Thursday, October 26, 2006

Acts 17-20- Outward focused, and so much more.

I'm reading through Acts along with the fulltimers (see if you have no idea what I'm talking about.) I've just returned from being on the road with each team for a week. Much of what we discussed while I was out was the concept of turning the corner from an inward-focus to an outward focus.

I finished our reading for this week on the plane ride home. Below are some of the observations I made on Acts 17-20, which I shared with them through our team devo blog:

I highlighted much in this week's reading. Chapter 17- Paul was in tune with his surroundings (outward-focused)- he noticed the city was full of idols. He sensed the needs around him and responded. He even sought to understand the local customs and artistic influences/poets (greenline vs redline.)

Chapter 18- he was a tentmaker. We don't hear anything else about this, but it was a point of connection for him with his "host home." (One wonders where he would have stayed if he was a skater.) And here's another vision for Paul- the Spirit encourages him to keep speaking. He continues strengthening the disciples- the mission we're encouraged to be on. And there's another reference to "those who by grace had believed" at the end of 18. Pondersome.

Chapter 19- receiving the Holy Spirit. What a challenging passage. Paul places his hands on some who were already disciples, and they "spoke in tongues and prophesied" as they received the Holy Spirit. (Is there a Paul in the house?) Verse 11" God did extraordinary miracles through Paul."

The kicker for me: verses 13 through 17. Some Jews were invoking the name of the Lord without believing, and an evil spirit quite litteraly overcomes them. Oh for scary- any truth in my life? Do I preach what I don't believe?

Then there's the whole mob scene in vv28-41, which is just some fascinating humanity. Everyone is in a frenzy, and "most of the people did not even know why they were there." Power and manipulation in numbers.

Chapter 20- Paul's ministry to those who believe is one of encouragement. And then how FUNNY is it that Paul talks so long that some guy falls asleep in a window and subsequently falls to his death? I mean, tragic, and a way that God glorifies himself through the raising of this kid back to life, but I think we are so often afraid to laugh along with scripture. This guy fell asleep during a sermon, and it killed him! That's funny, people.

Later in the chapter, we see Paul compelled and guided by the Spirit to go Jerusalem. He knows the prognosis is not good, but he is faithful: "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace." v24. Here's a man with an outward focus. And note his benediction to the missionaries in Ephesus: "Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock."

Read and ponder the rest of Paul's parting words to the elders of Ephasus in Acts 20: 13-38.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Acts 8: Discipleship and the Big Bang theory

Two main things jump out at me when I read the first 17 verses of Acts Chapter 8.

The first is how God used a severe adversity in the life-cycle of the early church for immeasurable good:
"On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria."

(contextual note: I'm having a hard time finding exact information on how much area this really represented, but it seems likely that these early believers were scattered over several hundred square miles.)

Note what happens next:
"Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went."

The persecution of the early church was like taking a hammer to a glob of mercury... the result was the scattering of a mass resulting in widespread contamination.


Acts then follows the story of Philip for a little while- a believer who flees to the south of Jerusalem and ends up in a city in Samaria, where he "proclaimed the Christ." The result, according to Acts, was that "there was great joy in that city."

So we see the early church spreading the Gospel wherever they went. We call this evangelism. But the second thing that jumped out at me was this:
"When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them."

Know what we call that?

Evangelism is only the first part of the story, isn't it? Matthew 28:18 records Jesus' last instructions to these same disciples:
"Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

You may know that I'm particularly fond of the way this verse is rendered in The Message:
"Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you."

I've never noticed before now how true to form the disciples were in carrying out Jesus' instructions. They definately trained those they met, far and near, in the way of life Jesus spoke of, and Acts records that "when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized."

And then what? The apostles sent Peter and John. Why?? Because evangelism was only the first part of Christ's commission.

I'm reminded of how often that one part becomes the totality of our focus in Christian ministry. But there is another part: "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" was how Jesus finished. I'm fascinated to note how the early church implemented this element of discipleship into their ministry.

