My Friend Chris is Choosin’ Jesus

It was about seven years ago that I first met Chris. He was responsible for unlocking the gymnasium where Renovatus met for worship as we prepared to launch as a new church. He was a nice guy, he usually helped us unload our trailer that carried all our sound equipment, lamps, pillows, and other random things we hauled into that gym to make it feel cosy and worshipful. Through hiking adventures together, him and his girl friend volunteering at some of our community service events, playing basketball, etc. Chris and I eventually became good friends. Our relationship solidified as he and his girl friend fiance asked me to perform their wedding ceremony. Doing weekly pre-marital counseling with them and my wife proved to be a very special time together as we got to know each other on a much deeper level. Couple that with Chris and Chrsitie committing to help us start a new discussion group focused around spiritual dialog and our friendship was in the bag. We began to know each other’s stories more fully and to walk through life together as much as we could figure out how to do so. Over the years Chris and I have grown closer together as we’ve worked through the messiness of life in pretty real ways. Eating lunch together almost weekly and being in a consistant and fairly high-commitment small group together has helped to develop our friendship into something unique and deep. I’m grateful for Chris and what he’s taught me about generosity, about intelectual honesty, and  what it means to be a friend.

I will not attempt to capture Chris’ spiritual journey very fully here because so much of it is internal and I fear misrepresenting him. What I can say is that when I first met Chris he was actively working (or was he just actively talking about it?) on writing a book about why Christianity was wrong and why God did not exist. As a staunch atheist he found Christianity to be lacking on many levels–though one of his biggest pet peeves with my tribe was the fact that we’d sit around on Sunday mornings talking about Jesus and telling him how awesome he was instead of actually doing what he said. One Sunday morning we even invited him to share with Renovatus about the incongruencies that he saw in the church. To this day I still remember his words–challenging us to talk less about Jesus and to actually do what Jesus said. Over the last seven years and over many many lunch dates Chris has asked lots of good questions about Jesus. While he’s always thought Jesus was a good guy, a man worthy of being respected along the lines of Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and MLK, he never believed Jesus’ claims of being God.

I cannot really capture any sort of process or movement toward Jesus in Chris’ story as it has been played out over the last seven years of friendship and dialog. It was more reminiscent of a slowly dripping faucet than anything else–but the faucet was almost always running. There was no question over the last seven years that the faucet was running. I occasionally (and somewhat jokingly) told Chris that if he ever chose to follow Jesus we’d better all watch out ’cause Chris doesn’t do many things half ass. He’s either all in or all out, he’s either going to do it well or not do it at all, he’s either an obsessive freak about something or he could care less. Besides laughing at me when I told him this he also communicated clearly that he really wished he believed. He wanted to believe but he didn’t, he couldn’t, and he wasn’t going to fake it. Chris also knew that I was with him regardless of his belief, that we were doing life together regardless of whether he eventually chose Jesus or not.

His wife was a believer and Chris saw the benefits of believing, but he hadn’t yet had any kind of “aha” moment that had pushed him over the edge into belief. He talked often of an “aha” moment–that intangible ‘something’, that unexplainable moment that would draw/force/invite him into belief in a way that nothing else could. And so we all waiting for an “aha” moment to happen.

Well it was while I was in Orlando back in April that I got an email from Chris telling me that he’d had his “aha” moment. Within the context of the messiness of life Chris felt invited to embrace love as a verb–to understand and accept love as something you choose. As he thought about my death (among other things) he grieved the fact that he was losing one of the people in his life who was helping him draw closer to Jesus. But why follow an apprentice (of Jesus) when he could follow the real thing? Why keep me in his sights when he could place Jesus in the forefront instead? If love is something you choose, then he could choose Jesus. There’s more that needs to be said here, but I hesitate to tell other people’s stories.
Chris knows that I love him regardless of whether he chooses Jesus…but that doesn’t in any way mean that I’m not absolutely giddy about all of this! Seriously, when I found out that he was ready to take this next step in his journey I awkwardly sobbed like a little baby. I mean, I shouldn’t have been surprised ’cause in many ways it just makes sense–this isn’t an out of the ordinary or surprise thing because it’s just the continuation of what God has already been doing in and around Chris. Neither does this mean that Chris has “arrived” or come to some kind of spiritual end–he doesn’t see this as something where he’s secured his place in heaven and signed some dotted line to avoid hell (in fact, he talks freely of not being sure what he thinks about all that stuff). No, Chris just sees something in Jesus that he wants more of and he’s willing to risk his life on it. It’s simply his next step in his journey…albiet, a very huge next step!
So in a few weeks we’re going to party. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, and the cool rite of passage that the church has embraced called baptism.  I get to dunk my friend under water to symbolize both the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and the choice that Chris is making to die to self and embrace the new life (resurrection) that Jesus offers. It should be quite the party, quite the celebration…and what better thing to celebrate than this?
Love you man.

