5 Things We Need to Remember


Over the last 48 hours I’ve experienced the full gambit of emotions and have seen inspiring and terrifying responses from people all across the political and religious spectrum. In my attempts to process where I am at, what I believe, and how I move forward, I’ve written down these five things I know to have been true before the election and will continue to be true.

There has never been and will never be an obvious or clear “Christian” vote. Politics, and people in particular, are far too complicated, nuanced and multilayered to propagate the notion of “obvious” or “clear” votes for all Christians. There will always be faithful and thoughtful followers of Jesus who vote differently. The Church has always been built on diverse people. This diversity cannot be avoided. We must remember there has only been one clear embodiment all that we should desire and place our hope in, Jesus, and He allowed himself to be murdered by a mob consisting of all political and religious affiliations. Since Christ, every person with any degree of influence has held (and will hold) unimaginable brokenness as well as potential for good. It is important to recognize this in ourselves and others.

Recognize and call out the humanity in all people. As I said already, people are incredible complex and multilayered. We must not reduce a person’s or group of people’s humanity to an oversimplified caricature based largely on our assumptions of who we think they are or what their motivations might be. We must stay away from broad brush generalizations and keep ourselves from creating false dichotomies (i.e Vote for Hillary or accept that you’re a racist. Vote for Trump or accept you’re a baby-killer.) which do nothing except dehumanize, over-simplify, and further entrench divisions between people. Recognize and call out people’s inherent good as image bearers of God by bestowing honor, dignity, and grace upon while consistently inviting them to join you in a deeper and more faithful pursuit of holiness, righteousness, and justice in our lives.

Do not become what you were afraid of or hate in others. One of my biggest fears if president-elect Trump lost was that he would refuse to accept the results of the election and, even worse, those who support him would refuse to accept the results as well. While we have avoided this scenario, #NotMyPresident has been trending real strong on social media and protests have begun all across the country. As Christ-followers, and really as a nation, regardless of who you voted or why you chose not to vote, we must be self aware enough to not exhibit the qualities we are most repulses us in others. We must not disengage or close ourselves off and/or pridefully gloat and kick others while they are down. President-elect Trump is our president so together we must fervently demand/expect and encourage/call out the best of him while he is in office.

Christ stands in favor and opposition of all of us. Let us not over complicate this matter. The cross, that we as Christians hold central to all we believe and all of who we are, stands as the exclamation point on this statement. I’ve learned this from Mike Erre as I’ve listened to his podcast. We must remember tChrist leads with grace for all people on every issue while simultaneously show us where we are wrong or coming up short on every issue as well. This is what the cross emphasizes. He leads with grace by willingly and voluntarily giving up his life but in that very act places the evil within all of us in the spotlight. We need to approach our views of and conversations with people with the confidence and humility this understanding brings. In this recognition there is room to believe that celebration does not vilify grief and that grief does not shame celebration.

We must seek the Kingdom of God in tangible ways here on earth as it is in Heaven. Taking all four of these thoughts into consideration, we recognize there was never, and will never, be a candidate who expedites the manifestation of the Kingdom of God hear on earth. It will always grow as a seed from the ground through the expressions of love, pursuits of justice, acts of compassion, and expectations for righteousness from those who stand as one in Christ. The kingdom of God, as described in the Bible, has room for ever tribe, nation, and language. We need to create room at our tables for all people so that there can be a recognition of the complexities of life, dignity in all people, the grace and admonition of Christ in our lives, and the Kingdom seeds bearing fruit in all places.

I need your help believing and living into these five thoughts because I know I have failed in many ways and have significant blindspots. Lets we walk forward together in this as we break bread of fellowship, drink the wine of sacrifice, and experience the freshness of Christ’s love, grace, and God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.

#SameTeamRemix & Young Voices Changing the Game


I am assuming most people reading this have at least heard of the rapper named Lecrae. If not, just go to YouTube, search “Lecrae”, then say goodbye to the next hour of productivity as you listen to one of the stronger and more transformative voices in hip-hop today. Right now, this one is my favorite.

But this post isn’t about Lecrae. He’s already won a Grammy, performed with The Roots on the Late Show, and topped the Billboard charts. This is about what has been taking place in the wake of Lecrae’s success. A generation of bold, biblical, political, and prophetic voices finding their platform in the fringes of hip hop.

