Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Many people have asked me to post my thoughts about 'produce.' Gladly (see below). In our world of consumption, we need reflection on the produce of our life. When business and commercials and governments train us to consume, people are forced daily to produce. However, in the world of the Spirit, production happens differenlty. We open our hearts as soil for the seed of God. Inviting the eternal God to be present in us, God produces fruit in our lives. It is not our earning, but God's presence that produces spiritual life. The fruit of God's Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. No one can pass a company law against these. The presence of God's spirit means we begin to inherit the kingdom of God in the present.
Today I found an ancient text that pictures Gentleness. This story captures the balance between weakness and meekness, softness and strength. As you read this story, notice the rabbi's extreme love to a young man. The rabbi's love does not hold back on giving him an almost impossible challenge.
This is the story of a wealthy young man. You can imagine the type. He lives off a trust fund his parents established for him (a trusty-baby, as they are sometimes called). He has nothing better to do that hang out at coffee shops, philosophize about life and go to school. This wealthy young boy approaches a young, respected Rabbi and asks a meaning of life type question. "What can I do to have the good life forever?” asked the young man. He did not mean necessarily this life, but life that lasts beyond this life. The Rabbi from Nazareth told the man to keep the ten laws. For example, do not murder, steal, sleep with another man's wife, lie or cheat and take care of your parents.
The young man says through a coffee stain white smile, I have kept these laws. The rabbi looks at him and loves him. Catch that, the rabbi loves him! "You only need to do one thing," says the rabbi. "Go sell every last thing you own. Hand over the proceeds to the poor. Then, come and follow me." Utter Shock crosses the young man's eyes. The youth left shaking his head and grieving because he had much to sell.
The rabbi eyed the crowds and explained that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. The crowd was impressed with this young man blessed by God with talent and riches. Someone of the crowed asked who could actually enter the kingdom of God if this young man could not.
The Rabbi said plainly, "it is next to impossible for humans but for God anything can happen." (The Gospel of Mark chapter 10)
May you enter the kingdom of God today. Let go of your wealth, dreams and religion and let God rule your life. Allow God to produce fruit in you by His Spirit. Each day carry the name of one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit on your heart and in your pocket. Allow God to produce that aspect in your words, travels, projects, relationships, phone conversations, emails and driving.
The singular fruit of God's Holy Spirit (with my words of definition)
Love - central trait of God
Joy - celebratory living in God's presence
Peace - calm of life in God's presence
Patience - steady strength under restraint
Kindness - unrestrained acts of grace
Goodness - moral excellence in line with God
Faithfulness - belief that moves with God
Gentleness - courtesy that carries love
Self-control - discipline that reveals God-control
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Donna, Nathan and I have been blessed to spend time with several West Coast friends. Last night we had dinner with a couple working on their Ph.D.s here at Fuller, Jeff & Beth Phillips. Earlier in the week, I had lunch with Andy Wall, who is a preaching minister here in L.A. Catching up with friends in the Kingdom of God revitalization me. People need opportunities to share their different experiences of life. God is at work through others, through us and always in spite of us.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Nathan had heard of the ocean and the beach. He read books and saw movies of the waters, but he had never experienced the sounds and spray and movement of the water. His first contact with the waves was shear laughter. Nathan’s squeals of joy came with each rushing wave. The disappearance of the water down into the sand and backward into the ocean brought him to exuberant laughter as his own feet sunk into the wet sand.
Real knowing is a combination of seeing, hearing, reading, smelling, touching and . . . experiencing. Nathan now knows something of beaches and oceans. While ill-prepared as an expert, he has experienced something.
Later Sunday evening, I drove into the heart of downtown L.A. to experience something different. When I am away from my routine, I enjoy experiencing something new. So, I went to Mosaic. Located in a night club called the Mayan, Mosaic is a six-year old church begun by Erwin McManus. Now, church and night club rarely find room for one another in the same sentence, but Mosaic is a “multi-site, inter-racial, metropolitan” church with members having an average age of 24. You can read about Mosaic in this article from Saturday’s Los Angeles Times.
Mosaic’s mission statement is cued by one of my favorite lines from Paul “faith, hope and love” the three charities mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13 (and throughout Paul’s writings). Here is their mission statement “to live by faith, to be known by love and to be a voice of hope.”
