Category Archives: Church.mp3

Captivated By God

This is a brief response to a question that was asked in a sermon by Jason Heppner, preaching June 29, 2014 @glenpres // #3 in our GPC@TheMovies Sermon Series.

There was a moment in his sermon where he asked this question. I started to just write down the question, because it’s a good one, but before I knew it, I had filled a page of my journal.

When was the last time you were captivated by God?

The times when I have been most captivated by God have always been when I see God at work in the lives of the people around me. I want it to be the surreal and miraculous personal moment, but it doesn’t ever seem to be the case. It might be that I don’t notice, possibly because I’m always going, always thinking, always asking, always listening, reading, talking. Maybe the miraculous is actually something that is the greater part of my life.

When I notice the hand of God at work in my life is when I see it clutch the heart of someone standing close by. When I notice the breath of God blowing through the world around me is when I hear it catch in the voice of my neighbor because they have in some way seen the face of the living God.

I notice that.

It’s possible that I’m so drawn inward that I simply can not see the miracle moments as they happen to me. That, or what I experience is so normal that I don’t know I’m experiencing it.

I rely on the reaction and the response to the “With God” experiences of others to deepen, to broaden, to multiply the profound nature of my experience.

That captivates me.

U2: I Believe In Father Christmas

As of right now, February 6, 2012, I’m pre-posting this video because of it’s sheer awesomeness.

That moment where Bono jumps up the octave is stunning. For me, this song contains the mystery and sadness of the Bethlehem drama. Greg Lake, the songwriter (and of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame) really finds the blur between what we celebrate and how we celebrate it.

Lyrics: “I Believe In Father Christmas

They said there’ll be snow at christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin’s birth
I remember one christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
’till I believed in the israelite
And I believed in father christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
’till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The christmas you get you deserve

…I can’t wait ’til Christmas.

prophetsandpopstars podcast logo

#3 Noticing God [Podcast]

prophetsandpopstars podcast logo In this episode, I tackle the question: I’ve gone to church, I read the Bible, I watch TBN and yet, I feel like I’m missing God.

Isn’t there something more?

If you are in the middle of a God deficit and are wondering where to look, then this podcast is for you.



I love Richard Peace. He’s a professor at Fuller and has release a flood of books meant to guide, lead and instruct Christ follower through spiritual disciplines. His step by step booklets are a fantastic introduction to his work. Right now, I’m using this book as an early morning devotional. Nothing like starting the day out “Noticing God.”

The book stands in stark contrast to this article in USA Today.

Notice God in Prayer.
In The Bible.
In Films.

Prometheus: a quest for origin. This film is unique in that it’s a God alternative. With it’s ‘other’ theory of origin, I was struck by God’s absence in Ridley Scott’s Genesis of the Alien mythology. I noticed that God was nowhere in the story.

The Prometheus mythology plays out in the protagonists wondering why the creator would be bent on destroying them. Why, when humanity is capable of such good, would the Creator purpose them for annihilation?

The Matrix: a quest for being. In this film, Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, is a Moses figure…a proto-Christ, chosen to lead his people from the captivity of the Matrix into freedom. God is in the metaphor.

Wanderlust: another quest for being. How do you find purpose and define values in a world where we are all gods? That’s what this story wrestles with. God is in the audience, watching along…probably not laughing as much as I did, but I don’t know.

In Music.

Of Monsters and Men have thoroughly captured my attention. This is a band, like Mumford and Sons, whose rhythm and melodies move through me like a collision of heaven and earth…a thin place.

Heralding Psalm 108 (OK, I don’t know if that’s true, exactly) Mumford and Sons awake my soul with this one.

And there new one sounds strangely Biblical as well. Here’s the article from Sojourners that I reference.

Tips for Noticing God:
1. Stop and look around.
2. Slow Down.
3. Listen.
4. Feel for where heaven and earth collide.
5. Write it down.

Thanks for listening!

