened kindly to his concerns. He was not harsh with me, just concerned that the ditch I was headed toward would become a path away from the truth of the Father – a path he could not walk with me. I totally saw some of the things that I was missing and understood his heart.

I walked away, though, with the wind completely blown out of my sails. I was ready to quit. So many times I just completely go with an idea without addressing the obvious questions that it should bring up. I’m not brilliant at all. I deal with what is right in front of me. I tend to hear something and just jump in with both feet and my mind on auto pilot. Marsh is not that way and so I scare him a bit (a lot) from time to time. So for the past few days I have just cleaned my house, caught up paper work in the business and let the blogging rest a bit. Again, he has been concerned for me. He did not want his actions to result in silencing me.

And the final truth is this: He doesn’t want to end my journey or discovery – just walk it with me.

What is important here in this post is the question of how you walk this journey of faith together as a husband and wife. When we left our “church” and I started questioning everything that I believed, I researched a lot online. It was there that I found stories of many men and women who were not “on the same page” as each other in this journey. One wanted the institution, one didn’t. One was so hurt and mad at God that they had virtually no relationship with Him and the other still wanted to walk with Him. I read of an author who turned away from her husband’s God to follow after other gods. Lately, I read the heartbreak of Michael (I Monk) and his wife and his angst of her decision to walk after God into another religion entirely – one he felt he could not follow.

I don’t want to be one of those couples. I want our lives to be filled with harmony in all the areas of our lives. I’m not judging the journeys of those I mentioned in the last paragraph I just don’t want to live the rest of my married life on separate pages spiritually. I want to walk together with Marshall. I want that walk in every area of our lives - in our finances, in our decisions we make about our kids, in our sexual lives and in our lives with Father.

Now that does not mean that I have to be a clone of what he believes. It only means that as we decide something say in the area of finances, we can do the same in what we are choosing to believe about God or our walk with Him. We can come to the table with the question. See all what we can both see in the factors that need to influence our decision. Sometimes come to an agreement. Sometimes agree to disagree. But the decision to include each other in this process and then walk as one is crucial. It does not mean we will come to the same decisions about God and what He is like or what the Scriptures say about a subject. It does mean that we have not left each other behind and are still walking together.

Has this been an issue with those who read here? Some of you have alluded to it. Would love to hear what your husbands or wives are thinking about what you write. How do you communicate with each other about what you are posting/thinking about?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

He Keeps No Records of Wrongs - When it is tempting to hate Grace

Jonathan Brink at Missio Dei posted about Why We Don’t Like Grace . It captures something that I have been struggling with ever since I heard the God Journey podcast from last Friday, Can We Make God Too Nice?

In this podcast they are talking with Darin Hufford who with one statement has completely rocked my boat. He has written a book (The God's Honest Truth) that explores the idea that the I Corinthians 13 passage on love actually describes God.

Look at the passage again for a minute

(1 Cor 13:4-8a NIV) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Hufford said that if God is Love then this passage not only describes how we are to act but also gives a complete description of God.

Now I really like that God is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful or proud or rude or self seeking or easily angered. I like that he does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. I love that he always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. I’m ecstatic that Love/God never fails.

What I am having a really hard time with is that God keeps no records of wrongs!!


Here is a bit of what I fought about with God this week because of this revelation:

“What do you mean you keep no record of wrongs? What of all those who have wronged me? What about all the things that they have done to me and others and are still doing? God…..aren’t you keeping up with all of them? How can you make anything right if you aren’t keeping a record of what they are doing wrong? You mean you are actually keeping NO RECORDS of what they are doing? You are not going to hold them to your record of the wrongs they have done? No....... What you must mean is that WE are not to keep records but it is ok if you do because you are God. Right? Hello?"

"Come on God. I’m supposed to be ok with this? My one hope was that someday you would show all of them where they went wrong. That I would be vindicated. That my rightness would at least be shown. It is not that I wanted them punished really….I’ve forgiven them….I just wanted them to see that I was right. But now I find out that you don’t even care enough to keep a little list? This is not how it was supposed to be. I thought you were going to come through for me here!!"

I hate this GRACE!!! It is not fair!! (Of corse to be honest I want this kind of Grace applied to me......I like Grace then.)

And then some verses do make more sense now.

Verses in Matt 18: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. You mean God has to live with this rule? God forgives seventy seven times – and more?

Or - Col 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. So He does this too? He is not telling us to do something that He himself does not do?

And it totally explains this greeting: Luke 2:14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." God at peace with man. This is the God who does not keep a record of wrongs.

It explains the Cross. It explains the God I want to be there for me. It explains how I love this God who does not treat me as my sins deserve.

I just have to get over the fact that it also explains a bit as to why He hasn’t shown me “right” yet here in my little situation.

No records???? Really????

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What If?

UPDATES: Please let me know if you have written anything to add to this and I will link you. (even if it was something weeks, months or even years ago)

#1) Sarah at Accidental Blog has added 2 posts that add a great deal to this post. Please read here and here.
#2) Joel added his thoughts at Grace Roots with his post "Moves of God" and One Heart at a Time
#3) Cynthia adds more great layers in her Monday Morning Mentations.
#4 And a new blogger - Tiffany, who is thinking some pretty dangerous thoughts ;) The Church has Left the Building

In my last post I made a kind of tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that ”maybe” this movement of people pouring out of the institutional churches and into the unknown was the next “Big Move of God.”

For many of us, those words evoke a feeling not unlike the stomach flu. They remind us of a time where we were being strung along spiritually, emotionally, financially and relationally waiting for the “Next Things of God” that we dare not miss.

But in writing those words and in mulling over even being tempted to use them for what is happening to me and some of you I realized something.

I entitle it: “What If?”

What If God were much bigger than I had ever imagined?

What If Grace was more encompasing that I could believe?

What if God wanted to find his people, go after his sheep, anywhere they had wandered?

What if there was no big "Move of God" but just God pursuing people – sometimes seemingly in the same location at the same time?

What if He was desiring a relationship equally with us who have left the institutional church AND those who are still in there?

What if today, His “Big Move” was to search out hungry hearts anywhere they will be found?

What if He finds some of those people in a institutional church today?

What if He finds some of those people in a park?

What if He finds some of those people in a gutter?

What if He finds some of those people in their pain?

What if He finds some of those people in their joy?

What if He finds some of those people in Lakeland, Florida?

What if He finds some of those people in the church I just left?

What if He finds some of those people lying in bed, hungover with someone they don’t remember meeting?

What if He finds some of those people who are former atheists and now in a Catholic Church? (meet Jennifer)

What if the "Big Move of God" was simply God having a heart to pour out onto his people wherever, whenever he finds them open and hungry to know Him.

What if we stopped trying to label the next "Move of God" and started participating in His plan to touch one life at a time?

What if we no longer cared if we are missing out on the "Next Move of God" and started to BE the next move of God for another person?

What if we believed in the Grace of God soooooo much that we allowed him to be just as big and diverse and loving as he wanted?

What if I stopped trying to decide who/what is right and who/what is wrong and truly let God sort it out?

What if I ceased wondering and looking for the Next Big Move of God in my life and simply allowed Him to love me today and allowed my heart to open up and tell Him of my love back for Him?

What if God was not limited to The Next Move of God? What if He was bigger?