The Theology of Animals.

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“I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.”

– Abraham Lincoln

“No one in the world needs a mink coat but a mink.”

– Murray Banks

 

Before developing the Theology of Everything, I’ve never really thought about the meaning behind owning another species of animal.  Growing up in the household I grew up in, it was just something you did.  Whether it was a puppy with parvo, a cocker spaniel with hereditary mange, or any cat that was hungry, we took care of it.  My wife and I had two cats before we even thought of having kids.  Since then, we have added three children, a dog, and another cat into the family, bringing the total to nine living creature living under one roof.  And let me make this clear, these are not the type of animals that you seek out to buy from a breeder.  These are animals that, in one way or another, found us.  We are animal lovers, and to us it is second nature to care for animals that can’t take of themselves.

 

By why do some of us have this posture?

 

Well there is something Holy about our rule and reign over this world.  God has trusted us to take care of this planet.  This isn’t some liberal bent on Scripture, I just know that God trusts me to take care of my pets and my pets trust me that I will.  It’s a unique thing to really understand that this animal’s life is in your hands.

 

(I bet if I was a farmer, I’d have an even deeper/richer understanding of this relationship.)

 

There is something about caring for other animals that blesses me, maybe because deep down I know I don’t have to, and even deeper down I know that I do.

 

The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.
Proverbs 12v10

 

Balancing a Paradox

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So I’m living through a corporate merger.

This means meetings, after meetings, after meetings.

I feel like I’m back working at the church…having meetings about meetings or having meetings to feel like we are moving.

 

The truth is: the work continues and some solutions won’t happen in an office (some will happen in the field).   My bosses get this, but understand the value of communicating and evaluating what is going on in trainings and meetings.  I even have to train people in a system where I have to explicitly explain that “you can’t understand this system until you start using it”

 

(honestly, that’s probably how we should be teaching about God…”you can’t understand Bible until you start to use it in the field”… “you can’t understand that God will catch you until you fall (or jump)”…)

 

I think that we have to live in this tension of balancing a paradox.

Control and Chaos

Organized and Organic

Structure and Movement

Script and Improv

 

Now I believe some of us are skilled to operate on the left, others on the right, and others in the middle.  The key is understand the Higher Purpose of those that can do something you can’t (or aren’t Called to).

 

As we take the Church into new territory (although God has already been there), we do so not to contradict, but to compliment. 

“Jerusalem” needs “the ends of the Earth” for imagination and for tilling up legalism.

“The ends of the Earth” needs “Jerusalem” for rest, for centering, and for unity in diversity.

Ice Water Church

Ice Bucket Challenge

So, like any good amateur anthropologist, I’ve been studying the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and it’s viral spread.  

I’m not necessarily jumping on board but at the same time completely appreciate the phenomenon.

  • The money raised!!!
  • The belief that we need to be more aware and be more in the fight against this awful disease.
  • The community, the fun, the “brotherhood” that is generated on social media that is (in a very rich way) connecting us. 

All of those things are good and I’m supportive of those supporting.  Just because I occasionally ask “why are you doing this?” does not mean I’m saying “don’t do it!”.  I would ask someone that is planning on getting baptized the same thing.

The whole experience excites me honestly, but maybe for a different reason.  I’ve preached and taught on the 3 entry points into a relationship with God: Believe, Belong and Bless.  I’ve taught that there isn’t a hierarchy to those 3 elements.  

 

Some come to God through believing (orthodoxy, theology, doctrine, dogma),

…some belonging (orthoempathy, community, connection)

…and some blessing (orthopraxy, mission, purpose, calling).

 

The Ice Water Church that we are see forming has elements of all 3 firing on all cylinders and I guess that gives me hope to know that the 3 are alive and well in all of us.

 

We are a people that know we should be fighting for more.

We are a people that are taught to be narcissistic but ultimately we seek community.

We are a people that know our $10 or $100 could be used to multiply the fruit that we wish to see more of.

 

We aren’t dead, we just sometimes need a little ice water to wake us up.

People Listen with their Eyes.

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I’ve heard this before and I think it’s becoming more and more true to me.

I’ve seen over the past 3 days, 3 different police officers “said” something to me.  I saw one texting and driving, one cut someone off by turning left from the center lane (no lights on), and I also saw one come to a complete stop to allow a truck to get back on the road.  They are not all bad messages and I understand that officers are human too.