Title Music by Dyman

Suns of Neurons (Dyman) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
Once The Musical

Joseph, Once and the hand of God

Once The Musical While reading up on Divine Providence, (because who doesn’t do that regularly?) the New Musical Once won a Tony Award for Best Musical. I have been a huge fan of the movie and the soundtrack for ever. When it won and I saw Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, I thought, “You know…you just never know what can happen.”

That’s kind of like Divine Providence as I see it (5.6 days out of the week).

When Joseph’s brothers realized that their father was now dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us, and wants to pay us back seriously for all of the terrible things we did to him?” So they approachedt Joseph and said, “Your father gave orders before he died, telling us, ‘This is what you should say to Joseph. “Please, forgive your brothers’ sins and misdeeds, for they did terrible things to you. Now, please forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God.”’” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers weptt too, fell down in front of him, and said, “We’re here as your slaves.” But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I God? You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today.” [Gen 50:15-20; CEB]

You just never know what will happen.

Joseph, as you remember was sold into slavery by his brothers and encountered all manner of evil, but also all manner of good and opportunity. He dreamt of famine and was able to get ahead of it and make provision so that millions would live. God entered in a difficult and calamitous situation and brought something really awesome out of it. It reminds me of what Paul says about this very kind of thing to the church in Rome:

“We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters.” [Ro 8:28-29]

Now, I’m not saying that Once is the hand of God at work in the history of the world, but it might feel like that to Glen and Marketa. He started out busking in Dublin and then a lifetime later, WHAM, Tony Award. The road between the two events was real and messy and…life. It was thick with the stuff of living.

What are your dreams?
What are God’s dreams for you?

Even if it feels like you are a million miles away from where you thought you would be going, what you thought you’d be doing…maybe you’re not that far off after all.

Look at Joseph.
Look at Glen.

Even in the middle of terrible, uncomfortable, uncertain things, God is work.


“You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won

Take this sinking boat
And point it home
We’ve still got time

Raise your hopeful voice
You had a choice
You’ve made it now.”

Falling Slowly,” Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Sound familiar?


Voices Inside My Head

I realize that quoting obscure Police lyrics relegates me to the halls of irrelevance. However, the refrain, “Voices inside my head echo things that you say,” is a profound truth. The voices that echo inside of our minds have a great deal to say about who we are, whose we are and how we do what we do.

So…whose voice is inside your head?
What do they say?
Are they positive, encouraging, affirming and strengthening voices?
Or, are they arresting, condemning, violating and isolating voices?

This Sunday, I’m preaching on Jesus last lesson in Matthew, the story about the Sheep and the Goats (or more accurately, the Story of Christ as King). Embedded in this story is a lesson about the voices that we hear and the way that they shape us.

In John 10, Jesus says, “Whenever he has gathered all of his sheep, he goes before them and they follow him, because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger but will run away because they don’t know the stranger’s voice [Jn 10:4-5; CEB].” The sheep listen to the voice of Jesus. They are shaped by it. It guides their actions to the point that they aren’t even aware.

“Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear?” [MT 25:37-38]

The sheep provided simple, basic acts of dignity and creation-minded ministry to those who needed it most. Their actions looked the Gospel: fending, pouring a cup of water, clothing, caring, visiting. This wasn’t building a building or establishing a 401K. This was deep, profound Messianic ministry. Christ’s voice informed who they are. Their identity is grounded in their relationship with Jesus.

The goats were also unaware of their service, or their lack of it. This story tells us that they were informed by another voice entirely: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels [MT 25:41; CEB].”

Throughout Scripture, the “devil” is known as the accuser, the prosecuting attorney. It his job to make sure you know where you have gone wrong, where you are going wrong, where you will go wrong and that you should hate yourself for it. His is the voice of un-creation and un-grace. His angels are messengers, those fleet of foot who carry these self-condemning suggestions. This triggers human defense mechanisms that range from self destructive practices to Super-Christian ones.

