Everywhere is Broken...

The other day I had someone question our decision to move to a rougher neighborhood...

They were asking specifically about the effects on our children.  They were expressing concerns that we would need to be very careful on the West Side with regard to who we let influence them.  They were trying to explain that the poorer kids just wouldn't be as good of an influence as the kids in our nicer neighborhood.

Within one week of my friend's comments the following two things happened:

1 My son Zane was playing with three white, middle-class, older kids in the Elmwood Village (the nice neighborhood) and was roughed up by three kids who ganged up on him.

2 My son Zane was playing soccer with a dozen or so older, impoverished, Somali and Yemeni kids on a vacant lot on the West Side (the bad neighborhood).  These kids regularly play soccer with my son, and when they do, they make sure that he gets the ball, and they make sure he gets a chance to shoot on goal, they sometimes even let him score.  They always tell him what a great job he is doing on the field...

So what do I take from this?

Every place is broken, and every place is beautiful.


The Inevitability of Institutionalization

"In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely."

"...in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representatives who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions."

Jerry Pournelle


Public Perceptions of God

By ERIC WEINER Published: December 10, 2011
THE holidays are upon us again — it sounds vaguely aggressive, as if the holidays were some sort of mugger, or overly enthusiastic lover — and so it’s time to stick a thermometer deep in our souls and take our spiritual temperature (between trips to the mall, of course).

For some of us, the season affords an opportunity to reconnect with our religious heritage. For others, myself included, it’s a time to shake our heads over the sad state of our national conversation about God, and wish there were another way. For a nation of talkers and self-confessors, we are terrible when it comes to talking about God. The discourse has been co-opted by the True Believers, on one hand, and Angry Atheists on the other.

What about the rest of us? The rest of us, it turns out, constitute the nation’s fastest-growing religious demographic. We are the Nones, the roughly 12 percent of people who say they have no religious affiliation at all. The percentage is even higher among young people; at least a quarter are Nones. Apparently, a growing number of Americans are running from organized religion, but by no means running from God. On average 93 percent of those surveyed say they believe in God or a higher power; this holds true for most Nones — just 7 percent of whom describe themselves as atheists, according to a survey by Trinity College.

Nones are the undecided of the religious world. We drift spiritually and dabble in everything from Sufism to Kabbalah to, yes, Catholicism and Judaism. Why the rise of the Nones? David Campbell and Robert Putnam, of the University of Notre Dame and the Harvard Kennedy School, respectively, think politics is to blame.

Their idea is that we’ve mixed politics and religion so completely that many simply opt out of both; apparently they are reluctant to claim a religious affiliation because they don’t want the political one that comes along with it. We are more religiously polarized than ever. In my secular, urban and urbane world, God is rarely spoken of, except in mocking, derisive tones. It is acceptable to cite the latest academic study on, say, happiness or, even better, whip out a brain scan, but God? He is for suckers, and Republicans.

I used to be that way, too, until a health scare and the onset of middle age created a crisis of faith, and I ventured to the other side. I quickly discovered that I didn’t fit there, either. I am not a True Believer. I am a rationalist. I believe the Enlightenment was a very good thing, and don’t wish to return to an age of raw superstition. We Nones may not believe in God, but we hope to one day. We have a dog in this hunt.

Nones don’t get hung up on whether a religion is “true” or not, and instead subscribe to William James’s maxim that “truth is what works.” If a certain spiritual practice makes us better people — more loving, less angry — then it is necessarily good, and by extension “true.” (We believe that G. K. Chesterton got it right when he said: “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.”) 

By that measure, there is very little “good religion” out there. Put bluntly: God is not a lot of fun these days. Many of us don’t view religion so generously. All we see is an angry God. He is constantly judging and smiting, and so are his followers. No wonder so many Americans are enamored of the Dalai Lama. He laughs, often and well. Precious few of our religious leaders laugh. They shout.

God is not an exclamation point, though. He is, at his best, a semicolon, connecting people, and generating what Aldous Huxley called “human grace.” Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost sight of this.

Religion and politics, though often spoken about in the same breath, are, of course, fundamentally different. Politics is, by definition, a public activity. Though religion contains large public components, it is at core a personal affair. It is the relationship we have with ourselves or, as the British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said, “What the individual does with his solitariness.” There lies the problem: how to talk about the private nature of religion publicly.

What is the solution? The answer, I think, lies in the sort of entrepreneurial spirit that has long defined America, including religious America. We need a Steve Jobs of religion. Someone (or ones) who can invent not a new religion but, rather, a new way of being religious.

Like Mr. Jobs’s creations, this new way would be straightforward and unencumbered and absolutely intuitive. Most important, it would be highly interactive. I imagine a religious space that celebrates doubt, encourages experimentation and allows one to utter the word God without embarrassment. A religious operating system for the Nones among us. And for all of us.

Eric Weiner is the author, most recently, of “Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine.”



This is a brief synopsis of Coleman's book.


Transforming Poor Communities

Reflections on the relational nature of poverty and on relationships as the necessary ingredient for transformation:


Its only about 5-6 minutes of audio.


It's His Table...

In communion, the table is open to everyone, but the menu is open to no one...

Anyone can come and eat what is on the table, but no one can chose, or change, what lies there.  If it is Jesus that you want, then come, eat and drink; let no one bar you from the table.  If it is something else, however, that you desire to consume, then no one can qualify you to approach...

CQ and High vs Low Uncertainty Avoidance from Church of the Nazarene on Vimeo.