After entering through a small foyer area, I passed through a crowd of people sitting at tables and chairs, drinking coffee and bottled water. The Mayan Club was focused toward a stage with rows of folding chairs closest to the stage. I saw no where to sit and finally found an unoccupied stool in a row of stools.
The worship time was twenty-five minutes of praise that was generated by a loud Christian rock band that filled the club with music. Erwin appeared and spoke to the group for an extended period of time from Romans 12. He focused on part three of their mission statement “Connection” that “structure must always submit to Spirit.” The sermon connected well with me. God used McManus to remind me that my gifts are to be used to develop others. God has given us uniqueness to serve, not just ourselves, but to serve others in reaching their fullness in God’s purpose. I needed to hear that message from God.
This new experience reminded me of my other Generation X worship experiences. Each is similar and unique. It is like going to different beaches. I always find water, sun and sand, yet every one has a different view of the ocean. Church is best experienced with people. It is so much more exciting when shared with someone who squeals with delight in a new experience with God. McManus made an off-handed comment that the most important people for the leadership and development of Mosaic are not even Christians at this moment. Ah, how true. Ah, how easily denied and ignored. May God continue to bring us people who come to know and experience Jesus for the very first time.
Monday, October 11, 2004
This week Dr. Peace has begun discussion about transformative Bible study. He says that there is a difference between teaching and learning. It is one thing to teach something and another thing entirely to learn. Many teachers are too preoccupied with teaching and not learning.
Peace believes that adults are, without exception, creative individuals. The tricky task of teaching is bringing out their creativity. I really resonate with his thinking. He feels that the task of teachers and preachers is to create multiple places were people can encounter scripture in a transformative way.
So, here is my thought, or my question: are Christians and churches more focused on teaching people or on helping them learn?
Monday, October 04, 2004
What makes a successful community of believers? Numerical growth often gets an affirming nod. Spiritual growth also is appreciated. Practical life-change is also affirmed. But, think further. What makes a church valuable to you? I am wondering what is success means for you.
Saturday, September 11, 2004
And where is Yahweh?
This is not the Spirit.
I see oppression
practiced under the sun.
Look at oppressed tears
with no one to comfort them!
On the side of oppressors
There is power
yet nothing comforts oppressed.
I say that the dead,
who have already died
are more fortunate than the living,
who are still alive only to themselves.
The clear sky is calm,
yet memory holds the ash of holocaust death.
People equate rays of burning lights,
that illumine our understanding
with the Light
that keeps away darkness.
It takes someone else’s crash to see
I'm blind to the crashed car
all around my seat.
-Brady Bryce (the Fall 2001)
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
I got this email on Monday about discipleship. It contains a great on-liner about discipleship.
Sent: Monday, August 30, 2004 6:12 PM
Just wanted to share a follow-up thought to our last
email interaction around discipleship. I went to a
funeral at 1st Presbyterian this past Saturday and
heard an interesting comment. One of the pastors
shared a line from a prayer he had received from a
woman several years ago that she had written at the
time of her father's death. The line read "What we
love becomes a part of us and who we love becomes a
part of us." What a great synopsis of discipleship!
Perhaps just a more contemporary way of saying "Where
your treasure is..."
for your teaching. I am always encouraged by the way
you connect God's word to our lives.
Thanks for your words. I absolutely love your connection of loving relationship with discipleship. When applied to discipleship to Jesus that is a powerful statement. How many people/Christians treasure relationship with Jesus? I am afraid that most of the time we all seek relationship with Jesus only when it will be helpful NOW. Few are those who seek relationship trusting that it WILL be helpful. I believe that my chore is to help people fall in love with Jesus AND commit themselves to loving God when it is easy and when it is tough. Marriage and discipleship also share many similarities. Life shared over decades. Time is invested. Sadly, most Americans like their spirituality as they like their sexuality -- passion to please the self and without commitment to another.
What we love (outside of ourselves) will change us. If the pursuit of our lives is personal happiness and fulfillment, then we will remain unchanged and empty. If we seek relationship with a transcendent God and community with others, then we will be reborn and find meaning beyond our limited view.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
An older George Gallup poll indicates that 70% of Americans say churches and synagoges are not effective in helping people find meaning. That is tough to swallow. Americans who answered his poll show more decisiveness than they do in pre-election President pollsl.