In C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, Lewis terrifyingly describes the devil’s angels on a one to one ratio with humans. Their job is to exacerbate our doubts, fears, frustrations with the church, with each other, individualistic entitlements, comforts, pleasures, annoyances…anything to create distrust with God by inflating our personal need for control. The more we are enticed away from the voice of the shepherd the sooner we experience that “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Perhaps this is why Jesus leaves the flock to go after the one?

We begin to believe “our own messages”.

We begin to fear that Christ isn’t enough. We have strengthen God’s plan with a little something extra, dump some NOX into the fuel system of our faith. The diabolical Uncle Screwtape informs his messenger, Wormwood:

“What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And.’ You know — Christianity and The Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Physical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. I they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute the faith for some Fashion with a Christian coloring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.”

This not only tickles our ears, but overwhelms our imaginations. Soon, we too can no longer see the forest for the trees, or weeds as so much goes unattended. Soon, we to ignore the needs of those who cry out. We ignore Jesus trying to find him.

“There have been men…who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they cam to care nothing for God himself…as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man! You see it in smaller matters. Did you never know a lover of books what with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organizer of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all the snares.” The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis

  • What are the voices inside your head?
  • Can you hear the voice of the Shepherd?
  • How do you listen to the voice of the Shepherd?
  • I’ve Been Working On The Rewrite

    Every so often, I write a post about story and life.

    Your life tells a story.

    What you probably need is a good bit of editing. Of course, editing is the hardest, most demanding work. All good book had great editors and behind every great story, is a trail of words that provided no value to main character, plot or intriguing ending.

    Donald Miller has written some awesome words on this and continues to do so on his blog:

    On April 30th, Miller is heading up really wonderful (sounding) conference in Portland called Storyline. Here’s the tagline:

    If you were watching your life as though it were a movie would it be interesting? If you think about it, we are all stuck in the theater of our minds watching our story unfold. And too many of us couldn’t care less because our story is so boring. Screenwriters and novelists have figured out what makes a story interesting and the same principles that they use to write engaging novels and movies can be used to make your life a story worth living.

    Last Year, Paul Simon released “So Beautiful Or So What” On this record there’s a song, “Rewrite” where Simon contemplates the story of life theme. If you’re on Spotify, unleash the power of playing the single now!

  • Who is the main character in the story of your life?
  • Who is the hero?
  • Is it you?
  • I’m workin’ on my rewrite, that’s right
    Gonna change the ending
    Throw away the title
    Toss it in the trash.

  • Does your life tell the story you want it to?
  • Is your life telling the story Christ wants it to?
  • If you were to rewrite you story, where would you start?
  • What is the title of your life story?
  • What would you like it to be?
  • But I say Help me, help me
    Help me, help me, Thank you!
    I’d no idea
    That you were there

    When I said help me, help me
    Help me, help me
    Thank you
    For listening to my prayer

    I love the Psalm-ish quality of Simon’s lyric here.

  • He’s taking a look at changing his life story and where does he look for help?
  • “I don’t wonder anymore what I’ll tell God when I go to heaven when we sit in the chairs under the tree, outside the city……..I’ll tell these things to God, and he’ll laugh, I think and he’ll remind me of the parts I forgot, the parts that were his favorite. We’ll sit and remember my story together, and then he’ll stand and put his arms around me and say, “well done,” and that he liked my story. And my soul won’t be thirsty anymore. Finally he’ll turn and we’ll walk toward the city, a city he will have spoken into existence a city built in a place where once there’d been nothing.” Donald Miller, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years.

    I’ll eliminate the pages
    Where the father has a breakdown
    And he has to leave the family
    But he really meant no harm

    Gonna substitute a car chase
    And a race across the rooftops
    Where the father saves the children
    And he holds them in his arms

  • So, if you were to change some scenes in your life, where would you start?
  • If you were to rewrite tomorrow, where would you start today?
  • If you are interested in story, in seeing your life as a narrative that you are writing life a screenplay, I highly recommend starting with Don Miller’s book, “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years.” This is a memoir of what can happen when you start the painful work of editing your story.