Kids Ministry

I had a great conversation with Michael, a pastor from Minnesota about some of the unique challenges and opportunities we face in our context. I was sharing with him the ways in which some of the youngsters from the neighborhood can be disrupting, disrespectful, and unruly, but simultaneously our conviction that they belong in the church and that we have the joy and the duty to help them discover their unique destiny and purpose in the Kingdom. He provided some insightful comments about the way in which we can partner with God in the lives of neighborhood kids:

"Just to get you started, we always talk about how our children are NOT the church of the future, they are the church today. That mostly throughout the scriptures God works with and calls us when we are very young. About how God want to fill them with the Holy Spirit and teach them how to deeply rely on and relate to him right now in their lives. They don't get a "Happy Meal Toy" version of God, but he is offering all of himself to our kids—and we want to make sure they get everything God is offering. About how what goes on with our kids is WAY more important than what goes on with the adults if you think for a moments about the long-term health of our church and families. I could rant on this topic for quite a while… You try it, as it's lots of fun!"

This has got me thinking about the way in which I personally relate to neighborhood kids, and the way in which the church as a whole does. I believe I have unintentionally set aside my own responsibility to them in two ways.

First, its not my calling, or my passion; I have seen youth ministry and Sunday School as something that I am not responsible for because my primary purpose and ministry is to adults. Second, because I only have limited time to spend with the kids (before or after service, or bumping into them on the street) I have felt like I don't have the ability to make much of an impact on them.

In conversing with Michael I have felt the Holy Spirit challenging me to change my perspective. First, it may indeed be true that I am called to other areas of focus, but that does not mean that I cannot still be intentional and influential with the young men and women in our neighborhood. Second, it may indeed be true that I don't always have opportunities for deep engagement with the kids, but that does not mean that I cannot be intentional and influential with the short interactions that I do have with them.

Seeking God in the Other

I think we should be constantly looking for meaningful ways to partmer with people who are not like us. Specifically those we find opaque or useless. We do this in order to be shaped by God and used by him. After all, we are commamded by Jesus to enter into discipleship relationships cross culturally, not primarily within our own culture...

Along that vein, I came across this quote from another Vineyard pastor:

"We desire to live our lives and seek God as transparently as possible in our community. Sometimes this gives us feelings of closeness to one another, and other times this introduces tension and frustration with one another. In all emotions, we trust God is at work when we, in vulnerable trust, choose to live life oriented toward Him and toward one another."



Conviction is: ...about what has happening, or what is happening. It is about truth, it is about illumination. Conviction is about exposing and revealing what is in our hearts. It is specific and is for the purpose of inviting us into repentance and forgiveness. It speaks to a particular act and judges it. Condemnation is: ...about what will happen. It is about punishment, and sentencing. Condemnation is about shaming and punishing what is wicked. It is general and for the purpose of diminishing or demolishing the offending person. It speaks to a whole person and judges them.


"A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be. " Wayne Gretsky



Vacancies Abound What is an asset, and what is a liability? Depends on the lenses you wear.


Play On

Ray Hollenbach framed part of the conversation by essentially asking 'where exactly is the playing field?'

I'd like to continue in that vein:

Just who is 'everybody?'

This is largely a strength of the Vineyard. When we say everybody, we really do mean it. We make a real effort to train and include laity in ministry; women and men, even children, people of all backgrounds and social classes. The only real 're-thinking' I see necessary at this point is in the inherent tension between 'excellence in ministry' and allowing the visibly broken to play.

I have seen new Christians, non-Christians, those with drug problems, and even those presently under the influence of drugs, all ministering in Vineyard churches in some capacity. However, there is a real attempt to prevent these types of people from engaging in 'real' ministry. We will let them hold the door (if they're pretty enough), or let them print fliers, or play the drums (if they're capable enough), but there are real boundaries we place upon just what they are allowed to do.

For the record, I am not advocating placing drunk agnostics in the pulpit, I would certainly agree that there are standards for Christian ministry. The question that must be grappled with is this: Is the bar we set for Christian ministry about 'excellence' or is it about 'health?' Do we prevent some from certain places in ministry and Church life because they are unseemly, or because they would hurt themselves or others? I contend that Scripture has no value for 'excellence in ministry' that is ultimately a cover for excluding those people who might make things slower, uglier, or technically flawed.

Our decisions to include someone in ministry should be based on whether the individual is healthy enough to step into a particular role, not whether they are skilled enough. This decision has tremendous communicative properties...

Just what do we mean by 'play?'

It is here that we must give significant energy to re-thinking current practices. We largely conceive of ministry in terms of practices and care/direction given to Church members or performed on their behalf. Ministry is preaching and teaching, ministry is playing musical instruments, administrating the needs of the church, leading Bible-studies, praying for people, even maintaining church buildings and running technical equipment, etc.

The results of such a definition is manifold, the most problematic are the two following: 1) Christians who are deeply engaged in ministry yet have little or no involvement in mission, 2) Christians who view 'real ministry' as being done by the professionals while viewing their jobs as distractions from Kingdom work. We must rethink this conception.

Play must fundamentally mean mission! Leaders should be player/coaches who equip others for ministry to the world. As a pastor I am naturally focused on the local faith community of which I am a member/leader. This must not be allowed to divert my own focus from the wider community that is the object and context for the Church's mission. This must not be allowed to 'leak down' onto the church, causing the stale atmosphere of spiritual inbreeding that is a result of a church that ministers to itself.

Play must include the entire scope of human activity. Almost all occupations can be Christian vocations. As a pastor I am resourced to take future church leaders through an equipping process. I can teach someone how to lead church activities. I am competent to teach people how to live a life of spiritual disciplines. But when it comes to the single largest fact of most peoples daily lives, I am left with one of two options for discipleship. 1) Quit your job so you can do 'real ministry.' 2) Pray for and witness to your co-workers while maintaining personal integrity at your workplace. What is largely missing is any sense of training people to view their occupations as their vocations.