Thankfully, Mr. Gallup asked the "duh" question. What are your needs? Check out the top six responses:
1. To believe life is meaningful and has purpose.
2. To have a sense of community and deeper relationships.
3. To be appreciated and respected.
4. To be listened to and heard.
5. To feel that one is growing in faith.
6. To receive practical help in developing a mature faith.
May I say that "Church" is not the problem? Tossing out church does not speak to these needs any more effectively than simply maintaining church. In fact, Community is what people are seeking. Espescially community that provides meaning and deep relationship. Actually, I am encouraged that what people want is a maturing faith that provides direction and relationships.
What do you think of this poll? Do you agree or disagree? Most of all, tell me what YOU believe you need.
Gallup Poll, from 1992 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Amazingly he had the stamina to walk to our offices, but was unable (and refused) to cross the street to the bus stop. Amazingly he had dealt with the pain for five days. By his smell and demeanor, he drank away the pain (physical and surely emotional). Now, his need for a ride to the hospital was my problem.
What has spirituality to do with today? Are the rides we give the rides people need?
Monday, August 09, 2004
relaxes as the lather warms his face, remembers
what it was like before they found out he knew . . . everything
His associates had always been impressed that he read
a dozen papers and a chapter of Dickens before breakfast,
remembered their birthday and preferences for coffee,
could announce the heat index in Tehran and the latest numbers
of the Nikkei Exchange, the whereabouts of Jane Goodall
and all the positions for G7alt on the guitar,
but it wasn’t until he let slip that this was only
results 1-10 of about 63,000 in .17 seconds
that they began to imagine his commercial possibilities.
He remembers signing the contract, watching them build the tower,
the miles of petitioners hiking switchbacks up the mountain,
the ceaseless Post-its, his fingers aching
from hours of scribbling, head pounding with another inquiry
about the Kennedys, a recipe for chocolate cream pie,
the weight of the pope’s hat, where to buy Ginsu knives.
He returns from his shave to find 2.3 million
“while you were out” messages obscuring his door,
straightens his multicolord tie, notices
his reflection in the window: the smartest man on earth,
the wonders of the world at his fingertips,
a name on his desk that suggests infinity
and the babbling of an infant.
– Scott Moncrieff
(taken from the Christian Century, May 18, 2004)
I may share some of my thoughts about this poem later in the week.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
With remote controls for everything, most cannot imagine life without controls. Obviously, TVs, DVD players and stereos . . . but now there are remote controls for fans and fireplaces and car stereos (think about the oddity of remotes for car stereos). I can check my email, voicemail, newspapers all from across the globe.
I still am amazed when I approach my Toyota Camry and push a button to unlock the doors, disarm the security system and pop the trunk. What power! What control!
While away last week, I heard a story about a man whose car remote keyless entry died. The battery failed and he could not get into his car. He called the police for help. When the officer arrived, the officer asked to see the remote key chain. He took the key, unlocked the door and handed the keys back to the embarrased man. (thanks for the story Claire Moody)
How dependant are you upon remote controls?
Some claim spirituality allows me to gain control of my life. Spirituality is a means to manipulate God (or the gods) to act in my favor. Spirituality becomes a remote control to direct the powers of the universe to my best interests. Sounds appealing. Sounds easy enough. Learn the (magic) tricks and the world is mine.
However, my experience of the universe has led me to believe that I cannot control all things to my advantage. Maybe I can control somethings, but I have yet to find a universal control. Still the world seems to move forward without my help. This leads me to wonder if there is not something more than me. True spirituality may well be found in letting go of control and being controled.
So, I hand my keys to someone else who can help me get in the car. I am dependant upon more than me.
Monday, July 12, 2004
These were three gods (among many) from my urban life. Their brand names were Illusion, Need and Escape. These gods invited me to worship. These gods commanded my undivided attention for hours.
All three were for sale. The paperwork was easy and only required a signature for my money and my time and my future to buy all three. I felt glad there was no interest and no payments due for many years. The friendly salesman loaded them in my trunk. He turned with a smile and disappeared. A quick glance back and the trunk was empty. A more careful gaze at the temple and I saw it was boarded up and vacant. I awoke sitting straight up with an empty stomach. Only a dream.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
History is history (it’s behind us). History matters (for the future). So, look back with humility and launch forward in faithful following.
