Tuesday, December 21, 2010

the kingdom mandate

I received this email from another ex-religious-professional, post-religious-follower-of-Jesus I know from Canada. I have been enjoying fellowshipping with him, and have been following with interest his return to a "pastorate" of a church granddaughtered by a church he planted. This off-the-cuff email is packed (even on the fly, David is a great writer). Enjoy! The best of all is God is with us! -Brian, Christmas 2010.


"So here is the bare essence of my strategy that I am about these days.

Jesus will build his church. Thus, I am not going to attempt to fashion its structure around a worn out – out dated model that essentially is only maintaining a central building. The earth in relative terms is a village/hamlet of the King’s kingdom thus in my view the church is to be subversively infiltrating the village with Kingdom salt. Yet keep in mind that Christ’s body is only a facet of the Kingdom and as such its initatives must be subservient to the Kingdom’s business.

Originally the village was given to Humanity to rule with General Managerial Authority (Genesis 1 in the Message says – “Take Charge” and “Be responsible”). It was a unique managerial responsibility in that they had the right to give away the village, which they did via their disobedience. As such the village was usurped by the fraudulent Mayor. He took charge because we note in the third temptation he offers Jesus back the ownership. Post death, burial, resurrection, ascension and Pentecost the village’s deed is once again safe within the legal ownership of the Son who now sits at the right hand waiting until his Father makes all his enemies a footstool for Him (Heb 1:13). Better still no longer will our behavior affect its ownership.

The fraudulent mayor is actually defeated (e.g. D-Day which effectively was the end of the war even though the allied forces had to go to Berlin), but he is still squatting in his former village desecrating every thing he can place his influence on.

The follower’s job now is to regain their managerial leadership of the village by renovating the desecration that has occurred. The responsibility includes making disciples (repatriating kingdom citizens) who Jesus will form into his body. But the job also entails bringing the kingdom to bear on the desecration of the village by salting (purifying) the social, political, economic moral fabric within our spheres of influence. It includes setting right even as it pertains to the architecture of our communities that have been desecrated. Not by pointing and wagging our finger but by subversively entering the desecration as salt. Including making disciples, who post being formed, conformed and transformed into the image of Christ salt their spheres of influence.

So this is why you must deal with parasitic sins that so easily entangle. You can’t salt your sphere of the Village if you are dirty brine." --David Brandon, Aurora, Ontario, Canada

Friday, June 18, 2010

All you need is lvoe

These 4 inch letters were supposed to spell a word that went along with the other home decor signs like LIVE, LAUGH, HOME and WELCOME.

It is completely understandable that someone in China did not recognize the misspelling. I have worked stocking shelves, so I get why a stocker in Florida would not have noticed. The really funny thing is that when Kirstie tried to buy it at a discount, the manager offered 10% off. At that point it was the principle of the thing--for her and him--and it went back to live on the store shelf. Someone else will get this really good deal. We went home, singing in the car, "All you need is lu-voe...all you need is lu-voe...all you need is lu-voe, lu-voe...lu-voe is all you need!" (Don't sing it out loud, it will get in your brain and then you can't get it out).

Love is misspelled across our land, too, on the billboard of our common existence. I--we--can be so unloving:

"Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.

It is not rude,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails."
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Marriage, Murder & Mercy

Ingrid and I have been married 28 years and 1 day today. People ask—and they are not joking—how Ingrid could endure me all these years. The top answers offered raise further questions about the quality of her eyesight, hearing, and short and long term memory. Mostly people assume that God has given her the most amazing gift of mercy any human has ever had. True that.

Mercy triumphs over judgment. It says that in the Good Book. It says that a lot and in big ways. We as a species deserve a harsh assessment. The God of the universe sees and knows all the stuff we have hidden from the IRS and our mothers. If He were merely “fair,” we’d all have to go to hell. That is the only rational judgment He could make. But, He holds mercy higher. When we like sheep have gone astray, the Good Shepherd comes and finds us, throws us on His shoulders and carries away from the wolves to green pastures and still waters, and stands post with His rod and staff to protect us. He is the God of the second chance—and third, fourth, fifth…

Ingrid reflects the image of this good God to me every day and in every way. We work together and most days usually find a moment or two of tension (or three or four…). We have an office in our home, and we tell people the reason we don’t allow guns in our home is that we would have a workplace shooting by Tuesday of every week. Other people watch the news on Friday and ponder how some guy could walk in and kill a bunch of his ex-co-workers. Not me and Ingrid. We get that. What Ingrid and I don’t get is how he made it all the way to Friday. Bad joke, but if you have been married a long time you get Ruth Graham’s answer to the interviewer when asked if she and Billy ever considered divorce: “Divorce? Never. Murder? Often.”

