I don't know if at some point, I will come to believe Jesus is the Son of God but the approach of quoting the Bible, assuring everyone that every word of it is pure Truth (even the parts that conflict with other parts) that should not be put into context or examined in any way but simply memorized strikes me as a form of fundamentalism that we see most commonly today coming out of Islamism.

Dividend tax cuts, AIDS, debt relief for poor nations & other tangible issues that can be addressed on earth take a backseat to "the word". The result? Many people who might be inspired by the message of love Jesus taught never get to hear it because they get so turned off by the messengers.

Click here to read the rest of Robert's post

Signs of Hope LA (3)

Following are my favorite one-liners from this weekends consultation, Signs of Hope LA.

According to emigrants, the US and LA are cleaner and more free than the rest of the world.

The emerging global culture is an interaction of innovation. (Whatever that means.)

Suburbs leave people separated and isolated, enduring long commutes.

Korean store owners are fluent in Spanish, not English.

The built landscape reflects our theology, hopes, lives and dreams.

The nations are now in the neighborhood.

Jesus was a intercontinental refuge.

The people running from LA are running into the people running from Chicago…somewhere near Colorado Springs.

If you were a missionary, you would be considered irresponsible if you did not take some time to learn the language, and pay close attention to the culture. We need to do the same thing.

Put up art from the people of your neighborhood, you won’t have to tell them they are welcome at your church, they will notice the minute they walk in.

You don’t teach surgery at the university, but at the hospital. (What should that tell Seminaries?)

In 1970, the CEO made 30x what the lowest paid worker made. In 2000 it was 560x
If you work for $7/hr, you make $960/month. Average rent is $1400/month.

83K Homeless in LA county.

Don’t dismantle neighborhoods. Don’t do affordable non-descript box housing, (projects) don’t do pricy high rises. Make affordable, indigenous, integrated, living, possible.

People don’t often look at the economy and jobs as related to housing, but homes are where ‘jobs’ go to spend the night.

Signs of Hope LA (2)

Again, these are just my raw notes, I'll comment more latter. (see yesterday)

Panel Discussion

Q: If you had to take a visitor from out-of-town, to a place in the city that showed some signs of hope, where would you go?

Rev. Alexis Salvatierra – Advocate for the working poor
In 1970, the CEO made 30x what the lowest paid worker made. In 2000 it was 560x
If you work for $7/hr, you make $960/month. Average rent is $1400/month.

Costco CEO makes 350K on purpose, pays his workers $17/hr, twice that of Sams Club.

Don Knabe – LA County Supervisor
Largest uninsured population. 83K Homeless in LA county. Unless you know how big the problem is you can’t fix it. Various new ‘programs’ being started. New shelters, job training programs, etc…
There is a program that allows a mother to drop off her child at any hospital, fire station, or police station, no questions, no shame. Finally, a program to help foster kids transition at age 18.

Dr. Lula Ballton – West Angles CDC (Carrier Development Center)
You are here, that’s a good thing. People come here for their dreams, most people are not considering going back to where they came from. My goal is not for people to be the object of our charity. Don’t make people do it our way. (loud music, food, living standards, etc…) Don’t dismantle neighborhoods. Don’t do affordable non-descript box housing, (projects) don’t do pricy high rises. Make affordable indigenous integrated living possible. In the 70’s the successful minorities were told to get an education and get out. That is wrong! Come home, make it better.

Robert Yamamoto – Represents Nearly the entire Non-Profit Sector.
Young professionals went out and donated toys for xmas. Found 7 people in a one bedroom apartment, 400sq/ft. 130K non-profit’s in LA county. Signs of hope all over LA. Look for the HS in all of us. “For many, we (in this room) are the signs of hope” Next generation is incredibly volunteer oriented.

LaDawn Prieto – Psychiatric worker with LAUSD (LA Unified School District)
Considering the background of many, a sign of hope is that anyone comes to school. 100 gang related deaths in a 1 mile radious of X neighborhood in the past year. Parents are often drug addicts. Lets help through the school. Politicians and authorities are recognizing the power of public schools. Latino gangs are somewhat respectful of religious icons. Mary will never get ‘tagged’ on. You can’t do this without being in communion with the Lord, (read your Bible)

Allan Kingston – Century Housing (affordable housing)
LA County is the number one place in the nation for homelessness. Ten Million in LA County, the size of Sweden and other small countries. People don’t often look at the economy and jobs as related to housing, but homes are where ‘jobs’ go to spend the night. Issues of race are going away, they must, and we are making it so.

Janice Hahn – Councilwomen of LA (the city)
Took a Grammy winning music producer to a project in Watts. (wanted to show him a sign of hope) Took him to a place where there is hopelessness, but there is a recording studio there. We say, ‘say no to gangs’ but there are not enough to say yes to. This is something they can say yes to. The project needed more money for people and stuff. The producer is going to do some good things, will be making connections.