Humble Beast, WLAK, Beautiful Eulogy, Reach, and along with many other labels and groups are filling my playlists these days. One of the coolest things I’ve seen from this uprising of rappers who are following, preaching, and glorifying Jesus is this trend called #SameTeamRemix. It started with a rapper named Swoope who produced a song called “Same Team” featuring rappers from all different labels. Check it out.

I’ve loved this song and this concept, particularly within a genre of music which is deeply seeded with messages of hatred, exclusion, and disrespect for all other rappers. I then saw that Swoope made the instrumental version of Same Team free online so other groups, cliques, and followers of Jesus could follow Swoope’s lead and make Same Team Remixes. All of a sudden I started seeing young voices, men and women, of all colors proclaiming Christ, celebrating unity in diversity, and doing it all with above average production value and real lyrical talent. Here’s one of my favorites, a group from Dallas.

This stuff is sound! Doctrinally, lyrically, and musically! Trifecta! Here’s what I’m taking note of through all this.

  1. I can listen to indie hip hop by rappers preachin Jesus all day!
  2. These are all “millennials” taking the old truth of the Gospel, mixing it with their cultural craft, and making excellent music.
  3. In a time many churches are working hard to define whose “in” and whose “out” and debating the doomsday news of millennials being “lost” by the church, there is a movement of millennial artists proclaiming truth, unity, and calling for a new reality that isn’t fitting in mainline Christianity or mainline culture.
  4. I’m remembering that historically, the Gospel thrives when the Spirit moves in the margins of mainline culture and when artists, visionaries, prophets, pastors, and culture creators are more concerned about God’s glory than their own platform and glory. I am see this happen, and not just in these videos.
  5. A rising tide lifts all ships.

I’m not a rapper. I’ve dabbled in spoken word but still can’t really get my pen past my own insecurities. So while I’m captivated and in love with hip hop, I’m not suggesting we all become hiphop prophets. I’m simply realizing my desire  to follow Swoope’s lead and collaborate with this diverse family of faith in Christ for the sake of the gospel and unity. Josh Garrels, another one of my favorites who is an indie rock/folk artist who has collaborated with Beautiful Eulogy, sums up what I’m seeing in this #SameTeamRemix trend among these young leaders.

When we are talking about truth and love, you can wield your profession, your craft in a way that hurts people because you’re so good. And so when someone can present it in a way that is inviting people into their joy, that is when the most beautiful things are formed.”

Jesus Followers In Disguise


2014-07-27 11There’s something tragically terrifying and abundantly liberating about embracing a single identity for who you are that transcends all roles, occupations, success, and failures you’ve collected over the years. It’s terrifying because it eliminates our boxes. The boxes we work so hard to form to protect ourselves and at the same time work so dismantle for fear of being pigeon-holed into a single role.

Yet I believe that when Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow him and invites us to take his yoke upon shoulders, it’s a call to view ourselves through a single identifying lens that significantly changes who we are, how we life, and the world around us. Instead of viewing ourselves as, say, Americans who are also Christian, or a high school freshman who is also a Christian, or a single mom who goes to church – I believe that because of Jesus we are now Followers of Jesus disguised as whatever gift, talent, role, or sphere of influence we’ve been given. For me – here’s how I would fill in that blank of “I am a Follower of Jesus Disguised as a ____________”

  • I am a Follower of Jesus Disguised as a father.
  • I am a Follower of Jesus Disguised as a youth pastor.
  • I am a Follower of Jesus Disguised as a husband.
  • I am a Follower of Jesus Disguised as a neighbor. 

There’s a dozen more. Yesterday I was able to speak about this during worship with my church. As a response, I asked everyone to share with us their disguise(s). If you’d like to download the paper and share your disguise, you can download the here or a postcard here.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  • “Jesus Followers In Disguise” is a phrase that I originally heard from Gary Gaddini,  Senior Pastor at Peninsula Covenant Church.
  • At one point during my sermon I said, “your talents and your gifts are not your calling.” This is an inspired truth I heard from Terrance Richmond, who I have met through Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

The Secret Behind Becoming a Radical Christian


Longevity.

