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Thank You for the Mess Pastor Mark

I find that I cannot let the latest chapter in Mark Driscoll’s story unfold without comment.

I come from a fairly conservative family of faith and attend and serve a fairly conservative church. Driscoll’s sermon series covering the book of Luke played a major role in my maturation, transformation, and living as a Christian. I fall easily in love with his vision, passion, and strength. However, the growth I have experienced as a student at George Fox Evangelical Seminary over the last three years has given me a much broader perspective.

Most of the people I love and learn with at school hold Driscoll up as the ultimate modern example of how to pastor wrong, and for good reason. There can be no question that Driscoll’s success has come at great cost to those he hurts and oppresses. I do not defend him as a perfect pastor.

I do not ask for forgiveness. Driscoll has done that himself. I do not ask for tolerance. I believe Driscoll has exceeded the tolerance the Church should provide. Instead, I ask that we all do our best to see Mark Driscoll within the larger framework of church history. I cannot, for the life of me, hold names, dates, or even the proper sequence of historical events in my mind. However, years of careful study under excellent professors and alongside brilliant peers has shown me generation after generation of women and men who accomplished great good and great harm in the process of growing our theology and ecclesiology.[i] Time and time again people have reacted to clear deficiencies in the Church, and that reaction has taken them into battle. Always the innocent are harmed as the misguided are corrected. Never does it seem that the perfect path is unveiled. Always the faith of the church is moved toward perfection.

I am thankful that all of those women and men, including Driscoll, did not sit on their couches and wait until they were perfect to act. I am willing to accept the inevitable pain that comes with the need for constant evolution and to trust God to suffer with the afflicted and redeem their sacrifice for the overall good of God’s people. It’s messy. Christianity is messy. I am messy. I pray that you have the courage to get messy and make mistakes as well.


[i] All examples are arguable, but some might include: Christendom allowing people to worship openly and fostering corruption; Luther speaking out against works based salvation and corruption at the expense of countless upright local Roman Catholic priests; Augustine teaching people to examine their own weaknesses with the result that many lost track of God’s power and grace; Arius encouraging people to embrace the humanity of Jesus and leading many to water down his divinity.


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Wrestling God (Again) – Genesis 32:3-32


In the morning, Jacob will cross the Jabbok River into the Promised Land and face his estranged and violent brother Esau who may destroy him completely. All of Jacob’s family and wealth have already begun the journey. Jacob sits alone and waits in the dark.

God held astounding plans for Jacob, plans far too great for a man like Jacob who cheated people as a matter of character. How incredibly tempting is must have been for Jacob to think he had misunderstood God’s word – that he has the short end of the bargain this time. Jacob lay in the dark knowing God, knowing God’s promises, praying, but not knowing God’s plan.

Can you imagine the bone crushing doubt that kept company with Jacob that night? Do you ever feel the soul rending tension between God’s glorious promises and the olive press of your circumstances? Do you wait alone, naked of all conventional security, and in the dark?

In the middle of the excruciating waiting, a fight breaks out. Jacob wrestles with God – all night long. Nothing God does can sway Jacob. Nothing defeats Jacobs’s will. Jacob will not submit. Ultimately, God’s victory requires divine intervention and leaves Jacob crippled by God’s touch. But still, Jacob clings to his will and stays engaged: “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”(Genesis 32:26 NRSV)

I don’t know about you, but I often wrestle with God, in the dark, and for huge stakes. Those battles seem to last forever. They hurt, sometimes horribly. Sometimes, like Jacob, I hang on even after I am thoroughly beaten and insist on my blessing. If this is where you are, “…take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12:12–13 NLT-SE) Know that your struggle will bless you as well as the cloud of witnesses cheering you on and those who look to your example to cast light on their own path.

Also, please know that trust, simple submission to God’s will, also leads directly to peace and joy.

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Faith is the Drug We’re Looking to Score

“Being addicted doesn’t freak me out like it used to because now I understand its source.”

via Faith is the Drug We’re Looking to Score.

