Monday, January 28, 2008


Sandy Maudlin is a new friend of mine who is also part of The Vineyard. She's an artist - a very good one in my opinion. We found each other here on the blogosphere before meeting in person.

I rather shamelessly "offered" to host one of her paintings in my office until it sells. She was kind enough to loan me this one:

It is called "Forever." I'm kind of like a foster family until it finds a real home. If you're in the market for a piece of art, check out her blog at If you want to buy Forever, just let me have for a few weeks before taking it away :)

Subjectively Honest

Some powerful things happened all weekend at the Vineyard. God seemed to "show up" in a different way. It seemed like lots of people were open to God. There was a good heaviness in the room at each Celebration.

So much of what I do at VCC is totally subjective. I probably get asked over 100 times each weekend, "How'd you do?" It's a more difficult and loaded question to answer that you might think. I really never know how to answer. I always do my best, but who knows what that means? For every ten people that say something nice, someone will e-mail something very negative. (In my first two months here I was called an anti-Christ with an agenda to destroy the church and a demonized egomaniac, but others have thrown around similarly ridiculous comments on the positive side.) Like I said, it's all way too subjective. It's forced me into apathy in terms of any performance language surrounding my teachings. I can't care too much if other people (or I) think I did a "good job." As a teacher my hope is that people learn, and in learning that they are moved to action. That's the only way to know if I'm doing a "good job." My experience has shown that it takes a few years to see if a teacher is really impacting a community.

So if you ask, "How'd it go?" and I seem disconnected or apathetic, that's why. It's a hard question to answer and it makes me uncomfortable on about twelve different levels.

Jesus dealt with this stuff. He was called a demon and a prophet - a trouble maker and the promised King. I'm not saying I'm like Jesus, but I do follow him. Maybe when your master is a polarizing figure, you end up that way yourself. Left to my own I'm very content to not make any waves, but Jesus followers always stir things up...maybe it's part of our cross to bear.

These are the things about my work here that make me uncomfortable. I hesitate to even write about it here, but it is a constant theme in my life and hard to ignore. One of the things I loved in my time away for full-time vocational ministry was not having to deal with these issues on a daily basis.

That was a lot of me talking about me to try to say it's not about me.

This brings us back to Gideon, whom we studied this weekend. I told 2/3 of his story, but omitted the ending found in Judges 8. It was a struggle to leave out the end of his story, but there simply wasn't time. His story is a much happier one without his final chapter. Gideon leads the people of Israel back to God. The people follow him for many decades and receive God's blessing. At the end, the people come to Gideon and ask him to be King. He gives them the perfect answer when he declines their offer and tells them that God alone is their King. Then he makes a huge mistake.

Gideon, in lieu of kingship, asks the people to give him their gold earrings to make a memorial for his battles and leadership. The people quickly comply and they make an ephod out of gold. (As I understand it, an ephod is some mixture of armor, underwear and a girdle - sounds very uncomfortable.) The people decide to worship Gideon's Ephod and it becomes a snare (trap) for the nation. It leads them back into idol worship and away from Yahweh. The second that Gideon dies, the people prostitute themselves to the Baals, the fake gods. It seems to be clear that their journey away from God started when they worshipped the ephod. Gideon made the best and worst decision of his life in one moment. He let God be King, but gave the people something shiny that they could worship apart from God.

Maybe my previous personal ramblings connect here. It is easy for people to see another person's gift (contribution to the body) as just another shiny thing to worship. Most church leaders are not so bold as to try to take God's role as King, though some are. Most leaders are content with just a little of God's glory, not all of it. "Just a few earrings melted into a golden girdle to remember me by." Forging just a small token of my accomplishment, my "good job," can't hurt anybody, right?

Yes, it can. This is the problem. Perhaps the greatest and most counter-intuitive task of a leader within the Kingdom of God is to reject the earrings. To turn down the mini-monuments. Truth is, if the gift is really God's anyway, who am I to worry if you dislike the gift or the person entrusted with it? Who am I to accept the glory if you like the gift?

It's all about being faithful. Let's pray for one another and build each other up as God builds his church using us as Living Stones to build his eternal temple with our lives.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What it Really Means to Follow Jesus

Let's just call it out.

Christianity is more than a religion. More than a nice option. More than a belief system. More than a series of events and meetings. More than some spirtiual legal transaction between me and God.