There it is. I wish it was something that was deeper and more profound. I wish I had some witty antidote or could break new theological ground in it’s unveiling or even wish that I came to me in a vision that I can now share with the world. But truth be told – I’ve learned the secret behind becoming the Radical Christian that is so hotly talked about and debated these days simply by sticking around.

Why did we start listening to some southern white boy with dreads, dawned in clothes he made himself, living in the ghettos of Philadelphia? Because it was crazy. Why do we keep listening to Shane Claiborne? Because he’s still living there. He’s still making his own clothes. His still championing the poor, the Gospel, the messages he was espousing since day one. He’s still there.

Why did I read some book that challenged everyone’s understanding of God’s crazy love, written by another Southern California mega-church pastor? Because it was a New York Times Bestseller and I like edgy things. Why do I keep listening to Francis Chan for wisdom and council? Because he’s continued to press further and further into the vision that Christ has placed in his heart and the message on placed in his mouth.

Why do I heed every word about faith and church that comes from my 93 year old grandfather who does little by way of today’s “radical faith” definition? Because he’s shown a dedication to his community of faith that is unmatched and unseen any where else in my life. He’s been a bedrock voice, support, challenger, and encourager in his family of faith for more years than I can imagine.

What is it about my grandmother’s life that humbles my greatest theologies, paradigms, programs, and experiences in ministry? Her 50 years of teaching Sunday at the same church. If I’m conservative and say she had 6 kids every year she taught Sunday school, that’s 300 kids the spent an entire year with! Judging by the attendance at her funeral a few years back, she had well more than 6 kids each of those years.

We debate what makes radical faith. We die on hills we call social justice, faith alone, modernity, post-modernity, depth in tradition, life in relevancy, and a thousand more hills with a thousand more names. Here’s the deal: We worship a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He’s sovereign over that which makes your soul burn deep and bright and hot for the Gospel of Christ and his Kingdom come. Yet, whatever it is that is burning deep in your soul leading you to make great sacrifices, go on great adventures, invest deeply, and submit continually here’s my plea: STAY WITH IT!

In four years, my parents will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. In a country where approximately half of all marriages end in divorce, 40 years of faithful marriage is radical. In a country of church shopping, splitting, and reinventing 50 years of faithful attendance, service, and membership is radical. In a country where everyone wants to be the change in every #trending cause, 20 years of dedication to serving the homeless, advocating the end of human trafficking, or raising generations whose faith sticks past adolescence is radical. If we set out to be a radical Christian today. We can call myself radical today. If we set out to have longevity in our faith, mission, and call in Christ, we’ll be remembered as a Christians who undeniably lived radically.

The act of reconciliation requires muscle memory


I love playing and watching both golf and baseball yet I’d be hard pressed to find any commonalities in how these two games are played. I played baseball from ages 5-13, until I realized that you really need to be able to hit the baseball to have any future success in the game. Then in my early 20’s I began picking up golf. Basically in both games you’re swinging a stick at a ball and trying to hit it as far as possible. Yet it didn’t take long to discover that the swinging motions that are skillfully, or in my case clumsily, exerted are fundamentally opposite. The difference between the two swinging motions are subtle but paramount. It’s the difference between keeping your weight forward on your front leg or keeping your weight back on your back leg. Take a look at two of the greatest hitters golf and baseball have ever seen. Tiger Woods on the left, Ken Griffey Jr. on the right. Image

As I was learning how to hit a golf ball I kept using my “baseball swing” and was missing the golf ball. As I was approaching the tee box my mind knew I was going to be swinging a stick to hit a ball, so it defaulted to the only motion it knew. This is called muscle memory. By keeping my weight on my back leg, instead of moving it forward to my front leg I was essentially pulling myself away from ball I was swinging at. This wrecked havoc on my scorecard as well as the landscape!. For me – I had to stop playing baseball, stop swinging a bat, and teach myself a new swing and create a new muscle memory so I could (more) successfully hit a golf ball. It was amazing how these two sports that I thought had very little to do with each other greatly impacted my ability to play either one well.

In Matthew 5:21-26 Jesus offers one of the most inconvenient, and I’d say overlooked, elements of worship. The element of reconciliation.