Oh, it's also worth noting that Jesus used the word then. Evangelize, baptize, then instruct them. If we fail to focus beyond evangelism as Christians, we're equally guilty of putting the cart before the horse- instructing people in the practices Jesus commanded (and expecting them to obey) before they know who Jesus is!

But that's definately a rant for a separate post. :-)

Monday, October 02, 2006


"Everyone ends up somewhere in life.
A few people end up somewhere on purpose."
-from Visioneering by Andy Stanley

I've recently realized that this statement has a great deal of significance for me. I am not content to end up somewhere and soak my purpose out of what happened along the way. I want the somewhere I'm going to be the purpose.

This is why I work in ministry. There's nothing wrong or bad about working in the secular marketplace - in fact, it would be a pretty difficult world to live in if nobody worked "normal" jobs (so thanks to all of you who do so.) I did just that for several years, and in several capacities, before going to work full-time in ministry.

But for me, life in the corporate work world just didn't make me tick. There just didn't seem to be any point to it. Sure, I could be nice to people and carry myself in a Christ-like manner as I went throughout my day, but the reason for my existence (from a job perspective) didn't have anything to do with doing anything good for people. It was all about corporate gain, and it wasn't enough for me to just know that we were doing it ethically, or that I was "being a light" wherever I went. I couldn't draw my purpose in life out of opportunities that I encountered on the way to an otherwise un-intentional destination. I wanted the destination to be my purpose.

Here is the inherent danger for me and others who are like-minded. The destination means nothing without the journey. Christ hasn't called us to "accomplish." He's called us to love the Lord our God, and to love others as ourselves. And that, friends, is not a destination. It's what happens along the way.

In ministry, it's easy for me to be so destination-focused that I lose sight of the fact that the people along the way... kind of ARE the destination.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Proving Ground

Is all really said and done as memories fade
and all you were all about goes on without you
like a distant parade?

Will now be an empty time?
Will passions grow cool
as all that reminds you of...
just leaves you longing for, wishing to
abandon where you are, get up and run away
where no one else can see,
and you can be alone with all the things you've known
and all you hoped to be?

It's hard just to carry on, and harder to thrive,
when it feels like you don't belong here,
little makes you come alive, and everything is pain;
a mix of hope and grief for things lost and yet to be.
It is not said and done, nor has it just begun.
It's something in between.

Is there a reason, a meaning for this time?
A purpose hard to understand?
Will it be meaningless; a chase after the wind
or be a proving ground somehow in the end?

Now is not an empty time
but it's so hard to see:
You're not who you were before.
You're not who you will be.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Acts 1-2: Groundhog Day?

As I read the first two chapters of Acts, I notice a few things that lead me to believe that many of the issues we face today are not a whole lot different than what the early believers faced.

To be sure, there were differences (after all, we're not in danger of being used as torches in Nero's garden) but the basic human condition seems to have been the same: "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation" Peter tells his audience in Chapter 2.

I hear a lot about how society is going downhill - about how much worse things are now than they were just a few years back. But it looks like even the YzeroK generation was confronted with the realization of an apparent downward societal spiral.

The hope Peter offers for the problems of turn-of-the-first-millennia civilization is the same hope we cling to today:

"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

And then, this clarification, which I love:

"The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call."

By "far off," I get the sense that Peter was speaking geographically, so I really take a lot of hope from this. This wasn't some Middle-Eastern cultural promise. This was a promise that extended to lands that Peter probably didn't even know existed.

Earlier in the chapter, Peter explains what is going on by referring to the writings of the prophet Joel. The passage describes one of the things God says He will do in the "last days." So Peter was telling the early church that they were living in the last days.

Which leads me to believe we are also living in those same last days... kind of like a biblical version of the movie Groundhog Day. But I love the assurance offered by the realization that the reality of hardship is the same to us as it was 2000 years ago.

And so is the surety of our hope.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Seasons change

So much change seems to happen at the same time here. The fulltimers left this weekend, concurrent with the official start to fall. And here in Minnesota, the actual weather seems to pay attention to what the weather man says it should be like. Temps have dropped suddenly this past week.

