I had one of those old desks in third grade. You know the one’s that would flip-up and you could hide all kinds of favorite things: pencils, old valentine’s day cards and dreams. One thing that was for sure, was that everything had it’s place. The paper was pushed to the front of the desk so it wouldn’t get crushed when you closed the aching old lid. The pencils could have gone anywhere, but usually were placed in the black Knight Rider pencil case. Everything had its’ rightful place. I wonder if that childhood moment has had some effect on how we see society and culture around us? I wonder if we think everything should belong somewhere and if it doesn’t fit neatly then our world’s in disarray.

There was this well-known road in ancient Palestine where robbers would hide and strategically find ways to beat and steal things from the innocent pedestrians that made their way from Jerusalem to Jericho. One day a Samaritan comes along. We tend to race past this point of the story. We’ve heard it many times before. Like an old story our grandfather might have told us about the war he was in long ago. In the Jewish culture, a Samaritan was a racial enemy. Someone who didn’t fit in and was disliked. We can all probably think of someone we just can’t get along with, that is the protagonist in this story. He’s the good guy. But, unlike the desk, he doesn’t fit neatly into our stories. In fact, according to Jesus, the Samaritan is who we need to take our cues from. We need to learn from him. Back to the story. He comes along after the religious people. The guys who should have known the right thing to do. In the Jewish Torah, life is sacred. Period. According to the Law, they were responsible to protect any human life, even enemies. The first two guys would have known this. But they walk on? Us, do we follow after them as well? One of the many points of this story is that God can choose
to use anyone to get his message across. Even the Samaritan. Even a Muslim. Yes, even the homosexual.

There is an age-old debate circulating through the halls of our church and through the living rooms of our house churches. It is the question whether the homosexual or someone else who has chosen a different lifestyle can actually be used by God. Maybe even in a pulpit. Or in a
position of religious responsibility. If the story of the Good Samaritan teaches us anything, it teaches us that homosexuals have a purpose in the Kingdom of God. Let’s dig a little deeper in why this is so. The Samaritan pays two denarii (the equivalent to two days wages), this seems like another detail that is put in for effect. If you look deeper into the story and the history surrounding this narrative, you might realize that Jesus wants us to see God bigger than our own safe theology. Two denarii was also known as the half-shekel atonement.

At the age of 13, a young Jewish child went from being a boy to a man and one of the many responsibilities of a man in that culture was to pay a temple tax. The temple tax was specifically reserved to purchase animals for the typical once-a-year sacrifice that the priest would enact for everyone on their behalf. His action would atone for the sins of others. Jesus is playing on the issue of atonement. Of being absolved from our sins. Here in the story though, it isn’t the priest who absolves the victim, it is the Samaritan. The outsider. The homosexual. He atones for the victims’ sin. It’s as if Jesus is saying, bigger than right or wrong, than sin or no sin, the one thing that can absolve the sins of another is hidden in the act of compassion. And anyone can join in on this movement of compassion. There is hope that we all can be a people dedicated to not merely seeing the need of someone else and walking by, but that we all, as the human race can fight indifference and wrong theology with compassion and grace. This is the invitation. Are you in or are you out?


Satan: Truth or Myth


Just the other day I was window-shopping in furniture store. Not really shopping for anything in specific. I came across a face-paint set and on the cover they had a child immersed in the boxed colors: red, black and gold. He was portraying the Devil. Our affinity for mythology has turned the character of Satan into nothing more than a cartoon character who haplessly arrives on the scene. What if what we know of Satan isn’t even true? What if the person of Satan was borrowed from somewhere else?