Scoring Goals

It is here that the Church has the largest problem, and hence, the largest need for re-imagination. Our system rewards and reinforces a view of ministry that is largely out of sync with our stated philosophy of ministry. We say everybody gets to play, but the rules of the game, and the way in which we 'score goals' (ie incentives and definitions of success) are set up to prevent everybody from playing.

Of course this is unintentional, but still true! A 'winning' church (to continue the metaphor) is defined by characteristics that have nothing to do with 'everybody getting to play.' Because of this we simultaneously recognize a need to have everyone play, while attempting to keep the star players in the game as long as possible; in our system you can't score goals with mediocre performance.

Because of this, we give some attention to the idea of workplace ministry, but it somehow never really makes it into the playbook; you can't score goals by practicing law, or building bridges, only by proclaiming the gospel or praying for people. In short, our definition of success prevents us from implementing this value more fully. Our most essential task is to create a system of in which 'everybody gets to play' is itself one of the markers for success, is itself defined as one of the ways in which we 'score points.'


Fun on Friday's

This is what we do for fun on a Friday night in front of our Church building.


Reinforced Habits

"Maybe your eating habits started at a young age. When you were good your parents may have rewarded you with candy or took you to your favorite fast food chain. You then began to associate junk food as something positive. Over time this became ingrained in your subconscious and you have continued this as an adult.

Now you treat yourself to ice cream, candy, greasy restaurants or nights of drinking every time you do well in life. Celebrations are an excuse to be unhealthy. You have to break this habit. Celebrating a positive time in your life with something that impacts you negatively is hardly a true celebration."

David Schenk


"The Sabbath is an act of rebellion against a world that is in rebellion against God."
David Schenk


That's just Him

While traveling on the road of life
which is often congested with strife
If you make Jehovah Jireh
your driver
the number of accidents you incur will not be high

Those who do not read the Bible need to take heed
Because He is the God that provides your need
and if you become a rider
with Jehovah Jireh
your abundance will be great indeed

Because Emmanuel gives us grace
therefore the potholes on life's surface
maybe bad, but they serve a purpose

He's our Dad and when He hits our bod
with what we believe to be a punishment rod
But actually is an instrument of His unconditional love

Because He loved us, before we loved Him
and even though we sin
and He despises sin
He still is our best friend

Though the door to Him is narrow and satan is always trying to hit us with his deadly arrows
amd to survive the devil's attacks we must borrow
God's grace filled arrows

Because He loved us, before we loved Him
and even though we sin
and He despises sin
He still is our best friend
But why? ...because that's just Him.

-Nu Creation

In All Seriousness...

"Absolute seriousness is never without a dash of humor."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Little 'c,' Big 'C' pt III


Little 'c,' Big 'C' pt II

Perfect Imperfection!

"These christian-themed entertainment venues need to stop using the word "church" - it clearly confuses people."

This was a comment on the event documented in the Youtube video below...


Church: Little 'c,' Big 'C'


Resurrection Apologetics

NT Wright’s case for the resurrection has 3 parts:

1) The Jewish theological beliefs of the early Christian community underwent 7 mutations that are inexplicable apart from the bodily resurrection of Jesus

2) The un-refuted claims that the tomb was empty.

3) The post-mortem appearances of Jesus to individuals and groups, friends and foes.

"…the foundation of my argument for what happened at Easter is the reflection that this Jewish hope has undergone remarkable modifications or mutations within early Christianity, which can be plotted consistently right across the first two centuries. And these mutations are so striking, in an area of human experience where societies tend to be very conservative, that they force the historian… to ask, Why did they occur?

The mutations occur within a strictly Jewish context. The early Christians held firmly, like most of their Jewish contemporaries, to a two-step belief about the future: first, death and whatever lies immediately beyond; second, a new bodily existence in a newly remade world. ‘Resurrection’ is not a fancy word for ‘life after death’; it denotes life after ‘life after death’."

Here are the 7 mutations:

1) Christian theology of the afterlife mutates from multiples views (Judaism) to a single view: resurrection (Christianity). When you die, your soul goes off to wait in Sheol. On judgment day, the righteous dead get new resurrection bodies, identical to Jesus’ resurrection body.

2) The relative importance of the doctrine of resurrection changes from being peripheral (Judaism) to central (Christianity).

3) The idea of what the resurrection would be like goes from multiple views (Judaism) to a single view: an incorruptible, spiritually-oriented body composed of the material of the previous corruptible body (Christianity).

4) The timing of the resurrection changes from judgment day (Judaism) to a split between the resurrection of the Messiah right now and the resurrection of the rest of the righteous on judgment day (Christianity).

5) There is a new view of eschatology as collaboration with God to transform the world.

6) There is a new metaphorical concept of resurrection, referred to as being “born-again”.

7) There is a new association of the concept of resurrection to the Messiah. (The Messiah was not even supposed to die, and he certainly wasn’t supposed to rise again from the dead in a resurrected body!)

There are also other historical puzzles that are solved by postulating a bodily resurrection of Jesus.

1) Jewish people thought that the Messiah was not supposed to die. Although there were lots of (warrior) Messiahs running around at the time, whenever they got killed, their followers would abandon them. Why didn’t Jesus’ followers abandon him when he died?

2) If the early Christian church wanted to communicate that Jesus was special, despite his shameful death on the cross, they would have made up a story using the existing Jewish concept of exaltation. Applying the concept of bodily resurrection to a dead Messiah would be a radical departure from Jewish theology, when an invented exaltation was already available to do the job.