It’s just confusing to me (and most people), when an officer would tell me to stay off my phone while driving and would ticket me for turning left where it is illegal.  It loses it’s punch when you chastise someone for something you would do or penalize someone for something you’ve done.

Don’t get wrong…. this isn’t a “you” problem.  I see it in my own life, especially with my parenting skills (or sometimes the lack thereof).  I see my kids “sighing”, wanting to look at a screen too much, or not being the cleanest of people.  My initial words are “stop sighing”, “engage with life”, and “pick that up” but like SONAR the “ping” back to me is loud and annoying.  They do those things because they see those things.

It’s call cognitive dissonance.

  • It’s the guy with debt yelling at our government to not have any.
  • It’s the preacher preaching to be in rich relationships with lost people but doesn’t know how to do it himself.
  • It’s the mom that cusses and punishes her kids for “following suit”.

Relax though.  We all have some of this in us.  It’s the hypocrite.  It’s the “old self” that frustrates Paul in Romans 7.  And it’s not like having higher expectations for others is always a bad thing.

However, just because it’s universal, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.

For me, it’s learning to see my hypocrisy and learning to get a little quieter about those things while I get more aligned.

And, at the same time, turning up the volume on where my actions, beliefs, and thoughts are aligned.

 

Basically, mute the hypocrisy and turn up the authenticity

The best critique of the bad, is the practice of the good.

- Alan Hirsch

More Aware

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Last week, I woke up from a dream that I remember. (This rarely happens)

Right as I awoke, the computer monitor in the other room flashed. My brain shot into “fight” mode, because it was startled and thought someone is in the house.

So I got up and walked around, calculating what I would do should I encounter someone.

After checking ever good hiding spot, I laid back in bed.

WIRED with Adrenaline.

I could now hear every noise, smell the scent of my wife’s hair, and see everything.  I could even see that I was going to have a hard time getting back asleep.

There is a connection that is animalistic. We experience heighten senses when are in this “mode”. It’s evolutionary. It’s normal. It’s in all of us.

So, this got me thinking. Why are some people, in certain places, not experiencing God like they do in other parts of the world, country and even in my city?  I think it sometimes involves what we are doing (or not doing).

When my family goes underneath the bridges, into the homeless shelters, and into homes that have youth from fractured families, I find myself seeing, hearing, and feeling God more than I did in a church building. I find that I’m very aware. I’m full of adrenaline.

It’s not always from excitement.
Sometimes it’s from fear. (It’s not like we are always unafraid)

Either way, it comes from following Christ into places and relationships where we lose control and need Him to exert His.

The less I program God, the more I depend on Him.
The more I depend on Him, the more I look for Him.
The more I look for Him, the more I see Him.
The more I see Him, the farther I’ll follow Him.
The farther I’ll follow Him, the less I can program Him.

 

I think it comes back to question someone once asked me when I worked for a church:  “If God didn’t show up on Sunday morning, could y’all still pull everything off?”

I said “probably”.

He said something that I’ve wrestled with since… “then He won’t”.

WWE and a church service

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*This doesn’t apply to all*

Have you ever watched “professional” wrestling?

Have you ever watched real wrestling?

 

There is a huge difference between the two.

One is polished and has great theatrics, the other is kind of awkward, messy, and raw.

One has costumes and performances, the other has on functional attire and is sort of improvised.

Simply put….one is a show (and we all know it), and the other is…. well…  a wrestle.

 

Most people, if honest, can tell if a church service is a performance or a wrestle.

… you can tell if musicians are performing instead of worshiping (even though they are good at performing like they are worshiping)

… you can tell when the stage is….well “staged”.

… you can tell when a teacher has been writing his/her message all week long and not living out the message all week long.

 

You can tell because it always goes smoothly and ends right on time (+/- an acceptable standard deviation).  You can tell because everything “fits”.  And sadly, you can tell because if God didn’t show up that Sunday morning, everything would still happen.

 

I’m just not sure if people prefer authenticity or entertainment sometimes, but as I’m reading through Isaiah, I’m reminded of God’s preference.

 

Sorry for all the times I played the game.

 

What are the Odds?

 

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Well you could say one in a million…

 

Or maybe even zero…

 

Truth is:  odds are just odds but you can determine them to some extent.

 

What are the odds of me winning the lotto*?

Probably zero because I don’t play the lottery.

 

What are the odds of me flying from Phoenix to Salt Lake City and having a great two hour discussion with Frank S. from Orlando?  And what are the odds of me running into him again on the way back to talk about our trips?  And what are the odds that the lumber company he works for is looking to expand in Houston?  And what about the odds of us grabbing a beer when he comes into town?

