Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Restoration Observations


At first glance this is likely going to seem like a really strange post but I promise you it’s actually an observation on restoration of the human soul.

Recently my son was playing some games on the web.  I decided to join him and found this game called Death Row.  The name immediately intrigued me and so I clicked on it to play.  The purpose of the game is to “reform” the prisoner, discover clues to his innocence and get him pardoned before he is executed, all within fourteen game days.  To successfully accomplish the mission you have to reform the prisoner by increasing his health, mood, respect, and worth ethic, which is no small feat.  Accomplish the mission quickly and your score goes up.

The prisoner begins the game very angry.  He’s been hardened to the point of rage and lets you know it immediately.  He is no one’s friend. In order to find the hidden clues you have to purchase items (rug, desk, linen, computer, etc) that fill out the cell.  To make money, you send him to work, trying different jobs in order to find the one he likes.  When you do he makes works harder.  To make money faster, you have to increase his work ethic.

What I found interesting in playing the game several times was the pattern that emerged in reforming the prisoner.  First I had to increase his health by feeding him well.  As silly as this seems it made a big difference.  Then I had to buy a toilet, sink for hot water and then a mirror.  Once this is accomplished, I could have him look at his image in the mirror and his work ethic and mood went up incrementally.  Once his work ethic was at a sufficient level, he worked harder.  And this allowed him to make money faster, which then allowed me to buy more stuff faster and win the game.

It was really interesting to me that the makers of the game understood the basic role that our dignity and self-image plays in our own restoration.  When the prisoner looked at his own image in the mirror and his health was low he hated himself and his mood and his respect for me went down.  During one game, I irritated him mercilessly, dropping his respect for me to zero.  He hung himself in despair and the game was over.  But when I helped him take care of his basic human dignity he improved dramatically.

What was also surprising to me was outside of food, the other functional objects in the room made little difference in improving his work ethic.  Items like a blanket or television set did little other than affect his mood.  In other words, stuff didn’t really matter in his restoration.

Once I had accumulated enough money I could purchase a computer for his cell.  Again the makers of the game seemed to understand the basic role of dignity in our humanity.  The computer allowed the prisoner to take an online course in law, economics and computer design.  Each of these skills dramatically increased his work ethic at exponential levels.  In other words, when he could participate in his own restoration he reformed at unprecedented levels.

My total score was how reformed he was based on the four categories.  In other words, I to score really well I had to affect the whole person.  I couldn’t just focus on one category and leave the rest.  I had to restore all of him.

I say all of this because in Thrive, understanding the role of dignity and the whole person was huge for us.  It was central to understanding the love was the restoring or holding of the person’s dignity, which was established by God in the act of creation. It wasn’t something ooey-gooey or codepently sticky sweet.  It was in fact deeply courageous and restorative. And as human beings we aren’t just a body, or mind, or a soul.  We’re all three.  We can’t just fill people up with information and assume we had done our job.  We had to create a space that allowed people to work through stuff and deal with not just what they thought but how they felt.

How often do we assume that following Jesus is simply about memorizing the right verses or serving on the right committees?  Jesus came to heal, not to create some religious program that led to boredom, yet how much of what we do leads to the latter?


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One of the things I love about Missio Dei is that it still comes down to one thing: following Jesus.  We can talk about all the church growth programs, building problems, definitions, philosophies and any other thing you can think about, but at the end of the day it is stil about taking the risk to step in the same footsteps of this guy who changed our world 2,000 years ago.

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C Michael Patton likes to come up with several charts. They discuss the decided differences of theology and approach to orthodoxy and truth, some around the emerging church.  I get that.  It’s a framework for understanding.  I have nothing against chart, or against what Patton has done.  They are simply his view of the world.

But I still want to know where Jesus is on this chart.  Which category is he under? That’s where I want to live.  I don’t really want to follow John McArthur, Don Carson, Don Miller, NT Wright, Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus or Doug Pagitt. I want to follow Jesus.  I may learn from each of these people, but I want to learn how they are reinforcing what Jesus taught, not what they think.

What if the problem is that we define categories based on flawed human beings and not Jesus.  Everyone of these people think they are right.  Maybe the problem isn’t that each is wrong but that we aren’t sure if we’re right.

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The Lie Of Stuff

The more I follow Jesus, the more I begin to really see the wisdom in leaving the “stuff” behind.  What if the lie of stuff is that it leads to a subtle form of oppression?

There’s just something about getting stuff that just makes us immediately feel better.  We’re taught to buy stuff because for some reason the act of purchasing something releases endorphins that make us feel good.  I have actually caught myself buying something stupid and then the moment I walked out the door asking, “Why did I buy this?”  This is the subtle trap in our consumeristic world. It feels good to buy even what we don’t need.

When I bought my house there was an amazing feeling to being an owner.  In some ways I had taken part in the American dream.  I could now say I wanted a certain color on the walls and I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission.  And then after about six months I began to feel the weight of something called a mortgage.  I was now beholden to paying for this “dream” for the next thirty years.  It really made me ask if this was really a dream or somehow a twisted trick.  This dream was now requiring me to make a certain amount of money every month in order to pay for it.