Fruits of Power?

The fruits of the Spirit (of God) are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

What is truth? This is not a question that I’m even going to attempt to answer here, nor is it one that I have confidence my philosophical chops could answer even if I wanted to. But I find that so many Christians are interested in proclaiming the truth, in teaching the truth, and propagating the truth. (yes, I realize I’ve just given three examples all saying the same thing…oops) What I’m more concerned with, or rather what I’m finding incredibly intriguing right now (thanks to my wife’s keen observation) is the methods or moods within which the ‘truth’  is shared or understood. There seems to consistently be a sense of authority, power, and strength associated with it. (this would be in contrast to a humble, broken, and gentle approach) I should mention here that I am not in any way condemning these more dominant characteristics in any way whatsoever. They are potentially deeply spiritual characteristics. The Bible, in fact, speaks wonderfully of those who are gifted in speaking with power–speaking powerful words into peoples lives; the Bible also welcomes the gifts of teaching–leading people’s thoughts with authority and instruction. Etc. etc…. What I’m fascinated by, though, is the set of things that are included when one of Bible’s authors speaks of the fruits that emerge from the actual Spirit of God.

The fruits of the Spirit (of God) are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

Love, joy, patience, gentleness, peace, kindness, goodness, self-control, and faithfulness. None of these are characteristics normally associated with any sort of power, dominance, or authority. Those are incredibly powerful qualities, but qualities that also demand that one gives up power and control. They don’t wield power in the way that we normally speak of or understand power. It takes great power to turn the other cheek–not power how we normally think of it…but it is an act of power. It takes great power love unconditionally–but it looks more like Mother Teresa than it does a US  President.

Again, I am not saying that those who see themselves as teachers or leaders, those with more dominant voices or a more dominant presence, or those who have an ability to speak boldly into peoples lives are wrong or are not congruent with the activity of the transforming movement of the Spirit of God.


Instead I think we are being invited into a backwards and radical understanding of what it means to be filled with God-ness. Power and control are not the defining characteristics of God or of those who are filled with his presence. Nope. Instead they are things like patience. Kindness. Love. Gentleness. When one is in pursuit of God, when one is filled with his Spirit in greater and greater measure, that person will begin to be a more self-controlled person. That person will love more sacrificially. That person will find more joy regardless of life’s bumps and bruises.

The truth is, as I see it, that any word we speak into any life, with any sense of authority, from any pulpit or pew must be marked in some overwhelming way by the defining markers of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Because (and here’s where it gets real good) “…against such thing there is no law.”


No laws. Nowhere. Nobody. Nothing can take those things away from you. Though the whole of life attempts to steal them away they are yours to keep when as they exude from the Spirit of God who has asked to live and move inside of you.

Dear Finger Pointing Christians…and everyone else for that matter

On May 24th a discussion broke out on my Facebook wall that continues to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. It stemmed from what I thought was a fairly safe question: “Is there any other issue besides homosexuality where Christians feel the need to clarify that we ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’? I mean, do you feel a need to make sure I know that while you love me you hate the way I spend my money? ‘Hey Bill, I want you to know that I love you but I absolutely hate your eating habits. It’s wrong, God hates it, and it’s important you hear this from me. I still love you, but your lifestyle utterly separates you from God. Sorry dude its important you’re aware I’m not condoning your lifestyle.'” Few actually ever addressed the question at hand and it eventually lead to me writing this blog that attempted to bring a different perspective to how we approach potential issues of right and wrong.