Following Jesus used to be hardcore. Kinda' all or nothin. No half-hearted fans allowed. Jesus spent most of his life attracting crowds and then running them away. Relatively few actually followed him. He called very few who really knew him as their Master. He had the twelve, but even one of them turned out to be just a crowd member - a turncoat ready to flip flop for thirty coins.

Even after his resurrection and appearances only 120 actually believed...and that counts his mom and brothers. It aint easy to follow Jesus. It's hard. It's the kind of thing that leads to a gnarly death upside down on a cross or a lifelong banishment to some critter-filled island. It should be no surprise to us. This is the guy who said, "If you want to follow me, pick up a cross." Today he might have told us to strap into an electric chair. Joining the Jesus Club is a death wish. A true follower ends up dying to everything he once loved and valued. And death isn't easy. It hurts. A lot.

But then there's the trade-offs. Though we die, we live. We are revolutionary zombies on a secret mission from God. The undead who have died but cannot be exterminated. Our death reeks of life to the dying. We are Neo. We flip the Matrix upside down and tell the world that they are dead. We wear grace and life like a letterman jacket through the high school cafeteria. They won't admit it readily, but they want what we got.

I don't believe in just being a good person. I don't believe in just going to church. I don't believe that simple religion and mindless morality are the hope the world. I believe in Jesus. And I follow HIm...even when it sucks....even when it means picking up a cross and extending my left hand for the first nail to pierce my wrist. I don't lead, I follow. I give up. I need help. I do what he says because I'm out of ideas and out of options. Like Peter I say, "I'm with you because I got nowhere else to go."

Just thought I'd rant for a minute.

I'm teaching about this over the next four Wedneday nights in the main auditorium at The Vineyard. If you're ready to die and quit playing the cultural christianity game, come check it out.

7 pm. Four Weeks. Starting Jan 30.

What It Really Means to Follow Jesus.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Grace Leftovers

Legalism creates a mentality of scarcity. Grace creates leftovers.

This weekend at VCC I taught from two Biblical narratives that seem connected to me - John 6 and the book of Ruth. In John, Jesus feeds the 5,000 (something they didn't necessarily deserve). The result of this act of grace is that everyone eats and lots of food is left over. In Ruth 2, Boaz calls Ruth over to have what could have been her first real meal in months. He has no legal, or even ethical, responsibility to do this. He's fulfilled the law by allowing her to glean in his field. He goes way beyond the law and gives her more food that she can eat. Once again, grace begets leftovers. Back to John 6.

The crowds find Jesus the next morning and ask to eat again. He responds with anger and a controversial teaching ("Eat my flesh. Drink my Blood.") He offers the Bread of Life that comes only by feasting on him. The crowds leave confused and only the twelve are left. He says that leftover food spoils, but evidently, left over Jesus does not spoil. Somewhere in all of this lies the depth of the eucharistic lifestyle. We feast on Jesus, whom Spurgeon once called Our Glorious Boaz. We gorge ourselves on God only to find that there's way more of Him to go around than we ever imagined. Experiencing grace creates a leftover ethos. What we commonly call evangelism may rightly flow from this too. The beggar who finds bread that never ends would logically share the excess with his beggar friends. Especially once the beggar learns, by feasting with constant leftovers, that scarcity is a myth in his new reality. We have no reason to horde God's love because it never ceases to be re-created and re-birthed in every moment. All we can really do is feast and invite others to share in the excess.

Ruth got much more than bread. She got Boaz. Then she had his babies. We get much more than fish and chips. We get Jesus, our Glorious Boaz, and with him we are invited to birth love and grace into the world.

John 6:10-13

Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the (five) loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the (two) fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Ruth 2:14

At mealtime Boaz said to Ruth, "Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar." When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over.

John 6:26-27

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Off to Africa

Several of my friends from The Vineyard left a few hours ago for Nigeria. We've purchased a drilling rig to help provide jobs and clean drinking water there. You can follow thier progress at

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Road Not Taken

Sometimes when so much goes on in my life it becomes harder to know what to write about here. I'm prepping to talk about fearlessness and Ruth this weekend. I have been strangely drawn back to the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. I suppose it is rather famous, and maybe you all know it already. I'm intrigued by poetry. I really like people who really like poetry. I don't know if I really like poetry or not.

Few poems actaully inspire me to think deeply, but this one does. I feel like this poem is the story of my life.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'm Busy - And I have a question

This week was a whirlwind. Lots of meetings about lots of things on the horizon. I have 9 teaching times scheduled over the next 6 weeks. Vineyard Midweek starts Jan. 30 and I'll be teaching a four week class in the auditorium about discipleship and following Jesus. It's a little more prep heavy than normal, so I've been thinking about that. I'm also up the next two weeks for the Fearless series talking about Ruth and Gideon. Tomorrow I lead a session for the Growth and Healing leadership team retreat and I'm looking forward to getting to know them a little better.