    “And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”

    Are you authoring your life, or is life authoring you?


    Tony Jones and A Better Atonement (?)

    When we’re talking about the Atonement, we have to take into consideration that it’s a historical discussion as much as it is theological. We also have to keep in mind that it’s not so much a conversation whereby we will arrive at the definitive meaning of ‘atonement,’ but a discovery of various theories of atonement that all attempt to answer the question: Why Did Jesus Have To Die?

    Last year, during the Lenten seasons I picked up the book The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. The book, edited by James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, contains a very lively dialogue between four differing views: Gregory Boyd, Thomas R. Schreiner, Joel B. Green and Bruce R. Reichenbach. The point-counterpoint highlights the following perspectives: Christus Victor, Penal Sunbstitution, Kaleidoscopic and Healing (respectively). This was a wonderful cadre of contributors and while it got a bit long in the narrative, was fun to dive into.

    This year I quickly read through Tony Jones’ A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin. I don’t say quickly because it’s an un-academic treatment (which it isn’t meant to be, really), but due to the fact that it’s pretty short. While there’s much to learn about the development of atonement theories in the few pages offered, there’s also much to learn about Jones himself. He’s pretty open about his positions and delimitations, which is helpful to know as you read. Since we’re talking about a perspective and not a doctrine, per se, transparency helps the reader understand how the author arrived at his Better Atonement.

    ** Tony Jones teaches on A Better Atonement at Baylor **

    Ultimately, Jones argument is twofold. First, he dismantles the long held doctrine of Original Sin, which by its nature leads directly to the Penal Substitutionary model, which Jones rejects. Secondly, using Jurgen Moltmann as a springboard, he constructs a very Trinitarian model of atonement which he describes, “In the crucifixion, God opens the Trinity to us. The eternal love of the Trinity is made available to us in the ultimately humbling act of death on a cross, and our experience of godforsakenness is overcome, for we are now welcomed into the relation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Providing a stern defense of his belief in a historical crucifixion and resurrection, Jones’ trajectory constructs a sound new model of Trinitarian atonement. Pedestrianly put, this model acknowledges the Trinity in Christ on the cross, where one member of that dynamic relationship, the Human One, actually died. In Christ’s death on the cross, he experiences a god-forsakenness, an disconnection from his fundamental relational connection to his own God-ness. This disconnection is the same disconnection that every human experiences. His god-forsakenness is the same god-forsakenness that each of us experiences. Therefore in his resurrection, read re-vivification of the Trinity, his humanity is raised from god-forsaken, disconnection and death. In his resurrection, we are resurrected from our own state of god-forsaken, disconnection and death.

    “God’s Solidarity with Us ‘When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness…He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and godforsaken can experience communion with him.'[24] So writes Jürgen Moltmann at the climax of his groundbreaking book, The Crucified God.”

    This view has an extreme justice bent. Jones’ better atonement addresses social sin, the destructive nature of groups, nations, and civilizations, in a way that others seem anemic. Jones writes:

    Further, sin has a social nature. We attempt to counteract our experience of godforsakenness by filling our lives with striving, often at the expense of others. This inexorably leads to wars, violence, oppression, and inequality. Jesus’ life, and particularly his death, show God’s ultimate solidarity with the marginalized and the oppressed—with those who most acutely experience godforsakenness.

    I’ll leave it there and recommend this e-book because it’s good. The answer to the question, “Why did Jesus have to die?” is not only one of the provocative and enduring questions of the faith, but also timely, no? Jones stuffs this e-book full of historical and theological developments. It’s well researched and quite remarkable that it’s so concise. I think it’s pretty balanced along the theological fault lines. So…is a ‘Better Atonement’? Um…it’s good, definitely ‘Another’ atonement.

    **I don’t know how to accurately site quotes from the Kindle, yet. It’s short…they’re in there.

    smashing the fourth wall of faith and rock ‘n roll

    Disclaimer 1: If you read the blog regularly, you might be thinking at this point that I have a man-crush on Bruce Springsteen. While that may be, it doesn’t change the reality that The Boss is just framing my mental landscape very complimentarily.

