Friday, September 28, 2007


I'm a YWAMer. That isn't a confession like at an AA meeting. It's just a statement of the mission organization I serve with. It stands for Youth With A Mission.

YWAM has been around for more than 45 years. It started about the same time as a few other missionary/parachurch movements like OM, Teen Challenge, Agape Force, and lots more. It seemed to be an era when people were stretching boundaries—within the home, the church, and the nation. Hippies, anti-war demonstrations, love-ins, and anything else that seemed to go against the establishment. Many kids got turned on, tuned in, and dropped out of organized culture, including the church.

Part of the Christian response (completely a God-thing, I believe), was to establish Christian communes. Kids who were dealing with the repercussions of leaving authority behind, and were now quite lost, could find a loving community where they could be guided (sometimes quite dictatorially) into a solid relationship with God.

YWAM and others entered this milieu by offering strong, solid teaching on discipleship. The model that quickly developed included several months of living, working, playing, learning and practicing together in a communal setting. This paradigm has a lot of value. It provides an opportunity to leave stress, temptations and culture behind, and concentrate on God. The YWAM Discipleship Training School (DTS) still follows this pattern in most places. Many similar discipleship programs have been developed by other Christian groups.

So, where am I going with this? We YWAMites (OK, YWAMers sounds better) talk about the 'YWAM bubble'. There are pros and cons of being totally separated from the 'real world'. I think it is a matter that the church as a whole is recognizing. I heard a guy (Jon Petersen) talk about two approaches to evangelism: the familiar church model of working to bring people into the church, and the opposite techniqe of sending the church into the world. He told stories of having church services where the 'lay' people in the congregation were ordained to go out as ministers within their workplace. After all, who is most likely going to influence the guys at the shop, but one of the guys who works there?

For too long we have tried to escape the influence of 'evil' culture by hiding in our happy holy huddles (thanks to Gordon Franklin, one of my old Bible College profs for that turn of phrase). It's time to affect culture by getting out of the salt shaker. If the world is going to hell in a handbasket, we can either ignore it, or do something to change its direction.

Community is still a great concept. However, I think instead of forming our fortress Christian communities to keep the devil out, it's time to get out into the communities we live in, and be. Yes, be. Be a light. Be the church—the body of Christ. Be a politician/musician/actor/car salesman/lawyer/preacher who lives his faith. Loves people. Makes a difference. Be salt. Be yeast. Permeate.

What part of GO into all the world are we missing?

(Check out my buddy's blog entry that touches on this: Zon3

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Past, Present, Future

There are lots of interesting concepts within the notion of time.

  • The present is but a single point in the full breadth of experience.

  • The past is (theoretically) completely accessible by memory, but totally unchangeable.

  • The future is entirely alterable, but completely unknowable (except by supernatural means).

  • Even tho the present is but a moment out of eternity, it is the most important moment. It is within this instant that we remember the past, and determine the future.

  • The past and future are forever separated by the present. They do not overlap. However, in the words of poet and philosopher George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The past is an intriguing animal. The longer I live (and, I suspect, most people), the more 3 dimensional the past becomes. It seems to be gaining a depth, a 'thickness', an emotional quality beyond just the memory ot events. I recently spent a few days back in my old home town. I lived there for most of my first 45 years, and have been gone for almost 7 years. Things I hadn't thought about, people that never came to mind all of a sudden came flooding back into consciousness. I think the surprising thing was the emotional tug. Not necessarily deep, and not sad, but there none the less.

  • Walking down the aisles of the little country store I worked in for a few months over 20 years ago.

  • Walking though the cemetery—and realizing that some of the folks I remember knowing have been gone over 30 years.

  • Driving by the old farm. Trees have shot skyward—trees that my brothers and I (mostly them) helped nurture in their infancy.

  • Seeing teenagers I worked with that are now parents of teenagers.

  • Seeing the faithfulness of God over the years. Relationships formed years ago still bring joy and challenge.

My present with Youth With A Mission was once only a foggy dream of future full-time ministry. Now it has almost 7 years of past.

I think I am living in the present, in the moment more than I used to. Although I always have been involved in various aspects of ministry, it always seemed like something that would really only happen in the future. Well, that future is now, and I try to live each day with what it needs to contain.

The future is less of an unknown 'I hope' and more of an 'I expect'. That isn't to say that the future won't take some drastic unexpected turns, but I'm not spending all of today worrying about it.

So. Rejoice in the past, remember God's blessings, provision, and direction.
Plan for the future. Do it based on faith in God's unchanging character.
But live today.

Make a difference.

Say a friendly word.

Listen and share in someone's pain.