“I need some signs of hope” this last month there were 19 gang related shootings, 7 were homicides. Kids don’t go to school because they are afraid of being shot. Went to a place that helps women turn their way of life around. She was encouraged because of this.

The city is often very frustrated with her. (city, police, gangs, etc…) Held a meeting. They needed a cease fire so kids could go to school. Mother mentioned that the press only show up for the good stuff. Her kid is going to Nebraska on a sports scholarship. After this, gangs wanted to talk about a cease fire.

Favorite book, Ester, here for “such a time as this”.


Signs of Hope LA

I’m attending a pretty amazing conference called Signs of Hope LA. It includes local, national and international speakers discussing what is happening in Los Angles among area churches concerned about the poor, issues in justice, and city development.

For now I think I’m simply going to toss my notes on here with out edit. I’ll do some reflecting latter. (I had my laptop with me so I could take good notes)

LA as a Text – Michael Mata

If life is the art of encounter, than the city is the setting of that encounter

Signs of hope are the encounter

We need to see the built environment as a text to be read

There is incredible diversity in LA.
A world atlas in S. California.
These reflect powerful forces at play on the global stage.
We are part of in incredibly interconnected global web.
People in all over the glob wear Jordan shirts and watch Hollywood videos.
We eat food from all over the globe.

According to emigrants, the US and LA are free’er and cleaner than the rest of the world.

The emerging global culture is an interaction of innovation.
Change often takes place invisibly. A great degree of cultural sincritization, this is good and bad.

Looking at the city
Bonoventure hotel (quad cylinder downtown hotel) communicates power and prestige for those that have, the rest of us are left looking on.

Suburbs leave people separated and isolated, enduring long commutes.

Urban form is never devoid of social content, it is merely the grid into which we live.

Visit your local market, (not supermarket) these indicate who actually lives in your neighborhoods.

Korean store owners are fluent in Spanish, not English.

Color of paint, plants, what’s for sale at the local market, all of these are indicators of the local reality.

When we see the poor we are reminded that not all have made it.

Cultures that once had a high value on family, now must contend with consumerism.

Children are the most vulnerable, they don’t vote, and are dependent on adults for all needs.

Homeless people, though absent a secure home, none the less are in need of identity through speed.

Youth are very adapt at transforming public space.

Consider the spiritual dimensions

The goings on inside the historical protestants churches are often out of touch with the local reality.

Islamic faith is growing rapidely as reflects by the growth in their buildings.

Space is routinely transformed into “sacred space”

Multiculturalism has bred a pluralistic religious environment.

How are we to be defined? Are we enviting? Or do we hide behind locked doors and gates.

Do we actually represent justice and mercy?

The built landscape reflects our theology, hopes, lives and dreams.

The ministry and mission of the church must be aligned to take into account the global changes that are occurring in our world?

What is the locus of the place and ministry of the church?

As you venture into the built environment what do you smell and hear as well as see.

LA’s place on the planet – Dr. Ray Bakke

What are your favorite biblical city texts?

Every year in China, 30 million relocate from the rural to the city.

LA can invent the ways to be the church for the migratory.

The nations are now in the neighborhood.

Missions are no longer geographically distant, but culturally distant.

Head coaches no longer coach, they position coaches do. Pastor’s need to do likewise, relinquish the power, raise up leaders.

Jesus was a intercontinental refuge.

How do you put emotional boundaries on urban ministries? Know that Jesus struggled also. Jirus’ daughter and the women who ‘touched’ Jesus.

The people running from LA are running into the people running from Chicago…somewhere near Colorado Springs.

If you were a missionary, you would be considered irresponsible if you did not take some time to learn the language, and pay close attention to the culture. We need to do the same thing.

Missionaries didn’t ‘just preach the gospel’. They took the time to do their mission thing.

Put up art from the people of your neighborhood, you won’t have to tell them they are welcome, they will notice the minute they walk in.

The seven last words of the church “we never did it that way before”.

You don’t teach surgery at the university, but at the hospital.



So a while back I mentioned that I’m working at a recycling center, but I haven’t said a lot about why. It’s not simple. Working in this capacity allows me to realize a certain amount of synergy in my activities. There are three primary outcomes of my time on the clock.

The first is that I get to build relationships with our regular customers, most of whom are homeless or near homeless. Doing so builds my empathy (usually) and helps me realize the interrelatedness of humanity. Additionally, more than just the poor are represented. We have rich and poor, upper and lower middle classes. And ironically, most simultaneously live up to, and break down stereotypes. Being at this ‘watering hole’ is an awesome learning opportunity. I have been praised and cursed, looked down on, and looked up to. It is amazing how the uniform one wears changes how one is viewed.

