Not Fair

This was written to share with my Co-workers. Seems right to share it here, as well.

As a father of two younger children I’ve found the perpetual argument over fairness between them to be maddening. I’m almost 8 years into their coexistence and I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard “That’s not fair!!!”. It would seem that fairness and justice is a primal instinct. It’s at the core of how we perceive the world. Even if we are far from being objectively right and fair, our perception of fairness to us can override our senses and drive us beyond reason.  

Over the last 6 months at Roof Above I’ve had a series of encounters with a neighbor who seemed to see me as a target to vent his frustration. It was startling at first. He would see me walking through campus and begin to yell all kinds of creative vulgarities at me. Almost every time I wanted to approach him and ask him his name and help him understand that I was not his enemy, but the intensity of the moments seemed to dictate that I avoid any direct communication. Then on a Monday morning he caught me as I was getting out of my car and yelled at me the typical vulgarities. Interestingly, that day it affected me a little more than usual. I did my best to ignore it and walked on but to both of our surprises we ran across each other again about an hour later, on a different campus. For whatever reason he approached me quietly and to my surprise he apologized to me. We talked, I got to learn his name and we exchanged some stories. We’ve been cordial ever since. My favorite moment of all these interactions was when he saw me walking one day and he said “It’s a miracle! I’m not yelling at you (while laughing).”  

During my time here thus far these brief exchanges with my new friend have meant the most to me. Even though they didn’t come easy, I believe they are evidence of mercy which broke the cycle of normality. Mercyshort circuits the tit for tat instincts that we all have. Mercy is not fair.  

One definition of mercy according to Webster is “compassionate treatment of those in distress” The origin of the word mercy is from Medieval Latin word “merced” or “merces” which means, price paid, wages, (from merc-, merx) This is also where we get the word merchandise.

In other words, treating others as if the price has been paid. Whatever kind of action or reaction they come at us with, we’ve already considered it and have paid the price. This is why we’re here. I see it on such a consistent basis from all of you on all of our campuses. I could not be more proud to be called your peer. Thank you for showing me how to carry a “full account” for my neighbors and my coworkers. Let’s get good at this and spread it around. 

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Jordan Neely. May we do better. Much better.


Preachers and Politicians

“Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod.” – Jesus (Mark 8:15)

Jesus is noted as making a similar statement in Matthew 16:12-13. Both comments that he made were seemingly out of context of the situation He and His disciples were in and both times He didn’t elaborate much on the meaning of the saying.

Maybe it was self-explanatory in their time. After all, leaven/yeast had a deep symbolic meaning then that has been lost in our time and culture. Yet even now this statement seems to ooze with meaning and demand attention.

Yeast/Leaven is a single cell fungus that can multiply and spread. Historically, it was made by fermentation. For baking, just a little can affect the entire batch. It can make a loaf of bread rise, giving it strength, making it larger, tastier, and more attractive. For the Passover Moses commanded all yeast be removed from the house. In other words, it has a way of affecting everything; It’s a living thing. Biblically, it mostly symbolized sin and evil, but occasionally it symbolized good (Matt. 13:33).

It seems to me that Jesus was warning the disciples about the effects of religious leaders, political leaders, and by proximity, religious systems and political systems. Both religious and political systems are unavoidable. They are a fabric of human existence, BUT especially for the Disciple of Christ, these two systems which can closely intermingle with the function of the Kingdom of G-d should be warned against. They can draw us away from the Kingdom, even intoxicate us.

These two systems have a way of getting into the fundamental perspective and heart of the people. They have a way of clouding perspectives, of making agendas seem important and meaningful that are in fact not.

THANKFULLY, Holy Spirit is our guide who can help us rid ourselves of religious and political leaven in our lives. Hopefully, we won’t waste too many years of our lives stuck in false narratives of importance fighting for causes and believing in hyped up organizations that we thought were Jesus’.

Neo Midrash

It’s been said that knowing G-d is akin to a person pointing up to the moon. The finger that points is the people, the scriptures, the lessons, etc. and the moon is G-d. The finger does its absolute best to point in the right direction and if that goes well the observer sees the moon for themselves.