And then something strange happened.  The American dream changed in mid-flight.  Someone invented the term “upward mobility.”  My house that was so cool was now supposed to be just a stepping stone to a better house.  But I liked my house.  I thought…  Why do I have to move?  But I did.  And as much as we try there is this expectation to keep up and have the next best thing.  We see the really cool things that we could have, the ones that come in the mail on a regular basis, the ones our friends have and are loving.  We are consumers.  It’s what we do.

But now I’m beginning to ask a different question.  What’s the real cost of my stuff?

When I buy something, say a new car, I get to enjoy the wonderful feeling that comes from owning something new.  There’s something about a new car smell, the look on your friends faces when they see you driving it, and the joy of not having to worry about it breaking down.  There’s also the fact that I can take care of certain concerns and needs when I have a car.  The idea is good…in principle.

But then what is the cost of that stuff.  First I have to pay for that stuff.  This in some cases a natural order of things.  Stuff has to be bought.  It’s not free.  But I often can’t afford to actually buy that stuff so I purchase it on credit, which means in the case of my house I will actually pay twice as much for the pleasure of taking part in the American dream.

I then began to realize that the stuff I buy has to have a place to be stored.  I need a new shelf, another closet, and a bigger garage. I have Christmas stuff, and Easter stuff and sports stuff, and linen stuff, all taking space in my house that is an American dream.  In some cases I actually have to park my car outside the garage because I have too much stuff, or not enough space, depending on how you look at it.

Stuff also needs other stuff to go with it.  It needs it’s friends.  The duvet needs a better bed.   The shoes needs a different shirt.  That couch could never go with that carpet. And my house needs a different backyard.  Who cares if I can’t afford it?  I’ve got a 725 credit score to take care of that problem.

Stuff also has a way of hanging out when we don’t really need it.  It needs to be put up in the attic because we somehow think we’ll need it…some day.  So we set it next to the stuff that we bought twenty years ago, that we thought we would need…someday.  And all of this stuff has a way of piling up, filling the spaces in our closets.  Yes it has memories and potential but that’s for…someday, when we’ll use it.

Looking at it now I think I get what Jesus was saying when he said, “Sell all that you have.”  The more we buy the more we have to manage and take care. And what once was something to serve us becomes something to serve on a regular basis. And that is not a life I really want to live.

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My Rub With Freedom

What if I’m afraid of my freedom?  This is a question I asked myself some time ago.

The story in the Bible is humanity moving from freedom to bondage and back to freedom again.  The first part was easy and unfortunately had a deeply profound affects on us.  We’re born into a bondage and oppression, not of our own making.  In fact, the story reveals that we seek out oppression and bondage as a way of living.  We’re broken.

And to follow in the footsteps of Jesus calls us back to freedom. As I’ve said before, this is a staggering concept.  But true freedom is only possible by stepping out of my own prison.  It is only possible with maturity and growing up. The door is open but I have to walk out of my cell.

Jesus transformed culture by fulfilling the law, thus releasing us from it.  Paul spoke volumes about that freedom when he said,

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. (1 Cor 10:23)

Every morning when I wake up I am faced with the possibility of doing anything.  And nothing will separate me from the love of God if I do.  This is a wild concept, one that I hold strikes directly at what happened in the Garden.  My actions don’t define His love for me.

So then what do my actions do?  They produce consequences.  And as Paul says, some of the consequences harm me.  And when Jesus said come follow me, he was asking me if I wanted to participate with him in my own restoration.  This is a provocative question.  Because if I follow it means giving up my own bullshit.  It means giving up my own excuses as a victim or my anger as a perpetrator.  It calls me to discover a new way of living, a Jesus way that responds in love.

Freedom means growing up.  And the reality is that it is just easier for me to remain a child.  As a child I get to whine and complain.  I get to rant and scream when things aren’t right.  And I don’t really have to participate in creating something new because, hey, I’m not old enough right?

It took me 25 years to come to the same conclusion Josh Garrels speaks in his song Freedom, when he says:

“we shine like lights
exposing what lies underneath decomposing
unearthed old chains that are rusted
oh my God, is that what I trusted in?
that sin, that tom-foolery?
what it is is mental jewelry
that I adorned myself with
The enemy’s gifts, the man-made myths,
the ignorant bliss of marijuana splifs and alcoholic fifths
and I got really sick and tired of it”

The reality is that its just easier to live the lie.  It’s just easier not to remain tired but not sick of it, to not participate.  When someone harms me, its just easier to run or strike back. To step into love means leaving punitive justice by the wayside and instead seek restorative justice, one that seeks the dignity of the person over what they have done.  And I love this when its applied to me, but its a rub when I am called to apply it to others. Freedom brings a fear of living an entirely new way, one that calls me to suffer on behalf of other people, which then restores me. Who said following Jesus was easy.

This post is inspired by Josh’s song Freedom.

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Was Jesus An Idealist?

The other day someone called me an idealist.  And to a certain extent I agree.  I am trying to keep my focus on His intention for me and not my own.  I actually consider myself a realistic idealist.  I desire wholeness but recognize my own brokenness and limitations in this body.  But I want to participate.

And this led me to the question, “Is Jesus an idealist?”

What do you think?

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Tell Me Jesus…

If you could ask Jesus one question, what would it be?  And if you’re brave, what do you think He would say back to you?

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