Today my mother shared with me a song that I found particularly poignant to the May 24th discussion.* I’ve posted the lyrics below:

Jesus, friend of sinners
We have strayed so far away
We cut down people in Your name
But the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners
The truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You
But they’re tripping over me

Always looking around but never looking up
I’m so double minded
A plank-eyed saint with dirty hands
And a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world
At the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours

Jesus, friend of sinners
The One whose writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away
And the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember
We are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy
Bring Your people to their knees

Nobody knows what we’re for
Only what we’re against
When we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs
Crossed over the lines
And loved like You did

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world
At the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours

You love every lost cause
You reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame
They’re the reason that You came
Lord, I was that lost cause
And I was the outcast
But You died for sinners just like me
A grateful leper at Your feet

Cause You are good
You are good
And Your love endures forever

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world
At the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours

And I was the lost cause
And I was the outcast
You died for sinners just like me
A grateful leper at Your feet

I don’t necessarily like the “us” and “them” mentality that most Contemporary Christian songs speak out of–including this song. There is, however, a reality that a Christ-follower has made a specific type of commitment to a certain story (namely the Jesus-story from the Bible) that invites them into a certain way of living. A certain way of living that suggests a certain level of accountability.**


Dear Christian brothers and sisters my prayer is that you are moved by the words in this song. May all our hearts break for what breaks Jesus’, may we all be called out by our own pointed fingers, may all our hearts be lead by mercy, may we all be a “friend of sinners” not because they are so evil and different from us–no, for exactly the opposite reason–because they are exactly like us! Because we are all sinners, we’re all effed up, broken, and distorted images of our original created beings. We’re also, every single one of us, on a journey. So please, I beg you, don’t impede one persons journey because of your need to be right over and above being merciful–because in no way does that reflect our savior and the story that you have committed to live out.

If Jesus was willing to befriend you–and he has–then please be willing to befriend others regardless of their life choices, without demanding that they know whether you think they’re going to hell or not (your opinion does not matter!), and please please please extend the same gift Jesus has extended you: love, grace, and mercy regardless of your sinfulness and even…wait for it… preceding your repentance.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us” Romans 5:8

* If you would like to dig into my Facebook wall you can read the 103 comments. What was  hurtful to me was to see some Christians in this discussion and in a few others that sprouted on friends Facebook walls value proving themselves right over and above being people of grace and mercy. It was heartbreaking and I saw their need to be right hurt some that I care deeply about.

** Eww eww eww. I just used the word “accountability”. Please everybody take a moment and go throw up in a waste basket with me. That word has so lost valuable meaning for me as it’s come to denote a scene where everyone is miserable and feels like they should share their deepest darkest secrets in some sort of serious and grim fashion. The word just seems to fit here…so please forgive me for what I have done.

Sometimes it’s wrong to be right

In my opinion you can absolutely be right and yet completely in the wrong. Being right is not all it’s cracked up to be and is not the most important thing in many situations. In fact, I’d suggest that often times when we’re in pursuit of being right we often end up on the wrong side of that to which we originally were in search of. In other words I think that often times it’s wrong to be right.

There are moments when our compulsion to be right leads us down a dirty path. A path where we can be









If I am right and you are wrong then what is most important is that I help you find the path to rightness.

If I am right and you are wrong then what is most important is that you understand why you’re wrong so that you can be rescued from your wrongness.

If I am right and you are wrong then me helping you understand the error of your ways is the right thing to do.

If I am right and you are wrong then the most loving thing I can do is fight for what is right.

If I am right and you are wrong then I have the freedom, nay, the responsibility to speak into your life even if that word is unsolicited.

If I am right and you are wrong then my job is to speak not to listen.

If I am right and you are wrong then…

Oh, there are so many “if’s” that we could list! When we believe that we are right we so often believe that this gives us additional freedoms. But it does not. Being right (which is quite subjective in the first place) does not in any way give us a platform to speak into another’s life. It just doesn’t. We think that it does, we feel like it should, we genuinely (with good intentions I think) want to help. But being right does not equal doing right.

You can be right and still be a jerk.