Went to the Calvin's yesterday afternoon to do some late-season wakeboarding. The outdoor temp was probably in the upper 50's, and the water was probably in the 40's. A botched dock start left me in the water gasping for air... the neighbors (who were in the process of trailering their boats for the winter) must have thought we were nuts (if so, they would have been right.) But once up, the wakeboarding was fantastic, and the lake was absolute glass. Finished the day with a few rounds of extreme croquet and a campfire cookout. I do love the fall weather.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Missing the point

Erwin McManus was approached after preaching one Sunday morning by someone who took issue with a point he had made in his sermon.

"Are you saying that only Christians go to heaven?" the aggrieved party demanded.

"Of course not." McManus replied. "Christians need to come to Jesus just like everyone else."

They're Off!

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

...the fulltimers, that is. The teams left for fall tour today! They're so ready! I mean, they still have stuff to learn, but there's a point at which talking about things just isn't effective anymore before you have an experience to file it in. They're definately ready for that experience.

Check their schedules (which are now up on their respective CTI's sites- by individual team this year) and COME OUT AND SEE THEM! I'll be visiting 1422 while they are in Seattle, and 1421 while they are in New York and points north (but probably not Canada, much to my chagrin- sorry Cindy/Elliot/Jimmy/Wessica/Gable/LOTS of other people in Toronto- I'd love to see you all, but it probably wouldn't be the best time for me to be with the team.)

Pray for overseas opportunities (still under development.) Oh, and also that I won't get too depressed now that they're gone! (It's kind of inevitable when life suddenly goes from 120mph down to about 20 overnight - thought I am looking forward to a bit of a break.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

If you haven't already discovered them...

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

...the promised blogs for this year's fulltime teams are live. And as I mentioned earlier, I want to invite you all to participate.

Check them out from CTI's website- follow the obvious paths to the FT pages. They're hosted through blogger, but you don't need a blogger account to comment on them. (Comments are moderated by yours truly, so keep them family-friendly!) Only team members can post directly to the pages, but anyone can comment on the posts! (If you do have a blogger account, your profile can be accessed from your comments.)

Yeah, and since I had to set that all up, you'll discover something interesting here too:

A live feed from this Xanga is syndicated onto it too, which is pretty cool.

"Debris! We have debris!"

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

Currently Watching
By Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lois Smith, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Scott Thomson, Todd Field, Joey Slotnick, Wendle Josepher, Jeremy Davies, Zach Grenier, Gregory Sporleder, Patrick Fischler, Nicholas Sadler, Ben Weber, Anthony Rapp, Eric LaRay Harvey
see related

"Debris! We have debris!"

...I'm not really watching it... in fact, I haven't seen it in years. But I did see my first tornado this weekend, which was pretty sweet, I must say. So I was watching a twister...

Was out with 1421 for their first away from home gig- we did a workshop in Sioux Falls SD, then drove up to the booming metropolis of Trent (population about 150) for a Sunday morning appearance. The weather was nasty- 85 degrees at the east end of the state and 45 at the west end. And the two fronts colliding were spawning tornados all the way down to Oklahoma apparently.

We were driving up I-29, about a mile from our exit to Trent, and the team was all commenting on this weird cloud formation over an open field to the left of the van. I was driving, so I only glanced over at it, then back at the road. I looked back when everyone started getting really excited, and the thing was on the ground. Probably a couple of miles away, but you could tell that it hit the ground because there was a huge cloud of debris around the base of the funnel. Saaaa-wheeeet! (no disrespect to re-located cows intended.)

It was only on the ground for about 10 seconds or so. When we pulled into Trent a few minutes later, all the sirens were going off, which made load-in pretty fun. The team set up and we all went off to host homes for the night, only to be entertained by the sirens again later that evening- some nasty activity north of Trent that night, I guess. When we were driving home the next day there was a small spot on the side of the highway where the corn was just missing... how curious.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Speak of the devil...

In comparing two preachers who preached on hell, a listener said: "The one preached about hell as though he were glad some of us were going there. But the other preached as though the thought that anyone might go there was breaking his heart."

-A stinging observation made by Gordon MacDonald in his
Leadership Journal column

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Following God in neutral...

