A New Kind of Consumption

I’ve had a couple of different quotes rolling over in my head for the last week or so…I’m trying to make some sense of them.

The first:

“The good life of God is a life that empties itself on behalf of others“–Tom Sine

AND THEN

“No…I don’t think you’re that much different than we are…I mean, you’re getting more stuff–better stuff…living more responsibly in society. That’s what we’re all doing, right?”Anonymous (but said to me a couple of years back as I was trying to live very radically in my ‘knowing of God’)

And there’s the tension between the kingdom life, a life that was described as one the empties itself, prefers others, seeks not its own good, and seeks to offer up rather than intake…and then of course there’s the life of fallen and broken false selves. All about getting more, acquiring more, having more and better.

I’ve been thinking about how this tension can be seen in the desert temptations of Jesus. All of the things that the Satan offers Jesus are positive things…even kingdom things…they involve love of God, love of others, etc…THE END IS GOOD. But the means required consumptive “getting”. The method is the message, and Jesus knew that. He knew that the means to the good life defines the good life. And so He says “No thanks” to the temptations in the desert.

But how often are we in the same situation?

A good world…it just involves another purchase… A better hope for all of us…it just requires me acquiring another unnecessary item (which always seems indispensable in my immediate pursuit of God, neighbor, or environment). And in the end, all of I’ve done in my radical attempts to reach a happier ending is develop a new kind of consumption. Better. Kinder. Makes me feel more altruistic and benevolent. But…just more padding for my preferred life style–middle class ME.

It’s just so easy to get sucked into consumerism for the sake of the kingdom. And that’s what the temptation in the desert was all about. Getting for God.

And I can’t help but reflect on that first quote and wonder if all the acquisitions in the world don’t just add up to another step away from God’s good life…a life of giving away…of emptiness…of letting go.

Maybe we need P.H level evaluations for living..little quizzes at the end of the day for evaluating a life of being spent or of spending.  I don’t know…honestly…still, it’s troubling.

Anyhow…thanks for letting me voice my current thoughts.

Possiblities vs Guarentees

I just got a puppy.  I know…stupid move right?  Well, you’re probably right.  Honestly, the sleepless nights, the random “accidents”, and needing the patience of Job to cope with his mischief have me second guessing the whole transaction.  Ah well…  Still, we picked a great breed.  If you’ve ever researched dogs you know that breeds have very different personalities.  Take for instance my old dog, Rigby.  He was an Australian Shepherd, a herding dog.  And guess what, he was constantly herding us, constantly working. We’re convinced that he never slept.  It’s amazing, we never had to teach him to do that. His instinct kicked in. He just did it. Born that way I guess.

I think that’s how I’ve viewed the church.  Like a dog.  Engineered for certain behaviors. No effort needed.

The funny thing is that it’s really not how it works, with dogs, with humans, or with the church.

It’s why you can’t seperate a pup from it’s mother too early.  If you do, it can’t learn the things that become “instinctual” to it.  The mother conditions it and socializes it to become what it eventually does.

With humans the same is true.  Go to a human development class, you’ll find out.  It’s all about conditioning.  And there’s a variety of opinions on what kind of conditioning works, some think constant and rigid training is neccesary while others say it needs to be hands off.  But everyone agrees that there’s an element of grooming that is absolutely imperative.  Or else?  Ever hear of feral children?  Tarzan or Moglai or Nell?  The rat girl from Texas? Without socialization, without training, without that conditioning kids acculturate to the void that surrounds them, be it rats or wolves or monkeys.  We become what we’re around.  Even though we have the possibility to function as a full human there is no guarentee…the right conditions have to be in place.