You can be right and still be unkind.

You can be right and still be undignified.

You can be right and still be completely lacking in grace.

You can be right and still be completely miserable.

You can be right…

I don’t believe it’s wrong to be in pursuit of being right. But I do think that sometimes (honestly…often times) I could care less if you’re right. For one, you’re never right as often as you think (you do know that right?). Secondly, I personally value people more than I value being right and I often find that those two values clash. Thirdly…I didn’t actually have a third point here…but if I were to have a third point I think I might say that when our goal is the pursuit of rightness (a goal that I do not think is inherently wrong) I think we run the risk of missing out living rightly along the way. We work so hard to BE right that we forget to do right by others. The worst part is that, speaking personally here, many of the things that I knew were absolutely right ten years ago I find to be absolutely laughable today! What I used to bank on as right I now understand completely differently!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we never suffer from doing good and we can never over-love. So…what if we spent our energies

Listening to people instead of telling them how we’re right

Extending dignity to people rather than telling them how their wrong

Being humble in our understanding of ourselves rather than taking an arrogant approach of assuming our own rightness

Being compassionate in our interaction with others instead of fighting for our own ends

Pursuing understanding over and above proving how our own ideas are correct

One might argue that being right and being kind are not in opposition to each other–which is absolutely true…sometimes…oftentimes…occasionally…in theory…In my experience, however, what  I often observe and am tempted to live into is that when faced with the opportunity to prove myself right over and above another person (or their opinion) I will sacrifice kindness or generosity to prove myself the winner. I’ll prioritize truthiness over and above grace or gentleness. Being right usually wins out and it often costs something–and that cost? More and more I’m discovering that it’s people’s feelings, it’s potential relationships, it’s the dignity of others. Beating you down with knowledge–even good knowledge–is still a beat down. And that’s not right.



How to Start a Church…maybe

I said it on accident a few months ago at our first Grassroots gathering of co-conspirators.

With intentionality comes inevitability.

And I think I mean it.

As a small handful of people who are committing to a way of life together, a way of life marked by what the early church called the good news have started gathering once a month. It’s not a worship service, we’re not a church, we’re a developing community of Christ-followers who are experimenting with a hunch.

A hunch that with intentionality comes inevitability.

Essentially the experiment is that if we live a certain way with intentionality it will inevitably lead to a new reality in our lives and our neighborhood.

Intentionally gathering together once a month as co-conspirators will help to propel us toward a greater commitment to a Jesus life where we live, work, and play.

Intentionally and radically living a gospel life (another way of saying living the Jesus way) where we live, work, and play will lead to the inevitability of gatherings. If and when people meet Jesus we suspect that there will be a need to gather together to explore such radical ideas and ways of living (’cause following Jesus really is a radical thing to do)

Intentionally gathering in living rooms, eating a meal together, and talking about Jesus stuff will inevitably lead to the need for even smaller gatherings of four, five, or six people where you are more deeply apprenticed into the ways of Jesus. Some things can only be learned through purposeful learning and experiences.

Intentionally gathering once a month in an effort to propel each other into mission, intentionally committing to a Jesus way of life in your world, intentionally gathering in living rooms to talk Jesus stuff and to learn the story, intentionally gathering in smaller groups to apprentice each other into the ways of Jesus will inevitably lead to the public gathering that we so often mistakenly refer to as church. As people move closer to the life of Jesus the need to publicly tell the story (both the ancient and present story) is absolutely necessary.

Each piece is not one of progression towards an end, there isn’t a conclusion once a “church service” is happening. It’s not about an end but about necessity. Each phase is an inevitable reality if lived with intentionality and each next phase is a necessity as transformation and movement is occurring.

Because with intentionality comes inevitability.

The hunch could be wrong. The pieces could be wrong too. That’s why this is called an experiment. We’re learning as we go, we’re learning as we get to know people, we’re learning as we better get to know the Spirit of God. We’re learning as we better get to know ourselves.

But I’m beginning to believe that when a group of people chooses to intentionally live a certain way a church is inevitable. Church isn’t a goal it’s an outcome. Church happens when people fall in love with Jesus so much that they’d rather die to their own desires and needs for the sake of others…I think.