After being involved in the modern-day church for more than 20 years now, I have to say that I’ve struggled to find the right focus in this analogy. Often times the finger seems to demand so much attention that it’s the absolute focus. I have come to realize that regardless of how firmly a person points, e.g. how much they yell, and flaunt, and demand attention (and sometimes submission), it has not helped me see the moon. In fact, it’s been those who have fallen in love with the moon and its effect on their lives that have helped me come to know it too…

In our modern information age, we have fallen in love with regurgitating “factual” information. We can’t wait to correct someone who is wrong. The elders really don’t have a place at the table because everyone has the most recent studies and they run contrary to the antiquated research they believe.  We argue. We offend. We’re right. They’re dumb.


Final word.

Everyone else is wrong.

Unfortunately, this mentality has made its way into our theology, religion, and the church. And as you may well know, G-d cannot be concluded by mere men. He’s not going to be boxed up and sold to the highest bidder. He chooses to reveal Himself AND in other ways remain mysterious.

What we learn from Hebrew culture is that they recognize His mysterious character and explore it deeply and with reverence. They approach the scriptures, recognizing what was written before and finding new interpretations for others to consider. We even find Jesus participating in this when He says… “You have heard it said…” and “but I say to you…” (Matthew 5:17-48). Jesus asks questions that draws the listener to relate with G-d and His ways more deeply. He references other people like Moses and then further explains Torah. It’s not being disrespectful to Moses; Jesus is simply pointing to the depth of beauty and profundity of the Almighty. This is Midrash in light of the New Testament age. Midrash in Jewish Rabbinic culture can specifically identify a large group of writings by various Rabbis compiled from 400-1200 AD. The meaning of the word Midrash is “textual interpretation” deriving from the root word darash which means “resort to, seek, seek with care, enquire.” The way the active Holy Spirit is on this side of the cross, I would argue we need to embrace a Neo Midrash. New seeking with care, new enquiring. NOT concrete, end all-be all conclusions about G-d and His word.

Let me explain. Because it suits our Sunday afternoons best we love to have a very conclusive sermon given to us each week that makes our hearts warm and makes us feel confident in our eternal destination. I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS A BAD THING…. But it’s very possible that the sermons we like so much are only one small facet of an eternally turning gem that is G-d; Not a static framework, but one that is fluid, a river if you will.

So this Neo Midrash is aware of the context of the passages.

It’s aware of the cultural context.

It’s aware of the language nuances and insights.

It’s also aware of what others throughout history have said about the passage.

Furthermore, since G-d is living, it’s also aware of the way the L-rd could show up today AND it’s also aware that some completely unheard-of idea could be revealed to us next week.

The religious are not a fan of this concept for it’s much harder to box up and sale. But for us who have found our grounding in relationship with the Living G-d this is important. Bible purist might be afraid that someone will use principles like this to “rewrite” the meanings of the Bible and allow sin to be MORE acceptable. I guess there could be a danger there but that doesn’t make me wrong. In our examples that Jesus gives in the New Testament He typically doubles down on Holiness and Righteousness. Furthermore, even though we allow ourselves to be open to Him and His mystery, we also know that doesn’t contradict Himself and that as we make new discoveries in scripture we likely find confirmations elsewhere in the scriptures. Precept sits upon other precepts.

In other words, IF we’re talking about a RELATIONSHIP with the Author of the scripture THAN  He does not change character, but He loves to have companions who want to KNOW Him. Think about a romantic relationship… talking on the phone until your ear burns, asking questions about what you want for the future, never wanting to leave each other’s presence…

As a result of this posture of humility with our Creator you become less religiously attractive.

You begin to sense G-d’s heart.

You become more full of healing and wisdom for the brokenhearted.

More in love with the Creator and less confident that you know anything.

More deep conversations, less “authoritative” sermons.

This is the way of Jesus.

Jesus, fully G-d and fully man, did not rely upon His own will and understanding to make the world bow down to Him. He listened to what the Father was actively saying. What He saw the Father doing He also did. He did not conclude what was written in scripture to find a way to use it to be influential. The way the Father led Him was absurd, but with it opened eternal life to all who desire to follow.

Jesus pulled from strange passages in some of the things He said. If He were held to the same seminary standards that we hold about eisegesis and exegesis He would probably fail. I hope you’re a little offended by that statement.

My whole point is that regardless of political affiliation, or personal gain, IF we want to fall more fully in love with the G-d of the Bible THAN we must quit being so closed off to the Presence and Voice of G-d.

He is not dead.

