Marriage, what does it mean?


So what is “marriage”? Actually the question I really am asking, is “is marriage something for the Church AND the rest of the world, OR is it something for just the Church?”  Basically my point (if you don’t want to read further) is that for people who are “outside” the Church (belonging to Jesus the Christ as their Lord) can not possibly be held to our values, we should treat them with the same basic values that any human deserves, love, respect, and equality among all. I know, this sounds almost heretical, but seriously, can we really even expect someone who does not call Jesus their Lord to understand the blessing? NO, of course not. Therefore instead of fighting over values which are almost impossible to understand, none the less live, when not belonging to Christ, we need to focus on evangelism, discipleship, and worship of our Lord – and then we’ll see people’s values dramatically change.  Now read the rest if you wish…

With the same-sex marriage issue hot underway, I have a harder and harder time with our institutionalized version of marriage. We’ve taken (one of many things) a biblical principal and turned it into a law for the land.  While this is most likely the most ancient of traditions, and therefore seeped in emotions and dogma, is it really necessary for the government to be involved?  Why must marriage be law?

To take this thought further, I wonder how much stronger the Church would be if marriage had remained only within the Church and the government simply provided the benefits of “marriage” (tax breaks) to registered households, since essentially this is what the marriage “benefit” essentially is (I’m in no way a tax expert, however). Forget legalized unions, marriages, etc… leave those titles up to us to decide.  Let us be married before our God.

There’s a lot of issues which could arise from this, one being the idea that “marriage” is only for Christians… and that’s not what this blog entry is about, and not sure how we would walk that out, I fear it would simply become another thing for Christians to demand that “marriage” be trademarked or some crazy idea like that.

All of this to say, if people who do not have Jesus as their Lord, want to be together and have a ceremony of some type, leave it to them to do, and leave both the state and Church out of it.  As Christians we ought not busy ourselves with “fighting” the culture, for our fight is not against flesh and blood, it’s spiritual – so let’s focus on winning souls and living as Jesus, who did not come to judge (as we do many times) but rather came to convict (point out, guide away, lead towards the light) us of sin.

In this way the Christian marriage would be unique, mean something more, and most of all, a truly different covenant defined by biblical standards, not governmental, cultural, or traditional definitions.  I understand this doesn’t “solve” all the “problems”, but it’s at least a direction which firstly allows “us” (Christians) to walk the high road in humility, Secondly, it’s a graceful step out of the argument and allow the Christian marriage to be what we believe it to be – a covenant between a man and a woman to love, cherish, and support one another for our rest of our lives; all other unions can remain whatever they want to define them as, and we can befriend, and show that love is stronger than human will.  God is much bigger than definitions of marriage, his love lives loud when we focus on walking with him instead of “proving” and “legalizing” “his” ways to the rest of the world.

As I’ve grown closer in my walk, I’ve come to realize “our” (I can hardly say I’m a part of “them” but can’t exactly divorce myself, since the body of Christ is ONE) methods need to change, and we have all heard it, if there is not love then there is no reason to claim Jesus as lord.  This means we live by the spirit, in love towards everyone, and turn the other cheek when others mock or take offense, but we don’t bite back, and we don’t argue back – we walk the high road, and allow people to make their choices, we can’t make it for them (forcing “our” laws and viewpoints) – we can pray, we can talk, and for those that want to hear and see we can be a witness to Christ’s glory.

The path of least resistence


Something I observe multiple times throughout my week is that people fall into two camps, either they are “go getters” or “resisters” and in most cases, people attempt to take the “path of least resistance”.  In nearly every job or role I’ve been placed in I’ve seen this phenomenon, and I’m guilty of it as well… “what’s the easiest,  fastest, and most ‘avoidant’ way of getting X done?” and man it irks me.  It seems to be an especially strong disease throughout my generation.

This is even stronger when it comes to relational dynamics, I see it so many times, people going to all kinds of lengths to avoid a possible “conflict” or “situation” – in my mind though, this kind of avoidance makes waters down our relationships, and actually breaks down the desire for strong friendships and family that we actually want.  It certainly takes guts to overcome our cultural boundaries, and most of the time takes courage since most of us have not been shown how to healthily confront awkward (or simply saying no) situations.

A lot of the time when I’m faced with the decision to resist or “go get it” I have to ask myself, what is the pro-relationship path I could take? What will build up the relationship? What decision might tear it down, or leave it flat? As a person who looks to Jesus for direction, I usually can’t choose to skim past a relation-building choice… (of course if it’s unhealthy and not safe, then that’s another ball-game which actually might be just as challenging to make the choice to step away from a relationship). Often times I find myself wanting to avoid talking to someone because it’s harder than just making my own choice to “skim on by with what’s acceptable” – however, I’m not so sure this is how Jesus goes about ministering to us, and I want to reflect this. I want to go above just the “satisfactory” and I want to be a servant, even when it’s not exactly pleasant for me.



