Posts in Beliefs
How to Trust a Sermon

Because so much of my writing and podcasting as well as the teaching in TRIBE are deeply Scripture-centric, I am often asked how to recognize a Sunday sermon as theologically sound.  It is a difficult question, no doubt, becacuse the deeper you go with truly reliable Scripture study methods, the more the proof-texting and quicky applications so prevalent in today’s mega-churches and would-be mega-churches (isn’t that everyone’s aim these days?) ceases to resonate. Recognizing the Bible’s slow and steady pace to the margins of American religious life, I felt it was time to start answering this question for us all.

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Until the Doors of God Are Thrown Open

How shocked many modern day church-goers would be to discover that their deific notions of God have more to do with ancient pagan philosophy than Biblical Christianity. The institutional church of the first centuries (primarily in conjunction with Emperor Constantine) tried to pour the infinite fluidity of the Trinitarian God into the stoic stone container of the Greek’s god in the sky. And as time has passed, to most card-carrying Christians, the container is all they now remember.

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The Prayer Which Has Made All the Difference

As I have learned in so many ways through this last decade of my life, the only “you” you get is the one you’ve got.  The one sitting here reading this.  With all of her regrets, goals and demands for being better sooner. The Now You is the only you.  The Past You was not as you remember it (you’ve written a story about that person which justifies your present reality) and The Future you as imagined will never exist, because you have written only a handful of potential options into your imagined narrative… when there are literally an infinite number of quantum possibilities.

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Man's Great Dream of Himself.

Resurrection Day. A Day when we are reminded of how far the ego in us will go to destroy the life we are made for.  A day when our roles as both crucifiers and crucified is liberated in the vacant womb of an empty burial grave.  A day when we are to recognize the liberation from a lost life and awakened to a new, unformed and perhaps even unwelcome life.  

Resurrection Day. Old and tired identities die. New, unformed and humble ones emerge in their wake. Because He Lives.

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Creation Story: The Original Declaration of Independence

Imagine, if you will, a people in exile.  Impoverished, straggling across a foreign desert, attuned to little except the hope of a better future and the whisperings of a sometimes inscrutable deity.  This wandering people live an existence so far from our own that it’s almost alien.  While we clamor for ever expansive rights and privileges, they wrestled for nothing more than the strands of subsistence. Their dream was to stay alive.  It began as an escape from slavery and tyranny, a revolution not won on the battlefield, but acquired in the quiet enclave of hiding.  Eating fast-made and easy-carry food, waiting for the smell of death to clear the night air.  This is Israel at its institutional origin. 

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Mind: The Thoughts and Perceptions that Inform Us

The frame of the SOUL triggers our BODY into action or inaction. The frame of the HEART drives all our our prevailing narratives, impulses and will to exist. In between the SOUL and the HEART is the translation center of the MIND: life’s incredible tool for extracting meaning, interpretation and theory out of the rich and various experiences of life and how we respond to it.

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Creating a Terrible God

As I engage with people over the years, I find that there is little about God which draws out more confusion and emotional milieu than the concept of God as Father.  For most people, this is in part because they start with “Father” as they’ve known it and then apply this frame to God. Of course, like any title which we start with our own definitions of and then expect God to fit the confines of our expectations, the frame bursts with failed containment early and explosively. This failure of God to meet our expectations, unfortunately, rarely leads us to reconsider the expectations we’ve levered against Him. Instead we blame the Monet for not fitting within an ill-measured frame. 

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The Man for the Dream.

Joseph is a popular Old Testament hero. He had a technicolor coat, looked vaguely like Donnie Osmond, and seemed to find himself in shackles a lot. His story ends with him COOing one of the largest empires the ancient world ever saw in Egypt… a right hand man, long before Hamilton did so for Washington. (There are so many Broadway references here, it’s almost ridiculous.) At any rate, I suspect one of the reason’s Joseph, son of Israel, is a favorite character is because he appears to hold out one of our culture’s highest attributes: dreamer.

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Landmarks of a Transforming Life

The Self-Help section is one of the largest at Barnes and Noble, and without a doubt high on the profitability scale.  The idea of an accessible and simple formula for lifetime success has now even seeped into the biography section.  There was a time when one read biographies to view from the long end of history how a life had been formed by experience, choice and belief.  Not today.  Today, the majority of “biographies” more accurately stand as mid-life memoirs (some earlier than that) and they don’t intent to map out the story of life so far, but instead to manipulate the events of an unfinished life into the few short platitudes which can create tips for a ravenous public. 

Our new ways of defining human thriving have so denigrated our ability to stand in our own skin and to relate to each other with love and respect that anyone with an objective view would jettison these views in an instant.  But without a meaningful alternative, an attainable counter-narrative to the way to life, the deep and addictive rut of the status-quo will continue to hold us in its sway. Thankfully this counter-narrative is not far off.  There are signs for optimism.

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