The very reason for this blog

As I have tried to limit my Facebook exposure over the last day or so, I’ve read the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding the Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage in all 50 states.

To those who did a lot of hand wringing waiting for this decision and are now decrying the “fall of America” or something akin to it, I can only say, “You haven’t been paying much attention lately, have you?”

To those who have followed this blog for very long, and really the whole reason for setting it up and writing so much on spiritual formation, it is honestly no surprise. Not today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow.

The impetus for this blog didn’t come out of a Supreme Court ruling. It came out of 9/11. It actually began to form in prayer before 9/11. Then, when the attack happened, I realized what the Lord was saying to me. (I’m a slow learner.)

The need for the Church in America is to understand we’ve lived for centuries as “Americans who happen to be Christians.” We now need to turn to the firm belief that we are “Christians who happen to be Americans.” (That was over 13 years ago, not just yesterday.)

After 9/11, I preached through the Sermon on the Mount for months, then invited people into an intentional spiritual formation group that lasted a year. Everyone who started on day one had to commit to an entire year. Almost everyone did!

The best way I can describe the journey since that point is this: Our biggest models for living out the power of the Kingdom needs to come from the Old Testament witness of Joseph, Daniel, and Esther. We learn to live with deep conviction as to who we are in Christ and then BLESS the culture in which we find ourselves. That is how I have attempted to model my life for these past few years. I’ve done okay at times, not so okay at others.

So, today, I am not alarmed. I am not wringing my hands. I am not doing a funeral dirge for America. (I confess I did something of a dirge for the American CHURCH after 9/11, then again after Katrina, but that’s another story.)

Today, I am as in love with Jesus as I was the day before. Okay… I’m not. I’m MORE in love with Jesus today than I was the day before.

Today, I am in love with people. All people. Whether they love me or not, quite frankly. That is my command from my Savior, and I take it seriously.

Today, I am desiring to bless my culture and bring the goodness of the Kingdom of God into the life of my culture in any way possible.

That didn’t change by any ruling of the Supreme Court yesterday… or ever. It doesn’t change with old laws or new laws. None of that touches the allegiance I have for the Kingdom of God.

Today, I will not curse my culture or my nation. I love where I live. People love me with my deep flaws. I love people with their deep flaws. And the Kingdom of God comes.

Whatever comes moving forward may surprise me, though I’m not sure it is possible any more. But even if it surprise me… it hasn’t taken God unawares. I can rest in that.

The very reason for this blog has now come to fulfillment. It is about living in a place that may not care about my opinion any more. But that didn’t happen just yesterday. That happened quite awhile back. And I still thrive. I still bless. I still love and bless and give. That was yesterday. That will be today. And, with God’s grace, that will be tomorrow.

It doesn’t mean “agreement.” But it does mean LOVE.

Love God.
Love people.

Let’s go.

San Francisco, the Tenderloin, and the Supreme Court

We were in San Francisco the same week as the Supreme Court made two key rulings on gay marriage. Several people set me texts or messages asking how things were going in light of that decision.

Some of the messages I didn’t get for a little while because we had lousy cell reception in the Tenderloin. Go figure.

Here is what I realized while involved with City Impact: you’re basically too busy with the poor to follow the news closely. For me, that was refreshing since I’m a huge news junkie. But it also helped me understand the heart of Jesus a whole lot more. I was so busy with City Impact, I didn’t even give much thought once I knew the decisions. 

It doesn’t mean I lack an opinion. I just found myself with a refreshingly different focus and while we were there, it was indescribable. I can’t explain how it felt to not let the news bother ministry. We fed all kinds of people. I don’t even have categories for all of them. We just tried to bless as many people as we possibly could, and it was exhausting and joyful all week long.

City Impact Front

Social Orthodoxy and the New Legalism

Tag something “religious” and it’s easy to take shots at it.

Label something religious “bigoted” or “close-minded” and you’re a hero. You’re even more of a hero if you “come” from that group and take shots.

In this Holy Week, the gospel texts focus on the last few days of Jesus before his arrest. He has taken the gloves off with the Jewish leaders and is pounding away. The problem of the leadership was setting up hard boundaries about who was “in” and who was “out,” and here comes the Kingdom of God coloring across their lines. They realize Jesus has to be stopped. They can’t handle these open assaults anymore.

What makes religious legalism so attractive is you can easily tell who is “in” and who is “out” by their actions, their clothing, their hair style, the length of the skirt, etc.

Yes, it is easy to rail away at the religious legalism so rampant in our very divided culture. “Bad evangelicals!” “Bad fundamentalists!” “Bigots! All of you!”

Yet, no one says anything about the new social orthodoxy and its legalism. Maybe it’s because it crosses religious lines and enters into territory that gets a bit more personal.

If I’m not religious, it is so easy to yell at the religious for their legalism. And then, if the religious evil bigots say something in return, I can just say, “Well, you’re a religious bigot.”

Careful. I’m about to become one of those people. 

To the “left” and to the “right” we now have the social orthodoxy of where to eat and where to get your coffee based on your view of gay marriage.

You also have to the “left” and to the “right” of how to purchase your food based on your view of “fair trade.”

To the “left” and to the “right” we have the social orthodoxy of where to make your purchases based on union rights or management rights.

And believe me, you will be judged by the label on your coffee cup or the food chain symbol on your lunch bag. 

The recent kerfuffle on the “right” concerning Howard Schultz and the very incorrect statement that he said, “If you support traditional marriage buy your coffee someplace else,” is easy to take a shot at because that comes from evil religious bigots.

But let me walk into a meeting with some gay friends holding a Chik-fil-a bag and see what kind of temperature drop I get in the room.

Friends, on both sides… this is just getting stupid. 

I was in a clergy meeting with friends a couple of weeks ago and one friend was brave enough to speak out something incredibly truthful. “Are there not bigger issues in the gospel? Can we not see that the issues of poverty, the issues of inequity in how the poor are taken care of, and so much more are such BIGGER issues in the gospel?”

We have a new social legalism now and it’s just not right.

If I’m holding a Starbucks cup now, I’m for gay marriage.

If I find a Chik-fil-a restaurant somewhere and I come out holding a Chik-fil-a bag, I’m against gay marriage.

If I don’t buy this product, I’m for the abuse of third world farmers.

Just. Knock. It. Off. 

You, religious person, and you, non-religious person, have real legalism issues.

So, could you kindly get them away from my coffee cup, my lunch bag, and my grocery cart and take it somewhere else?

 

 

Causes and Coffee

From chicken sandwiches to Venti decaf caramel macchiatos. I can (or can’t) eat at Chik fil a or can (or can’t) drink coffee at Starbucks.

How about I don’t like deep fried chicken (and we don’t have a Chik-fil-a nearby) and I like Caribou and local coffee shops more than Starbucks. And my absence or patronage means I like or don’t like their product.

When can we do THAT again?

Never?

That’s what I thought.

Are We “Off” Our Game?

I was in a discussion today with a fellow pastor about the passionate issues of our day. As we discussed gay marriage, the economy, and other hot topics, something began to occur to us.

At first he said, “The Church is off focus. It’s off it’s target.”

Then, I thought, “Wait. It’s more. So is the government.”

BOTH are “off their game.”

The Church isn’t being salt and light… and we need to learn how again.

The government is in the short term narcissistic game of thinking only of short term goals and forgetting how to truly govern people.

I don’t see the government getting back on their game. This I know… THE CHURCH better get back in focus! We are drifting badly and truly need to seek a new baptism of power… and understanding what the KINGDOM is all about.