I respect people, and I respect what people do, their choices, what they’ve accomplished, and what they’ve “earned” – all great.  However, that doesn’t, in my opinion, belong in the Church.  It’s fine outside, where it is useful to know the title of a person because it describes and defines what that person is responsible for.

But in the Kingdom, also known as the Church, I have a hard time with titles. Mostly because, unlike outside the Church, people attach so much “esteem” and “authority” to the people with titles. Most of these ideas behind the “titles” are completely void of biblical character, it’s simply a mimic of the rest of the world around us.  Even using “earned” titles in the Church, is a bit bothersome to me – like “Dr. Bob” – while, yes, you may be a doctor – does that title really mean anything, does it mean I should listen more? Should I take your words more seriously over my brother’s? Shouldn’t I test the doctor’s words w/ the spirit’s?  – YES.

Yes, the Bible describes certain roles, and we absolutely should understand as individuals what role we play in the Church – these are the gifts to the Church Paul describes in Ephesians (the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers). Each of these roles are servant roles, not positions to obtain and gain authority, but positions which are prescribed by God and confirmed through relationship. We’ve been so trained to be sheep and remain “just” sheep, rather than be sheep with a purpose and personal ministry.

Our culture puts far too much weight (in responsibility, in authority, and praise) on titles in and out of the Church. However, in the Church we should all be servants, regardless of title, if we can’t serve one another, how will we serve the world? Thankfully many churches have began to realize this, and have downgraded the old school titles into appropriate helping verbs or descriptions… and instead of introducing the pastor as “Hello my name is Pastor Joe” we’re hearing “Hi, my name is Joe, one of your lead pastors”.

Just like the rest of us, our titles are not who we are – we are children of God, not Pastors, Prophets, Teachers… we are all children – who have special callings.

The dream place

The picture above may not look like much to you, but it’s part of the dream I (and my wife, Alexis) have. It’s part of the dream given to us years ago by God to be missionaries to Poland (to learn more what our missions is visit REACH Polska). The dream for us is focused around people, and that apartment building pictured above is a tangible representation of the mission.  From time to time Alexis and I look at possible places to live in Krakow, for that final day where we are launched into the promise land.  On our last trip there as a family, we went to different neighborhoods in Krakow, and that apartment building above is from one of the places we visited.

As with every marriage, there’s a number of things that Alexis and I have our disagreements over… but one of the areas where we are in line with each other, is the kind of place we want to live. Because our mission is people focused, we want to live where the people are.  In Poland, and especially in large cities like Kraków, the people live in apartments, quite nice ones – these are not your standard cookie-cutter American sub-burban apartment complexes.  These apartments are really more what we call condominiums, they are built to own.

And because we also believe in being sustainable Christians, stewards of of what we have been given, we will be living car-less, which is quite possible in Kraków. When needed we’ll rent a car, or join a car-sharing program (if one exists), but we’ll mostly get around by foot, bike (Kraków does have a bike-sharing program), and transit.  We are very excited about this kind of lifestyle, and know that it will open up opportunities to meet our neighbors, and others, and build new friendships quickly and naturally.

There’s a few requirements our little place in the city will need, one a balcony, and hopefully a fairly large one, we like balconies, and we like plants, so a balcony is a must.  Second, we need to be near a park – Poles like parks, and especially in a city we know we’ll meet people there on a regular basis, and of course Emma and our other future children will love it too.  Thirdly, a spare room, we know we’ll be hosting people, and having a spare room (which will double as a meeting/office space as well) is a must in providing the ultimate in Polish hospitality.  Even if we don’t have all these things at once, we know that our city living will be exciting and beneficial for expanding the Kingdom in new and different ways.

Rubiks cube generation?


A few days ago I was on the train heading into work, there were a couple of ladies a generation or so ahead of myself who were talking about “kids these days”.  I would like to say they were talking about the great possibilities… sorry, instead they were more concerned with the fact that all “they” do is complain, demand, and “play” with their iPhones and technology. Alas… I feel like many of “them” in “that” generation are like a Rubiks cube… with every turn you’re further away from the solution.

These ladies continued to talk about how they were afraid for their futures, how both had children that would probably “stick them” into nursing homes, or worse “let them die in their homes and no one would know until a few bills went unpaid” – they actually laughed at that… I was beginning to wonder if they even noticed I was near them… probably not. This conversation continued all the way in (about 40 min) – and let’s just say, the only thing positive they had to say was “at least they know how to make themselves happy”.