"We have put so much emphasis on avoiding evil that we have become virtually blind to the endless opportunities for doing good. We have defined holiness by what we separate ourselves from, rather than what we give ourselves to. I am convinced the great tragedy is not the sins we commit, but the life we fail to live. You cannot follow God in neutral. God has created you to do something."

-Erwin McManus

Saturday, September 02, 2006


this post originaly appeared on my Xanga site on June 20, 2006.

Currently Listening
Nothing Is Sound
By Switchfoot
The Shadow Proves the Sunshine

As a Christian, I'm quite sure I spend a lot of time trying to grow the fruit while spending relatively little time focusing on the tree.

Know what I mean? Trying to be "good" rather than allowing good to be who I am because it's a natural outflowing of who I'm striving to be through Christ. Having to remind myself " oh yeah, I'm supposed to be gentle, patient and kind."

I think the outside world knows when we force those things. People are rarely fooled by forced fruits. Unfortunately, I think I often fool myself into believing that this is what sets me apart as a Christian- that these are the things that people will know Christ in me by.

What happens when I fall, like the rest of the world? The times I "turn off" and forget to force myself to have self-control or be loving? What happens when high profile Christians fall to the same sins that mere mortals are subject to? What does Christ stand on when we've built His platform on good behavior and the like, and then we can't stand on it with him?

I'm starting to understand that the real thing that makes us different... the thing that really sets us apart... is the fact that Christ Himself dwells within us. Man, you can't force that! And no matter how much failing there is on the outside, the simple, yet profound fact that the King Of The Universe makes His home in my soul will be sufficient if I stop trying to convince myself (and the world around me) that the difference is in obeying the speed limit, avoiding the "more serious" swearwords, and actually *purchasing* the music I listen to.

'Cause *wow*.... I'm not all that different when measured against those 3 criteria.

(but I know a lot of non-Christians who are...)

Shine on me - let my shadows prove the sunshine

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Thank you, Mr. LaHaye...

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

Okay, I'm officially going out on a limb.

I'm really heartbroken about the conflict in the Middle East. I'm heartbroken because tremendously inhumane acts are being committed and the US is refusing to step in. I'm most heartbroken of all about the Christian response, or lack thereof.

Check out this excerpt from an interview between Newsweek magazine and Tim LaHaye, co-author of the "Left Behind" series:

NW: Does this explain how living right with God, in a Christian sense, would entail supporting the Israeli state right now?
LaHaye: I think those two things are related. Christians who take the Bible literally are generally supportive of Israel because God promises to bless those nations that are a blessing to Israel and curse those nations that are not. And the history of America bears that out.

I can't think of a more damaging PR statement for the cause of Christ. Consider the implications of this statement to the rest of the world: We believe the Bible tells us to support Israel, therefore we will stand by, regardless of what atrocities are committed by that nation.

Flip this around and see it from the opposite perspective. Are we not currently engaged in a war on terror with nations and people groups who believe the same thing- who believe that the Qua'an says they will be blessed if they act a certain way? And this is how they justify their acts of terrorism.

Are we anything more than terrorists in a different wrapper? Many in the Middle East would argue that we are not, and in light of Mr. LaHaye's comment, I think they're justified in their position.

Personally, I would be more blessed in my life (in an eternal sense, not a current temporal sense) if someone were, in love, to hold me accountable to my wrongful actions rather than turn a blind eye to them. Shouldn't the same apply to our relationship with Israel, God's chosen nation? I don't equate "being a blessing" to Israel with refusing to call them to account for their actions.

Consider this final quote from a European security research fellow at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London.

"The U.S. angle is to put Hezbollah in the same box as the global war on terror: Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda are all part of the same basket. The Europeans are more inclined to acknowledge the world is far more complex than this Bush mantra."