“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (NLT)

It’s easy to give lip service to the idea that we give our whole selves to Jesus yet too often we live as though our spiritual lives and social lives have no connection. When we gather with the church for worship, we are proclaiming our gratitude or need for prior, present, and future reconciliation to God through Christ. All worship truly finds its roots here. Yet, when live our social lives without any efforts to pursue reconciliation (personally, communally, and globally) it is no different than using our best baseball swing to hit a golf ball. Right as we throw our self forward into worship we are simultaneously pulling ourselves away from Christ. Sounds like a pretty serious recipe for a stint on the disabled list…swinging forward while pulling yourself backwards.

We can’t fully move forward in our worship or relationship with Jesus if we aren’t willing to fully move forward in reconciling our relationships with the people we can see, touch, speak to, work with, and share our planet with. Why? Because the Jesus is at work and pursing reconciliation in a might way with the same person(s) I am withholding relational peace from. See, I can walk forward with Jesus as he’s reconciling all people when I’m walking away from people who I need to be reconciled with. They are two opposite motions.

Reconciliation must be at the heart of our worship. This way, the more we prioritize healing broken relationships the sooner reconciliation will become our new relational default during the other 6 1/2 days of our week. We’ll have created a new muscle memory through our relational conditioning, made possible by the Holy Spirit.

So, the time I approach the tee box (worship) and I know there’s something off on my swing (relational conflict), my best bet is to step off the tee box, take a few practice swings (go be reconciled), and step back up to the ball (come back to worship) ready keep my weight on my front leg (Christ as first in all things) all the way through my swing (my act of worship).

Thoughts on Confessions and Compliments


There’s a new trend on Facebook (though it’s not a new idea or outlet) where someone will create a Facebook page for their city or school as a platform for people to anonymously make confessions or leave compliments. As a high school youth pastor both these have been filling up my Facebook newsfeed with students comments and my inbox from concerned parents. I have two thoughts about this all; one to high school students, who seem to be the primary demographic for both confession and compliment pages, and one to parents, who seem to be the most shocked and appalled by the confession pages.

To our teenagers: An anonymous confession is like jumping out of a sinking boat without a life raft. In one moment you’re relieved to have escaped the sinking boat only to find yourself now struggling by yourself to keep yourself afloat on your own strength. When we have the courage to bring people with us into our pain, shame, and insecurity that riddles all our lives (yes, everyone!) we become a people who keep each other afloat. There have been many times in my life where I have had anonymous notes complimenting me on something I’ve done or something that someone sees me to be. As much as I value these gestures, the compliments that have most impacted my life or shaped my view of myself are the ones spoken to me face-to-face or read in an email from someone who personally acknowledges what they appreciate about me.

Confessions and compliments are best done and received in relationship. Why? Because as humans we have this amazing, relentless desire to be known. When we confess something, whether its a shock-and-awe confession on a Facebook page or the last hope confession of a broken heart, we want to be recognized and seen as valuable. (“Wow, you’re the one who wrote that crazy post on the confession page! You’re hilarious!” or “I’m so sorry for the pain that you’re experiencing, I can imagine and will be with you while you heal.” Both are desired responses in attempts to be recognized.) This is why face-to-face compliments are so essential. Don’t steal an opportunity to potentially change the trajectory of a kid’s day because you’re afraid to publicly affirm them.

When I look at Jesus, he is always present to hear my confessions and speak affirmation   in grace and sincerity. Read the Gospel. Jesus came not in anonymity, not as some far off deity that hides behind stone statues, monstrous cathedrals, or religious song and dance. He came to see us in our brokenness then walk us into transformation through his most public affirmation of his love for us, the cross. As the Church, can we be better at cultivating a community that can handle people’s confessions in grace and lead each other to Jesus through our constant public affirmations of each other? Be vulnerable in our confessions and bold in our compliments because you are a generation who values relationships and connection in profound ways. I want to argue that for teenagers in Lamorinda this is the greatest way you can make significant changes in your circle of friends, our school, and our city.

To Parents: These confession and compliment pages should be great news! Has there ever been an easier segway to connect with our kids and their friends in ways that lead to significant conversations? Teenagers in our town are creating PUBLIC PLATFORMS to air what can be very PRIVATE REALITIES! If you have spent any time browsing the confessions page, it can be disconcerting to say the least thinking about what our teens are thinking, writing, or even doing. Yet if we can keep a broader perspective of what is being posted we can begin asking some really awesome questions! “What do you think about the confessions page?” “How seriously do you take what is written?” “What are the benefits or drawbacks of anonymous confessions and compliments?” “If you have a big confession to make, who would you feel most comfortable talking to?”