3) The early church became extremely reckless about sickness and death, taking care of people with communicable diseases and testifying about their faith in the face of torture and execution. Why did they scorn sickness and death?

4) The gospels, especially Mark, do not contain any embellishments and “theology historicized”. If they were made-up, there would have been events that had some connection to theological concepts. But the narratives are instead bare-bones: “Guy dies public death. People encounter same guy alive later.” Plain vanilla narrative.

5) The story of the women who were the first witnesses to the empty tomb cannot have been invented, because the testimony of women was inadmissable under almost all circumstances at that time. If the story were invented, they would have invented male discoverers of the tomb. Female discovers would have hampered conversion efforts.

6) There are almost no legendary embellishments in the gospels, while there are plenty in the later gnostic forgeries. No crowds of singing angels, no talking crosses, and no booming voices from the clouds.

7) There is no mention of the future hope of the general resurrection, which I guess they thought was imminent anyway.


On the Inside

my favorite Bible verse of all
is what Israel's last judge said 2 King Saul
"What is this bleating of sheep I hear?"
which suddenly ensued Saul w/ fear
he knew he did not listen 2 God's Word
instead, the complaining of his men is what he heard
he even went as far as 2 try 2 fool God's prophet
w/ a false emphatic sacrifice, which he knew was not proper
N order 2 B God's anointed King of Israel
it is Yahweh, not men, he should have feared
because mortals
can falter
but 2 attributes of God R, omniscience & 2 B omnipotent
which means not only R His commands powerful, but always legit.

some believe I talk a good talk
but walk a bad walk
some believe that this extremely flawed Christian has no spiritual growth
but those who knew Nu B4 coming out of the water knows
she is definitely not the person she used 2 B
because "I said something, she did not like & she didn't slap the 7734 out of me"
& yes I got N2 a fight w/ God @ Wegmans UC
because He made me purchase $25.00 worth of food just 4 me
& yes U do not like some of the things I say
but the majority of the time when I offend, it's out of ignorance not hate
I know I'm not a perfecter
& if I think I am I need 2 take U 2 my leader
because 2 err is human not divine
& I know I'm definitely a member of mankind

& yes, it is true, I need 2 read my Bible more
& yes, it is true, I need 2 pray more
& yes, it is true, I need 2 seek God more
& yes, it is true, I need 2 luv more

But when I fall down, I dust myself off & get back up
Because I've totally torn the Bible up
& I've come 2 the same conclusion, Jehovah always fills my cup
Usually, I put others B4 myself
I'm usually willing 2 volunteer &/or help
U may think my attitude & speech
Is a little bit 2 street

I feel
I do not have time 2 unpeel
& think of a nice way 2 reveal
that God's luv is a true thrill
Because it's a war & Satan's out 2 destroy & kill

The young ones think a funeral is like a high, a rush
Lucifer has even romanticized death, w/ your likeness immortalized w/ an airbrush
If only they would open their eyes & use that organ N their head
& realize there's no honor or respect N dying just 2 B dead
I might not show it, but it tears me up
That the ones on the street think sin is the only way 2 fill their cup
I have a good heart & my Lord knows it
Even when I'm N the middle of a conniption fit
So I say this w/ truth & not w/ pride
I am fearfully & wonderfully made, but on the inside

- Nu Creation

From Nazareth

All who knew me back N the day
When I use 2 bang N such evil ways
Now they ask, "Nu who ya hanging w/?"
The leader of my posse is the bro from Nazareth

Yo, U don't want 2 mess w/ this bro
He'll make every knee bow 2 the floor
This homeboy don't take no crap
His M.O. is 2 hit 'cha w/ a spiritual slap

If U think His rep is bad
Ever heard, the rep of His Dad?
The best banger history ever had
The crew He had was hard & tight
He commanded millions of Israelites

Rahab's peeps called Him a mighty God
That explains why the walls crumbled down
The Jericho battle He easily won
The Dad is good & so is the Son

Honestly, I must confess
His Dad will put U thru a holy test
This homeboy is ow so bad
Son of the best banger history ever had
U can C why His Pop's #1
The Dad is good & so is the Son

Now, let's back-up 2 this Rahab girl
She became and ancestor of the Savior of the World
She gave up her evil ways
Because of the Bible she'll B remembered always

Remember when Paul was Saul
& how he was Stephen's pitfall
But the NT, he wrote almost all
It doesn't matter who U used 2 B
Thats my point, this part of the story
It doesn't matter who U was
Believers R related 2 King Jesus
Because w/ Jesus. the battle is won
God made Him the chosen one

So the next time someone ask, "who ya hanging w/?"
Respond w/ the bro from Nazareth

- Nu Creation

Terri Lee

I'm so glad my "Ace Coom"
made it 2 the "rooms"
No drug, no beer
She's celebrating 9 years

I miss Ma Sharp
David's playing her his harp
She's looking down on U
w/ luv only a Mom could
She's so proud of her Terri Lee
Who would have thought, 9 years sobriety

Now Ma dwells N a heavenly neighborhood
But God takes bad & turns it 2 good
Because of His loving grace
Terri can C her "Ace Coom's" face
Because the day Ma left this earth
God gave Daryn a rebirth
Ma is looking down, proud of U
& so am I 2
Becasue N the end, U can C
God also gave a rebirth 2 Terri Lee

-Nu Creation

Breaking Point

all the crap I have 2 go thru
just to keep sanity on my menu
they're pulling me here
they're pulling me there
they act like I am unaware

because very human has a breaking point
but if they're lucky they make it to His spiritual joint
there 4 life won't
put them 2 their breaking point

i know Jesus will b
my stop sign 2 insanity
because I know He
loves me
even when He was hung on that 1st Xmas tree
they lie
i cry
my Savior please rescue me

because every human has a breaking point
but if they're lucky they make it 2 His spiritual joint
there4 life won't put them 2 their breaking point

U C, what they don't understand
is, my King is a superman
& by my side He will stand
& hold my hand
& guide me 2 sane land

because every human has a breaking point
but, if they meet Jesus, @ His joint
they won't reach their breaking point.