We have a marriage tradition that we have practiced for 28 years. On our first anniversary I gave Ingrid two glasses and carafe with four words engraved on it so that we would check in on these crucial things every year: Love, Faith, Promise, Forgiveness. The importance of the first three needs no explanation. These are the big three that the Love Chapter says will stand forever essential: “And now these three will always be with us: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love—the practice of giving and living tender care—is the greatest thing, and that is what I need the most work on.

Ingrid identified forgiveness as her biggest challenge this year. In fact, she said she was so mad this week that she spent about a half hour at one point trying on the thought that she would not forgive me for my repeated wrongdoing. Couldn’t do it. Too much mercy in that girl. Too much Jesus in that girl. Jesus said that we should be forever forgiving and forbearing of one another—not just in marriage, but in every relationship. In fact, he made that the one condition of getting God’s forgiveness: punishment is promised “unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:39). Ingrid gets it: because God has forgiven her 70 X 7, because He has offered up the perfect sacrifice of His son on the cross, she too must reflect that kind of loving forgiveness to others. Good fortune for me, I say. She runs the soup kitchen for mercy around here—and I am standing in line for some mercy soup every day.

Yes, you read correctly. I just wrote that God’s forgiveness is conditional. But before you Reformed Reformers run me out on a rail, look again. It was in quotation marks. Jesus said it, not me. It is right there in the Good Book. Mercy triumphs over judgment IF—and only if—you and I offer that same merciful attitude toward others. Read it for yourself: Matthew 18. This is the most unread chapter of the Bible in American Christianity. That’s a little scary. So many people think because they prayed the prayer they got the eternal fire insurance policy that can never be cancelled. They will be so sorely surprised when they stand before the Lord and try to explain why they called him “Lord” and sounded so religious but did not do what he said to do so clearly.

Yet, still, there is so much mercy about the place. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). God even designed “evening and morning—the first day” with the plan to give us daily do-over! Mercy is built into the morning. Do you feel it? God knew we would need mercy that much and that often. I know I do—ask Ingrid. But morning comes, and there we find the God of the second chance waiting with arms of grace one more time. Before the foundations of the world, the God of love provided a way back for those who would get so lost. That passage goes on to say, “‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him” (Lamentations 3:24-25).

Mercy triumphs over judgment—and prevents murder in the home office. Thank God!

Monday, May 31, 2010


I own real property and I am a tenant, too. I sometimes get the two confused in my head, partly because of my underdeveloped understanding of Florida “homestead” laws, but that is another subject.

Owners, in the eyes of the law (and probably in the eyes of God, I think) can control, shape, develop or neglect their property. It is theirs to do with as they wish—unless and until it impinges on others’ property or their tenants’ rights under their lease and/or under the law. In those cases, the governmental authority steps in and restrains the owner from doing harm to others. As long as that is not happening owners are, for all intents and purposes, lord of the manor, caller of all shots, the desk where the buck stops on the disposition of their property.

Tenants or renters (depending on whether or not you want to use the legal term or less formal term) are not in ultimate control of the property, and usually don’t have the owner’s same sense of responsibility for it. That is why when you drive through a neighborhood you can usually spot which homes have tenants and which ones are owner-occupied (usually, but not always). No one cares for a castle like its owner, and tenants will flee at the least little thing.

They remind me of the skittish and fickle peasants in history. We have a water colour of Conisborough Castle hanging on our wall, dear to us because of all the memories of that place we lived 10 minutes from for 3 years in the mid-90’s. It is famous because Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe was set nearby (which I must admit I still haven’t read, like so many books). I could tell so many interesting stories and details about that place, some hilarious, some tedious I’m sure. But here is the one of interest for this brief entry: the keep at Conisborough (the keep is the tower in the middle of all the other formidable defenses) is the best preserved keep in England for one reason only. It had been abandoned at the time of the Parliamentary Wars in which so many castles were dismantled by armed bands spreading the “democratic spirit” of Cromwell and friends (ironic, but true).

Sorry, I started getting off track, but back to the point. Castles with mote and perimeter and barbican and defenders and hot oil and archers and catapults and their own supply of water were formidable indeed in older days. But there was one weakness and it ALWAYS appeared when the lord of the manor was absent. The Achilles’ Heel of the castle defense was the willingness of the servants to defend the castle in absence of the owner. I can almost envision the conversation in a Monty Python-like dialogue, as they opened the gate to save their own lives, and lowered the bridge for the invaders to come in: “Take what you need—we didn’t vote for ‘im.”