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Faith is the Drug We’re Looking to Score


”This is, in brief, how the body becomes addicted to substances. The substance alters a balance of natural body chemicals; the body adjusts to this alteration by trying to reestablish the proper balance, in so doing, the body becomes dependent upon the external supply of the substance.[1]

I kicked several significant addictions over the course of the last decade including mood altering chemicals, pornography, and material security. They’re gone and done, but not my addictions to food and productivity. That’s troubling, but being addicted doesn’t freak me out like it used to because now I understand its source.

God crafted us to live deeply hooked on the work of the Spirit – obsessively and compulsively wrapped up in, constantly craving, and totally dependent on her, lost in the crazy and tumultuous life of that addiction. Unfortunately, we fight it tooth and nail because of our broken expectations of what a well lived life is supposed to entail – control, accomplishment, and well-earned rest.

Picture the disciples response as the storm hits their small ship and Jesus continues to sleep blissfully unaware in the stern (Mark 4:35-41). They freak out, and just like them we want to shake Jesus awake to rescue us. When we try, we don’t always like the answer. Instead of calming the storm, God invites us to stay in process with the Spirit so she can shape us in the middle the tension and strain. Often, lust like the disciples, we bail out. We seek relief, and find addiction, somewhere else.

“Man, I need a break from all of this madness! Somebody getting me single malt and a vacation.” Or for some of us “I can’t stand the mundanity! Please God to give me the next big challenge so I can get totally lost in chasing it.”

The answer is clear, but difficult to translate from head to heart. Giving up control, staying in tension, and faith provide peace and joy. That is what we crave.   The healthy path to minimizing worldly addiction is the profoundly paradoxical blessing of finding rest on the run.

[1] May, Gerald G.. Addiction and grace. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988, p 24.a

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Grace, Family, Kingdom, Church

Father's Day

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
(2 Corinthians 5:17–20 NRSV)

Ahhhh yes, the deeply soothing balm of grace. Paul reminds me of the very first sermon I heard after thirty years of atheism-the one that brought me back the next week since it was such healthy psychological advice (if you took the Jesus part out). Carrying baggage only slows us down.

I find it progressively more difficult to administer grace the closer the receiving party is to me. I forgive people on TV and at work effortlessly. But, that is not all of grace, is it? I assume the best of people on a regular basis as well. I also tend to discount negative information as aberrant rather than indicative of character. Things work differently inside the walls of our home.

I am driven to discuss all of my offspring’s (is that the right word for an eighteen year old?) negative behavior with them. They need to know why it is bad and where they will end up if they persist in their crooked ways. However, I am still much better at forgiving than punishing – with my offspring (descendants, progeny?)…

My wife. My poor wife. As part of me I hold her to the same ridiculous standards I typically inflict on myself, with one key difference. I know my intentions to be pure (OK, for the most part), and that bias colors how I judge my behaviors. Alissa’s actions stand naked with no such protective covering. Often I hold her far too accountable for way too long. Please do not get me wrong. I am not a monster, not toward myself or my wife. But, I am not Jesus either.

Sometimes our family prays together, and we treat each other the way Jesus treats us. Those are good times. Truly, the best moments we spend together as a couple and as a family come when put our baggage down.

That is the application 2 Corinthians 5:17. It is powerful, beautiful, and potentially impactful on daily basis and a huge scale. Just the same, it only scratches the surface of what it means to be reconciled to God. Awareness of that sublime realty translates grace from human to Kingdom scale. Then, with our baggage left at the foot of the cross and our lives fueled by right relationship with Jesus, we cannot help but serve as ambassadors inviting others to join the larger family of the Church.

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Choose Great Suffering Part IV: An Outstanding Response

Book Shelf

A few weeks back, as I was wrestling with how best to parent my son, I sent out an email seeking counsel from the most brilliant Christians I know.

The request was phrased as a challenge from the perspective of a fictional young man:

“Christianity is boring. You know what’s not boring? Getting stoned and having sex with a new partner.

You know what’s exciting? Getting drunk while racing to the beach and listening to loud music that glorifies drugs, money, sex, and violence.

Working hard, getting the advantage, beating out the other guy, making lots of money, and spending it. Work hard. Play hard. That’s exciting.

