the way you tell it

We all tell stories in which we are the central character.  I have noticed that the way we tell stories matter.  The details that are left out of one story might change the perception or theadded details might make the storyteller look good.  The one thing I have noticed that is common to almost every story is that they are personal.  Usually we interject ourselves into the plot line of the story.  Second, we are usually the voice of reason amongst other irrational people.

used with permission by the artist, Erik Caines

Maybe you’re like me and you hear stories all the time.  Maybe you also tell these stories all the time.  And when I tell my own story, I am always the voice of reason.  But this isn’t true at all.  When you listen to people tell stories you usually think of how smart they are and how dumb the rest of the world is.  But is the rest of the world really that dumb?

I love that as we approach Easter and look at the story of the cross, Jesus approached it differently.  He plainly told his disciples that he had to face death.  He begged and pleaded for his father to remove his cup of suffering and yet he faced it anyway.  Although Jesus ultimately conquers death he is never the hero in his own story.  He highlighted his own meek character for the betterment of humanity.  We follow meekness because it is the only thing that is truly genuine.  We live in a culture of forgeries and fakes.   When was the last time someone told you a story in which they were the irrational one, the marginalized one or the meek one?  I think the common knowledge is that those stories are not very good.  Individually, they may not be, but a collection of these stories and a lifestyle of meekness tells a life-altering story.  The kind you want to emulate.

What is with the humanistic need to become the hero in our story?  Why not tell the same story the way it really happened?  What if we told stories in which we highlighted our own meekness?

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the waters around you have grown


Dylan’s, “The Times they are a Changing” is easily the most relevant song I’ve ever heard. It was relevant when it was written as it was when I heard it for the first time in 1999 as it is today in 2012.  It is the non-anthem and yet anthem for things from political campaigns to restaurants being under new management. It has been covered by anyone who is anybody in the music business.  I love that over the years I’ve never really heard Dylan play it the same way twice.

It is a song that is just as relevant in social movements, business models, churches, families and friends.  It is a verbal recognition of you know to be true deep down inside.  You’re being surrounded by change and if you don’t prepare for it you will drown by the rising waters of change. Dylan wrote, “Come gather round people where ever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown.”   Sometimes just admitting that things are changing is painful.  We’ve all experienced this in one-way or another.  Life looks different than it did before and every now and then we look out our windows and don’t recognize what we see.

As a new Lead Pastor I’ve never been as sensitive to change as I am now.  I know when I am changing something and I recognize it everywhere.  Some even want me to change things more but change has to be for a purpose and for the sake of health and not simply to change. There are so many little shifts that need to happen that it seems like they all add up to a lot.  I am not changing things to dishonor or disrespect the past. I love the past, I was a major part of the past and some of the irony is that the things I am changing are decisions that I helped make for this church years ago.  I am intentionally changing some things so I can lead the way that God has wired me.  I want to be the most effective pastor that I can be for Neighborhood, so in order to do that I need to create an atmosphere where I can thrive along with my team.  If you moved into my house today, you’d probably bring your own furniture.

The beautiful part of my church is that people get it.  They know and understand this and I haven’t had to say much about it.  All this change has begun to make me question a few things.  First, I’ve noticed that we as a people are more timid of making changes in our families than we are in our work places.  Part of it is that things might be unstable at work so we desire stability at home, but as Dylan says, “your old road is rapidly aging.”  That has never been more true than today, the world moves faster.  New things become old the day you bring them home.  So what if we intentionally made changes in our families that allowed for each member to thrive?

The second thing is that everyone says that want change but very few people actually do it.  We even make big claims like, “that really needs to change!”  But out of fear of rocking the boat, we rarely act on it.  We sacrifice health for comfort.  Stephen Covey asked a question in one of his books that has rocked me so hard that I think about it every day. “Is there one thing that we are not doing, that if we were, would drastically change the outcome of our organization?”  Asking this question about your church, your business and your family is about the scariest and healthiest thing that you can do.

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the dude abides

The last of the formal I AM statements that Jesus makes is that He is the true vine.  He talks about his father being the gardener and his disciples being the branches.  It made me think what is a disciple?  In its simplest form a disciple is someone who is connected to the vine, someone who has access to the life of another and follows the teaching of that person.  I love the King James Version of this text.  Jesus says, “abide in me and I will abide in you.” I think I am just a fan of the word “abide.”  How do you abide (remain) in a person when they have been dead for 2000 years?