The same can be said for business owners versus employees or non-stake holders in a corporation. That is probably why small businesses (read sole proprietorships—owner-run operations) account for such a disproportionately large percentage of our economy. Jesus made this same point long ago, referring to the unreliability of paid pastors: He said (as John reports): “The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-- and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John’s Gospel, 13:12-14). For all its bluster, it is ironic to me that the church-as-we-know-it in our country is mostly committed to this socialistic funding of the Christian religious enterprise (misusing the word “socialism” as is so avant-garde these days), and turning up its nose at the more tea-party-friendly and entrepreneurial understanding of Christian mission so clearly modeled by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9, a missionary strategy so unequivocal and clearly reiterated to the wise-ones late in Paul's life: “I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:33-35—stunning statement, if you read the warnings that come just before it).

I used to think it was cruel and heartless when church organizations, having fallen on hard financial times, told their pastor to go get a job. Now, I think, they were halfway back to where they needed to be in order to start: they could get there if they went all the way and sold their buildings and assets (if, indeed, they really want to help someone in need as they claim). Don’t laugh. Many churches around the country have done it lately. I don’t know that I’d call it a trend, but it sure would be interesting if it were.

All of that are a part of my reflections this morning on ownership. For the encyclopedic readers of my blog the answer is yes, this is another entry in the lexicon of acceptable words: “Lord” is out since those who say “Lord, Lord” won’t get in at the end of days. In our vernacular, Jesus is Owner and Physician, Commanding Officer and Skilled Therapist, holistic in all things social, spiritual, physical and emotional. In the words of the great hymn I heard someone singing on the street in Annapolis last weekend: “This is my Father’s world….”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

why hasn't Jesus returned yet?

I got asked last night what I thought about why the Lord has not returned, and if I thought it had something to do with the bride NOT preparing herself. I gave that some thought and wanted to read the few scriptures in the New Testament that use the word "bride" (very few) before I replied. Here are several things that I pondered, and then I summarize my very tentative answer below. I'd be interested in your take on the question.

1. We don't have a single instance of Jesus' teaching his disciples about the people of God as the Bride (and he never uses the word "bride" in the four gospels, or the rest of the NT including Revelation).

2. John the Baptist makes a DECLARATION ("this is true, ponder this!"), NOT an EXHORTATION ("become the bride!"): John 3:29 "The bride belongs to the bridegroom" (cf. Rev 21:9: "of the Lamb" = belonging to). It reminds me of 1 Cor 12: we ARE the Body of Christ and each one of us is a part of it. Declaration: it is a fact. It doesn't mention the purity of the bride here, just that the bride belongs to the bridegroom.

3. Revelation 19:7-9 (quoted below) APPEARS to answer your question in the affirmative, yet not quite.

(a) God brings the wedding: the wedding of the Lamb "has come" = divine passive construction="God has brought the wedding."

(b) Our part begins with "AND." "God has brought the wedding AND his bride has made herself ready." Why is that important? We are not to go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). It does not say "because," but "and." The two happen at the same time.

(c) Verse 8 puts it in a divine passive construction again: "was given to her to wear." God clothes her in fine linen...

(d) ...AND this fine linen is our righteous acts (the parentheses () in the quote below are in the text itself, not my insertion). God's action AND our action. God's clothing and our obedience. Grace AND good works/obedience...

(e) We don't need to go there, right? What comes first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken: GRACE upon grace results in obedience (and, James corrective: if no obedience, there was no grace).

(f) All in the context of Jesus' teaching that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" will inherit the kingdom, but only those who DO what He says (for whom He is truly Lord=if He's your Lord you can't not do what He is saying).

Revelation 19:7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."

4. It all ends with a divine passive construction: "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (Revelation 21:2). Dressed by Whom? You don't need to ask: divine passive construction: dressed by God.

So, after pondering these passages afresh (is there one I overlooked? Please let me know), here is my answer: The Lord will come when He comes. He is the Lord. If He chooses to wait, it is His choice-not ours. If He arrives and we are not ready, He arrives nevertheless. Not everyone will be ready, and the consequences will be disastrous for them. Those who are ready have no boast--they have been made ready by Him, they have been washed and cleansed and salvaged by His gracious hand. If He has done that for them, you can observe it in their behavior: they obey Him.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us continue to do what He says, AND not go beyond what is written. Let us pray as we should, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus." Let us be found ready when He comes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

we found the perfect church!

We do church 24/7 with 1,372 people-100% attendance all the time.

How long to build it?
It was about a year and a half of planning, building and

How many pieces of LEGO to build it?
More than 75,000?

How big is it?
About 7 feet by 5 1/2 feet by 30 inches (2.2 m x 1.7 m x .76 m)

How many LEGO people does it seat?