You know what’s fun? Kicking back with the boys, drinking beer, eating pizza, watching football, and making fun of everything you disagree with and people who aren’t like you.

I’ve experienced those things. I know what fun and excitement are really like. I can’t stand reading so I have very little larger perspective on life, I’ve failed at everything I’ve tried to do within the conventional system. Two weeks is an incredibly long time, and the concept of positive authority has been ruined for me by too many people constantly telling me what to do (I have ADD). What does Christianity have to offer me?”

In short I was asking, what does Jesus have to say to our young adults lost in the lies of this world?

Here is one of the more powerful and insightful responses I received:

“In many ways I agree. Christianity is boring. Especially the way we’ve institutionalized it into a club where you either fit the mold or are “backsliding” at best. Our education system is similar. Reading is the most important skill for our little ones to learn. So what happens when ADD and dyslexia interfere? From an early age we set our children up for failure. The same is true with the model of Christianity we’ve set up that requires penance or right behavior. Heck, even reading the Bible is a requirement and so the kids that struggle in school will most likely struggle in Christianity.

This type of Christianity is boring. The world is fun. I don’t regret my party days but rather I often think of them with fondness (I doubt I’d admit it in church though). I think Christianity needs to stop competing. It can’t win.

So what if we offered something completely different? Something not based on fulfilling human expectations but something so deep that it actually changed the way we want to live? AND that by living that way we could make a difference in the world? I think that’s where social justice efforts come into play. When we see the brokenness in the world and that we can be a part of the healing we are compelled to act. Just like Jesus.

Christianity was created and used for control. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. Our systems are man made (yup, just masculine at this point) and therefore dramatically flawed. So what do we have to offer?

A safe place to land when he falls is THE most important thing I believe parents can offer their teens but it is often the hardest on parents because it means letting their kid fall and watching them get hurt, when you may have had the power or knowledge to stop it from happening – If they’d just listen right?

Your example (unconditional love, respect, boundaries, a soft place to land), though it doesn’t line up with what your son wants, is still the best thing you can offer. We often return to our family values later in life. At what point in your life did you realize you were beginning to act like your parents? Or better yet, when did you become okay with acting like them?

My grandpa who recently passed away once said “it’s every parents goal that their kids turn out better than they did”. He was an ass and so there wasn’t much of a challenge :). Still, eventually we learn both how we want to be like our parents and how we don’t.

I think the pain of watching your children fail is why Jesus often wept for Jerusalem. And this guy I know posted on his Facebook the other day that he wasn’t convinced suffering was such a bad thing :). So how’s does the suffering of watching your child fail, or be told they are a failure, or even think themselves a failure remind you of your walk with God?

We often react most strongly to the things in our lives we haven’t dealt with in ourselves. That’s something to think about for both you an your son.

This was supposed to be a more concise and pithy email. Instead you got me going. I feel your pain. I’ve seen it in many parents and students over the last 10 years. It gets better. Will you remind me of that in 20 years when I have kids?”


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Comparisons damage us in so many ways.

When we want what our friends have rather than enjoying what God gives us we make ourselves miserable and take a step away from Him.

When we compare our behavior to a friend’s or a stranger’s we may devalue them or elevate ourselves based on what we perceive as our relevant standing. “…God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11). Conversely, we may find ourselves disappointed with our own spiritual walk because we walk differently than someone we respect.

We compare our circumstances to another’s and grouse about a lack of fairness, or we compare our abilities and feel unable to move where God would send us. “Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Exodus 4:10

What we miss in all of this is God’s perfect ability to create us all uniquely and according to a plan that we can’t hope to understand. We also wholly discount the Holy Spirit and His ability to equip us for all tasks God sets before us. We completely lose track of the single minded focus on our relationship with God that supersedes and excludes all comparisons. When you focus solely on your relationship with Christ, recall his role in creating you and the people you’re comparing yourself to, and harken to his passionate commands to love others before yourself and feed his sheep. Things change. Peace, joy, and ready obedience replace all the shallow and negative things our earthly comparisons urge us to spend our energy on.

Love Christ. Look out for others. God will look out for you!”

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