Parents, let’s be aware and discerning in all that our kids and teenagers in our community are participating in. I pray that within that process we can see how, with a Kingdom of God redemptive perspective, we have great opportunities to build relationships, teach accountable confession, and affirm our teens in amazing ways!

Symptoms of a Broken Heart


Westboro Baptist.

Still reading? If you are you might be surprised to see that by the end of this post you’ll see why I have decided to not disassociate myself with them or disown them from the body of Christ.

Still reading? Okay…here we go.

After reading this passage in Mark 7:1-23 with a group of college students something crazy happened. My judgement turned to compassion. Funny how that happens while reading scripture humbly in community. Also, by the way, it is often times very disorienting how that happens when reading scripture humbly in community.

In this passage the Pharisees are livid with Jesus because he allows his disciples to break the traditions of their elders by not washing their hands before they eat. They says, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”

Jesus responds by saying, “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you?…It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

My question to the college kids I was with was was this: What would be a modern day equivalence of this story?

We wrestled with this question a lot, not really being able to think of anything when one of the kids asked, “What about Westboro Baptist?” He explained saying, “We feel like all their hate signs, protesting, and hurting of people has given us the right to disassociate with them. You know, think of them as “unclean” in the body of believers. According to Jesus, it’s not the signs that are the problem, it’s their hearts right?”

Crap.

In my opinion, our Family’s (the family of God) biggest black eye, was just humanized by a 20 year old trying to authentically apply the teachings of Jesus into our modern worldviews. How annoying. But I couldn’t argue. I believe he’s mostly right.

Does Jesus hate when we hurt others? Unquestionably yes. Did Jesus come to propagate an views and practices of peace, love, reconciliation, and justice that are inline with the realities of Heaven? Absolutely. Does he stand idly by while people are persecuted, marginalized, and belittled? NEVER! But Jesus is also not about the business of revenge or abandonment.

Since that Monday I’ve combed through the Gospels and have yet to find a single encounter when people brought problems to Jesus that focused on external problems where Jesus did not refocus their attention on internal heart problems. The woman at the well thought because of who she was, what she was, she couldn’t speak to Jesus only to have Jesus chose to revealed his great plan and identity to her before anyone else. Pharisees condemn the act of working on the Sabbath then he calls into question their compassion? A paralyzed man is brought by friends to be healed; then Jesus heals hearts and legs. Saul imprisons and murders followers of Jesus; then Jesus murders the hatred in Saul’s heart.

As followers of Jesus we accept a unimaginable history of radical compassion and grace. We are to have eyes like Christ who sees our broken outward actions as symptoms of broken hearts. This is good news to all men, women, and children because we can never “out-hate” or “out-hurt” a person or group. But when we choose to allow ourselves to be moved with such compassion that we call upon the God to heal hearts through his Son, regardless of their outward labels or actions, we put out ourselves in great company. The company of the saints before us who changed lives and worlds through Jesus. Yet even greater company than this, we put ourselves in the company of men and women who stood at the foot of the cross watching Jesus pay the greatest price in the wildest act of compassion and grace for the most undeserving people of all time, you and me.

Do I condone what Westboro Baptist does? No. But I also recognize that my own church has great brokenness in our outward expressions of faith and that these are no more or less fundamental symptoms of our misunderstanding of God’s love for us and the world around us. On a more personal level, what about the transgender guy who I always see at my coffee shop or the neighbor who relentlessly makes my life more difficult. I definitely have preconceived reasons as to why they should be kept at a distance. But are their outward expressions any more or less of a reason for heart level compassion than the ways my brokenness manifests itself publicly?

This week my prayer is that when my default worldview sees the outward labels of people or hurtful actions of those around me, I will be moved toward pray and care for them on a heart level and forgo my assumed right to hurt or dismiss them.

Evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. These are symptoms of a broken heart. I’m so thankful how Jesus has compassion on us and transforms our hearts so that we may have right actions because we could never have grace and compassion like Jesus on our own.