Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cut the Crap

Are you sometimes at a loss for words? I mean, are there moments when our “civilized” vocabulary doesn’t quite describe the gravity of the situation? “Oh darn” doesn’t really convey the truth when you drop a hammer on your foot and it breaks a toe. In like manner, the apostle Paul bashes his former way of life; a life fixated on following religious rules. He stated in his letter to the Philippians, “For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.”

Wow, “garbage” ... yawn. Well, in the Greek, the word that’s translated into “garbage” by the nice Bible translators is not a nice word at all.

It’s a vulgar term for crap.

There was definitely some shock value to what Paul said to those in the early church. He was making a point as strongly as he possibly could:

A life lived following the rules for the sake of following the rules is a WASTED life!

At the beginning of this New Year, take stock of your life. How do you want to grow? What crap needs to be cut out? What does it mean for you to become one with Christ? What will it take? Where will it take you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


“Tu estas feliz,” he told me as Jose sipped from a hot cup of coffee.

“I’m happy?” I pondered as I checked the time. I got here too late this morning and would soon have to leave. But I didn’t want to.

Jose is one of the guys I give coffee and encouragement to once a week. I had spent too much time at the computer this morning basking in the warm fuzzy glow of my team’s victory against all odds the previous day. As a result, time was running out on me.

I never know for certain who I’m going to rub shoulders with as I make my weekly rounds, but I’ve talked with Jose the past few weeks. Each week, he’d open a little bit more, he’d share about his life and his philosophy.

This morning we talked about hope.

“The guys here, there is very little work for us,” he started. “As a result, we wake up each day thinking about how we’re going to pay the rent.” Each day without work is a cause for concern. “Some of these people haven’t worked for weeks.”

“How do you live with joy?” was the unspoken question.

Jose shared how he met some evangelicals in his home country who were nice at first, but began making hypocritical demands on him. He got out.

We believers sometimes throw pat answers. “Trust in God. Jesus loves you. You need to have faith.”

Those are all true. But they serve no purpose if they are not lived out in OUR lives and tenderly, patiently and consistently lived out in our relationships with others.

I’ve had enough of “drive-by” evangelism. I want to spend more of my time living with friends. I want to share God’s love through the joy I receive through the hope I have in what Jesus is doing in me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Finished First-Draft

After years of chasing the dream of actually FINISHING a screenplay, I hit a milestone a few days back. I finished the first-draft of my screenplay, "Feeding Jesus". It is 102 pages long, and is as rough a first draft as I can imagine. What sped me along through this process was the sheer will to not go back and massage the text. Massaging the text was my downfall with my first feature-length script that I began ten years ago (after I finish "Feeding Jesus", I plan on going back and re-working the script so I can finish that one as well). I'm taking a few days off before I re-read it and begin polishing. In the meantime, I'm reading up on some of the finer points of screenplay format to ensure that my script is technically correct.
I love writing screenplays because they allow you to take images and stories you have in your head, and transfer them to paper to share with others. When you really hammer into it, you get into a groove where the characters begin talking to you, coaching you on what they're going to say next, or what the next scene will be. It has been (and continues to be) an amazing and therapeutic release for me. I have many stories that want to come out. The tricky part is figuring out which stories am I really ready to tell. What is burning in your heart at this moment? What makes you feel alive? Keep chasing it, because when you follow your passion, your name will follow!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Go Out and Change the World

How many churches in Culpeper have seating capacity for 500 or more at their worship venue? 250? 100? 50?

As of 2006, Culpeper County had a population of 44,622. We cannot hold this many people in our sanctuaries. Nor should we. The people are out there. Out there is where we should go.

We have church on the road side Monday mornings. You can have a cup of coffee at church in Starbucks on Monday and Tuesday Nights. The River is planning on serving coffee at the Relay for Life as well as creating opportunities for people to connect with one another and God throughout the coming months. For where the church goes, the tangible presence of Christ follows.

But you see, this is not just about my congregation. As we continue on this journey, as this River keeps it course, we find we are doing more and more with our sister congregations. We had a movie night a few weeks ago that had people from at least four different congregations. We kinda lost track.

When Jesus returns, He will come for His Bride. He is not coming for a harem.

I see The River continuing to go out into our community to seek the lost, the poor in spirit, the maligned and the least of these. And I encourage my beloved sister churches to likewise go out. Go where God calls you to go.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Voice of God

My slumbering fingers awake and I write again. I had a conversation with an acquaintance yesterday who asked how "the church" was going. I had been working nonstop the past several days and was taking the day off, so I should have simply smiled and said "Sorry man, I'm taking my Sabbath and am not allowed to talk about work." He would have understood (probably), but I changed the subject instead. It came back again, and he shared his ministry of helping people to cast their vision to as large an audience as possible through effective marketing. Although I respect him and what he does, I replied that I have trouble with the terms "marketing" and "church" used together. My focus is obedience to God and loving the people he puts in my path day by day, and teaching others to do the same. The River is being built on this foundation.

It gets frustrating at times when people who are already in churches don't get what we are trying to do as a faith community. So I sat in my office praying this morning ("Yeesh, Lord, what am I doing?") and I decided to check my office phone messages. I got the usual hang-ups (one my friends won't leave messages no matter how often I tell him to) and such. After erasing those, I noticed that there was a message that had been saved for some reason. Not knowing what it was, I hit play and heard God.

It wasn't God's audible voice, but it was a message that I needed to hear. A few weeks ago, I felt a series of questions go through my mind. I make it a discipline to write this stuff down on my PDA whenever I feel inspired, but my PDA was not around me. So, I called my office and left a message for me figuring that I'd write it down when I got to my office the next day. I forgot to write it and let it drift in my subconscious until this morning.

Here's what I said: "Why did Jesus chase the crowds away? Why did Jesus go against everything that we think of in terms of success and only saw success in a few dedicated as opposed to the masses? Why did Jesus say that if we were to follow Him, there would be repercussions? That people would hate us. Well, why would people hate us? People don't hate us for doing good things to them. But people hate us when we do good things to those who they feel don't deserve to be treated well. Maybe we should see what we are doing."

To put things in perspective, two days ago I received a warning from a security company not to trespass on their client's property as I take hot coffee to local migrant workers who wait by the roadside for work. They have been chased from location to location like rats. I am not an advocate for general amnesty, but these people are HERE and are due rights as human beings. There is constant pressure from a very vocal minority to rid our town of them, so I am not winning some friends by treating these people (legal and illegal) with respect, dignity, and love.

So I feel that God audibly spoke to me this morning (albeit He used my own voice). I also believe that this message is not for me alone.

"Being "successful" does not revolve around numbers but rather it centers on our obedience. Love people who are mistreated."

Let us obey, and let us love.