Monday, August 17, 2015

The Problem of Forgiveness

Here is a four-fold progression I've discovered in working with people around issues of unforgiveness and forgiveness: 1) "I wont."; 2) "I want to but I can't."; 3) "I want to and I've tried, but it didn't work."; 4) "I'm ready to release and let go.  I can't do this anymore.  I want to be free."

That first stage sounds something like, "I won't!  I'll never let them off the hook for this!" Or "I won't forgive them until they repent and make amends!"  The message is PUNISH!!!  Sometimes the pain is so acute and the emotions are overpowering.  "If you ever loved me, don't rob me of my hate, its all I have...."

One of the 4 doors in Sozo Freedom Prayer is hatred.  How do we close the door to hatred?  How do we move past the deep hurt of betrayal?  How do we heal from from that place where we can make the choice to begin the process of forgiveness?  Andy Reese in Freedom Tools delineates this in the chapter on 10 Foundations.  We have to understand "Event and Process".  Father God, I want to close the door of hatred.  How do we do this?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hubs, Networks, and Teams

Whether in vocational church or marketplace ministry, our ability to respond quickly and adapt is critical, and it's becoming even more so as technology and disruptive forces increase the pace of change.  We are "surfing the edge of chaos", living in liminal space (the "in-between" but on the threshold), and learning to embrace paradox alongside paradigm.  The challenge of "holding truth in tension" is formidable at times as we shed old wineskins and develop and embrace flexible new ones that will not burst as the New Wine is being poured out.  The world seems to be changing faster and faster, thus requiring our creativity to become a collaborative effort and our innovation a team sport.  We are also being required to reinvent ourselves, which involves breaking down "silos", working across divisions, and mastering the flexible responses that come from true teamwork and collaboration.  The greatest innovations will not come from lone inventors and neither will solving problems come from older conventional models of leadership.  Instead, the greatest victories, successes and accelerated growth will come from teams working together in the pursuit of KINGDOM.  This requires ADAPTABILITY.

The Gathering Fresno is "morphing" into a "purer" model of collaboration and embracing a polycentric model of leadership.  I believe that a rapidly changing world (marked by speed and dense interdependencies) means that ministries everywhere are facing dizzying challenges and disequilibrium, which can only be solved by creating sustained adaptability through the establishment of collaborative teams, where real-time innovation requires integrative and transparent leadership that empowers individual team members.  Entire structures of "how we do business" are morphing and shifting.  Enough said...

The Gathering Fresno is a growing network of church, parachurch, and marketplace ministries who want to collaborate for synergy and catalyze a sustainable move of God in the region.  We believe in a "ring of fire" approach, little fires coming together to create a firestorm that will sweep through the central valley with overwhelming LOVE!!!

As a result, we are adding not subtracting, and increasing not decreasing our influence in the region.  This will be done experimentally and innovatively, and we hope you will jump in!!!  Future blogs from members of our team will outline some of these innovations that have emerged from prophetic dreams and visions.  Stay tuned!!!  One of my favorite words these day is FIRE!!!


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I recently posted an article by John Burke that I've become somewhat passion about.  It's titled "When Two Lesbians Walk into a Church Seeking Trouble."  Here is the link:  
But my passion is not so much on this one particular issue alone as it is in our ability and willingness to engage in healthy dialogue around some of the challenges we face in church culture, and in that process we become better equipped to navigate some of the fundamental shifts that are occurring in our world today.  I previously posted some introductory "rules of engagement" that I hope will facilitate discussion that is constructive and informing.  Please note what is highlighted in red.

I recently posted a blog by an author I respect who was offering an alternative view on a sensitive issue.  I realized that the venue I chose to post this article was not appropriate and so I removed it.  But that didn't or doesn't mean that I don't want to talk about the "tough stuff".  Rather,  I realized that my blog may be a more appropriate place than Facebook for some constructive "wrestling". I believe we have an opportunity to learn from each other and listen to Holy Spirit together about some of the shifting paradigms in our culture that do matter, and how to navigate them in a way that fosters growth without compromising truth.  And that the outcome of our dialogue is not necessarily agreement but an openness and willingness to learn and be teachable. Incidentally, I will not partner with a spirit of fear nor will I receive any false accusations that "Mike sold out to compromise" just because I want to talk about what I believe are important topics relevant to Kingdom Life and Mission.

I want to give you a recent example but let me first "set the record straight" about my current position on this issue so that I don't "trigger" a reaction from some of my friends. 

I recently asked Holy Spirit about whether I should vote for marriage equality and He said "NO".  But I didn't hear him say that my "NO" was supposed to be everybody else's "NO".  Frankly, I've found some of the arguments for marriage equality to be quite intellectually challenging, even from a "non-affirming" biblical standpoint.  But I unequivocally heard (in the Spirit) "No" and I was drawn to Isaiah 55 ("my ways are not your ways are ""higher"" than your ways).

Having said that, I had some great dialogue with a friend about this issue at Saint Arbucks recently.  We didn't agree with each other in the end but I tried to follow the 4 points I previously posted (January 2nd) for engaging in critical commentary.  Guess what?  We learned a lot from each other, grew in the process and we still have a great friendship.  I guess that's my point. We were taught early on to "disconnect" from people who we disagreed with us ("Come out from among them and be ye separate....").  I now believe that was a mistake.
Jesus talked extensively in John's gospel about truth, and how we come to know truth, which we believe is ultimately found in the person of Jesus Christ.  Truth is found or revealed to us in the context of our relationship with Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. "I" believe the "whole of Scripture" reveals that truth must be known experientially, not just propositionally.  We have reduced truth in western culture to knowing doctrines, dogmas and creeds.  And by the way, I believe in the Nicene and Apostle's Creeds.  But we come to "know" truth by the Spirit.  We also know that "what" we know "by the Spirit" will not conflict with or violate proper hermeneutics. These points are relevant to this conversation because what is shifting for many of us (IMHO) is our understanding of truth.  I heard someone say, "God will never contradict His Word, but He may contradict YOUR UNDERSTANDING of His Word."  Because we believe revelation is progressive (that is, our understand of truth is developmental and ongoing), we know there is "the final word" and then "the word after that."   I love this short video by New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright:

In conclusion, I spent 20 years in ministry congratulating myself in "being right".  One of my mentors looked at me one morning during breakfast in India and said, "Oh, yea Mike, I remember when I was 31 years old, I knew everything too!".  Yikes!!!!

So I'll end with that for now.  Muchas Gracias!!!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

In Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, Daniel Dennett offers what he calls “the best antidote [for the] tendency to caricature one’s opponent”: a list of rules formulated decades ago by the legendary social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport, best-known for originating the famous tit-of-tat strategy of game theory. Dennett synthesizes the steps:
How to compose a successful critical commentary:
  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
If only the same code of conduct could be applied to critical commentary online, particularly to the indelible inferno of comments.
But rather than a naively utopian, Pollyannaish approach to debate, Dennett points out this is actually a sound psychological strategy that accomplishes one key thing: It transforms your opponent into a more receptive audience for your criticism or dissent, which in turn helps advance the discussion.

Friday, October 10, 2014

I've found that the "What, When, Where, How, and Way" that the Lord speaks doesn't often meet our expectations.  This is why 6 months ago and then last month I heard the Lord say, "PAY CLOSER ATTENTION" and again "PAY ATTENTION" (Hebrews 2:1; Proverbs 4:20). Sometimes He is answering the cry of your heart in the most unlikely places, times, and circumstances.  So we are paying attention to hear the Lord everywhere and at all times and in a variety of ways.  Of course it is important to "verify" that it is the Lord's voice.  I recently posted that we received a prophetic word by a credible prophetic voice about NEW BEGINNINGS.  The children of Israel experienced a NEW BEGINNING when they crossed the Red sea.  But then there was this "in-between" place (liminal space) where they experienced something called Transition.  Interestingly, the most difficult phase of giving birth is called the Transition phase, where contractions start "piggybacking". It is the shortest phase but the most intense, and followed by the last phase, PUSHING.  The children of Israel had a 10-12 day journey from Egypt to Canaan that "got stretched out" to 40 years.  Navigating our transition is critical then, so we don't get stuck.  There are many important lessons to be learned in the transition (even on this side of the cross), namely a "deepened trust" and dependency on Triune (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  And of course the vision of our Promise keeps us propelling forward (Proverbs 29:18)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

This video clip is a powerful example of the SUPERNATURAL POWER of a father's love for his son.  Trained as a child soldier to kill (Blood Diamond), and brainwashed to believe his dad was also "the enemy", this father called out the "gold" in his boy and his TRUE IDENTITY. The Father is calling out his prodigal sons and daughters who have lost their way and been "brainwashed" through the wounds and lies of life.  20 years of working in group care with "juvenile delinquents",  I had to learn to see the Father's heart for "broken" children.  Powerful!!!  KEEP YOUR LOVE ON!!! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Can We Dialogue-Pt. 2

Can we dialogue?

This blog is dedicated to building an “atmosphere of dialogue” in the spirit of christian unity, (melting our swords into plowshares),  and recognizing and valuing multiple perspectives on various topics that relate to the current transition we are in.  Some of the topics include transformational spirituality, leadership, community, mission, integration, and a host of others.  One of my friends, Danny Silk, says that the goal of communication and healthy dialogue is not  necessarily “agreement”, but the need to understand and the desire to be understood.  In the end we can “agree to disagree”.   But I believe we gain more than we lose in the process and grow in our understanding of what is progressively occurring in the Kingdom (present day truth).  That more than ever we are experiencing “fundamental shifts” in our theology (our understanding of the nature of God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit), our soteriology (What really happened at the cross), our ecclesiology (how we do church, community and mission), and our eschatology, (the “now not yet” tension of the Kingdom).  I believe we are living in a turbulent transition where EVERYTHING is changing fundamentally, and that we have entered something called “liminal space”.  More on that later.
Several excellent points here will create a “framework” for meaningful dialogue.
First – we need each other. No single voice can speak all the truth, no single “tribe”  can conceive all the options or perspectives, no single “stream”  can acquire all of the revelation and hold “the edge” on truth that is “progressive in nature”.  And ironically, we can learn more from those who thoughtfully challenge our views and positions than from those who simply agree. This is especially true in the areas of theology and biblical studies (our eschatology, ecclesiology, etc.). But this necessitates sitting down in dialogue and exploring both our points of agreement and our points of disagreement.  A current example in our movement  is the disagreement between the east coast prophetic voices and the west coast prophetic voices regarding our theology of God’s goodness, the problem of evil (theodicy), and “hyper-grace”.
Second – we all need to concentrate not on winning battles but on making allies. Ultimately our goal within the church is to search for truth in Christian unity, not to score points or win debates. We are not called to conquer our fellow Christians, victory is reflected in willing unity not enforced submission.
Third – we need to keep working on what are called the “dialogical virtues”, habits of discourse that are conducive to understanding others and to making ourselves understood. Among these virtues are such things as honesty, fairness, and clarity,  and one that stands out in particular, humility (the opposite of pride or self-righteousness).  We can be passionate about our convictions and what we believe, but “make room” for other view points and perspectives because we all “see through a glass darkly (I Cor. 13:12).
Fourth - we need to avoid caricatures, “straw man” arguments, and villainizing or “demonizing” the “other side”, as this “shuts down” dialogue and creates “enemies”.  It’s similar to the “God told me” language that some use which doesn’t facilitate dialogue because we are not allowed to “argue with God”.
Finally - Conversely, conceding a point to keep the peace is not a dialogical virtue. Nor is a wishy-washy anything goes tolerance.  There is truth and there is error. But we find the truth not by proclamation or intimidation, but by patient and thoughtful persuasion. One of our most admired mentors, Bill Johnson, has stated that “God will never contradict His word, but He might contradict “your understanding” of His Word.   I hope you’ll join the dialogue and be a part of a learning community.  Thanks!!!