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Monday, April 12, 2004

Jesus instructs them to steal 

I posted a little of this on the Preachingplus blog and it is still bothering me so, I thought you may want to give your insights.

Luke 19:28-40

19:28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

19:29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples,

19:30 saying, "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.

19:31 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it.'"

19:32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.

19:33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"

19:34 They said, "The Lord needs it."


Could it be that Jesus asks his disciples to steal His ride? Isn't it a sin to take something that's not yours? Is it good enough just to say, "Well after all, everything is the Lord's"?

The sequence of this story is so strange. If only Jesus would have instructed them to go to the owner first and tell him, "The Lord needs it." But, this is not the case. Jesus seems to instruct them to go and take the colt--and if you get caught explain, "The Lord needs it."

What were the two disciples thinking as they approached the colt? What was their conversation like on the way? I must admit, I would have questioned this request.

Sometimes I feel churches and other organizations ask me to give because "The Lord needs it" and it feels like robbery.

I confess this scripture is a strange event and causes me some concern. How can I preach about it without honestly struggling through the questions above?

Has God ever instructed you to do wrong?

Lord, may our conversation be honest.

Monday, March 29, 2004

My friend Peter 

Obedience?

I like Peter Rabbit--for all the wrong reasons!

You see, I identify with him, especially the fact that he gets into so much mischief. Although a first-born, I have a strong craving for risk. The moral fabric of my soul is frayed from the constant battle I wage between the desire to obey the rules and my spirit of adventure.

If one were choosing role models, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail--Peter's siblings--should be the obvious choices. After all, because they are "good" and obedient, they get the bread and milk and blackberries for supper while Peter gets none. Plus, their cute little bunny outfits stay clean and neat while Peter's gets stranded all over Mr. McGregor's garden. Even though they are the ones the story honors, their lives seem droll and drab, lacking fun and interest.

The story highlights Peter's misadventures in Mr. McGregor's garden to tell us the moral of the story--"See what happens to those who disobey?" My response? "Okay. But I still want to join Peter for tomorrow's escapade."

The nagging question that emerges from Peter's story is, "What kind of person would I be had I obeyed my parents 100% of the time?" Strange as it may sound, disobedience has been a better teacher than obedience in my life. Instead being "obedient" like Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were "good little bunnies," it was the times I was squeezing myself under Mr. McGregor's gate that have taught me most about myself.

Is God asking me to lead a life of total obedience? Is that the kind of existence that awaits me as a follower?


  • When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son in a pagan ritual was God asking for total obedience or was he asking Abraham to argue/converse with Him as Abraham had done many times before?
  • When God placed the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden was His hope for obedience or a conversation about why the knowledge of good and evil would lead to death?
  • When the lost son returns and Father throws a massive party, it is, ironically, the "obedient" older brother whose heart has turned to stone. The older son, for all his "obedience" has not experienced what a relationship with his father could mean. So, what good was his obedience? This seems to be the question the story ends with.


100% obedience doesn't sound like the life God asks me to live. It doesn't sound as whole and healthy as it once did.

Lord may I not wonder so far as to lose my way home.


Saturday, February 07, 2004

Spiritual Formation? 

I have been wrestling with "Spiritual Formation."

What is it? Can it be accomplished? How?

Spiritual practices seem so empty at times.

I have been led to a beginning question. One that is more perplexing than the first. If we are to gain any knowledge or experience of spiritual formation maybe we should contemplate this question first. Maybe it holds the key.

What is the soul?

There, I asked it aloud. Now it must be dealt with.

What if the soul is not something we have but it is more something we are? “It is the very life-pulse within us, that which makes us alive…As such it has two functions:

First of all, it is the principle of energy. Life is energy. There is only one body that does not have any energy or tension within it, a dead one. The soul is what gives life. Inside us it, lies the fire, the eros, the energy that drives us…

But the soul does more than merely give energy. It is also the adhesive that holds us together, the principle of integration and individuation within us. The soul not only makes us alive, it also makes us one.”
The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, Ronald Rolheiser.

What if spiritual formation was the nurturing of the fire that burns within us—the energy and tension that defines “alive?” What if it’s about finding a way for peace and tension to live in harmony?

What if spiritual formation is less about spiritual practices and more about nurturing that which keeps us from falling apart? What if it is about nurturing live giving relationships/communities?