Maybe this is why we pray in the name of Jesus.  Maybe when we take a Sabbath rest it is simply to bask in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Maybe abiding means, remaining connected to the vine so we don’t whither and die.  Maybe abiding is taking advantage of and ancient text that still is as relevant today as the day it was written.

There are a ton of books out there on being a better disciple, becoming a disciple, or changing your life in some way.  But it starts with abiding, or remaining in Christ.  It starts with proximity and simple nearness.  It starts with listening to God.  It starts in the simplest way.  The true mark of a disciple is that they are with their teacher.  Another way to use the term abide is to say, “to live on.” So if you abide with Jesus now, how much will he live on in you later?

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way truth life pt2

Partly because of the scientific method and partly because of people we now have a society that is suspicious of all truth claims.  We are especially suspicious of clams that go something like, “I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the father but through me.”  Yes, red flags go up.  Even though Jesus said it and really, we are more suspicious of people who follow Jesus then Jesus himself, it is still a claim of truth.  How do we prove that Jesus is truth?  

We don’t. I can’t.

I do decently well at convincing people of this, but I can’t prove it. Over the years so many have claimed to possess the truth and they have done irreparable harm by doing so.  But is truth something that we can possess?  Or is truth someone we can know?

The scientific method proves things in science that are useful, but God refused to be used.  In fact God refuses to be proved.  Why do you think God was so serious about not making images of him or being seen?  Why do you think Jesus came slightly before Polaroid invented the instant camera?  (Yes slightly, our world is 13.7 billion years old)  Faith is such a key component in Christianity precisely because God refuses to be proved. His refusing to be proved shows his deep love and passion for his people, but that is another article entirely!

So Jesus claims to be the way, the truth and the life.  I can’t prove it but I believe it and for me this is truth.  It is truth that is not proved but revealed in the person of Jesus.  We look at statements like, “I am the way” and we might immediately think of the offensiveness of this statement.  Because if Jesus is the way, singular then how can someone who has another set of beliefs be saved?  Isn’t this exclusive?  I think exclusivity would be if there was no way provided, but God in his radical inclusively provided his son as the way.  So maybe instead of being offended we should investigate if this is really the way.

So many things have made us wary of truth claims.  Part of it is the western belief that everything needs empirical and irrefutable evidence.  Part of it is people who claim to have the truth and subsequently become oppressors.  Stalin claimed to have truth; he was going to make a utopia.  Hitler was going to solve the problems of Germany, he was going to make a pure Arian race, he even had a final solution and he even claimed that he had truth on his side.

But what if truth is personal?  What if truth is not objective?  What if all truth is simply contained in a person?  That person was God and earth and he wants to reveal truth to us but it’s not something we can own, it’s just something that we can know.  Maybe this is why God wants his people to tell the truth, because he is the truth and when we tell it we reflect him.

Unfortunately this isn’t a simple subject.  But if Jesus is the truth that contains eternal life, wouldn’t it make sense that he is also the way?

May you walk in the way of Jesus an know his truth and begin to find life that is really life.

**A friend of mine who is a scholar and a missionary has been doing a lot of work on this subject and I am grateful to him for stretching me on all of this.  Much of my thinking on this has come from emails and conversations that my friend, Phil Davis and I have had.

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way truth life pt1

I love my wife, I really do.  We have two beautiful children together; we are going on our fifth year of marriage.  I feel like she is the only one in the world who can look inside my brain and know what I am thinking on the deepest levels.  We have a deep bond of love and while I can convince you of this all day, I can’t prove it imperially.  Try to imagine how awkward it would be if while I was marrying a couple in front of everyone, I tried to ask them to prove their love to each other.

For the past four hundred years the western world has been fixated on proving everything.  We use the scientific method.  In the pursuit of proving everything we have really made some amazing discoveries.  Just the fact that we know that we drink one part hydrogen and two parts oxygen is huge.  In tenth grade science class we separated these elements and to me, that was proof that I was drinking hydrogen and oxygen.  The scientific method has worked so well that we have taken this method public.

I can convince you of a lot and yet I can prove very little.  I can convince you that the sky is blue, because it is, just look up.  That is unless you are sitting on Kaanapali beach in Maui at six pm.    You would be able to make a very convincing argument that the sky is orange.

The scientific method works well for science, and so many things can be tested using this method. The problem is that the scientific method has created a culture that if something cannot be proved, it must not be truth and if it can’t be proved by this method, then it isn’t trustworthy.    But I love my wife and all I can do is convince you of this and the scientific method wont work on this.

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