Friends, I'm no justifier of Hezbollah or any other terrorist group here. But I think the Europeans have a good perspective. The world is not as simple as our foreign policy makes it out to be.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Part The Last: Vision

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

Currently Reading
Visioneering : God's Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Personal Vision
By Andy Stanley
see related

In his book Visioneering, Andy Stanley examines the story of Nehemiah, who set himself apart for the purpose of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s vision was about a lot more than a wall, though. It was about restoring Israel to their status as a people set apart by God. If I could, I’d quote Stanley’s entire elaboration for you. It’s that good. If you want to dig into crafting a vision for your life, or for any part of your life… get this book.

I’m suggesting that our vision as CTI fulltimers should be synonymous with our expectation of having an experience of significant spiritual formation through our involvement with the ministry. The passive becomes active: let’s stop expecting some program to turn us into someone we want to become, and instead, choose to actively pursue a vision of spiritual formation for our lives, using the environment and structure of the CTI experience to help us realize that vision.

The fourteenth chapter of Visioneering is all about distractions. Stanley cites three kinds of distractions that can kill a vision: opportunities, criticism, and fear. He goes as far as to say that anyone who pursues a vision will encounter these distractions.

It is our response to those distractions that determines how our vision will be realized – how well our expectations will be met.

The potential distractions for a CTI fulltimer are too numerous to mention.

When Nehemiah was nearing completion on the wall, his adversaries (rulers in the region who didn’t want to see Israel restored) sent him an invitation: “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” (Nehemiah 6:1-2a) Though this could have represented a chance to make peace (seemingly a good opportunity,) Nehemiah’s response, according to Stanley, evidences his commitment to the vision that God had set him apart for:

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (v. 2b – 4)

Nehemiah had set himself apart, and saw even a potentially good opportunity as a distraction from the greater work he had been set apart to do. (Oh yeah, and they were plotting to kill him anyway… which really would have derailed the vision.)

Stanley maintains that “any vision worth pursuing will demand sacrifice and risk.” Unquestionably true. So what are the sacrifices we need to make, and the risks we need to take, as we pursue our vision for spiritual growth?

I can come up with a list of suggestions (and, for the sake of future fulltimers who don’t have the benefit of context, I plan to…) but I want to end this exposition on that line of questioning:

What sacrifices do we need to make as we pursue that vision – that expectation we all say we have for an experience of personal spiritual growth? I am convinced that no environment can create that experience for us without our personal willingness to be set apart.

And being set apart begins with the realization that we are doing a great work, and we cannot come down.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Part V of VI: Set Apart

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

Just as creativity blossoms when focused by limitation, and water becomes power under constraint, so I believe that our expectations of having an experience of significant spiritual formation can realized through our commitment to be set apart, accompanied by a personal diligence in spiritual disciplines, and a realization that no environment or structure can make those choices for us.

My vision for the fulltime program is that of a community in which passionate and authentic disciples of Christ grow each other in His image, are equipped for ministry and evangelism, and are released into the world as young leaders. At the end of each individual’s season of ministry with CTI, I long to see team members equipped and motivated to lead others in discipleship, equip them for ministry and evangelism, and grow them in Christian leadership. Ideally, I want to see everyone leave the fulltime program with an expanded worldview, and to continue to have a leadership impact in their church and community, equipping others and embracing ministry and discipleship as a lifestyle.

Isn’t that in keeping with what we all say we want to see happen in ourselves as participants in this program?
The fact that we get the opportunity to live in community for a year with others who also desire to have this experience of personal spiritual growth puts us in a position of tremendous ability to spur each other on towards that goal.

It puts us in a position of tremendous responsibility too – to each other – because it may be the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in such a community. It’s an opportunity not to be wasted, in my view. It’s an opportunity to be set apart.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Part IV of VI: Relevance

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

Currently Reading
In the Name of Jesus : Reflections on Christian Leadership
By Henri J. Nouwen
see related

What is it about submitting to a structured pursuit of personal spiritual disciplines as an integral part of a corporate experience (i.e. CTI) that turns so many of us off?

Is it the fact that we’re told by other people that this is what we should be doing? That we’re often led down the path of spiritual discipline by our peers – people that we don’t see as any more qualified to guide us spiritually than we are to guide ourselves?