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Driving up I-35 today, I realized that the last few weeks have given me the chance to personally reconnect with old friends and family. God has blessed me with a wonderful wife who is my best friend in the world and my trusted ally in life. I have enjoyed emails with a childhood friend from my neighborhood, calling a friend from my teen years who lost his mother, dinner with my college roommate, lunch with a ministry colleague of more than 12 years, and spending a few “reunion” days with relatives.
I sadly admit that it is easy for ministers to loose touch with our friends in other places because our churches are filled with near and dear souls. It is a mixed blessing. Having such a wonderful family of believers that are dear friends, means sometimes those more distant geographically are overlooked.
May God give you opportunity to re-connect with people you love, people you need to confront and people upon whose shoulders you stand. There are soldiers all over the world distant from their families who put their lives at risk to keep you safe at home. I thank God for these dear friends, our troops.
Do you remember all those “Unlimited Night & Weekend minutes” on our cell phones . . . what an opportunity for Kingdom connections.
Monday, June 28, 2004
Futurist Len Sweet has a favorite image of “the swing.” This swing image embodies Sweet’s feelings about life in a community of faith: in the motion of swinging we lean back and stretch forward. The swing image communicates reliance on our past and stretching into our future. I like that image! It is very good. It is the kind of evocative image I am looking for.
But . . . swings don’t go anywhere. I believe the gospel IS going somewhere and that it unveils the Kingdom of God among us.
So, I’m looking for a Singing Oaks image. Do you have any ideas for an image that captures our mission statement? Our mission is to bring people to Jesus Christ. This calls us to 1) share our faith with others, 2) be devoted to prayer and Bible study, 3) glorify God in our assemblies and 4) live so that others see Jesus living in us.
Yesterday’s joke of a sermon caught some of that meaning. The gospel is similar to a joke. Jokes are meant to be shared. Joke tellers don’t take themselves too seriously and they laugh at life. Some people get the joke and some do not get it. Jesus described his stories (parables) as jokes or riddles that people hear, but don’t understand and see but don’t comprehend.
In our 3rd millennium culture, we need to communicate with powerful images. Do you have an vibrant image that captures and communicates our church’s mission?
Like I said, some people “get this” idea and some do not get it. That is ok. This is a more left-brained activity, but it is worth your thought. I will close by sharing my failed attempt at an image. Last year, I imagined an icon that was a tree with a “P” as its trunk and roots. And Karen Lawson gave it great life -- many people commented on the great graphics. In my mind, the “P” communicates the three aspects of our mission to the world Pursue God, Present lives of Christian service and Proclaim the good news to others. This image did not to capture the imagination. I know one of you can do better than I did at imagining a picture of our congregation.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
I have been thinking some about the jokes we tell. The punch line is always held back as a secret until the very end (unless the joke comes from the lips of a child).
We all hold secrets in our lives. Some secrets only a few people know and other secrets have never been shared. Do you have any secrets to share?
I believe the cultural artifacts of twenty-first century America are worth exploring. I am pleased that many found my comparison of The Da Vinci Code with Paul’s ancient “Christ Hymn” helpful. Both deal with "secret wisdom." This secret wisdom eventually formed the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, which arose in the mid-second century. It emphasizes: a secret wisdom for the spiritually elite, the body is evil and Christ only 'seemed' to be human. Gnosticism is returning to popularity in our time. Spiritual navigation of our lives is difficult in our age that blurs the ‘fiction section’ with the ‘religion section’ of our book store.
Do you need more analysis and insight to The Da Vinci Code? I’ve made copies of two articles from Christian Magazines. You may also want to read the articles on The Da Vinci Code novel at www.christianchronicle.org. Especially, note the Chronicle’s excerpt of Ben Witherington’s new book “The Gospel Code.” This article summarizes the novel’s historical fibs.
Think of a joke to share with me this weekend -- but don't share it till then.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
The Urban Spirituality series continues with its second installment this weekend. How do we spiritually navigate our suburban lives? I will continue sharing reflections about the unusual word urbiculture, which designates the practices and problems peculiar to cities or urban development.
Return here for semi-regular thoughts from me - Brady.