His words are still being spoken.

THAT is the way of the Kingdom.

THAT is Neo Midrash.

That is life WITH the living God.


When I’m not invested in mission or distracted by the simple pursuits of life… I feel a deep ache.

The world is not as it should be. Most pursuits are vanity. Very little is rightly aligned to Heaven.

I see now why the believers of the first few centuries struggled with living the normal life. They thought that a life for G-d was too difficult to live in the middle of the cities, going about a normal life after having been so deeply awoken by The Divine. They vacated places of normal and sought G-d wholly.

L-rd, let me not get distracted by the many paths of vanity, but keep my compass set on Your Kingdom. Let me not forget the ache of the earth and the call to be a son in the midst. Let us resonate with the signature of Heaven, offering a path to Your Throne. Help me to console You while here on this ill-organized cosmos. Let Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Let Your Normal become our normal.

Pouring Out the Puzzle Pieces

According to the 2019 US Census, 20% of fathers are absent from their minor children. I have to admit that when I first became a father I was shocked as to how much sacrifice was demanded of me. Mothers, you may be rolling your eyes all the way back in your heads right now as I speak of a dad’s sacrifice. Stick with me please?! I had no idea how selfish I was. Truth be told, there was no way to prepare me. Being a dad demanded more of me than I was ready to give.

In my own defense, I did fall headlong in love with my kids and with being a dad. On that journey there were some miraculous moments of revelation. For example, in the throes of my first born’s infancy I remember going to the grocery store at some odd hour and talking to the cashier. I told her that “I love being with my daughter more than I love sleep.” It put words to how much satisfaction there was in serving someone else. This was/is not always the case, as I hope you can relate; Dare I say it’s rarely the case. But it would seem that somewhere in that statement lies some truth of G-d’s Kingdom.

When I wrote this it was the first weekend of the NFL playoffs. If it were up to me I would of probably watched every game and spent much of my time on the couch preparing for the week. But, as a person aware that others depend on me, I didn’t. Saturday we all got up at stupid o’clock and went to my son’s basketball game. Afterwards, I spent a couple hours with an old friend. Later my wife and I had a date night. Sunday morning we all went to church, on Sunday afternoon I took one of my kids to a birthday party and washed clothes. I did find a way to enjoy every one of these activities; I mean these are MY people, BUT many of these things were not my idea, nor are they what I would of preferred to be doing.

Can you relate?

It’s hit me lately as I have continued down the path of G-d’s will for my life and I’ve reflected on the idea of my life is not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19). It’s one that we Americans have a hard time with. I mean we’re ALL ABOUT self and if we experience something uncomfortable or inconvenient, we curse the devil and move on.

We’re focused on retiring and vacationing, driving fancy cars and being smug to each other, Facebook posting and Instagram-ing about me, me, me.

But what we realize through scripture, I hope, is that giving is better than receiving.

Others are more important than ourselves.

Washing the feet of others is what God’s people are supposed to be doing.

Using the gifts G-d has given us to help others is THE MOST SATISFIYING experience we can have.

We’ve lost touch with this primary principle in the Bible… “Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”” – Matthew 16:24-27

There are good plans that G-d has made for us to influence and change the world. Those plans require our willing participation. Furthermore, they require our willingness to lay down our own plans. That may sound offensive or barbaric BUT regardless of how we may feel they are the most satisfying and fulfilling. Those plans are what we were made to do. They line up with our gifts and experiences. They make SENSE of the hardship. Those plans use the lessons we’ve learned. They scratch the itches deep within our souls.

You may be saying to yourself… What is G-d’s plan for my life? I’ve already missed it! I’m too far gone! Etc Etc Etc.

NOPE. You are not that powerful and G-d and His redemptive abilities are so much greater than that. We’re not talking about some shallow concept here. We are talking about plans that were created for us before the foundations of the world. Plans for our good. Plans that are a part of our DNA.

Does this mean I have to give up all my self-pleasures and self-care? Give up my desire to retire early and do what I please, when I please? Yep, at least in the idolatress state that we’ve been holding it. That line of thinking is opposed to the Kingdom of G-d. We’ve been tricked into thinking that we are the center of the Universe, that what we think has unfathomable value, that our possessions and success in this cosmos is what matters most. It does not and THAT is good news!

