ISIS is telling a story. And so are we.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

ISIS is telling the world a story. It’s a terrifying story, full of hatred and murder, and ends with war. In their story, they are called by God to initiate the apocalypse, from which they  will emerge victorious.

Because of this, ISIS communicates exclusively in terms of fear, anger, and suspicion. These are central themes to their story; without them, they have no story to tell.

I believe we have a better story to tell.

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Re-imagining Church

I believe in reimagining the church.

Which isn’t really a controversial thing to say; it’s actually normal to the point of being routine. People who reimagine today might consider themselves progressive or cutting edge, but are bound for disappointment when they discover that they’re late to the party–by a couple thousand years.

The church has always reimagined herself. Church as we’ve inherited her has been reimagined so many times that today’s Western church would be unrecognizable in many ways to the first Christians. Here’s just a handful of things the first Christians wouldn’t have recognized (and aren’t found in the New Testament):

  • senior pastors
  • church buildings
  • church membership
  • youth group and Sunday School
  • the phrase “a personal relationship with Jesus”
  • worship services without the Eucharist/communion
  • the Eucharist/communion without a meal
  • unbaptized Christians (who were not planning on being baptized)
  • 501c3 non-profit status, tax exemption, incorporating with state government

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The most excellent way

I will show you the most excellent way.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them on Facebook or Twitter; pray that God will bless them. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. 

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with generosity.

Love everyone who is opposed to what you believe! Pray for those who take away your rights!  If you love only those who agree with you, what reward is there for that? Anybody can do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? 

But if you try that, and you still suffer for doing good, don’t worry–God is pleased with you.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

So don’t worry or be afraid of threats. Instead, worship Christ as Lord of your life.

In fact, it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Instead of being angry, praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, just keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

Never forget that God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Oh yeah, one last thing–you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

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Jesus loves the people of Planned Parenthood

“I would say, it’s anywhere from $30 to $100… per specimen. A lot of people are looking for hearts these days. …Some people want lower extremities too, which, that’s simple. I mean, that’s easy. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it. I guess they want muscle.” –Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Services Department

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!” –Jesus

“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” –Dr. Deborah Nucatola

If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?” –Jesus

Jesus loves Dr. Deborah Nucatola just as much as he loves the babies she so causally discusses. Continue reading

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What if?

  1. What if “same-sex marriage”  didn’t make us think about gays or lesbians, but instead about people we know and love?
  2. What if we talked with the LGBT community instead of about the LGBT community?
  3. What if everyone agreed to not say anything about same-sex marriage until someone they love is in a committed, same-sex relationship?
  4. What if people in the church understood that same-sex marriage isn’t a “they” issue, but a “we” issue?
  5. What if when elder boards prayed about including gay people in their churches, gay Christians had a seat at the table?
  6. What if we sought to understand as much as we seek to be understood?
  7. What if same-sex marriage wasn’t about someone else’s kids, but about our own?
  8. What if pastors listened as much as they preached?
  9. What if instead of saying “love the sinner, hate the sin” we loved the sinner and hated our own sin?
  10. What if we extended as much grace to the LGBT community as we do to the greedy people in our community? (1 Cor 6:9; Eph 5:5)
  11. What if Christian wedding vendors refused to provide flowers, cakes, photography, etc to extravagant weddings, citing their Christian beliefs against greed and idolatry?
  12. What if we talked more about suffering for the gospel than about preserving our rights?
  13. What if we grappled with loving the person in front of us as much as we grappled with interpreting the verses on the page?
  14. What if mercy triumphs over judgement?


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Is the church in America dying?

My children are 7, 5, and 2. By the time their children are old enough to drive, Christianity will no longer enjoy the majority position in the US.

Which gets me pretty excited about the kind of church my grandkids will get to be a part of.

First of all, the numbers: right now 83% of people 65+ identify as Christian. That number drops all the way to 55% for Millennials (18-29). Christians are decreasing, the “nones” (no religious affiliation) are increasing, and every possible indicator points to the trend not only continuing, but picking up steam on the way down. Statisticians talk about “generational displacement,” which is a nice way of saying that all of the Christians are dying of old age, and most of the young people aren’t into Jesus. Time and attrition is reducing Christianity from a dominant majority to a pushed-to-the-fringed minority.

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Reminder from a Hindu priest

I visited a nearby Hindu temple earlier this week, for a wide variety of reasons. I suppose in part I went to learn something new, or to make a new friend, but I suspect I also wanted to re-experience being an outsider at a place of worship.

I ended up having a wonderful time talking with one of their priests. We talked about how our communities worship, our differing roles as religious leaders, and chuckled at the similar expectations and demands we both experienced.

When the time came for me to leave my host pulled me aside, dropped an apple in my hand, and wished me well.

Just a simple gesture, but it carried a profound reminder: I was an honored guest. It reminded me of my experiences growing up in Japan, where I learned that most Eastern religions cannot be separated from the Eastern practice of hospitality. I don’t mean merely giving away apples or adhering to etiquette. Hospitality, for most of the Eastern people I’ve come to know, runs far deeper.

Hospitality is consumed with blessing the person in front of you.

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What if God gave us new fears?

Like most people I know, I’ve got my fair share of fears. But today it occurred to me that my struggles don’t stem from having fears.

My greatest struggles may stem from having the wrong fears.

I fear my family’s comfort will be shattered by sickness or death or disaster. I fear one day my income will not be able to keep up with my bills. I fear making a mistake from which I cannot recover. Even more, I fear my children making a mistake from which they cannot recover.

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Why I write, & Why inexhaustible significance

“It is surely a fact of inexhaustible significance that what our Lord left behind Him was not a book, nor a creed, nor a system of thought, nor a rule of life, but a visible community.”

–Lesslie Newbigin

This is a blog about hope, and about being the visible community.

Part of being visible means joining ongoing conversations. Some see this as pursuing controversy. I hope not.

I hope for this to be a space for reflection, dialogue, and love.

I hope to think critically and compassionately about who we are and what we do, while running from a critical spirit.

I hope to encourage those who are in agreement, and become better friends with those who disagree.

I hope to never become an echo chamber, but always contribute at least a tiny measure of value.

I hope to be full of the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

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Why I bother to post about Noah

Russian annexation of Crimea. Ongoing atrocities in Syria. Human trafficking in my own backyard. Friends struggling with addiction, marriages crumbling before my eyes, children trapped in severe developmental disabilities, the lady I spoke with this morning who didn’t have money to buy milk for her fridge.

In light of all this, why would I ever waste my time writing about a movie?

I thought Noah was an incredible movie. But I also thought Despicable Me 2 failed to live up to the hype. And I can’t see a whole lot of value in arguing over either movie with all you people on the interwebs. So this isn’t me trying to convince you to like Noah (or that Despicable Me 2 was a disappointment). I’m simply sharing why I, as a Christ-follower and as a pastor, see enough value in the conversation about Aronofsky’s Noah that I’ll take the time to post about it.

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