-Nu Creation


A Spirit-Imbued Character

We usually desire to have God rescue us from trials, in spite of the fact that we know God often uses those trials to further our character. Francis Chan says, "we care about our comfort a lot more than we care about our character." He goes on, "most times I don't think about my character, I just wanna be happy, I want all my problems to go away."




I’m starting to believe
that as a Christian to achieve
That zoe type of life
I must rival and strife

because Paul pleaded with God thrice
to remove that thorn in his flesh which tormented his life
But God said, “No.”
Why?  Perhaps to show
that the grace of God is sufficient for you
for in your weakness you are made perfect, which is true

the Bible does not state what affliction made Paul weak
But, because of this weakness God had to be constantly seeked

so I delight in insults
or hardship or persecution, that makes life difficult
for when I am weak I’m actually strong
and my need for God, my soul will long

He rains on the unjust and also the just
so in God’s consults I must trust

so I’m not just grateful
but also thankful
for these infirmities
‘cause they put a stamp on my heart that God I will always need

         -Nu Creation


What's Your Type?

Go here to discover what your personality type is...

According to this methodology there are nine personality types, each with a different approach to life and method of coping/achieving.

I am a '7' which is called 'the Enthusiast' by this particular site.  They describe me as follows:

The busy, productive type. Sevens are extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness. At their Best: they focus their talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied.

Interestingly enough, my 5 year old son Zane is the same as me...



"The secret of success is constancy of purpose."
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

Sarafina and Randy on Your Wedding Day

I pray that God always wraps you in His loving arms,
and any loved ones Saraphina has back home that,
that generation, and the next generation, and the next generation,
will never succumb to harm.

I pray that God stretches out His mighty hand,
and not only bless you with children,
but with grands, and great-grands, and great-great-grands.

I pray that God always shows you favor, and favor isn't fair you see,
but I pray that He always shows favor to thee.

I pray that God's love would reach,
and bless Minister Randy with mighty words to preach.

I pray that the course that Sarafina's voice takes,
opens up heaven's floodgates and pours down blessings in the amount of
the Great Lakes.

I pray that God always keeps you,
and blesses you,
and protects you,
and favors you,
and loves you.

I pray that from you, raise up mighty warriors of God,
that stand for God,
and fight for God,
and screams, "Hallelujah," for God,
audibly loud!

I pray that my only plea would always be,
that God's grace upon thee would last an eternity.

-Nu Creation


Consumerism and Mission

The Church in the West has built a model of church growth that attracts people to attend congregational events, and ultimately join a local congregation, by providing services to the individual.  A local church will provide excellent child-care, professionally played music, state of the art facilities, and ministries specially tailored to individual desire.

This has resulted in a Church where individual Christians choose their congregational affiliation based on the fulfillment of personal desire.  Christians might live on the West Side of Buffalo, but attend worship services in Williamsville, or even further away.  This is not entirely problematic in and of itself; one person leaving their neighborhood to worship and witness elsewhere has little effect, but when the entire church pursues this same pattern of relationship, there is a deep disfunction that settles on the Church.

The Mission of God consists in getting the salt out of the salt shaker and into every corner of society, but when the salt continues to seek out larger and larger salt shakers within which to seclude themselves from the world, that mission suffers.  The Mission of God requires each and every Christian to take personal responsibility for seeing God's Kingdom Come to the little corner of the earth that they inhabit, this is impossible if we refuse to labor towards the blessing of the place we are at, and instead seek our own blessing by going elsewhere...


This doesn't mean it is a sin to drive past one worship service to attend another, but rather this is a check on our motives.  God called Paul to leave Jerusalem, and then to leave Antioch; it would have been sinful for him to stay when God said, "Go."  This is not about which congregation we choose to belong to, but about how we make that decision.

People want the Church to provide child care, excellent music, air conditioning, clean carpets, good teaching, hot coffee, and a single's ministry with lots of attractive and wealthy members.  God wants the Church to provide people who will live for His Kingdom, love each other sacrificially, work tirelessly for justice, and live their lives as a shining light in a dark world.  We must chose which list we will use to determine the course of our lives, and the course of our Church.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells us that, "discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Christ."  What this means, simply put, is that God is offering us an opportunity to get involved in His project, He has no real desire to get on board with our agenda.  He is not merely a planet in our sky, important and beautiful, but ultimately in orbit around us; rather He is the sun around whom we must find our orbit.


What this all boils down to is this: Consumerism is the enemy of Mission.  Consumerism, simply put, is making decisions based upon the fulfillment of personal desires; I will do what satisfies my needs.  Mission, simply put, is making decisions based upon the fulfillment of God's desire to bless other people.  When the Church embraces consumer values we eschew missional ones, and vice versa.