It’s true of the church too.  She may have the right genetic code but without early socialization and conditioned relationship with her parent she becomes a wild and erratic aberration of what she was meant to be. That’s why you find Paul freaking out in 1 Thessalonians where he was only able to spend a couple of weeks, “I long to come back and impart some sort of spiritual gift to you”.  He realizes that the right foundation requires time, energy, and interaction. And some will point out that it turned out alright in Thessalonica considering the second letter.  Except…the truth is the second letter is just as frought with concern as the first.  Paul is terrified that it wasn’t enough.  It keeps him up at night. He is grieving.  I can just hear the mystic home churchers: “Come on Paul…just trust the Spirit…These guys are the church…just let them BE.  When are you going to develop faith and not worry so much?” I love it because I’ve heard those words before…

The truth that Paul knew and that life confirms is that anything born to a particular destiny has the possibility for the glorious but NOT the guarantee.  Just like life the church requires effort and labor, we must “work to preserve the unity of the Spirit” (wow…I guess that means that unity of Spirit is something we can lose…), we must “press on towards the goal”, we must “set our minds on things above” (which by the way means, set our priorities on the things that Father values…this isn’t some kind of commendation to become of no earthly good).

Just “being the church” doesn’t guarantee that we will actually express Christ’s Body, the Church.  Alot of people get confused on this point.  They throw out “wherever two or three are gathered in my name there I am” as a reference for “church happening” as Christians get together for coffee.  I can just hear a latte foam lipped guru saying: “See…THIS is Church”…over a cup of joe.  But that verse keeps going doesn’t it?  It’s about church discipline primarily and Jesus is saying that we should feel a sense of freedom in dealing with issues even when the larger gathering isn’t present.  He ends by saying, having taken the issue before the two or three, if nothing changes, “take it before the church”.  Hmmm…it would seem then that according to Jesus the two or three certainly have Christ among them, but they are not the church…just parts of it.  Again, go back to life…my own body.  My hand IS the body…but it’s not the whole body…it’s only a little piece…without the whole it won’t work.  Again, I hear an argument coming.  This is really about the universal church.  We are parts of the universal whole.  Yes…true…but unless Jesus was advocating teleconferencing, when he says “take it before the church” he means the local, locatable, assemblyable, gathering collection of interelated people.  My point?  The Church isn’t just pie in the sky atmospherics that we ARE simply by the nature of being Christians.  There is an intangible element to it that seems to congeal mysteriously and takes us from being simply Christ followers to actually representing His eternal Body.

There’s no guarantee that this moment will ever come.  Just because you get a bunch of people who love Jesus into the same room you don’t necessarily have the full expression of the Church.  You may have the raw genetic material for it.  But, as in life, it requires some growing up…some conditioning…some socializing…

Referring to the last post…it requires the kingdom…it requires some space…it requires the brush being cleared, the gospel being declared, lives rearranged…and then, in mystery beyond mysteries people might notice a change, a difference…they might not be able to explain it, but they look around and comment, “I think the Church touched down. I think it’s being expressed.  We didn’t try for it. We weren’t aiming for that…we were simply responding to Him.”

When I think of planting a new church…

Have you ever heard a three year old kid freak out because they want to put the star or the angel on top of the Christmas tree?  They whine and cry and whimper and demand to anoint the tree with a topper.

But, what if that obnoxious call to action came in July, long before December, the Christmas season, and a new doug fir freshly cut in our front living room? It’d kinda be weird wouldn’t it?  It’s just a thought really…

And so I wonder if trying to set up a church, an expression of the Bride of Christ, expressly appointed to live in organic relatedness as a many membered multi functioning physical incarnation of our Lord…whew…I wonder if trying to construct and produce that isn’t like demanding to put the tree topper on a Christmas tree before it’s been cut, long before December.

I don’t mean that comment in the ways that you may think. I’m not saying that it’s inappropriate to plant churches or form new congregations or any of that.  Really…I think there is a time and place for that.  And I’m not making this comment out of that ultra pious uber spiritual position that “man cannot build anything” kind of mentality.  I think that God has given us sanctified minds and has called us to be “co-workers” with Him. He calls ordinary fisherman to tend to his sheep as shepherds, he calls super spiritual religious elite to become foolish evangelists trekking the globe ministering to churches, he even appoints young men to raise up “elders” in congregations…I’m not challenging the fact that God uses women and men to do His work, we are as always His hands and feet.