There’s so much out of this conversation that I wanted to puke at, some of it generally “true”, some of it is their own perception and experience (and sad ones at that), but mostly I wondered how much of it was self perpetuated… considering I see the generation(s) ahead of me jumping at the opportunity to mentor us all the time (sarcasm).  However, I know “we” can’t be all that fast to blame either… as I know I certainly haven’t jumped up and said “pick me, I want to be mentored” all that quickly – although I do hope for it…

It seems there’s a paradox at work here… “we” want “them” to ask, and “they” want “us” to ask… not gunna happen very quicly if we’re both expecting/wanting the other “side” to ask… Sure, there’s a lot of trust to work on, but someone’s gotta make the move! I’ve made a few baby steps recently, but gosh, do I feel small and insignificant (which isn’t true… it’s a feeling though) when it comes to my “place” in the world after hearing that conversation (and other tidbits from time to time in other places).

Sustainable Christianity

Created to sustain?

Genesis 1:26-31 [NLT] Then God said, “Let us make human beingst in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” 28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” 29 Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened. 31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.

If the above passage isn’t one of the most “green” passages of the Bible, then I don’t know what is. I’m tired of American, suburban, “mainstream”, evangelical, “conservative”, “Christianity”. I love the Church, but I don’t love the stereo-type “Christianity” that is so prevalent in America, and unfortunately has a loud (and humiliating) voice. As a Christian I see nothing in scripture (nor do I ever hear from God) about politics, lifestyles, or a myriad of other “campaigns” our American evangelical “christian” circles tend to stand (quite strongly) behind.

The translation I used in the passage above uses the word “govern”, other translations say “subdue”, “rule”, “have dominion”, “be it’s master” – etc. It doesn’t say “strip it”, “rape it”, “be greedy and multiply”, “destroy and conquer”, or any other number of things that some of my brothers and sisters would never admit to, but support through their campaigns and political nonsense.

Now, I could continue on and be very critical, and beat up on my fellow believers… many of whom are my friends as well. But instead, I want to point out that I believe (and am convicted and urged by the Holy Spirit) to do my best in sustaining what resources we have (both natural, and human). We, as a Church, should support (and am convinced we are obligated) fair and green trade initiatives where possible and sustainable. The Church should be in support of moving our people around (read: public transit) efficiently, sharing resources where possible (Acts 4:32-37), and realize that we were created to sustain the planet, not abuse it.

There’s a lot of talk about this subject, for now though, I will do what I can.. because ONE (or three) does matter and make a difference. We are working our way to living in a place where we can live as we were created, and govern our lives in a way according to how we were created. Living near our friends, our church, our work; shopping near by from local/fair sources; using renewable sources to power our lives; reusing/recycling what we have; and reducing our footprint in more than just carbon emissions.

Once we were children

A few weeks ago we were walking with Emma in her stroller to an annual “teddy bear parade” that Gresham puts on each year. It was a sunny day and we had a lot of fun. I made a number of observances that day, mostly around how adults and children perceive the world. A few of Jesus’ teachings came to mind, “be as children” and “have faith like a child”… The way that children (ones whose Love tanks are full, and free of most trauma) view the world and live is simple, usually one-tracked, and clear.

About a week after that parade I was walking home from something from downtown Gresham, and needed to cross a busy street, one of the same crossings where just the weekend before we were crossing with Emma.  On that first crossing the cars stopped for us almost immediately, and my happy family of three crossed without incident. Attempting to cross the street alone, well that’s another story. I waited a good three or four minutes for someone to stop and let me cross (there’s no light/crossing signal at this particular crossing)… I’m glad that people prioritize children and families when stopping at crosswalks, but what is it about our society that an adult man has to nearly step into cross traffic to get people to stop so he can cross a street?

I realize that people are generally not as cautious about adults as they are with children (this is most likely a natural response) – but why are we so callous against our fellow adults? What if we did view each other as children? Would we see a difference? Would the negativity and jaded attitudes go away? I’m not really that bothered by my own little experience, it just highlighted something about our culture, our human nature. After all, we were all once children – why allow life to jade our vision of each other?

As a Christian there’s a lot this life presents us with, and in the end, I truly believe seeing every person as a child truly helps bring clarity when relating to other humans. The world is a truly messed up place, nothing really makes sense, but on an individual level, a whole lot makes sense when we see each other as children.



Socialists & Communists = the “real” Christians?

C360_2011-09-23 07-22-30.jpg

As a continuation of my previous post… I wanted to touch on a key aspect of Christian community… “being of one heart and mind”. There’s a lot more to the context of the following passage, especially considering the persecution just prior and the serious act of sketchy-ness just after… which provides the backdrop for the kind of motivation the early Church had to be united.