    History 101:

The ancient Israeli people were in the middle of a national rift. They couldn’t agree with who should be the rightful heir to the throne in Jerusalem. So, they split up. Jerusalem became known as the Northern Kingdom, and Judah became known as the Southern Kingdom. The Southern Kingdom shared life with the surrounding cultures, more specifically the people of Babylon. During their formation as a people group they began taking on the beliefs of those they lived with, those they called neighbours and friends. One of the ancient religions called Zoroastrianism was also in development at the same as Judaism. They believed in many things (follow the above link, to find out more) including some of the following things:

— a place where all good people go when they die called heaven
Note: Scripture never says anything about us going to some place, but about the ‘New Jerusalem’ coming here. God dwelling with his people.
— an adversary who’s sole purpose was to counter God in everything
Note: There are only 19 references of Satan in the Old Testament. And no references for the word ‘Devil’. When it is used it means ‘adversary’. In the mythical book of Job, he is shown as a servant of God.
— a place where all bad people go when they die called hell
Note: Hell in the OT means death. The New Testament means a trash heap or an image for destruction.


The Jewish idea of Satan was that he was never a person. The Book of Job has echoes of the Aggadah, which is a collection of Jewish legends and fables that usually tend to be metaphors for a bigger point. In that story, Satan is portrayed as a servant of God. One who is used by God. In fact, more research shows that Jews believe that we need adversity. The meaning for the word Satan is adversary or opponent. So, when Jesus calls Satan adversary, He is stating that Peter is getting in the way of what Jesus knows He has to do.

    No Running Near the Pool

Yet, having said all that the ancient followers of God believed that we couldn’t find who we were meant to be without adversity. That we need to tension to help form us into the person we could be. Think about this on a personal level, when have you learned the most? Not that we go looking for adversity. But that we do not run from it when it shows up. That we come to understand it helps us. To discover our potential. But we couldn’t do it without Satan in our lives. Most reading this might have just read that and thought about the person running around who’s purpose is to be everything anti-God. See when Jesus was calling Peter ‘Satan’, He was also saying to the rest of us that we have the ability to be a road-block to one another. That we have it in us to be evil. See our westernized beliefs tell us that God can’t encompass evil and good. He is only one.

    Living Together: Hope and Despair

Yet the Jewish idea tell us that hope and despair can live in the same house. We tend to think of hope being something that occurs post-despair. The same with peace and conflict, they both arrive out of the same place. Isaiah quotes God in Chapter 45:7 that God creates evil (depending on the version you use). See the belief is that God allows evil to happen to help form us into who He sees that we could be. That we learn from our loss, pain, frustration and tension. That without it, we couldn’t become the potential that is within us.

There is the belief in demons. And I like the idea of demons running amuck without a leader. It makes it seem more anarchic and not as clean or ordered as some of our beliefs appear.

It makes more sense to know that we too have it in us to support the ways of evil. So, then we all have a responsibility to be aware of our decisions.

    Everything Has Value

It also allows us to see that what we go through has value. That life isn't just some test we travel. That when we lose or gain, that we are meant to learn. That we are meant to grow. That God is romantically aware and involved in our becoming the best 'us' He has in mind… that God believes that we can go through anything with Him right there beside us (Paul said it this way: God won't give you trials you can't handle)…

this has nothing to do with striving.

i find it easier to live for myself rather than die to myself. to save myself rather than let the false me drip into
non-existence. i am getting ready to hand in my resignation for work, mostly because i don’t feel much purpose there.
i don’t feel excited about what i do. we need purpose in the things we do. those that think otherwise have become jaded
by life being consistently unsatisfying. this is nothing about always being satisfied. it is learning what it means to live out of the you God has intended for you to be. there is more. there always is. this has nothing to do with striving to find that person. it has everything to do with the discovery and beautiful unraveling of you that was meant to be. we can embrace that, but to do so we have to let go of the us we think we should be or others think we should be. this includes about callin out our junk. for instance, i hate rejection. hate it. so i tend to exaggerate and lie my way through self-preservation. and that will be the death of me if i continue on. we must begin seeing ourselves as capable,honest and vulnerable people who have it in us to change the world. i am on way….

christian propaganda.