Sin and Psychology

"The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ."
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community)



"Set me a task in which I can put something of my very self, and it is a task no longer; it is a joy; it is art."
Bliss Carman (1861-1929)



Zoe has heard
cause she knows God's word
that He will not allow a sparrow
to peril
Zoe knows Jehovah loves her more
than a mere bird

God confesses
that He dresses
the lilies of the field
He suits Zoe in ruffles
cause its in His will

He is Yahweh
the only way
and at His feet grace and mercy lay
Zoe is fearfully and wonderfully made
Her skin is the perfect shade

Zoe's eventual height
will be a testimony to God's wonderful might
Even Zoe's petite size
was given to her as a heavenly prize

God even blesses
Zoe's lovely blonde tresses
Because God said
that Zoe was fearfully and wonderfully made

- Nu Creation


My Tears

my tears are my joy
because of the boy
who became the man
who commanded such righteousness
that the devil's plan was destroyed

my tears are salted happiness
because of Mary's great sadness
that her son's actions
was the the most loving madness

my tears are streams of freedom
because of heaven's inhuman reasons expressed
through the one blessed
to steal the keys to satan's kingdom

my tears are tracks of praise
to the one raised
from the dead
that the devil fled
in a haste

my tears will never flow
in an amount that will show
that my decree
should be
in hell's inferno

my tears will never show
no matter how much they flow
to express
the amount of my happiness
because I see and I confess
because I know I am truly blessed

- Nu Creation


The Gutter by Craig Gross

Craig Gross

The Gutter

From the founder of a group that goes into pornography conventions to share the love of Jesus with people involved in the making, producing, acting out, and consumption, of pornography, comes a book about going into the darkness carrying the bright light of Jesus' love. Full of wonderful stories (including one about City Ministries "Night Strikes" in San Francisco, for those of you back home) about God's people going places religious people wouldn't dare tread; shining love and hope into them. "Don't be angry at the dark for being dark, be angry at the light for refusing to shine in the darkness!"

Death of a Church


How To Be Someone's Friend when you Disagree

For those of you who don't know, the official Vineyard position on ordaining women, is to leave the issue up to the local church. That means that there are Vineyard churches who ordain women, and those who do not. Here is something the Vineyard put out in 2006 to help people navigate this unique position.

February 15, 2006

I. General Guidelines For Relationships

A. Accept that their view is a matter of conscience in obeying the scriptures.
B. Obviously, this mutual respect has to be worked out by listening well to one another and by careful use of our language so as not to show any disrespect to one another.
C. Abstain from using emotive or impugning language.
D. Endeavor to hear and understand one another.
E. Although it is quite acceptable to state what you believe on a point of disagreement, the basis for your views, and what you believe the possible consequences of accepting the differing view could be, these should be done without personal attack or judgment on the one who disagrees with you, and should be expressed with humility.
F. Show the costly side of loving one another by considering the high importance of the interests of others and putting such consideration into actual practice.
G. Speak respectfully about the various views.
H. Acknowledge that this is one of the "debatable issues" where good Christians can disagree in good conscience.

II. Guidelines on The Issue of Women as Senior Pastors

A. It should not be implied or assumed that those who believe that women should not be senior pastors are women-haters, etc.
B. Mutual respect means that those who believe women cannot be senior pastors must recognize that those who do are committed to the scriptures and are not heretics or among those who believe the Bible is not inspired by God. They simply happen to read the scriptures differently on this point.
C. Those who do not believe women should be senior pastors should not show disrespect to women speakers or women pastors in any of the gatherings. They should bless these women and treat them as true sisters in the Lord.
D. Include women, who happen to be senior pastors, in the guideline of showing the costly side of loving one another by considering the high importance of the interests of others and putting such consideration into actual practice.
E. Respect local churches who do not ordain women by not pressuring them to change their view.


Reclaiming Ambiguity

Certainty is the intellectual heritage of Modernity...

...and with it comes an attendant fear of mystery.

Our culture, however, is growing ever fonder of mystery, is embracing ambiguity, and is growing increasingly apprehensive about certainty. As Christians raised in a modern Church attempting to reach a modern world, we look at our culture's growing mistrust of certitude, and we are either frightened or disgusted. We fear the erosion of truth, or we are disgusted by the obvious attempt at self-justification for a hedonistic lifestyle...

But I would ask that we suspend judgment for a moment.

I do not think Christianity should be equated to certitude. There are a few things about which we must be certain (Paul argues this in 1 Corinthians 15 about the physical resurrection of Jesus) but there are many things about which we should be ambiguous! In our attempts to be Biblical we have made claims for certainty, but in fact, we must acknowledge that where the Bible is ambiguous, it is unbiblical to be unambiguous!


The Reliability of the Internet

"The problem with quotes on the internet, is that you can never tell if they are genuine."
Abraham Lincoln

(Thanks to Steve Brown)


Coincidence Maybe

These guys came and played a month or two ago, it was a lot of fun!



I am unsure of myself...

Some of the things we do take so much effort. We don't mind the effort if something fruitful happens because of it.... but what about when there isn't much positive result?

This is a constant concern when it comes to some of the things we do as a church. Even more specifically, corporate worship gatherings. It just seems like it isn't all that important to people. ...is it?

It takes quite a lot of effort to make a Church service happen. Setting up, and tearing down; selecting music, practicing it, playing all of the various instruments, setting up the PowerPoint so others can sing along, running the sound board and the projector; preparing lessons for the kids, teaching the lessons, training people to teach; preparing a sermon and preaching it...

But what is the fruit of all of this effort? Dozens of hours of labor that involves at least a dozen people to pull off, and what is the result? Do other people value this? Is God honored? Are people committed to participate, or even show up?

Here is where I am unsure of myself. Is this question only arising because of my own self pity? ...my own sense of personal worth? ...my own ego? Is it just that I don't like preaching to a sparse house?