Secondly, it allows me to be a part of our responsibility for caring for creation, something that evangelicals have traditionally done poorly, if at all. (There are way too many false either/or’s in evangelical circles)

Finally it provides personal growth in the form of a paycheck, and physical labor/exercise.

This is an example of seeing one’s vocation or job from a missional perspective. What about you, how does your time “on the clock” reflect the reign of Jesus Christ? I’m not simply referring to how you interact with your co-workers or what you do with the money you earn, I’m talking about the actual tasks. Think imaginatively, what would happen if you did not do what you do? What if no one did it? What if it was done with no thought for morality or ethics? I think that seeing one’s vocation with missional eyes is essential to breaking down clergy/laity barriers. Not only are you important to God, what you do is also very important.

Too often people think they are called to "full time ministry" because they think their current vocation/location is a waste of time. Obviously the peak of spiritual maturity is not pastoral ministry, or someother related field, but I think we too often subconciously think/communicate that very idea.

A Definition of Church

For my Church in the New Testament class, my final consists of writing a single sentence that defines the definition of “Church”. Obviously this is incredibly reductionistic, but none-the-less, here is my working definition.

The Church is the community of God, in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, being and proclaiming the Gospel, a reflection of the Kingdom of God.

Three things that I hope are not missed. It is trinitarian, something many churches functionally are not. (We tend to focus on our favorite person of the Godhead.) We are called to do/be something, (i.e. missional) not simply intellectually acknowledge stuff, and finally the word Gospel should be understood in the broadest possible terms (things traditionally conservative and liberal).

Help me out here, what do you think? Or if you want, state your own one sentence definition.


Bummer Day

Kyle has a great post here.

In other news, I went snowboarding today, I kind of had a good time, but Joey my wife got pretty beat up. (hence the 'kind of' for me) Preaty much nothing was going right, and it all culminated in a cracked rib. Days like this bring the whole 'one flesh' thing into focus. I am hurting because she is hurting...sort of. What I mean is, it's not my rib that's sore, so that 'one flesh' thing only goes so far. I guess this is good preperation for us for if/when she is pre... uhh... lets just not go there.


Politics and Evangelical Christianity

I just got back from a local KPCC/NPR taping of the show Airtalk at Fuller Seminary. This episode was on the intersection of evangelicals and politics. It airs tomorrow at 10am (you can listen live) and should be available to listen to on the internet some time after that as well.

It was so good. I highly recommend you listen to it. (Go to Fridays show.)

Some things that stuck out to me:

Dr. Mouw is a useful tool for understanding the history of evangelicals.

It is a big jump from “God says help the poor” (which he does) to “it looks like this philosophically and politically”, either right wing economic stimulants or left wing socialistic responses.

The evangelical community has jumped from one extreme to another. First it was “this place is not my home” (i.e. don’t be involved in politics) to “we are a Christian nation” (i.e. we want it all) In a pluralistic society, neither of these extremes are realistic. We need to learn to compromise, not on what we believe, but on what a workable living arrangement is with our neighbors with whom we fundamentally disagree.

How do we take back the name “evangelical”. Both we as a whole, and the media have caused it to mean, “politically conservative red state dweller, who has simply proof-text the Republican platform.” In reality, many evangelicals varyingly support and disavow different aspects of both parties.

Though I'm at Fuller, don't assume that I am autimatically in league with everything our president Dr. Mouw says on the show. It varries from issue to issue.


Quote of the Day

"A lot of people think seminary is about getting the right answers, it’s not, it’s about learning how to think. You aught to have a few quirky ideas that you think you’re right on, and everyone else is wrong. This is the sign of an inquisitive mind." - Richard Beaton Associate Professor of New Testament

("how" should not be confused with "what")


Links are Cool

Lately some guy by the name of blind beggar has been leaving some good comments. So I finally went and checked out his site last night. I may have once before, but I didn’t stay long. This time though, I scrolled around, and read some good articles. Then something caught my eye, under ‘interesting sites’ I found my link, swimming in the deep end. Finding your blog linked is always cool, in fact building that network is one of the best things about blogging, but it’s even better when it is someone with the wisdom and insights of Rick, a guy who’s been around for a while, (he has over 30 years on me) and has some good things to say. So check out his blog, I think you’ll find it interesting and rewarding.


A Necessary Evil

My parents didn’t have much money growing up, and it was often a source of tension. (In the form of wisdom and morals, they more than made up for it.) Not surprisingly though, I made it my mission in life to have ‘enough’ money, figuring out what it would take to save one million dollars by the time I was 55.

After high school, I joined the Air Force to pay for college, and immediately began sacking money away in stocks and bonds. (This was technically a mistake, I should have created an ‘emergency account’ first with 3-6 months savings.) None-the-less, I was off and running.