I found this blog about the ‘Everything is Spiritual’ tour of Rob Bells’, and it is amazing the information that Rob Bell gives this girl. Especially about not expending ourselves over ‘Christian’ paraphenalia or propaganda. To see that there is a bigger story and that God is at the helm of it all…

Mental sushi

Rob Bell spoke tonight at the Crest Theater in Sacramento. He is a guy who has been impacted by the teachings of Jesus and has a unique way in our time of looking at the truth of God. He is the author of Velvet Elvis, and creator of the Nooma videos. And everytime I hear him speak, it turns my nice little categories into mental sushi. Something beautiful and interesting, but all mixed up. Tonight he wove together ideas ranging from the poetry of creation (that is Genesis 1), to descriptions of the solar system, atomic matter and how it behaves, God’s “I am”- ness, and man becoming the only creature to have both spirit and matter to relate that: Everything is spiritual.

One of my favorite parts was when he said, “Some people say they aren’t spiritual. It’s like, ‘Are you human?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Then it’s too late.'” Everyone is spiritual because everyone is human, and human is made with spirit and physical.

So then, everything we do it spiritual, from how we relate to our families, finances, sexuality, work ethic… everything in your life has this interconnectedness of spirit and physical.

Afterward I asked him what happened in his life to get past Christian cliche and reach people in the Netherlands as I go there soon. He said stop hanging out with only Christians, stop consumning Christian literature, movies, music, because most of it is irrelevant, and start listening to people around me. When I go, don’t try to reach anyone, but listen and have relationship with them. And trust that the ultimate things will come up, and then share. See that truth is not confined to “Christians”, but truth is everywhere, and sometimes people who aren’t believers have more truth than we do. Like how to take care of the earth, or how to live compassionately.

I know that God wants to take us out of the little boxes and categories we’ve made for ourselves. And I know that He is specifically showing me that we sometimes see truth as 2-dimensional when it is actually 3-dimensional. But it’s a lot to sort through when it’s all out of the box and in the open, because the box gives it proportions and measurability. But, maybe God was never meant to be put in a box.

Poets, Preachers and Prophets — Rob Bell

I second this frame of thinking. This was blogged by Jim Vining in response to a pastoral training held at Rob Bell’s church in Michigan. Love this stuff!!

Where we begin and end the story has dramatic implications on how we think, live and speak.

The full biblical story begins in Genesis 1 & 2, and it ends in Revelation 21 & 22. The story begins with God creating a world that was very good.
The story ends with God returning the world to being very good.

The time in between (where we live) is marked by two things:
The unraveling of the goodness of the world (Genesis 3).
The beginning of the new creation/ healing of the world (Resurrection of Jesus)

While Genesis 3 is crucial to the story, it must be put in context of the larger story. It is neither the beginning nor the end of the story.

If we begin in Genesis 3, we begin with what is wrong.

If we begin in Genesis 1 & 2, we begin with what was intended.

If we begin in Genesis 3, the point is the removal of sin.

If we begin in Genesis 1 & 2, the point is the restoration of shalom.

If we begin in Genesis 3, we emphasize what we are not.

If we begin in Genesis 1 & 2, we emphasize what we are to be.

If we begin in Genesis 3, the goal is disembodied evacuation.

If we begin in Genesis 1 & 2, the goal is participatory physicality.

How we frame the story is crucial.
Beginning the story at Genesis 1 & 2, and ending the story with Revelation 21 & 22 clearly better captures the storyline of the Bible than the Genesis 3 thru Revelation 20 version of the story.
It is also better captures the life that we live in this world, the world that is so crucial to the story.

our issues color everything…

i am realizing something. the church. the world for that matter will never change if we never deal with our issues. all the junk that we’ve had to carry with us all of our lives, it effects our views of how things should be. our issues keep us from being who we are meant to be. if they are keeping us from who we are meant to be then is stands to reason that it effects how the church could be and for that matter, how the world should be. we will always think that the church and the world and those we meet are there to meet our needs. are there to save us from the victims we either know we’re not or should no longer be. our issues color every thing. we need to receive healing. through prayer. through counseling. through a listening ear. we must begin looking inwards so we can then effect all things outwards. it starts with the first step.