Why do you think the rich young ruler went away sad after Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor? Jesus knew that he was MISSING the real wealth of life and Jesus was trying to give it to Him but He couldn’t receive it until He let go of the ungodly grip He had.

The Bible says in Matthew 7 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

I’ve heard that verse get watered down to some form of an interpretation like… love G-d and love others, that’s the will of G-d. Well… yes AND no. It includes those things but that is not what Jesus was referring to when He said to pick up your cross and follow me. We’ve oversimplified and diluted this at the expense of discipleship to where it no longer draws the appropriate line in the sand. This type of sacrifice is expensive, making the value of it immense. This is where the beginning of Kingdom is, at the beginning of cross bearing—the giving up of our desires and the welcoming of His desires.

You may immediately be concerned whether you have the right job, are living in the right city, going to the right church, etc. but G-d’s will is MUCH bigger and beautiful than that. Doing G-d’s will has MOST to do with being a disciple. Meaning, allowing Jesus to shape you, to train and teach you; to bring you to and through tough situations.

Being a disciple centers around deep relationship with G-d.

It’s communing with Him.

Pushing your ego aside.

Talking with Him, walking with Him.

Pouring your heart out like a new puzzle asking for His assistance with the assembly.

Where we are and what organizations we contribute to are mere details in the much bigger picture of finding ourselves fully in G-d.

The thing is that as we allow Jesus to be our Rabbi he teaches us what’s valuable in life, and it’s not the same things as the rest of the world. Our life starts to become less about us, and more about Him. He becomes central and that is for our good and His.

THIS is the invitation to freedom, joy, identity, and eternal purpose, like my conversation with the cashier, it’s found when we fall in love with doing G-d’s will. When we experience His pleasure over us choosing Him and His will, it out-shadows even the finest things this world has to offer. I pray that a we choose Him and His will we will be able to say “I love doing G-d’s will more than I love doing my own.” 

Thoughts About My Friend George

I’ve heard thoughtful people talk about how they don’t want to be summarized until they’re dead. That their last book is not what they want to be known for. I can relate to that. I’m still growing. I still feel misunderstood. I still haven’t created all that it’s in me to create. I’m not ready to be done.

George E. Dunn

One of my best friends, George Dunn, lived a full life that ended with the decline of his health. He was a great man, who I will be excited to see when I also cross over. He never complained about his circumstances, he was always concerned with others and or what G-d was doing. He was a really unique man and it was a unique relationship the L-rd had given us. I will forever cherish it.

For his service, I shared a few words that came to me during the little hours one morning. Here they are…

Although George had plenty of profound things to say. He embodied the Kingdom in ways that confirmed what my heart already knew. Honestly, he did that in ways no one else had that I have met. And it has forever marked me and as a result and released me to do the same for others.

I’d like to share a few of those ways.

The Kingdom is familialand George was my father

He didn’t assess my religious giftedness and treat me accordingly; He simply loved me. Deeply. For no good reason. For years, regardless of any reciprocation.

Which is exactly like my Father who art in Heaven.

The churches and the religion they display, and we sometimes experience, are not synonymous with the Kingdom of God. That can sound a little heretical, I have to admit. But the truth that lies in that concept has set me free in ways I simply can not explain. It’s allowed me to remain fervent in my passion for Jesus and His church regardless of how well the local church performs. The fact of the matter is that the church was always in need of a savior and she will always be in need of a savior, at least on this side of heaven. And I am chief among those who are flawed and displaying the Kingdom imperfectly.

Family, relationships, and authenticity trump religious posturing. And actually for the people of God religious pride and pompous flies in the face of Jesus and His ways.

Georgie was human in ways that made people uncomfortable. He disarmed you. As I have grown to know is a character trait like Jesus.

George had experienced that even though our righteous acts are like filthy rags, Jesus loved us and died for us. His eyes would well up with tears and he would sing hymns about his Jesus. He knew that we could never earn, fully understand, or fully explain God’s love. He knew that the Kingdom was not for sale and those who tried were not offering what He had experienced.

Georgie was not unique. He was a prototype of what God would want all of us to experience. Not by our effort or giftedness. But by our surrender to God’s great love. George knew God’s love and displayed it perfectly. It’s a sloppy love. One that makes you uncomfortable. One that doesn’t make sense. One that is not without blemishes. But its Holiness overshadows our sinfulness and failures. It’s just that great. Because our God is just that great.