Unfortunately, this direction soon become something of an ‘idol’ for me, and I had to learn, (and am continuing to need to learn) to be more generous with my money.

The current vocational direction I am heading will not bring me anywhere near one million dollars, but one can still abide by the principles that would get one there, had they the income to make it possible.

What are those principles? In a sentence, “save more and spend less!”

But if you want it spelled out in an article, go here.

And if you want a wealth of tools and calculators, go here (click the 'pull down' menue on the left).

But remember, you are going to die, possibly tomorrow; so don’t get so caught up with money that you forget what is truly important in life. It is just a tool to enable the amazing (and frankly often a hinderance to the amazing).


Trying to Understand Catholicism

The last three days I have gone back and forth with my Catholic friend, Greg, on the subject of baptism, and salvation. Not really in a debate format, but more in a ‘help me understand your position’ format. He is a good guy, and very knowledgeable, and I appreciate his friendship.

The biggest thing I learned, which I kind of already knew, but now understand more completely, is that Catholics do not believe in ‘works righteousness’. You may disagree with the position that baptism saves, (I do) but neither does intellectual agreement with God or the Bible. The fact is that both Catholics and Protestants believe that you need to react to Christ’s saving work on the cross. They with the sacraments, and us with some intellectual rigor. (confess with your mouth, believe in your heart)

Do you want to point out that infant baptism is unscriptural, ok, but then consider why you believe that infants don’t go to hell. You’ll end up with a concept called ‘age of accountability’. And what exactly is baptism from a protestant perspective? An ‘outward sign of an inward reality?'. That's the 'right' answer, yet neither of these two concepts are in the Bible, (which dosen't make them wrong) rather they are an outgrowth of our systematic theology, (which I affirm) just as infant baptism grows out of Roman Catholic theology.


Does Baptism Save?

Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Rom 10:9-11 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.



Why Dosen't Anyone Want to Be a Heretic?

An observation from my systematic theology class, in which we surveyed the early perspectives on Jesus and his divinity yesterday. Even the most conservative person would only hold that the Bible is infallible, not the early church fathers and their creeds. It is ironic then, that though some evangelicals question the authenticity or reliability of certain aspects of the Bible, no one challenges the early church Fathers and their creeds, things no one believes are infallible. (Though nearly everyone will label you a heretic if you disagree.)

I’m not about to start questioning the divinity of Christ myself, but I’m surprised more people don’t latch on to one or another of the early heretics. Far from wanting to undermine the authority of Jesus, they simply had trouble conceiving the Trinity. Which is understandable considering they came from a Jewish world in which there was only one God, or a Hellenistic world in which the spiritual realms of gods and the earthly realm of man were completely separate.

Think about it, how can one be certain the early church fathers conceived of the correct understanding of the God-head, they were human after all. Maybe they got it wrong.

; )


Church Journey

Taking two classes this quarter, The Church in the New Testament with Beaton, and ST-2 CHRISTOLOGY AND SOTERIOLOGY with Karkkainen.

In the Church class we introduced ourselves and shared what type of churches we had been a part of. Out of forty, only two people had been in the same tradition their whole life. I am an example of what most people at Fuller have experienced, a multiplicity of traditions.

I was born and raised, a
Plymouth Brethren fundamentalist. When I was 16 the family switched to a conservative evangelical church First Evangelical Free Church of La Crosse. After high school I joined the military and was primarily involved with the parachurch Navigators, though during that time I went to a Vineyard Church, and a Interdenominational, "Word and Spirit" church called Trinity. And now were here at Fuller, interacting with all kinds of denominations and perspectives, and attending a small, multicultural, somewhat conservative, (somewhat not) non-denominational church called Agape. Most recently though it has beed the "emerging Church" conversation that has caught my eye. (more info here, and here)

What is even more interesting, is that for most of us, all these switches don’t usually represent a change in our personal views and convictions on various theological issues that separate churches. (though most people's views do evelove over time, and naturally are shaped by the community they are a part of.)

Can I get a hmmm...

Makes you wonder about some things dosen't it.

; )


Happy Xmas / New Year

Well a new year is hear, bringing to a close the xmas season. I’ve been busy with family visiting from out of town, so as you can see I haven’t been blogging.

We had a good time, visiting various LA area attractions. For our family though, the highlights aren’t necessarily the attractions, but the time eating and playing cards. Unfortunately we were minus two people. My wife was visiting her family, and one of my two sisters was in Korea where she lives and works. Fortunately Joey, my wife was able to return in time to spend a little time with the inlaws.

FYI I would suggest visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific only if you are under 17, or really really love fish. It’s kind of small, and is really just a bunch of fish in a bunch of tanks. When it comes to viewing animals, I’ll take the discovery channel every time.