If this is true, then shame on me. ...but being as honest with myself as I can, I don't actually think those things are what causes me to ask these questions.

What I want to know is this: Is all of this effort producing the results that we all say we want? If not, why are we continuing to spend all of this time, energy, and money? If it is producing results, is it possible that we could produce the same results at the cost of significantly less resources? In short, why do we have a worship gathering if people don't value it? Why do we have a worship gathering if it isn't causing our church, and the neighborhood, to draw near to Jesus, His people, and His purposes?

Body Rituals Among the Nacirema People



“Bring to me a sweetness surpassing all the seductive delights I pursued.”
St Augustine

A Transformed Heart

"...and in turn the heart, your faithful echo, instructs our other faculties. In this mortal and spiritual compound, this sphere that you look upon as your kingdom, it is the heart that reins supreme under your direction. Since it has no other instincts than those inspired by you, everything that you propose delights it. What human beings and the devil would like to substitute, only disgusts and horrifies the heart...."

Jean-Pierre de Caussade



"We all have a hunger for certitude, and the problem is that the Gospel is not about certitude, it's about fidelity...fidelity is a relational category and certitude is a flat, mechanical category. So we have to acknowledge our thirst for certitude and then recognize that if you had all the certitudes in the world it would not make the quality of your life any better because what we must have is fidelity."

Walter Brueggemann



“God and His purpose is the eternal object and enchantment of the faithful heart.”
Jean-Pierre de Caussade

SVS Promo

SVS Promo -30 sec version from Society of Vineyard Scholars on Vimeo.


...on Hell

I came across this from one of the Gospel Coalition guys in the midst of the whole Rob Bell fiasco. I really couldn't believe someone would state it out like this. Usually when someone uses these kinds of words they are parodying the Reformed position, but here it is from the horse's mouth:


SOANDSO said the primary way God showed his love toward humanity was in sending his son to die for their sins.

(Okay, I am with you here)

"When you think about the innermost meaning of the cross is, it is this," SOANDSO said. "You and I deserved an eternity of wrath in hell that would be unending."

(I would probably use some very different language here.)

"Wrap your mind around this for a second," he continued. "It is a horror that doesn't end. There's no anesthetic and you never settle in. And we all deserve it. The Bible is teaching that all the wrath that was due to us, God emptied out on his son at the cross. On the cross where Jesus died the wrath of God was satisfied. He used up all his anger that he had towards us on Jesus. At the heart of the atonement is this. You don't understand the cross without this."
"You don't know the love of God if you don't know the wrath of God,"
BLANK said. "The precondition to understanding the love of God is you have to see what God had to overcome to save you. These things may seem paradoxical, but they are together everywhere in Scripture."

(And now he just sounds like God is sadistic.)


It is interesting that he essentially says God hates us so much that the only way He could accept us is by killing His son. I have never heard anyone say it that way (without intending it as a parody). So the question is, does God really need to kill someone (anyone) in order to feel better about letting us in? Is that really what the cross was about? Aren't there some very different pictures in scripture regarding what Jesus accomplished on the cross? Aren't there some very different pictures of what God was up to in the crucifixion?


My Pastor Says...

A couple of Pastor Mike quotes that have meant a lot to me over the years. These words may not seem like much at first, but they have worked wonders in my life:

"Don't major on the minors."

Sometimes we can confuse speaking truly, with emphasizing the correct truth. It is the difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowing what is true is good, but understanding when that truth is applicable is better. A hammer is a good tool, but it isn't very useful for ripping plywood. All truths are true, and so each truth is a useful tool, but we must decide when to use it. And just as a carpenter's speed square is more important than his 1/8" chisel, some truths are more necessary than others.

We should emphasize the more important truths.

When we greatly emphasize something that scripture teaches as true, but does not emphasize, then we are not being true to scripture.


"I don't know!"

I can't tell you what a breathe of fresh air this was! The first time I heard my pastor answer someone's question this way I thought, "you can do that!?" I thought being a christian meant you knew everything! How wonderful it was to recover mystery and humility in a single moment!


Couldn't Agree More!

"But after you die, we are firmly in the realm of speculation."
Rob Bell

The Solution

There are different forms of poverty (see this), but the solution to each of them is the same.

If we are going to define all three forms of poverty as a lack of access to something, then the solution to all three forms is not about giving stuff, but rather about giving access.  The method of giving access in each of these three forms of poverty is ...relationship.

Whether it is the poverty of deprivation, oppression, or alienation, the solution is to connect the people in question to systems of economy, polity, or meaning.  The only real means of connecting people to these systems is through relationship with people who already exist within those systems.  In fact these systems are made up of people an so the only way to connect people to these systems is to connect them to the people.

Part of the vision we have for our church is to be a community of people from different places.  In this way, those who lack social and political power will gain it by being connected with those who have it, and simultaneously, those who lack significance and social meaning will gain it by virtue of being connected to those who have a sense of place and meaning.

What is Christianity About? ...really?

A friend of mine, Jason Clark, has a book coming out soon, one of his co-authors produced the video above.  I don't know what the relationship is between the video and the book, and I certainly intend to buy a copy, but I don't know if I like what the gentleman in the video is saying...

What do you think?


Vamos a la Republica Dominicana!

Five of us leave this Wednesday to visit our brothers and sisters in Santiago and Puerto Plata...


Bringing the A-Game

Trinitarian Prayer

Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth:
Set up your kingdom in our midst.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God:
Have mercy on me, a sinner.

Holy Spirit, breath of the living God:
Renew me and all the world



ashes await such specimens of survival
soil and spirit mingled by Another

dirt in our wake
as we march together
of earth we are
as we kneel…dust upon dust

a frail finger of ash upon ash
marking me…
a touch felt in my depths

how is it
that such as we
reside in the heart of Love Itself?