Quid Pro Quo

Effort to uphold our part of the relationship with G-d is proof of our idolatry of Him.
Effort implies we expect response. Relationship with G-d is a turning of the heart. An awareness of Him. NOT the payment of a toll, or Quid Pro Quo.

If our hearts are conditioned to need to ”pay the toll” to feel right with G-d we must seek healing. Making a payment to G-d is offensive, like a baby seeking to pay their parent.

Be His. Be with Him.

Theseus’s Ship

I initially became acquainted with the overwhelming presence of G-d in a heap, on the floor, under a blanket. I had all BUT completely train-wreaked my life by the time I was a young adult. From a broken home, having developed a twisted perspective of life, I barely escaped landing in prison. I remember at times knowing that I was being watched by authorities, and other times spending the night being interrogated by the police. I kept bad company…  I was bad company.

So when I EXPERIENCED being known, loved, and forgiven by G-d it was a game-changer. It wrecked every fiber of my being. A friend I once sold drugs to saw me in public about 10 years after my life-changing event and said I looked like a different person.

Although I expect that I deserve some “credit” in this journey, if everything were known and you had experienced what I had you would have made the same decision. I painted myself in the corner and a majestic Being approached with healing in His hands. My life has never been the same since.  

This trajectory that I had been gifted with had very little to do with my ability or my choice, which sounds a little self-deprecating. I came across some Kingdom-minded people and authors who helped me understand something vital to my life. I learned that there was such a thing as the renewing of the mind (See Romans 12:2).

THIS was a game-changer for me. As a person who likes to achieve AND a person who is painfully self-aware, THIS renewal, THIS renovation that G-d wanted to do was vital to my spiritual, emotional, and mental health. The concept fit so very nicely in my heart regarding my future. Of all people, I needed renovation. I was full of residual and habitual evil. Memories, habits, inclinations… the very fiber of my being was ugly. And this Prince of Peace wanted to make me like Himself. He wanted to change me. To make me to be the best version of me that could ever be. I was and have been ALL IN ever since.

This morning I started reading the book of Matthew again. I got stuck in the first chapter, verse 6. “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” (If this phase doesn’t cause you to have some wow feelings take a look at 2 Samuel 11-12.)

If you’re anything like me you may see your life, your history, your parents (consider the case of Solomon) a train-wreck. It’s been an unfair journey where the odds have been stacked against you. Your dad was abusive and deranged your view of the world, I know. Your mom was on crack all your life and you didn’t know it. You never knew your dad. Your dad acted like you were more of an inconvenience than a blessing. Your mom’s critical posture towards you is still going, even though she is gone.

BUT, G-d is a redeemer of things. He is the ULTIMATE thrift shopper, and YOU are HIS prized possession.  (Stop and read that again, please?)

This life, no matter how wildly hard and painful, is not unknown and unnoticed by G-d. He desires to comfort and be an escort to changing us and our perspective of it all.

I was reminded this morning of some first-century philosophy. There is a concept called the paradox of Theseus’ ship by Plutarch. He questioned that if a ship had a broken mast and the mast was replaced, then part of the hull was damaged and replaced, at which point would it cease to be the original ship? What if every part of the ship had been replaced over a 60-year time span? Would the ship still be Theseus’?

Consider this: “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of G-d, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

We are in process, my dear friends.

You are being renovated.

Whatever failures you experienced before you knew G-d have been and are being renewed (…and LISTEN hard to this part…) ALSO and EQUALLY, whatever shortcomings you’ve had AS A BELIEVER are being renewed and redeemed. This process is ongoing by ALMIGHTY GOD, who is exceedingly higher, abundantly more loving, and kinder than we could ever imagine. He is renewing us, making us into HIS likeness. Renewing, renovating, bringing justice and purpose to every landscape–If we’re willing to allow it and in minor and major ways, choose to participate in it.

It seems…

“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.”  This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let’s show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;  for our God is a consuming fire.”

– Hebrews 12

It seems to me that we are in a time of shaking. Although we’ve become experts at self-comforting and self-medicating; I wonder if G-d wants to be our comfort… our medication.

I wonder if we would even be able to recognize it if He were trying to get our attention. I wonder if now were a time for lamenting we would even have the bearings to do so?

It seems that He is clearing off the table of all idols so that we might find our refuge IN HIM. Let’s?!

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