The Problem

"The problem with the church is never that we don't have enough money, or people, rather the problem with the church is the quality of its people.  And that begins with me."

Dallas Willard


Lateral Thinking

A truck drives under a low bridge and gets stuck.  It can't go on, and it can't back out.  The driver calls his dispatcher who calls a tow truck, but the rig is still stuck.  Soon enough the highway patrol is called out and along with them a construction crew.  They are in the middle of trying to removed one of the struts from under the bridge when a small boy comes up to the foreman and says, "Sir, I think I know how you can get that truck out."  The foreman first dismisses him, but then, thinking better of it, asks the boy what he has in mind.

"Let the air out of the tires," says the boy.


Sometimes the problem isn't the problem.  Sometimes the way we see the problem is the problem.


Who or What?



Jesus First

What is a Christian?
A student of Jesus

Who is Jesus and how do we know?
Jesus is defined by the activity of the Spirit and the testimony of the Word.

How do we interpret the Word, and understand the Spirit's leading?
Community and Tradition

What do we learn from the traditions of the Church?
We learn about specific creeds and deeds.


In general, there is nothing wrong with the way we answer each of these particular questions.  The problem comes when we have answered the first question with the second, third, and fourth answers.

Rivers or Reservoirs

I had lunch with a new friend the other day.  In the course of the meeting he shared with me that he has learned to treat his money like a river, not a reservoir.  That God provides in order for him to give, and that he has to keep 'the flow' going in order to keep it healthy.  I felt like that was a really good picture of the Christian life in all areas.

Whatever God gives us is to be treated like a river.  Prayer, mentorship, joy, food, hospitality, prophecy, righteousness, courage, discipline, and service, as well as money.

So what has God given you?

Are you giving it away?


2 “I will make you into a great nation 
   and I will bless you; 
I will make your name great, 
   and you will be a blessing. 
3 I will bless those who bless you, 
   and whoever curses you I will curse; 
and all peoples on earth 
   will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:2-3


Combatting Injustice

"We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Discipleship House for Churches

Our church has a men's discipleship house.  In this house are several men who love God, and are learning to love each other.  They do not always like each other, but they are walking this out in a common commitment to Jesus, community, and service.

Our church shares a building with several other organizations.  We love God and are learning to love each other.  We do not always like each other, but we are walking this out in a common commitment to Jesus, community, and service.


It happened the other day, I had left a meeting at the men's house where I was helping a couple of brothers deal with conflict, and had walked into a meeting at the church, where we were dealing with our own conflict, that it dawned on me...

...God had set me up.  This was a discipleship house for churches.


Good ol' Patrick

"It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

-Patrick Henry-

"There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave."

-Patrick Henry-

Acts Pt II


Two Types of Knowing: Pt II

Spanish Words and an Epistemology of Love:

The Spanish words "conocer" and "saber" are both translated into English as "to know."  However, they don't mean the same thing.  Saber means to have knowledge about something, whereas conocer means to have relationship with a person.  I know (saber) which cupboard the plates are in but I know (conocer) Jim who owns the house, the cupboard, and the plates.

This speaks to the previous post of Lewis' reflections.  In short, there is a kind of knowledge that comes from study, and there is another kind of knowledge that comes from love.  It is this second kind of knowledge that NT Wright refers to as an 'Epistemology of Love.'  Whereby we are learning about things from the inside, as it were, instead of from without.

Two Types of Knowing

“Meditation in a Toolshed"
  C. S. Lewis 

I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

But this is only a very simple example of the difference between looking at and looking along. A young man meets a girl. The whole world looks different when he sees her. Her voice reminds him of something he has been trying to remember all his life, and ten minutes casual chat with her is more precious than all the favours that all other women in the world could grant. lie is, as they say, “in love”. Now comes a scientist and describes this young man's experience from the outside. For him it is all an affair of the young man's genes and a recognised biological stimulus. That is the difference between looking along the sexual impulse and looking at it.

When you have got into the habit of making this distinction you will find examples of it all day long. The mathematician sits thinking, and to him it seems that he is contemplating timeless and spaceless truths about quantity. But the cerebral physiologist, if he could look inside the mathematician's head, would find nothing timeless and spaceless there - only tiny movements in the grey matter. The savage dances in ecstasy at midnight before Nyonga and feels with every muscle that his dance is helping to bring the new green crops and the spring rain and the babies. The anthropologist, observing that savage, records that he is performing a fertility ritual of the type so- and-so. The girl cries over her broken doll and feels that she has lost a real friend; the psychologist says that her nascent maternal instinct has been temporarily lavished on a bit of shaped and coloured wax.

As soon as you have grasped this simple distinction, it raises a question. You get one experience of a thing when you look along it and another when you look at it. Which is the “true” or “valid” experience? Which tells you most about the thing? And you can hardly ask that question without noticing that for the last fifty years or so everyone has been taking the answer for granted. It has been assumed without discussion that if you want the true account of religion you must go, not to religious people, but to anthropologists; that if you want the true account of sexual love you must  go, not to lovers, but to psychologists; that if you  want to understand some “ideology” (such as  medieval chivalry or the nineteenth-century idea of  a “gentleman”), you must listen not to those who lived inside it, but to sociologists.