“Don’t tell me what to do to maintain my own spiritual health.If you like to read the Word, then that’s great for you, but God hasn’t given me that same passion, and therefore it doesn’t have as much bearing on my spiritual development as it does on yours. I have other ways of staying intimate with God… like playing Mario Kart.”

Maybe it turns us off because personal quiet time, corporate prayer, team devos and the like… don’t feel like they’re much more than just “going through the motions” and are therefore not authentic or relevant enough for us.

Henri Nouwen was like 52 when his book In the Name of Jesus was published in 1989 (long before any of us knew what it meant to be postmodern,) yet in it, he makes a statement about the seeking of relevance in ministry that ought to be startlingly convicting to the emergent generation that we’re a part of:

Aren’t we priests and ministers called to help people, to feed the hungry, and to save those who are starving? Are we not called to do something that makes people realize that what we do makes a difference in their lives? Aren’t we called to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and alleviate the suffering of the poor? Jesus was faced with these same questions, but when he was asked to prove his power as the Son of God by the relevant behavior of changing stones into bread, he clung to his mission to proclaim the Word and said, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4)

Sometimes I am able to see my personal hangup on authenticity and relevance for the stumbling block that it is. If some motion or degree of action doesn’t 100% represent how I feel, what I believe, or what I’m about… I won’t go forward with it. I thereby effectively declare that no motion at all is better than motion that contains any degree of misrepresentation.

And so, though I won’t be wrongly associated with something I don’t fully buy into, I don’t produce anything good either. Not in the outside world… not in my inner world.

Nouwen goes on to make this assertion:

The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Part III of VI: Discipline

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

I am persuaded that most CTI fulltimers come into the ministry wanting and expecting to experience significant personal spiritual growth. I know I did. Most of us said as much on our applications:

Q: What do you expect to receive during your time with CTI? What do you want to see happen in and through your life?

A: I expect to grow closer to God and deepen my desire to serve Him and others. I expect Him to use me to reach the world. I want to develop a deeper passion for His word. I want to develop a deeper love for people. I want to seek Him more regularly through personal devotions…

newsflash:::… Most of us end up at least partially disappointed in these expectations, and I think it’s because we’re expecting an institution, ministry, or program to turn us into the kind of person we say we want to become, without having to expend a lot of personal effort to see it happen. We expect it to be a passive process. We want it to be relatively painless - maybe a little bit sacrificial - but overall, fun… because of the camaraderie of knowing that other people are on the journey with us.

We expect that by just experiencing a program, our desire for significant personal spiritual growth will be realized.

I believe that we make a critical mistake in assuming that any program can be an effective replacement for the rigorous personal pursuit of the spiritual disciplines that truly bring about this kind of change in a person. We rely on an environment to do the work for us. And then we feel cheated when the environment doesn’t come through.

Our expectations of having an experience of significant spiritual formation through CTI (or any other program) will only be realized through our willingness and commitment to be set apart and allow ourselves to be structured by an active pursuit of spiritual disciplines that are independent of our environment.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Part II of VI: Free Will

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

I think one of our biggest issues with structure is this whole generational/cultural hangup on authenticity. I know that the quest for the ultimate in authenticity and relevance has often hindered me from just doing something because it’s tested and true and right. I’ve often felt like I’m not qualified to direct others spiritually, or challenge them to live within a structure and be disciplined, because I hold fast to this idea that God has granted everyone the sovereignty to choose their own path.

Where did I get the idea that structure prohibits choice, and somehow limits free will??

I struggle with this on a political level too. I’m very much in the camp of people who believe that there are moral absolutes, but I’m also repulsed by the image that we too often tend to present as politically active Christians (which seems to be that our real goal is changed laws and political systems rather than changed hearts resulting in changed lives.)

Should we legislate morality?

Here is truth: God has revealed His will to us about many things. There’s not a lot of argument as to whether or not it is okay to take another person’s life or property from them. And we’ve gone ahead and legislated that kind of stuff. But people still have the choice, given them by God, to do what is right, or to do what is wrong. That’s free will. And the structure provided by law hasn’t taken away anyone’s free will. It has only set up a system by which we can measure action and apply consequence.