What if spiritual formation was more about living with Christ than practicing Christ?

Lord, help me to be alive and soulful…

Friday, January 30, 2004

An “Acts 2 Church” 

Pastors, key leaders, and now pew sitters describe the ideal for the church as an “Acts 2 church.” What this usually means is the ideal definitions are “They devoted themselves…”and “They broke bread in their homes.” The small group movement has energized this phrase as support for the movement. However, I’m concerned with our limited reading of the second chapter of Acts.

First, I think it is limiting to suggest that the ideal for the church can be found in one chapter. The chapter is a response to one event—Pentecost. That may be a little bit like suggesting that the ideal time of a persons life is at birth and we should strive to return to that event. Certainly there are some wonderful traits of birth that motivate us, like innocence, however, I don’t see it as the Mecca of life.

The second chapter opens with the apostles gathered in a room for Pentecost. A wave of fire falls upon them and Jesus’ promise is fulfilled—the Spirit arrives. The bewildered crowd began to hear the wonders of God in their native tongue. It is possible to see this event as God’s invitation for all to join the family. God is coming to them not in His “native tongue” but in the common language of every people group.

The chapter moves to Peter’s speech. One interesting phrase that Peter uses is “Men of Israel…(22).” This is appropriate because these are Jews that have made a pilgrimage for The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost). But, it is also strange because of what just happened—everyone heard in his or her native tongue. Possibly Peter is not aware that this movement is no longer a family gathering of Israelites or Peter has recognized it and now calls all to be a part of the family of God.

For me, this is God’s coming out party to the entire world.

The chapter ends with the churches response to the day. (42-47) This is the part of the chapter that we are somewhat infatuated with. “They devoted themselves… They broke bread in their homes…They had everything in common.” All of these are wonderful responses but aren’t we forgetting something? “Everyday they continued to meet in the temple courts.” (46) It is only part of the story to suggest that the ideal is meeting “house to house.”

In Acts 2 we find gatherings in homes, in temple courts, and in the large gathering of a crowd. The ideal of the church has many spatial possibilities for gathering together and finding family.

If we are going to promote an Acts 2 church maybe we should consider the whole story.

Lord may we see the entire story.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Omni-God 

In response to my last post, several emailed, called, and blogged back a concern that I was messing with the Omni-ness of God. Most were concerned that I was belittling God or at least making Him less than what He is.

The Omni-ness of God is a big conundrum. In fact, I think it is too small to think of God as Omni.

For example, we think of God as omni-present. However, we also believe that God can’t be in the presence of evil. Omni argues that both cannot be true. Yet, it is.

So, more to point of the last post, could it be possible that God is both Omni-knowing and an Omni-learner?

As Spencer Burke says, “Thinking that Jesus came to earth for us to experience God is only half the story. It is possible that it is as much God coming to experience us—to experience what it is like to be human.”

Lord may my definitions of you not get in the way of your holiness.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Faith--a new experience with God 

For some time now I have been interested in the qualities of God that are different between the first testament and the second--and why.

In the first testament there is the "Thus saith the Lord" voice of God. And, there is the voice of God that exhibits grace--"I am God, not man." These two voices at times seem in conflict. Perhaps God is trying to figure out how to relate to us as much as we are trying to figure out how to relate to Him. And so, Jesus comes.

The second testament exhibits the same frustration however, Jesus makes a decision that grace trumps law every time.

As God finds out what it is like to live as human, could it be that He is refining the way He hopes we will relate to Him?

For example,
[f]aith is the distinctive word of the New Testament, as much as love and far more so than hope. Faith occurs once or twice in the Old Testament, perhaps two hundred times in the New.
--London School of Economics sociologist David Martin


Is faith the dominate way Jesus decides that we are to relate to God? Why does faith make such a main stage appearance in the second testament?

Lord may I experience what faith is.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Root of Sin? 

What if the root of sin is good--not evil?

What if sin is the excessive and unhealthy ways we express the passion of the soul?

God sets the soul on its way with a passion that is pure and good. When I explore that passion in excessive ways I sin. Thus, the root is good.

This helps me change my perspective on "how" to deal with my sin. I'm not sure that sin emerges from "the evil within." What if it emerged from an excessive use of good?

Lord, help my goodness to produce good.

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