The people who look at things have had it all  their own way; the people who look along things  have simply been brow-beaten. It has even come  to be taken for granted that the external account of  a thing somehow refutes or “debunks” the account  given from inside. “All these moral ideals which  look so transcendental and beautiful from inside”,  says the wiseacre, “are really only a mass of biological instincts and inherited taboos.” And no  one plays the game the other way round by  replying, “If you will only step inside, the things that look to you like instincts and taboos will suddenly reveal their real and transcendental nature.”

That, in fact, is the whole basis of the specifically “modern” type of thought. And is it not, you will ask, a very sensible basis? For, after all, we are often deceived by things from the inside. For example, the girl who looks so wonderful while we're in love, may really be a very plain, stupid, and disagreeable person. The savage's dance to Nyonga does not really cause the crops to grow. Having been so often deceived by looking along, are we not well advised to trust only to looking at?   in fact to discount all these inside experiences?

Well, no. There are two fatal objections to discounting them all. And the first is this. You discount them in order to think more accurately.  But you can't think at all - and therefore, of course, can't think accurately - if you have nothing to think about. A physiologist, for example, can study pain and find out that it “is” (whatever is means) such and such neural events. But the word pain would have no meaning for him unless he had “been inside” by actually suffering. If he had never looked along pain he simply wouldn't know what he was looking at. The very subject for his inquiries from outside exists for him only because he has, at least once, been inside.

This case is not likely to occur, because every man has felt pain. But it is perfectly easy to go on all your life giving explanations of religion, love, morality, honour, and the like, without having been inside any of them. And if you do that, you are simply playing with counters. You go on explaining a thing without knowing what it is. That is why a great deal of contemporary thought is, strictly speaking, thought about nothing - all the apparatus of thought busily working in a vacuum.

The other objection is this: let us go back to the toolshed. I might have discounted what I saw when looking along the beam (i.e., the leaves moving and the sun) on the ground that it was “really only a strip of dusty light in a dark shed”. That is, I might have set up as “true” my “side vision” of the beam. But then that side vision is itself an instance of the activity we call seeing.  And this new instance could also be looked at from outside. I could allow a scientist to tell me that what seemed to be a beam of light in a shed was “really only an agitation of my own optic nerves”.  And that would be just as good (or as bad) a bit of debunking as the previous one. The picture of the beam in the toolshed would now have to be discounted just as the previous picture of the trees and the sun had been discounted. And then, where are you?

In other words, you can step outside one experience only by stepping inside another.  Therefore, if all inside experiences are misleading, we are always misled. The cerebral physiologist may say, if he chooses, that the mathematician's thought is “only” tiny physical movements of the grey matter. But then what about the cerebral physiologist's own thought at that very moment? A second physiologist, looking at it, could pronounce it also to be only tiny physical movements in the first physiologist's skull. Where is the rot to end?

The answer is that we must never allow the rot to begin. We must, on pain of idiocy, deny from the very outset the idea that looking at is, by its own nature, intrinsically truer or better than looking along. One must look both along and at everything. In particular cases we shall find reason for regarding the one or the other vision as inferior. Thus the inside vision of rational thinking must be truer than the outside vision which sees only movements of the grey matter; for if the outside vision were the correct one all thought (including this thought itself) would be valueless, and this is self-contradictory. You cannot have a proof that no proofs matter. On the other hand, the inside vision of the savage's dance to Nyonga may be found deceptive because we find reason to believe that crops and babies are not really affected by it.  In fact, we must take each case on its merits. But we must start with no prejudice for or against either kind of looking. We do not know in advance whether the lover or the psychologist is giving the more correct account of love, or whether both accounts are equally correct in different ways, or whether both are equally wrong. We just have to find out. But the period of brow-beating has got to end.


Heros and Saints

On a large cruise ship, an elderly woman fell overboard, immediately afterward there was another splash.

A young man, swam toward her and managed to save the elderly woman.  The two were brought back onboard the ship.  For his act of bravery, the Captain of the ship called for a special ceremonial dinner.  The entire crew, and all of the passengers were present as the parents praised the young man for his heroic dive into the sea.  
They presented him with a gift certificate, and a plaque, as well as a free pass to ride the cruise line for life.  The Captain repeatedly called the young man a "hero," and asked him to share a few words.
The young man only said one thing:
"I just have one question, after the woman fell in, who pushed me off of the ship?"


Who's Shoulders did I Stand On?

"In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Letters and Papers from Prison

Consumerism and Mission

"In religion, nothing fails like success."


Do you agree?

"A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither"

-Benjamin Franklin -


Holiness is an Embrace, not a Rejection

"Being a Christan is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A Role for Intentional Ambiguity

Teaching people to paint masterpieces simply can't be done in an over-structured environment, for this reason, sometimes the best place to learn to swim is the deep end of the pool:


I think this is a big part of the reason why Jesus was so often so ambiguous.  Often, the best way to prevent someone from understanding something is to answer their questions.