Acts 4:32-35
 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

The key to all this sharing, is that Jesus is King (not a dictator commanding the economy and everything and person in it, such as our human examples of socialism and communism), the issues just prior to this (healing a man in Jesus’ name and speaking in His authority) brought great power and unity to the early Church. Is it possible to regain that, today? I believe so, it may look the same, or it may look different – but I believe it’s possible. I believe it because I know our God desires it, and what he desires is possible. We don’t need a “redo”, we simply need a “need to” or just a “do”.

So what will it take for us to be of “one heart and mind” again? I don’t know, I just know that it starts with ONE, it starts with me, and it starts with you, just the ONE. We can’t get hung up on “everyone else” and attempting to think for them, and get them to “see the vision” – we just need to walk the vision ourselves. What’s the vision? It’s love first, and making him our first love.  It’s John 17. It’s Ephesians 4. It’s Revelation 2:4.

Community + Communism = Kingdom?

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

So, how do we live this out?  How do citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus live here on earth, like that mentioned above? How do we do this knowing perfectly well, as humans, we’re going to make mistakes, hurt each other, and most likely really piss our neighbors off at times?  Is it a mandate for Christ followers to live like this? Have we fallen far from the “ideal”, and are so concerned with “myself” that something like this is “not possible” today?

I don’t think it’s a mandate, but I do believe a healthy group of Christ’s kids will be compelled to live out the values we see in this passage. Community with humility, essentially sharing to meet other’s needs… dare I say communism or socialism?

Communism is the idea of a free society with no division or alienation, where mankind is free from oppression and scarcity. A communist society would have no governments, countries, or class divisions.

Socialism is based on co-operative social relations and self-management; relatively equal power-relations and the reduction or elimination of hierarchy in the management of economic and political affairs.

So, there’s elements of communism and socialism out of this Acts 2 passage… but it’s not quite the same. There is a key difference, between the Kingdom and these types of systems… There is a government, and a strong hierarchy – with one person at the head – Jesus.  This key difference is what makes the Church community function… So why do we (American/Western Jesus followers) have such a hard time living this out?

In my opinion, the ideas of sharing, selling our things, buying for others, and coming together on a nearly daily basis seems asinine to us because we do not trust.  We don’t trust others, we don’t trust the “church”, we don’t trust God.  First of all, we don’t need to trust others, nor the “church”, we only have to trust God.  Trust and taste, and you will see that He is good.

If we can truly trust Jesus, and live by the Spirit, then we can serve others, and live without being offended. Our hearts should burn with fellowship and love for one another, but I don’t believe this burning comes without us first burning ourselves.

I have a lot more to say around this topic, and the sub topics… humility, servant-hood, living “offendlessly”, and other key ingredients to living in the Kingdom community.  It’s not all about “giving up” our way of life, it’s about gaining a whole new way of life with huge benefits that our individualized way of life in American/Western culture has completely lost.  Update 9/25/11: see part two of this stream of thought.


July 4 - 2010

The history of the United States is amazing, with some very dark spots, and some huge mistakes, yet we have moved forward past those dark times and created a place where people can be free – at least free to choose a life they want. I am not a crazy America loving Christian, most of the time I am embarrassed when the Church starts worshiping the nation… and I can’t stand singing “American hymns” (i.e. God Bless America) in Church – it makes me sick to my stomach.  Church is about us gathering to encourage one another in life with God’s guidance, Church is not a place for us to celebrate our culture, our national identity, nor a specific idea – except the idea of God’s kingdom.  I love my country, I am moved many times by our history, and many times I have shed a few tears when I hear veterans speak, and watch documentaries about America, however, I just can’t see the obsession some American Christians have about mixing Church and America in one idea.  I tolerate it because I love the Church more than I love America, and Jesus’ heart is for us to have tolerance for one another, and be in unity (John 17, and Romans 1).

Freedom for me is the incredible and amazing gift of grace that I have received from Jesus himself – the ability to pour grace on others, to love the fringe communities, to see beyond sexual orientation, to see people for who they are – this is freedom. To see God’s heart all around, and to know that I am in the Kingdom and that it is me that will extend this Kingdom – this is freedom. Being OK with the fact that the majority of Christians I interact with have a hard time understanding the GBLT community. Also, the fact that most of the suburban, white, “republican” and “conservative” people I know, haven’t tried to understand the “left’s” heart, is frustrating and heart-breaking, but doesn’t distract me from loving them too.  You see, I have a freedom that goes beyond the “lines” and it transcends the communities.

The place where I fight for this freedom is expressing it, and being bold in it (as I described in yesterday’s post). I can be both a republican and a democrat, and at the same time a Christian and a relevant person to those around me – but most of all I can be the love for both sides of the fence… (besides, is there really just two sides?). I will be in the camp above all camps… I am a citizen of the King and live in His kingdom. I want to walk in THAT freedom!