No, what I’m saying has to do with an order to things…first things first…

Jesus came preaching the kingdom, right?  He came proclaiming a whole new way of arranging our lives around God’s priorities.  He came making the radical suggestion that God’s good dream was at hand, extremely near, and that it was accessible by those who were willing to violently reach out and take hold of it, becoming participants in God’s solution to a world corrupted by a downward spiral of fallen choices.  It seems that everywhere he went, Jesus was communicating God’s reign, God’s rule in the here and now.  This was His primary message.

Guess what he mentions twice?  The church.  2x, seriously.

And I’m not devaluing it by any means…rather I’m saying that if you look at the book of Acts, a collection of stories focussed on early believers, you find God’s ekklessia, His Church.  My point? The church comes out of the kingdom.

Allow me to further illustrate.  Jesus told a parable about a treasure and a field.  The man who wants the treasure must first secure the field. He must give everything he has for it.  Then, and only then does he gain the treasure.

jesus teachingThis is an example of seeking the kingdom first.  As we give our everything–as our lives are radically changed into his image–a space is gained, a field is secured, a clearing is made…a clearing where something can be built upon.

Before the Church can be revealed in a locality or a church can be planted, there must be a space created for the possibility of it.  That space is opened up through the proclamation of the good news of His kingdom and the practicing of the instructions of the Master kingdom citizen, Jesus.  As we hear His words and practice them we are compared to “wise builders” laying a solid foundation for a building…that building is the church…

So…let’s make this really local and practical…before there is a congregation of people organically fitted together a space must be created where people can hear the words of Jesus and evaluate their lives in the light of that reality.  The kingdom must be proclaimed to a collective of individuals.  As they choose to respond as willing vessels to God the church very well may emerge…praise God if she does…

But…we start with the kingdom…creating a space for Him to speak into peoples lives and to be transformed into His image…

From the past 8 years of organic church…that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned…learned the hard way…still…we learn.

is this the fast?

…getting noticed…

and that is what most of this is about…

we speak and long to be heard.

we act and need to be noticed.

we think and need to be thought well of.

by each other. by god. by anyone who will comment on the blog. by our friends. by our neighbors. and this is the heart of witnessing. “maybe someone will notice”…

what would it be like to go unnoticed?

what would it be like to go unheard, unthought of, unspoken about?

and in a world where i do all i can to build the number of people who read this blog…where i tweak it to make it visually, ascetically pleasing to your critical eye…where i write inspirational words and think motivational thoughts…where even when i’m being desperately honest, i’m so conscious that you…you…you are listening and watching my honesty…am i doing any of this for god? or for me?

“pride covers me like a disease, i’m surrounded god and i’m longing to be weak, U burn me deeper than i know…and my heart burns for you…and my heart burns for U…”

my people are busy at worshiping me, they love making new discoveries about me…as if they were a people who DID justice…they ask of Me “what’s the right thing to do?” and love having me on their side. but then they complain, “why do we fast, why do we worship God and U don’t look our way? why do we humble ourselves and U don’t notice?”

Well…here’s why:

Your bottom line is your own gain…it’s profit..

Your exploit the people who work for you, driving them to the lowest possible wage and not leaving enough for them and their families to eat off of.

You fast, but at the same time…you bicker and fight.

Do U think the worship I want is a day of humility? To put on a serious face and take yourself so seriously? Do you call that fasting?