Three Kinds of Poverty

Poverty is usually thought of as 'not having stuff.'  But this is a fundamentally materialistic and consumeristic way of defining the term, and falls far short of understanding the plight of the poor, or the various ways in which poverty can be manifested.  For this reason, I am exploring these ways of describing poverty, although this is tenuously affirmed, and I would appreciate feedback on the ideas...

Instead of thinking of poverty as a lack of stuff, lets try thinking about it as a lack of access to systems of power.  This actually helps us to make sense of the different forms of poverty that we see in the world around us.  After all, most of us recognize that poverty is very real in our country, and yet, it is very different from poverty in other countries...

This can be defined as individuals or groups who lack access to systems of economic power.
These are people who are not having their most basic needs met.  They are without food, shelter, clean water, or health care.  This is what we think of as the 'global poor,' or the 'third-world poor.'

This can be defined as individuals or groups who lack access to systems of social power.
These are people who are abundantly fed, warm, and entertained, but have no control (real or perceived) over their own destiny, or that of their community or the world at large.  This is the 'urban poor' and the 'rural poor' of America.  People who have little access to education, to health care and healthy food, or to networks of economic, social, and political power.

This can be defined as individuals or groups who lack access to systems of meaning.
These peoples needs are met, they have power to control individual destiny, but there is no larger sense of what is to be pursued.  These are people we are not likely to consider poor, yet, they have a clear lack.  For them material wealth and power are ends in themselves, instead of means to something more meaningful...

In all three of these categories, the resultant poverty can be the result of an actual lack of access, or a perceived lack of access.  Both are equally problematic.  If a family starves because there is a famine, and literally no food exists within range of their table, that is neither more nor less a problem than an individual who suffers from mental illness and literally starves with food in their pantry.


Anthropology of the Vineyard

SVS 2011 Plenary #2: Tanya Luhrmann from Society of Vineyard Scholars on Vimeo.

the Buffalo Urban Fellowship

Both in Tension

"This raises a really interesting point, too. One problem I’ve seen in the postmodern/emergent church conversation is you tend to have one of two different kinds of things going on: one is the emphasis on social justice. That’s a great thing unless you over-privilege social action and have no contemplative life. Someone who over-privileges social justice runs the risk of becoming an angry, disillusioned and very often, a smug activist. On the other hand, there are people who ignore social justice and only care about the contemplative life and this leads to a sort of saccharine piety. They start watching EWTN and saying the Rosary without any interest in the fact that so much of the world is starving to death."

Click on the title to read the whole interview


Evangelicals and the City

Of course we realize that, these may be complicated questions: evangelicals concerned with “urban ministry” may tend to think of the city as a “field ripe unto harvest” for evangelism. But in doing so, might they also generally consider the city as little more than a container for many, many “souls”? We are interested in how evangelicals think about urban social arrangements. Is it possible that evangelicals who are zealous about urban ministry might, in fact, tend to have very negative views about “the city...”

(Click the title for the full paper)

Mars Hill


Exploring a Narrative Epistemology

SVS 2011 Plenary #3: James K. A. Smith from Society of Vineyard Scholars on Vimeo.

I heard a story once of a dancer who was asked what her dance 'meant,' what was the meaning she was trying to convey through her dancing on stage. She responded, "If I could say it in words, then I wouldn't have had to dance it."


Review: Beyond Belief pt VI

6) Assumed Veracity (Falsity?) of All Texts

She never addresses the validity of any of the texts she is discussing, rather she simply asserts their assertions as though all historical texts are on the same footing. She compares Thomas and John, without any regard for their respective dates, languages, cultures, proximity to the life of Jesus, or any other (in)validation. (disregarding dates, cultures, etc.)

It is as though she assumes they are all correct (without attempting to harmonize their contradictions) or rather, that she assumes that they are all false (and so has no need), or perhaps (what seems most likely) she believes that the historical question is irrelevant. As though it is unimportant what Jesus actually said or did, or whether he existed at all; the only important issue is what is said and believed about Jesus, not what is true about him.


Against Individualism

"It does kingdom theology great injustice when we use it to justify the individualism that is characteristic of our Western culture. Properly imagined, kingdom theology is, from all angles, against individualism."

"In it (Ubuntu philosophy), engaging different voices is not just a good practice. It is a prerequisite for progress."

"Such a conversation, when properly carried out enriches the entire global theological tradition."

These are taken from Harvey Kwiyani's paper: "Kingdom Theology from an African Perspective" at the Society of Vineyard Scholars conference...


Women in Church Leadership

Pastor Rose was the host of the Society of Vineyard Scholars conference in Seattle. She is a really neat lady that I had the good fortune to meet while at the conference last month.

This is an issue that can be quite divisive in certain corners of the church, but the Vineyard movement had resolved this issue before I even knew what a Vineyard church was... local Vineyard Churches have the authority to ordain/license anyone they wish, male or female. This means an individual local Vineyard Church could be either complementarian (a euphemism for men wielding the power) or egalitarian, but the national body is functionally giving support to the ordination of women.

Generosity is Victory

"...to give away money is to win a victory over the dark powers that oppress."

Thanks Linda

A christian is committed to the truth of Jesus words. He said, "it is better to give than to receive." These are not nice, but naive, sentiments. They are true wisdom.

Christians should be the biggest tippers, the ones who share our possessions most freely, the ones who spend our time on people who have nothing to offer us in return, we should be the ones who give away our best things to bless others; not giving out of our abundance, but giving sacrificially...