Let your light shine.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I Don't Believe in God Anymore

Don't worry, that is not an autobiograpical statement. No, it's the comment I've heard from more than one person lately. Christian family, raised in the church, Sunday School, Christian School, the whole nine yards.

What happened?

That's a very serious and important question. It deserves thought, wisdom, and action based on the outcome of the thought and wisdom. I'm no expert, but I have been doing some thinking.

First of all, I don't think the God they once believed in was the true God. Yes, He was a form of the one presented in the Bible, but missing some major aspects of His character. None of us truly understands the depth and breadth of who God is, but I think we need to work on it. Particularly parents, pastors, leaders—all of us. People are developing their understanding of who God is from the teaching and example of those of us who claim to know Him. And it's not only what we say, but how we actually live it out.

A couple of the people who told me they don't believe in God anymore are now living in a gay lifestyle. Now there are many issues raised by that statement, but I only want to comment on one. If a person is confronting some homosexual thoughts in his youth, and the God he as been taught/shown is all law and no grace, he probably sees very few options open to him. If his parents respond in anger and throw him out of the house, a lot more is left behind than just the house.

When a large segment of the church wholeheartedly supports one political party and leader (read 'Republican' and 'Bush') and all of his policies, there is a strong tendency to jettison everything connected with that leader (read 'Christianity') if an individual has serious questions about some of those policies. In fact, there are bound to be anti-war followers who feel they have a higher degree of personal morality than the man/party/philosophy they are opposed to who claim to be Christian. When the party is so closely aligned to the church, those opposed will find it very easy to be alienated from that church, and the God it worships.

I realize that I am treading on dangerous ground. But no more dangerous than that of the portion of the church I have described.

A lot of thinking lately has been colored by the idea of extreme vs.balance. It seems pretty normal for all of us to swing to one side or the other of a philosphical/theological debate. Often the truth is to be found in a balanced view. The example I think fits here is law vs.grace. As we look at Christ, we see someone who understood and lived by a concrete knowledge of right and wrong, but also accepted and forgave people who weren't living by the same rules. On top of that, He offered healing and victory to those who needed to overcome.

I think if we live more like Christ, we will be helping people get a clearer, truer concept of the true God. A God who:

  • knows the best way for us to live. (And knows the consequences of bad choices.)

  • loves and accepts people who have and are making bad choices, and offers them forgiveness.

  • Also offers redemption and healing from the consequences, and the power to make the right choices.

This is who our God is. Anything less is a different God—in effect an idol. If we truly know our God, those we contact will likely have a better chance of knowing Him to.

They'll know we are Christians by our...

So, I'm walking down a busy sidewalk, and the thought hits me: I wonder which of these people are Christians? How can I tell? It's not a really strategic question, but shouldn't there be something different about us? “Let your light shine” and all that?

Muslims, Buddhist monks, skinheads, all have pretty visible distinguishing features.

Maybe Christians should have a dress code? Ill-fitting dark suit, white shirt with a skinny tie, or a long dark non-revealing dress for the womenfolk?

How about a halo? That would be a good identifying mark.

Or how about a t-shirt that says it all--”I'm a blood-bought, sanctified, conservative evangelical Christian. You should be too, or you're headed for hell”. Now that should bring everyone to their knees in repentance. I'm being more than a bit facetious, in case you didn't notice.

No, the rest of the 'Let your light shine' verse says 'so they will see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven'. As I was still walking down the sidewalk contemplating this whole idea, I saw a much better message on a t-shirt: “My t-shirt likes your t-shirt”. That starts getting to the heart of good works—truly liking people. Choosing for their higher good instead of your own is a good start to actually making a difference.

It seems so easy just to think about myself, doing what will get me ahead in the rat race. You see it everywhere. (Now it's time for my rant.) No common courtesy, no thought of how my actions affect someone else. Walking (or biking or driving) like I own the whole sidewalk, and the street as well. Carrying on my phone conversations as if everyone else wanted to hear about my ongoing relationship problems. Making everyone else 'enjoy' my taste in music.

Chances are, if we as followers of Christ started being more Christ-like—well, What a Wonderful World it Would Be! At least the little chunk of the universe right around us. In other words:

John 13:35 This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples--when they see the love you have for each other." Not just love for others who believe as you do, but love for everyone.

Try it sometime! Then you won't have to go out and buy the “I'm a blood-bought...” t-shirt.

Shall we sin?

No, that is not intended to be an invitation like: 'Shall we go for a walk?' or 'Shall we have pizza for dinner?'

It comes from Paul (you remember, the apostle?). It is part of his response to the tension between law and grace, and the church seems to be forever swinging from one extreme to the other on it.

'You can't have too much grace, or else people will take that as license to sin.'