    Disclaimer 2: At a certain point, this metaphor falls apart.

    Disclaimer 3: I’m not entirely sure where that point is.

    As an actor, I was trained to build a ‘fourth wall’ between myself and the audience. All of the action took place on the stage and the audience, while an intellectual counterpart/character in the performance, just sat there; the receptor of entertainment. The fourth wall is sort of what makes something a stage play. If there’s no fourth wall, it’s a speech, improv, or perhaps, stand-up. In the Rock arena, it’s similar. The Rock Star band sets up the stage and plays to an audience that is part of the music but the stage is still an impenetrable barrier where the normal person isn’t welcome. We’ve all seen what happens when someone rushes the stage.

    The stage is a fortress and you are not welcome on it.

    Which is what makes Bruce Springsteen the bomb. In this video clip, he not only breaks the fourth wall (yes…it’s been done before, but this is a marvelous example, OK?), but he partakes in the festivities of his own show: by sitting down and gulping down a perfect stranger’s beer. Bruce slaughters the fourth wall and then joins his own party…and all the sudden, it’s not his party. It’s our party.

    Think about the pulpit.
    No, think about it.

    Books and classes teach that preaching behind the pulpit is many things with one of those being a stage behind the fourth wall. Now no one teaches you this, but it’s simple to observe. Does the message walk among you? Does the messenger sit in your seat and drink from your cup?

    Bruce is instinctively reacting to the times: a new generation of participant saying,
    “Be one of us”

    So how am I trying to help? Bruce Springsteen! Church leaders can take a lesson from Bruce and Smash The Fourth Wall. Let what happens on the stage, chancel, middle school auditorium floor pour into the people. Step down. Step into. Step out.

    Step up!

    The church is starving for a compelling new narrative. Are you telling it, or publishing it? Are you living it, or speaking on it? Both fundi’s and emergents. Both and everything in between. We just want to see Jesus.

    The true new frontier is finding the collaborative intersection between the nature of being “set apart” and “one among” at the same time. Some call this incarnational. Some call it relational. Some call it Emergent. I call it…Christian. Jesus was not a right wing fundamentalist anymore than he was a left leaning doctrine cleansed emergent. Christ was the center, pushing the boundaries of prophetic promise and eschatological ontology (or fulfilling prophetic words spoken about him at the same time as he was imagining into existence a whole new way of being human).

    There’s a new humanity to be lived.
    Learn it. Live it. Love it.

    Getting Killed Just For Living: The Boss eats Justice

    Thanks, Bruce, for speaking out!

    41 shots….
    And we’ll take that ride
    ‘Cross this bloody river
    To the other side
    41 shots… cut through the night
    You’re kneeling over his body in the vestibule
    Praying for his life

    Is it a gun, is it a knife
    Is it a wallet, this is your life
    It ain’t no secret
    It ain’t no secret
    No secret my friend
    You can get killed just for living
    In your American skin

    41 shots
    Lena gets her son ready for school
    She says “on these streets, Charles
    You’ve got to understand the rules
    If an officer stops you
    Promise you’ll always be polite,
    that you’ll never ever run away
    Promise Mama you’ll keep your hands in sight”

    Is it a gun, is it a knife
    Is it a wallet, this is your life
    It ain’t no secret
    It ain’t no secret
    No secret my friend
    You can get killed just for living
    In your American skin

    Is it a gun, is it a knife
    Is it in your heart, is it in your eyes
    It ain’t no secret

    41 shots… and we’ll take that ride
    ‘Cross this bloody river
    To the other side
    41 shots… got my boots caked in this mud
    We’re baptized in these waters and in each other’s blood

    Is it a gun, is it a knife
    Is it a wallet, this is your life
    It ain’t no secret
    It ain’t no secret
    No secret my friend
    You can get killed just for living
    In your American skin