This is the kind of day I’m after:

break the chains of injustice, labor to get rid of exploitation on the job altogether, free those who are oppressed, cancel people’s debts. I’m interested in seeing you share your bountiful food (you know…the food that you eat so much of that you complain how stuffed you are from and how you can’t eat another bite, all the while others starve from lack) with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your own homes, putting clothes around the shivering ill-clad and being available to your own families (rather than going off on your exclusive spiritual retreats away from your household duties)…

DO THIS AND THE LIGHTS WILL TURN ON and your lives will turn around at once. You righteousness will pave your own way. The God of glory will secure your passage. then when you pray God will answer: You’ll cll out for help and I’ll say: “here am I”…

(there’s more…)

If you get rid of your upper hand seeking unfair practices

quit blaming victims,

quit gossiping about other people’s sins,

if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down and out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness and your shadowy lives will be bathed in sunlight.

Then, I will always show you where to go…I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places…

I’m not going to say “God help us” or “wow, what a calling”…that’s still hanging out in the talk of the temple courtyards, in the chatter of the self protective insulated religious circles…it gives me time to keep it all hidden and not have to actually live into any of this…

This is God. This is where He’s going. This is where I’m going to…this is another Life…

Agents of the Future

I’m reposting something that I put up way back last year…I’ve considered it more and more…it is the crucial analogy in my life for God’s Kingdom…I’m continually returning to it’s themes. May we all…”–Brittian

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(I realize that I owe the title of this entry to the name of a local worship band involved at a church called The Bridge; I have no clue if they apply the same connotations that I am suggesting…perhaps…but thank you at least for the title)

What if a visitor from the future–the distant future, where all the mysteries of living have been solved, where world peace has been established, justice reigns, the environment has been brought into balance and everything is as we imagine it ought to be–what if this time traveler, having used the latest in his advanced world’s technology, has disembodied himself and has materialized within your consciousness, in a way that you were fully able to sense and hear him?

You discover in the course of this surprising situation that the visitor has chosen you to be the agent within the present, who through living out the future reality right now, actually ushers in that awesome and desirable new day.

But of course your way of life today is completely out of step with the description of the age to come. Your values are largely different than the ones you have been chosen to portray. This presents a problem, especially in your mind.

However, the future figure is not phased by the challenge, rather he takes every opportunity by “letting you in” on what he knows that you do not. Of course, being from the future he has perspectives on everything that you could not hope to imagine on your own and so you find it quite helpful…most of the time. He nudges you every so often to say and do things more in line with his values and principles than your present ones. And occasionally your sensibilities are challenged.

Still, you notice that the more you simply trust your inward guest the more your life seems to bear the marks of that incredible future he speaks about.

You have become part of bringing the future into the present.

As this process continues you discover that you aren’t alone. Somehow the mysterious messenger has also been operating in and through many others at the same time–towards the same goal. Of course you feel a peculiar community with them, not least of which simply being your shared change in behavior and that you no longer value the things of this age but of another one. And even deeper than that you are all partaking of some inner journey that other’s don’t seem to be and this draws you closer also.

From the inside your visitor is acting as a governor and a guide–operating in much the same way as instinct would in an animal–suddenly you just know to do, say, or undertake certain things. As you choose his way of living over your own you realize that not only are you bringing about some distant hope but also you are actively participating as though it were an immediate reality!

From and for the future but also in and through the present!

You have joined or rather been joined to a radical new kingdom committed to the overthrow of the current world mind set, as it is a futile and ultimately doomed way of being! You are being spent on the instillation of a greater and impending new creation!

Now that is a remarkable fantasy, wouldn’t you say?

I get the fact that the analogy falls short in many ways, not least of which being the fact that the Spirit is operative in us more than just changing our behavior. It also fails to take into account the lover relationship or even the deep friendship. And in my mind, it also is incomplete in the sense that God is not a visitor from a distant future but actually an entirely other and transcendent dimension–and He is hardly a visitor in this realm at all, as it has been created by Him and for Him and in Him. However there are no perfect analogies and I feel this one puts into perspective many of the things the Lord is showing me these days.

What are your thoughts?

Sodomy Anyone?

