May 27, 2002, 11:19 pm
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Oh, the insanity. Can’t sleep because of all the thoughts racing in my head. Maybe I’m a head case . . . maybe God is trying to get through to me.

I continue to battle with some conflicted thoughts and feelings about the best approach to starting a new work. I want badly to give God an opportunity to work things in a powerful new direction within the church I currently serve. I want badly to watch God work in a way that outlasts some of the other attempts at doing a new church within an existing church framework . . . and yet I see how things have happened. The struggles and strain. The egos and conflicted vision. I’ve been warned strongly by those that know better because they know by experience. And yet I want badly for them to be wrong.

If they are, in fact, wrong, then we may be able to revitalize a ministry and breakthrough some growth barriers that exist (more in peoples’ hearts than in the numbers of people who show up). If they are wrong, I will have seen God do what looks like the impossible right now. If they are wrong, God will be glorified.

If they are right, I’m headed for some marginal success followed by enormous frustration. If they are right, I’ll have to start from scratch eventually anyway. If they are right, I’ll be wishing I had this time back.

I’m willing to abandon anything and everything for the sake of God’s will and calling. I’m willing to make a clean break. I’m willing to stay where I’ve been planted. Ultimately it comes down to my willingness to stick it out for the time it takes for me to hear God fully and obey him completely.

That’s all.


May 26, 2002, 6:30 am
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Just for kicks, and because it still applies, here’s a little thing I wrote on January 23, 2002:

God continues to move in my heart. I’m becoming more of a mystic by the day – whatever it means to be a mystic. All I know is that there is a stirring in my spirit that I don’t think I’ve had before. Perhaps I have, but not at this depth, and not for this long. It’s a gift, truly. But what a dissatisfying gift. I feel like I’ve been allowed to look into a holy place, but only through a distorted, foggy window. I can make out shapes and colors, but not faces and images. Maybe I just need to grow up in these mystical experiences and gifts before things come clearer, or maybe this is just how it is. I guess I’ll have to answer that one later. All I know is that I dare not chase after the mystical life and experience too vigorously lest I artificially create a world that isn’t there. I want to be drawn seductively by the Spirit of God into his holy place – I don’t want to try to barge my way in as if I had a secret recipe. If I did have a secret recipe, I’d probably try to sell it! This life (that is the mystical life) is not something that can happen by my own choosing, except by the choice to let God move me there. Submission is really the only way. It’s like wanting to taste chocolate, but not wanting to eat chocolate, because eating takes too much initiative and control of the experience.

The power of grace and redemption is enormous. Why do people resist it? Grace sounds too good to be true. Redemption sounds too painful to really pursue. The people of God want community with him and each other. I’m convinced of it. They want that safe place where they can let down their guard without fear of judgement. They want to know God forgives and can heal them of their brokenness. They want real friends who struggle the way they do. They want a depth of experience that has a bigger payoff than any promise of experience they’ve had before.

Brokenness is a frightening place, though. It is the place where you have to face your fears. The fear that what you’ve convinced yourself all along is wrong – that you don’t know better than God, that you can’t provide deep peace for your own soul, that people are incapable of living up to the trust you want to place in them, that money or food or sex or power will not satisfy. The fears go on and on, but ultimately, one must look those fears in the face and say, “Bring It On.” Brokenness is completely abandoning pride. I don’t know of a more frightening concept than that.

Without that, though, we will not experience community. God, in his great grace will not allow it. The deep things of him that you can find and experience with all your senses are too precious, too valuable, too costly.

Not two days ago I said that I will not stay in a place – a church – that makes a practice of patching peoples’ sin up and carrying on with business as usual. It turns my stomach to think of it. And yet, I fail to fully grasp the devastating consequences of that statement. If what I say is to be true, then I have yet to see and taste the life of community. We are all too proficient at patching things up – usually by trying to sew a new patch of cloth onto an old one.

New wine is for new wine skins. For people here and now to experience the “new” wine of community, they will have to throw away their old wine skins. They will have to be broken before a holy God. Some will not be able to handle that. Some will try to get away with something less than brokenness. Those who do get away with it jeopardize the rest of us. They are a danger to themselves, but also the body of Christ.

A radical experience with Hebrews 3:13 is needed. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Community is the place where we encourage one another, and the result of that encouragement is protection – not merely protection from sin, but the deceitfulness of sin. Meditate on that. Chew on it. Be deeply fed by it, and then energized by it.

May 26, 2002, 6:22 am
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I will pursue ordination. I will do it with a strong sense of personal direction, rather than being directed in the process. Instead of submitting to a predetermined list of things I have to know, I will propose the process myself, and then submit to the directives I’m given. In any ordination process I’ve heard of, the primary component has to do with systematic theology. I plan to reinvent that. I’m not sure theology is even a biblical word. I’ve thought about it and determined that a better approach is integrational doctrine. I know that doctrine is a biblical construct and it’s important that I be able to answer well and teach well when called upon. Systematic theology is just too, well, systematic. It’s linear and brings to mind stupid thoughts like, “If I put everything down on paper in an outline or chart, I can understand God.” The fact of the matter is that I will never understand God or His ways . . . at least not in this life. Integrational doctrine, on the other hand, is something that by definition must be lived in. It’s not enough for me to say that I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. If that belief is worth a flip to me, it needs to applied and grappled with as I eat my cereal, as I drive my car, as I talk with students, as I prepare a sermon. The fact that I believe in the Holy Spirit will be of no value to me if I don’t rely on the Holy Spirit for direction. Another aspect of integrational doctrine is that if it is a lived experience, then it is necessarily evolutionary. This does not mean that it’s watered down or shallow – but the fact is that because of how I have watched God work in my life, I have a different perspective now than I did ten years ago. Shouldn’t my doctrine reflect that? If not, it’s not integrational.

That’s all.

May 21, 2002, 8:25 am
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Fear causes me to hold back. I don’t move in what God has shown me to do because I don’t have the answers as to how this whole deal is going to play out. News flash: I don’t really need to know. What I do need to do is structure my life in such a way that I am moving forward at all times.

May 17, 2002, 10:21 am
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In order to stop allowing myself to dwell on the problems of the past and even some of the problems of the present, I want to spend time brainstorming about the future and the problems that might arise from me moving in the right direction toward it. Then, every time I needlessly spend one hour on a problem of the past or present, I will discipline myself to spend two hours on the problems of the future. That way, even when I’m slogging my way through things that I should be beyond by now, I’ll at least be moving toward a better future.

May 16, 2002, 11:58 am
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Trying to teach someone to think like a postmodern is kind of like describing what a pink octopus looks like to a blind man. It may be possible, but it will take a long long long long long time.

May 14, 2002, 4:04 pm
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Call me prophetic, but yesterday I was reaffirming our need in the church to deal with problems. However, instead of dealing with the problems of the recent and distant past, which many are bent on living in, we need to deal with the problems of the future. I’m convinced that no matter how long I “do” ministry, there will be many problems. That’s not a bad thing, it just is what it is. So, if I have my choice of which problems to deal with, I’ll take the future ones – the forward thinking ones. I’m tired of endlessly defending strong decisions that people can’t get over. I want to work out the “problems” of reaching people with the gospel more effectively. I want to work out the “problems” of sharing hope with a generation that hasn’t figured out yet that there’s hope to be found. I want to work out the “problems” of finding enough space for the many who are joining us where we are going. “Forgetting what lies behind . . .”