3,976 windows, a balcony, a Narthex, stairs to the balcony, restrooms, coat rooms, several mosaics, a nave, a baptistery, an altar, a crucifix, a pulpit and an elaborate pipe organ.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

why I am not writing another book

I sometimes get asked if I am writing another book, usually by someone who has read one of the 5 I wrote. Sometimes I have been told that I am "wasting talents" since I am not writing books. That is not how I feel. I believe I am faithfully following the path Jesus has led me down. Here are some milestones on that path:

1. During my Ph.D. studies, I was struck by the New Testament and early church identification of false apostles and teachers as those who "peddled the word of God." It occurred to me too slowly--being overeducated but not all that bright sometimes--that perhaps the Christian publishing industry was a source of darkness rather than light.

2. Several years ago, I was invited to speak at Expolito, the Spanish Christian Booksellers annual meeting in Miami, Florida, at the release of a Spanish translation of my book on ministry in the Spirit according to Paul. Since I could not keep up with the speed of the conversation over several days, I was forced to pay attention to what I was seeing. For the most part, the convention wasn't even bothering to "peddle the word of God"--they were peddling everything but. (They learned from their English language version's bad example). Hmmmm, I thought, this is NOT good. Not good at all. I think during that time the penny dropped for me that I needed to stop writing books and put the emphasis elsewhere.

3. I became more and more aware in homes that I visited and conversations with Christians that we were full of books, but not people of One Book. People talked about what their pastor had preached or favorite author had written, but NOT about what God had told them to obey. We are a church and nation of spiritual prurience, ever spectating from the bunker, rarely in the game or on the front line. I began to connect the dots: we are what we eat, and we have been feeding on the chaff of human doctrine, not the meat of God's Word. There is an old principle that applies: if the horse you are riding on is dead, for God's sake, dismount.

4. Jesus' parting charge to us kept coming to my mind: "teach them to obey all that I have commanded to you." We have distorted that into left-brain rationalism without action, rock-star conference culture of hero worship and heads full of knowledge but lacking wisdom, tough-mindedness ("wise as a serpent") and a cutting edge to the mission of our lives. The salt has lost its saltiness, and our little lights no longer shine. The words we overlook in Jesus' charge are crucial: OBEY and ALL. He didn't put a big premium on understanding and analyzing. The emphasis was on standing-under and actualizing His word. We need to be people of one book--in compliance to its wisdom we become an arrow shot from and to heaven.

5. One day I was pondering why church-as-we-know-it is not the scary threat to hell's doors that Jesus said he would build ("I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it"). And, it is not even mildly effective at evangelizing not-yet Christians in our culture. It finally dawned on me. This is NOT the church Jesus built. This is a straw house on sandy foundation built on mere human wisdom and celebrity or tradition. This is the church WE built--that is why it is so pathetic. Jesus never told us to build churches. He told us to train them to comply and practice everything he imparted to us. If we do that, He does his part--builds a church whose advance hell can't stop. I see it now here, now there. When the rains come down and the storm crashes in, all that will stand is such houses built on the rock of obedience to Jesus as Lord.

So here is the "book" that I am supposed to write. Paul's self-understanding in 2 Corinthians 3:2-4 is my example to emulate: "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God."

The book I am to write is pages on others' lives as I seek to obey all Jesus taught, and teach them to do the same. I am not to write a book on paper between covers but on souls with skin. Here are some of the best books and articles I am writing that you may have never read: Ingrid, Julia, Jeff, Kirstie, Carlo, Elizabeth. I hope you get a chance to read them some day.

Whose lives are you writing the kingdom of God upon?

(Oh yeah, one other milestone. AJ, Julia and Jeff Rogers kept pressing me to write something on the internet--Julia got me to blog. I see this as more of a journal than publishing. More a soap box of what I would shout across the nation to Alaska and Hawaii, than what anyone else would ever want to "publish." Since only about two and half people ever read it, it has no danger of supplanting my life-writing mission).

Friday, February 5, 2010


Someone I just met suggested that I "friend" on facebook Steve, whom I have known awhile. I cracked up--just new to facebook, I thought this is going to be a fun ride.

Friend, friended, befriended, frenemy...I sent Steve a note through our new facebook connection joking about it. (We already fly, call, email, skype phone, skype IM...just what we needed--one more way to lob verbal provocations at each other... :-)

Steve replied with a definition of friended that made me laugh to the point of hurting myself. I had to share:

"made a tenuous cyber connection on a website known as "social media" so that you can have relationship without any responsibility.... the ultimate relational format for those who love illusions since reality is too painful and complicated, the ultimate for those who feel they do not exist unless they are being broadcast and viewed..."