Probably zero.

But maybe not.

Maybe because God has taught me the “art of being present” with all people the odds are a little higher than zero.

 

 

…if Frank comes to town we are going to hit up St. Arnold’s or Karbach.  Maybe your odds of meeting a “Frank” or anyone else for that matter just got a little greater.

 

peace.

Stop saving my son….

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For the love of God.

Seriously.

Kai raised his hand last week and invited Jesus into his heart….for the third time.

Spring Baptist didn’t know that and Kai isn’t really grasping what they are trying to do.

It isn’t that the church is doing something wrong, it’s just that this is happening time and time again (and I suspect it happening to more kids than just mine).   They will count it as a victory (and probably a statistic), but my son is still figuring things out.  Lindsay and I pray with our children every night, read Scripture to them, hangout with homeless with them, show them what “salt and light” looks like with them and on and on and on.

We are trying to show them want ministry looks like….FYI it’s very messy and not program-able.

I believe my son loves God, not because he raised his hand after singing some songs and making some crafts, but because Lindsay, my father and mother, Lindsay’s mom and dad, numerous other blood and non-blood family members, and myself raised our hands before he was born.

Again, I’m really not mad, but stop please**

 

Deuteronomy 6v4-9 and Proverbs 22v6

 

**Lindsay and I discussed this with him after it happened.  We explained that if he is already in love with Jesus, that he doesn’t have to raise his hand….he just needs to live a life that reflects that**

 

Hush Money pt.2

bribe

(I’ve written on this before HERE)

When working for the church, I had a lot of great experiences but I also had some that were….well…. not so great.

I remember the first day of VBS one year, our children’s director was handing out shirts and one of the “blue hairs” (old lady) came up and yelled at her.  I already had a certain opinion about “old yeller” before this incident, but what really got under my skin was what another elderly women (who I did respect) said.  She suggested that the children’s director apologize because the woman that “lost her cool” gives a lot to this church.

The other incident that stuck was one Sunday after I preached.  A man, with a similar personality to my own, came up and gave me one of those “long handshakes”….you know the shake and then  he holds on for an extended period of time because he needed me to “hear him”.  He pulled me aside to let me know he gives a lot to the church and that if I ever needed some (financial) support, to find him.  I worked there 2 more years after this encounter and never asked.

Both of these experiences taught me the same thing: if you give a lot of money, you get to be heard.  If you don’t give a lot, you listen.

The first women knows that if anyone says something to her, she will tell them to be quiet by using her “giving history”.

The second man knows that if I take his money, he’ll be sure to let someone else know about it.  He is the type of guy that would want his name on a building.

Hush Money isn’t just about silencing others, it’s also thinking you should have more volume on your mic based on your bank roll.

Hush Money pt.1

shhhh

 

If I painted a scenario of a man that made $100,000, that went to church and donated 10% ($10k) to his church…also on the side he donated another 2-4% to his alma mater and maybe another 2-4% to other various organizations (Compassion, Charity Water, etc.)

You would think that this man was generous.

What if I also told you he had a subscription to a porn site as well?

Does this change your impression of him?

Or maybe he just bought a $300,000 4 bedroom home, but lived by himself.

As we access people (whether this is right or wrong is for another time), we tend to look at some things and not others.

If someone gives money away, we tend to not care about what they do with the rest.  However, God cares about what you do with ALL of your money….not just some of it….. not just a percentage of it.

ALL.

  • Giving some money away doesn’t vindicate you to live above your needs.
  • Giving some money away doesn’t allow you to hide how you spend the rest.
  • Donations aren’t “hush money” for your preacher to not speak Truth about what God says about building bigger house, buying new cars, owning “toys”, etc.

Bill Gates donating $29 billion doesn’t justifying him spending more on a home…..

Neither does it for preachers like Steven Furtick, Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, and numerous others…

But if you stood up in a congregation and said “just because ________ gives a lot to _________ church and ________ ministry, doesn’t mean __________ is not selfish”…..the preacher would say “hush”…..if not “shut up”.

If you “need” a big house, nice cars, and “toys”, I’m not going to argue with you.  Honestly, l live above my needs and have to wrestle with my lifestyle while so many suffer.  To really know what you need versus what you want should be a constant wrestle with Scripture and the Spirit.

If you are living above your needs or spending money sinfully, don’t use your charity and generosity as a justification.  It might work on me, but not on God.

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