I've been sucked into the election coverage in my spare time. I have never been very political, at least not as "being political" is traditionally defined, but I find election years interesting in a reality-show kind of way. I told someone earlier this week that presidential elections are kind of like American Idol, except that people generally don't vote for presidents the way they do for Idol. I wasn't trying to make any statement, but it felt like I was in the moment. I find the whole process interesting and still rather confusing. If anyone can explain what a delegate really is and how in the world entire states (Michigan, Florida) can be stripped of their delegates for moving their primaries a month earlier, I'd love to hear that. While you are explaining it let me know why the states that lost their delegates are still the states that the most highly contested now - thanks.

I'm going to go read Ruth now and wait for someone smarter than me to read this and explain the election process. I know you're out there.

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Year Maniac

I generally have a huge manic burst of energy at the beginning of a new year. Sometimes I even write down personal goals or construct some brilliant essay that will change the world. This year has been a little different. I've felt spurts of excitement and mania, but nothing like I'd have over the last five years. I think it might be because I have a real job. Five years of freelancing and piecing together a living does things to a person. When I was in LA, and my last year or two in Vegas, the new year meant that people might be looking for somebody like me to hire for their project. January was a time to get new headshots, to send out hundreds of e-mails reminding every producer, casting agent and director you know that you still exist, showing up at your agent's office to be visible, enrolling in the next session of acting classes to network and improve, working out to lose the extra five pounds, and all the new year auditions for commercials and tv.

Maybe it was the burden of marketing a product that raised my energy... it's an even stranger burden when you are your own product. There were parts I loved and parts I hated. Last year I sent out 300 e-mails - 20 people e-mailed back to let me know that I was bothering them and to never email again. One emailed back with an audition. One emailed back with a job. The thing I loved about that life was the thing I hated about that life - every single day was an adventure - unknown - anything good or bad could happen at any moment. Every phone call could change my life. It was hard on me as a husband and father - hard to not really know if I could sustain a living for my family. But it was intoxicating as an adventurer. I miss it a lot. And I don't miss it at all.

There is plenty of adventure here after all. It's just largely pre-planned adventure. More or less I can tell you what adventurous things I'll be doing next week, next month or next year. Sure, there will always be the unexpected, but the unexpected isn't an hourly reality. There's something to having a budget and a paycheck that is peaceful. Something to having meetings on my calendar for three months from now that makes my life feel safe adn grounded. I love it. And I don't love it.

The grass is always greener is a true and false statement. The grass is greener here - and there. Some people are wired to immediately desire what they don't have. That's probably a sin. Envy maybe. I've come to believe that envy is my root sin. (This from a study of the enneagram - I'm a "4" if you know what that means.) I'm so bad that I can even envy myself. Chew on that one.

I trust that a redeemed envious person becomes a peaceful content person. I've seen it slowly happen through my life. I used to envy my trash man because he knew everyday if he did his job well or not. I also envied the president for his influence, the barkeep for her community, the farmer for his simplicty, the martyr for his story. It never ends. Now I don't do that as much as I used to. Maybe this year will be the year when envy fully gives way to a life simultaneoulsy full of adventure and contentment. Maybe those two things aren't opposites as I have always believed, but two sides of the gospel coin.

I'd better go and pre-plan some adventure now...I'm teaching on Ruth and Gideon in a few weeks and maybe they'll teach me all of this stuff if I just listen to their stories....and all of sudden I feel like I might want to write that essay to change the world...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

30 Days Until Lost Returns

Looks like they squeezed in about 8 new episodes of Lost before the WGA strike. I just saw the ads for the new season while watching football. In the future Jack has a beard. Because once you leave a primitive deserted island it only makes sense to grow a beard upon returning to civilization. I mean, that's the way Tom Hanks did it in Castaway...and if Survivor has taught us anything, it's that you do not grow a beard in the wait until you come back for the live finale.

Since my first blog of the year is nonsensical at best I will leave you with this thought. Future Jack looks like Kevin Rains, therefore Future Jack must become an urban monk/body shop owner.
Future Kate does not have a beard and looks exactly like actress Evangeline Lily. Therefore, using logic, the future will belong to beautiful actresses protraying bearded mechanic monks. Duh.