Then God said to Abraham “The cries of the victims in Sodom are deafening, the sin of those cities is immense. I’m going down to see for myself, to see if what they’re doing is as bad as it sounds…” Genesis 18:17-21

The cries of the victims…it reminds me of another crying out that happened that YHWH heard, “the cries of the oppressed who were enslaved in Egypt”…which He had compassion on…and through great and terrible signs brought them out of…God hears the cries of the victims and he reacts in compassion and judgment…but what, praytell, are those cries about? What are they doing that is so bad? Now…before you go THERE to the obvious response…try this one on…

The sin of Sodom was this: She lived with her daughters in the lap of luxury–proud, gluttonous, and lazy. They ignored the oppressed and the poor. They put on airs…”

Or another translation says

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and underconcerned.  They did not help the poor and needy.-Ezekiel 16:49

Woe.  Literally woe is me.

As long as I’ve read the Bible I’ve always understood that the sin of Sodom, the sin that prophets pronounce warnings to avoid, that Jesus talks about, that Revelation re-hashes, was something that I never had to worry about…something I never had to consciously avoid…I’ve been able to be detached from the indictment of their wickedness…”Not me…I’m not guilty of THEIR sin”…

But wait… Ezekiel says “THE sin”…not: “one of the contributing factors”…not: “a possible reason”…but under the inspiration of God, he lets us in on the directors cut version of why God judged them, on what exactly the cries were, and who the victims and the victimizers were…

Overfed…and underconcerned…ouch.

I’m guilty of Sodomy.

Lord…will you spare us if there are fifty innocent…if there are forty five…if there are twenty…if there are just ten innocent…would you spare us?

They ignored the oppressed and the poor…

but God, a just God–a righteous God–did not…he heard the cry of the victims…

Sadly, then and now, none of us are innocent and all of us are the victims.

Those on the left (MATTHEW 25 REMIX)

Kevin Beck over at Presence posted a great REMIX of Matthew 25, this is last portion of it, check out the rest here:
“….Then the King turned to those on his left hand and said, “You walked away from me when you opted for the best pews and chairs instead of building a well for my village. You departed from me when you erected a new sign on your multi-million dollar gathering place with your name on it rather than giving food to my drought-ridden community. You knew my people were facing extermination, yet you did nothing to stop it when you could have.
“When I lived on the streets, you told me to get a job. When drugs controlled my life, you sneered at me. When I was in prison, you tortured me. When I contracted HIV/AIDS, you said it was God’s punishment. When I had an abortion, you accused me of murder. When I was aborted, you said I was nothing more than a ball of cells.
“When terrorists bombed me, you said that I was just a cog in the imperial empire. When I was imprisoned with no charges, you said that I must have done something to deserve it. When I was expelled from my ancestral home, you said that God had given the land to someone else. When my child was blown up on a bus, you said that she deserved it and I should be pushed into the sea.
“When I was forced to leave my home to find work, you said I was a felon. When I lost my job, you said I was a market casualty. When my spouse came down with Alzheimer’s, you forgot us both. When I was an unwed teenage mother, you called me a slut and told me not to get an abortion while you refused to help me find a job or childcare so that I could pay for the medical expenses.
“When I married someone you disapproved of, you told me that I was weak, desperate, and lonely. And when it didn’t work out, you gloated that you have never been divorced.
“When my skin color was different than yours, you said I belonged to an inferior race. When my beliefs differed from yours, you called me a godless heathen worthy of God’s eternal punishment. When I belonged to a different political party, you shouted me down. When I enlisted, you called me a baby killer. And when I protested a war, you said I was unpatriotic. When I spoke with an accent, you labeled me a threat.”
Then those on his left hand asked, “When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, in need, lonely, weak, helpless, in prison, hurt, afraid, or different? If you needed help, you should’ve asked. We would have done something or at least referred it to the proper ministry committee.”
The King answered, “As much as you didn’t do it unto the least of my sisters and brothers, you didn’t do it unto me.”
Ouch.
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