God’s extension of free will doesn’t exempt us from the consequences of our actions. He gave both structure and freedom to Adam and Eve when he provided them with the capability to touch something which He also commanded them not to touch. They chose to touch, and He did not prevent them from doing so. And the consequence of that choice is what we now refer to as the fall of man.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Part I of VI: Focus

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

moving as though fast was too slow
the chick cranked loud her radio
and crashed into a bus full of screaming dancers

Ever played with one of those magnetic poetry sets? We have a “rock star” themed edition on the fridge at the ministry. The team members joke about how it sucks me in. It’s true - I’m addicted. There’s just something about creating phrases out of a pre-determined set of words that I find irresistibly compelling. I’ll just zone out between the pantry and the trash can, pushing the little magnets around and losing track of time…

get me backstage punk
drunk groupies screaming my name
I’m number one here

That one isn’t actually mine. It’s Heidi’s. It’s one of my favorite offerings from our fridge over the past year or so. (It’s actually a haiku too, which just enhances the inherent coolness.) Heidi commented on the one I did about the chick and the screaming dancers. She liked the first line (though she wasn’t a big fan of the third line.) She particularly liked the imagery of “fast” being too slow. As if fast were an absolute.

Here’s the thing: I never would have thought to use that kind of imagery if I had the entire English vocabulary at my disposal. There is something about constraint and limitation that brings definition to creativity.

Consider a certain amount of water that flows placidly through a large culvert. If you take that same amount of water and pump it through a garden hose at the same flow rate, you’ll have the power to erode a hillside.

Have you ever participated in a jam session that left you frustrated? One where no one seemed to be on the same page… everyone was going their own direction… you never felt like you ever “arrived” anywhere? Yeah, that’s how most of the ones I’ve ever been involved with go.

One of my favorite jam experiences of all time was made possible by Brian Kingsley, who happens to be a fantastic guitarist. Only he didn’t play the guitar. I think there was already another guitarist there. I was on keys, and someone (Ramirez?) was on drums. So Kingsley picked up the bass. But he definitely “led” the session. He just started a groove that was predictable and repeatable. And he did that for like 10 minutes straight each time. He set the structure within which the rest of us had the freedom to create. We went on for hours. It was amazing.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Serving Notice

[note- this post originally appeared on my Xanga blog. Clicking the link will take you to the original article, which will allow you to read the original comments]

I'm going to be posting a multi-part exposition of my thoughts on the concepts of being set apart, living in the structure of spiritual disciplines, and the impact of those and other concepts on our ability to exercise the free will given to us by God.

As friends and alums of CTI, I want to invite you all to take part in this discussion with me.

I'm organizing these thoughts as I plan for next year's fulltime program. My basic premise here is that CTI team members (summer and FT) come with the expectation of having a somewhat monastic encounter with God through the CTI experience. For summer, I think this is reasonable, because CTI summer = uberstructure. Thus far, I haven't really seen this expectation realized for FT, and I think that is mostly because we haven't presented it as a choice for fulltimers.

So here's my thesis: TM’s expectations of having a “monastic” experience through CTI will only happen because of their willingness and commitment to be “set apart” and allow structure to focus them.

And by the way, I'm serving notice that I intend to incorporate blogging in multiple formats next fulltime year, and want you all to feel welcome to live fulltime life vicariously by participating in them. Not totally sure what that is going to look like yet, but I'll let you know.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Donald Miller on culture and the church

Currently Reading
Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
By Donald Miller
see related

[originaly posted on my Xanga blog]
A friend of mine, a young pastor who recently started a church, talks to me from time to time about the new face of church in America - about the postmodern church. He says the new church will be different from the old one, that we will be relevant to culture and the human struggle. I don't think any church has ever been relevant to culture, to the human struggle, unless it believed in Jesus and the power of His gospel. If the supposed new church believes in trendy music and cool Web pages, then it is not relevant to culture either. It is just another tool of Satan to get people to be passionate about nothing.

Passion about nothing is like pouring gasoline in a car without wheels. It isn't going to lead anybody anywhere.

Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz