Friday, March 28, 2008

Take the red pill

"The matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes, to blind you from the truth."

~ Morpheus - The Matrix

One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1999 film The Matrix. It is your typical, yet sophisticated thriller that takes an unknowing hero and enlightens him to the importance of his role in saving the universe. Much like Luke Skywalker in the 1977 film Star Wars. Now many people have tried to connect both of these films to Christianity and draw connections between Skywalker or Neo to Christ, and even though there are similarities, neither of them die in the end and sacrifice their own lives for the sins of this world. None of them happen to be the son of God either. My purpose here is not to draw a connection to the trinity with these films, but rather show the connection between the matrix and western Christianity.

We are all stuck in the matrix, a system that bogs us down with everyday useless interactions with a system. We all fill our days with meaningless business. We wake up, we go to work, we come home watch some TV, and then we go to bed and do it all over again the next day - never making significant connections or even allowing God to make connections for us. We get so overwhelmed with paying our bills and working enough overtime to put food on the table and live the comfortable consumptive lifestyle that is the Western world that we never are able to unplug from the cycle that is the matrix. And to tell you the truth, some people are so busy that they have developed a pattern of complacency and are so used to the matrix that they don't want to unplug from it. As Morpheus says in the film:

"You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it."

Tearing the Church away from it's complacency will not happen easily. Most are so used to it, so comfortable with it, that changing and seeing things differently is impossible, or at least terribly painful.

I did a lesson on the Miniature Earth statistics where the class and I calculated how much I spend each day. This included my mortgage, student loans, gas money, food bill, utilities, an average of how much I spend on clothes in a year, etc., etc. We figured out (and this was a conservative estimate) that I live on no less than $150.00 per day. Read that again. And I think that I am a relatively controlled spender. Comfortable and consumptive when compared to the fact that nearly 3 billion people in this world (half of the world's population) lives on $2.00 or less a day. And I feel like I'm unplugged from the matrix, once again, to quote Morpheus, "There's a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path." To be the Church, with a capital "C" that God intended, we must shed our complacency, we must unplug from the matrix, we must begin to "walk the path". Neo didn't fully become who he was to be until he unplugged, until he saw that the "world had been pulled over his eyes." We don't need one Neo, we need an army of Western Christians who see this as a reality and unplug from the matrix in order to be who Christ has called us to be.

Morpheus: “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

As Americans, we are so busy, we are so consumed with ourselves, that we are happy and content to stay plugged in. And many of us want to take the blue pill.

I think the red letters of the Bible, the words of Jesus, have asked us to take the red pill, and I think the rabbit hole goes deeper than we could ever imagine.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He has risen!

The revolution has begun.

A revolution that asks the first to be last.
One that asks for me to love my enemies.
One that is fueled by love, not power.
One that trusts this message to a handful of fishermen.

A revolution that asks us to be small - not big.
One that is quiet, and subversive.
One that spreads like yeast through dough.
One that asks me to give up everything to receive everything I truly need.

A revolution that began with a man from nowhere.
One that was rooted in the line of Judah, who sold his brother into slavery.
One that eats with sinners and calls out the religious.
One that embraces the poor and rebukes the rich.

A revolution that touches the leper.
One that accepts the thief.
One that forgives the betrayer.
One that sees you and me as sons and daughters.

He has risen indeed!
And the revolution continues. . . . . .

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

I am a thief, I am a murderer

Walking up this lonely hill

What have I done? I don't remember

No one knows just how I feel

and I know that my time is coming soon.

It's been so long. Oh, such a long time

Since I've lived with peace and rest

Now I am here, my destination

guess things work for the best

and I know that my time is coming soon

Who is this man? This man beside me

They call the King of the Jews

They don't believe that He's the Messiah

But, somehow I know it's true.

And they laugh at Him in mockery,

and beat Him till he bleeds

They nail Him to the rugged cross,

and raise Him, they raise Him up next to me

My time has come, I'm slowly fading

I deserve what I receive

Jesus when You are in Your kingdom

Could You please remember me

and He looks at me still holding on

the tears fall from His eyes

He says I tell the truth

Today, you will live with Me in paradise

and I know that my time is coming soon

and I know paradise is coming soon.

by Third Day

We are all thieves

We are all sinners

We are all lilywhite

We are all blameless

One of my favorite quotes is from Brennan Manning in his book Ragamuffin Gospel, in it he sums up the life of the thief, and more importantly, the saving grace that was the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior:

"We are all equally privileged but unentitled beggars at the door of God’s mercy."

The thief did NOTHING other than accept the mercy of Jesus.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Oh my Little Alligator. She has quite the bite. She can be the sweetest thing in the world, she is compassionate, and like all of us, she loves to be loved. I delight in her. Nearly every evening she comes to me in her sweet little voice and asks "cawn we wesstle." How can I say no? She still calls "slobber" - "slobet," and she will point at your nipple and say "that's your nickle Daddy!" She will run around half the day with one sock on, and her shirt on backwards - and not care. She will ask for a napkin, and then wipe her mouth on her shirt.

Whoa, but watch out. If you don't slow down and look her in the eye when she needs you to, or lose your temper and not speak with kind words, her heart will break, her eyes will melt your heart, and then she will trample right over you with her strong will. She can be ferocious. I watched her once, after having her brother take a toy from her, walk up from behind, grab Avery by the hair and pull him over backwards - the best part was she was only around 22 months old. She is raw, but pure, compassionate, yet focused. I know, scary for a 3 year old. But I know that this combination gives her the personality that will fight for what is right, and chase God with every ounce of her being.

There is a part of me that wishes I could be like Ally. She has this little twinkle in her eye, she does everything with passion, total abandonment. She is who she is, and you know exactly what you're gonna get. This is what Jesus is referring to in Mark 10:13-16:

"People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.' And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them."

The children run to Jesus, without hesitation, without caution. They haven't been conditioned by the world to follow social norms, to do what their earthly fathers say is right, they just know Jesus is love and they want to be near Him.

I pray that Allyson Grace will run to Jesus with full abandonment, without hindrance, and with the passion that I see on her face each and every day. Thank you Lord for giving me such a little blessing, one that I can see you shining through, one that reminds me to run after you with abandonment, and with the faith of a child.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why Voluntary Redistribution? PART II

2 Corinthians 8:13-15
For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”

Matthew 25:40
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Luke 12:33
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Luke 3:11
John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."

Isaiah 58:6-7
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Mark 10:31
But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Luke 14:12-14
Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Matthew 9:12-13
On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Isaiah 10:1-3
Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?

Matthew 5:40-42
And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

James 5:4-6
Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.

Psalm 140:12
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.

Isaiah 61:1
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

Proverbs 19:17
He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will reward him for what he has done.

Amos 5:12
You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine.

Jeremiah 5:28-29
and have grown fat and sleek.
Their evil deeds have no limit;
they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it,
they do not defend the rights of the poor.
Should I not punish them for this?"
declares the LORD.
"Should I not avenge myself
on such a nation as this?

Proverbs 14:31
He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Matthew 8:20
Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

Luke 9:3
He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic."

James 2:5
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

James 5:1-5
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.

Luke 16:13
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Psalm 72:4
He will bring justice to the poor of the people;He will save the children of the needy, And will break in pieces the oppressor.

Hebrews 13:1-3
Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.

1 John 3:17-18
But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

Isaiah 1:16-17
“ Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

Isaiah 58:6-7
“ Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

James 2:14-17
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Luke 12:15
Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Why voluntary redistribution? Because God the Father, the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth has asked us to.

Why Voluntary Redistribution? PART I

First off, I don’t think I can even begin to understand poverty. Ron Sider asks the question to begin his book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, “Can overfed, comfortably clothed, and luxuriously housed persons understand poverty?” I believe the answer is a definitive “NO.” But I can try, and I desperately want to. Statistics don’t always sink into your brain or your heart (most statistics taken from Sider’s book):

Our hungry neighbors:

1.2 billion people live on $1 or less a day (that includes everything: food, water, clothing, housing, etc., etc.)

1.6 billion people live on $2 or less a day

840 million people are “severely undernourished” (the number is actually down in developing nations, but soaring in underdeveloped nations)

Due to poverty and lack of medical care, some underdeveloped countries have an 8% infant mortality rate – huge compared with the 0.7% of the United States

In some countries, the literacy rate is as low as 18%

1 billion people do not have access to safe water

2.6 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation

Each day 6,000 children die because of lack of clean water and sanitation

Undernourished children lack the protein that gives their bodies and brains what they need. Medical science has proven that severe malnutrition produces irreversible brain damage, especially in children. In 1999 there were 149 million malnourished children under the age of 5

Every day in Africa alone, 6,000 people die from the AIDS virus

Why voluntary redistribution? Because they need us to.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Voluntary Redistribution

In the 1930s, Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union attempted to increase their economic production by developing a centralized bureaucracy that set prices of goods and services, as well as nationalizing all land. To help with food shortages in the cities, the communist government "encouraged" farmers to move to state-owned collectivized farms, and their livestock, land and crops would all become common property.

The same process was forced on the peasants by Mao Zedong and the Chinese communist government in the 1950s, which was known as The Great Leap Forward. Even within China today it is called "The Giant Leap Backwards." The effects of these collectivizations were disastrous.

In the Soviet Union alone, nearly 2 million farmers were sent to the Gulag (Soviet prison), and estimates have claimed 30-40 million died of starvation or were killed.

In China things were just as bad, and probably worse. Nearly the same numbers died from man made famine. In some of the hardest hit areas, there were some reports of cannibalism. Many of the starving resorted to eating the soil, not knowing that it would harden in their digestive tract and they would die possibly an even more horrific death. (On a side note, a very good and entertaining film on The Great Leap Forward, and Mao's Cultural Revolution is called To Live, I highly recommend it).

Stalin and Mao weren't exactly God fearing guys. Both were totalitarian dictators who were way past crazy. Their Great Leap Forward and 5-Year Plans were good ideas in the eyes of power hungry revolutionaries, and very bad ideas to those who could see that they were power hungry, maniacal quacks.

However. . . . .

What if everyone voluntarily redistributed their goods? What if everyone gave up the debt that was owed to them, gave a portion of their profit to the needy, and took strangers in as favored guests? We would be living out biblical principles! The year of the Jubilee! In Leviticus 25, Moses sets out the principles that God had given to him on Mount Sinai (Andy's paraphrase):

1) every 7 years do not plant crops, rely on God
2) every 50 years forgive debts
3) return to your original land and return any land that you own to it's original owner
4) if someone is in need, loan to him, or give to him, but do not take interest

This is a structural and governmental system set up by God in order to help everyone prosper. However, as most things with God, it is voluntary. Greed, bitterness, and deceit obviously set in, and the Israelites stopped following these laws, stopped collectively helping each other. Just as the church of Acts stopped pooling their money and collectivizing their possessions. However, just because these examples stopped doing it doesn't make it wrong. If anything, if people stopped doing it, you could easily argue that it WAS the right thing to do.

Don't mishear me here: I do not want to equate what happened in China or the Soviet Union (or Cambodia or Mozambique, etc. etc.) to anything from God. Communism, when forced on people through violence and tyranny is nothing more than evil. As many of my students have mentioned, "in theory, communism is a wonderful idea."

But. . . . . when it is voluntary, it IS from God.

I like to say we are voluntarily redistributing our goods, and hopefully yours. Not because we want to take some sort of St. Francis vow of poverty - far from it, God does not desire for us to be poor - forever. Rather, we know that we can take something like a bowl of soup, a smile and a conversation, things that our over-consumptive society finds such little value in, and it may restore someone's hope in Jesus. It may be the beginning of voluntary jubilee! It may be the yeast in dough, or a mustard seed in the wild, it may be the Kingdom of God quietly and subversively making it's way through our cities. What if everyone did it? Would it be called communism?