'You can't have too much law, because Christ came to redeem us from the curse of the law.'

Paul saw it in his generation, I see it in mine. The pulling one way or the other. Or both, and that really hurts!

That's why Paul says in Romans 6:1 'Shall we continue in sin so grace may abound?' (KJV), or as in The Message: 'So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?' The answer Paul gives is rather pointed and clear:

'God forbid. How can we who died to sin still live in it?'

O, how well I know. It isn't easy to move from the country where sin is sovereign without once in awhile going back to live in our old house there. (The Message).

But still, there is the whole thing about law vs. grace.

Let's do a basic definition of terms:

  • law: 'the principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision; any rule or injunction that must be obeyed.' (

  • grace: 'the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.' (

Law—principles, regulations, enforced, must be obeyed.

Grace—influence of God to regenerate.

One is all about us doing it, the other is all about God doing it.

So, which is Biblical?

Gal 3:3 'For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren't smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? ' (The Message)

I think Paul's word for us is:

  • We are a new creation in God.

  • We should be living differently than we used to.

  • We can't do it in our own strength.

  • God is working in us to enable us.

Eph 2:8 'Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish!' (The Message)

The entire story of Redemption—Creation, Fall, Incarnation, Salvation, Sanctification, Glorification—it is all only by God, only by Grace. It is never by our works of righteousness, but according to His mercy.

Titus 3:5 'It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. ' (The Message)

To finish off, I repeat what Paul said in Galatians 3: 'only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.' (The Message) We couldn't do it to start with, and it still isn't possible.

Only by God's grace.



The symptoms:

We all (or at least I do!) sucker in to the power of advertising. Not only the blatant: 'Buy this!!' stuff, but just about anything that we see that we think might improve our status in life.

  • 'New & improved' (Did you ever notice, it is never new and inferior!).

  • 'All the taste and ½ the calories'.

  • 'The movie (or book, or whatever) everyone is watching (or reading, or whatever)'.

  • 'The hottest band since ______________'.

  • '__________ is the new black'. (By the way, did you know that 30 is the new 20? Kids used to be ready to move out, be established in their career, and be married by 20. now it's 30.)

This stuff is pretty much in your face, and you can at least make the effort to ignore the claims being made.

I think the more insidious stuff is the lifestyle, often totally unintended stuff. It could be specific advertising, or just something you notice as you walk down the sidewalk. Here's how it works:

  • You see someone who has a quality or characteristic you would like to have: status (rich), age (younger, of course!), hair (in my case just the presence of hair, but maybe color, or length, or texture, etc.), stature (taller, of course), body (skinnier, but with bulges in the right places), education, freedom (courage to wear that kind of outfit), or whatever. They seem to have something extra going for them, and you wish you had the same something.

  • You pick something about this person that seems to epitomize that illusive quality you wish you had. That cool kid who has it all together is wearing this totally cool G Unit hoodie. So... if I get a G Unit hoodie, I'll be as cool as I think he already is.

  • The young lady with perfect teeth, Barbie figure, and gorgeous hair is talking on a LG Chocolate flip phone. So... if I get one of those, my whole appearance, popularity and success will vastly improve.

  • The thriving productive CEO drives a Lexus. So...

  • The decisive lawyer is wearing Opium. So...

People who seem to be everything that you think you aren't—good looking, young, rich, famous, successful, etc.—drink Pepsi, chew Trident, wear clothes from the Gap, listen to music on their iPod, and eat out at Red Robin's. They brush their teeth with Crest, use Garnier hair products, and read Harry Potter.

Do you see how totally illogical that train of thinking is? As if talking on a particular brand of cell phone or wearing a particular brand of fragrance will make you better looking, smarter, or whatever.

The truth of the matter probably is that we buy house brands at Wal-Mart, wear vintage Value Village, and eat out at McDonalds.

The diagnosis:

We are trying to be something we aren't, forgetting that we are already exactly who God designed us to be. We would rather be fake, than genuine. God arranged my gene-pool. He knew before I was born what my body-type, balding tendencies and abilities would be—and He said it was good. Yes we can work on things, accentuate the positive, and make some improvements. But forget the obsessing already!

The prescription:

Take the following once a day, or more often in the case of an exceptionally difficult outbreak:

Psa 139:13 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb.

Psa 139:14 I thank you, High God--you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration--what a creation!

Psa 139:15 You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.

Psa 139:16 Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.

Psa 139:17 Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful! God, I'll never comprehend them!

Psa 139:18 I couldn't even begin to count them—any more than I could count the sand of the sea. Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! (The Message)

The prognosis:

Complete recovery, with danger of a relapse if the prescription is allowed to run out.


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