upside down way of God

I used to think that older people who talked about the “good old days” were just being nostalgic for when they were younger. Every “good old day” always sounded brighter than the present day. Back in those “good old days,” even a baby’s dirty diaper smelled better.

Now that I’m inching towards being included in the “older” demographic, I find myself in a curious position. I find myself talking with other forty-something people about “the way kids are” and about how things were different “back when I was young.” It’s kind of funny. Not the getting older part, but about how perspective changes with time.

Then again, our perspective should change with time. We learn, we grow, we experience significant life events. Wisdom isn’t the result of growing older; it’s the result of growing older and paying attention to what we learn along the way.

As Christ-followers, our perspective is informed by more than life experience alone. When we choose to follow Jesus, we are choosing to walk where he did, as he did. Our steps are to fall in line with his. In many respects, our goal is not to be Christ-like but to be living examples of Christ to the world.

The decision to follow Jesus puts us at odds with the prevailing values of our culture. It has always been that way. It was that way for Jesus and his first disciples. It was that way during the Roman Empire. It’s that way today.

We’ll be starting a new teaching series at LifePoint Church next Sunday entitled, “The Upside Down Way of God.” We’ll look at five Christian principles that may seem upside down:

  • The First will be Last
  • It’s Better to Give than to Receive
  • The Weak are Strong
  • Slavery is Freedom
  • We Die to Live


RT @johncmaxwell: "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." Winston Churchill



Words matter. Understanding the words we use matters even more. I found this to be true while helping coach a team of 8 year-old girls in softball. “I want to bunt. What does that mean?” Or another girl asked me what a “fair ball” was.

Softball players have a language of their own, borrowed from the baseball diamond. A few examples: getting in a pickle, worm-burner, rope, shiner, high cheese, heater, Texas leagueer, and on the list could go. To an outsider, it might be a little intimidating until the basics are mastered.

The same can be true of church. We may find ourselves speaking a language that people disconnected from God may not understand. Newer, more modern versions of the Bible help -- they translate the Bible using contemporary language. But no matter how current or contemporary the translation, there will always be words that need to be defined for new listeners.

Rather than abandon words such as redemption, salvation, holiness, righteousness, and others, we need to help people understand what they mean. One of the best ways to do that is not through translations of the Bible alone but through lives that have been transformed. To see redemption in action. To see holiness with flesh on it.

Words do matter. Even more so when they come to life!


Bono's op-ed piece

It’s 2009. Do You Know Where Your Soul Is?

I AM in Midtown Manhattan, where drivers still play their car horns as if they were musical instruments and shouting in restaurants is sport.

I am a long way from the warm breeze of voices I heard a week ago on Easter Sunday.

“Glorify your name,” the island women sang, as they swayed in a cut sandstone church. I was overwhelmed by a riot of color, an emotional swell that carried me to sea.

Christianity, it turns out, has a rhythm — and it crescendos this time of year. The rumba of Carnival gives way to the slow march of Lent, then to the staccato hymnals of the Easter parade. From revelry to reverie. After 40 days in the desert, sort of ...

Carnival — rock stars are good at that.

“Carne” is flesh; “Carne-val,” its goodbye party. I’ve been to many. Brazilians say they’ve done it longest; they certainly do it best. You can’t help but contract the fever. You’ve got no choice but to join the ravers as they swell up the streets bursting like the banks of a river in a flood of fun set to rhythm. This is a Joy that cannot be conjured. This is life force. This is the heart full and spilling over with gratitude. The choice is yours ...

It’s Lent I’ve always had issues with. I gave it up ... self-denial is where I come a cropper. My idea of discipline is simple — hard work — but of course that’s another indulgence.

Then comes the dying and the living that is Easter.

It’s a transcendent moment for me — a rebirth I always seem to need. Never more so than a few years ago, when my father died. I recall the embarrassment and relief of hot tears as I knelt in a chapel in a village in France and repented my prodigal nature — repented for fighting my father for so many years and wasting so many opportunities to know him better. I remember the feeling of “a peace that passes understanding” as a load lifted. Of all the Christian festivals, it is the Easter parade that demands the most faith — pushing you past reverence for creation, through bewilderment at the idea of a virgin birth, and into the far-fetched and far-reaching idea that death is not the end. The cross as crossroads. Whatever your religious or nonreligious views, the chance to begin again is a compelling idea.

Last Sunday, the choirmaster was jumping out of his skin ... stormy then still, playful then tender, on the most upright of pianos and melodies. He sang his invocations in a beautiful oaken tenor with a freckle-faced boy at his side playing conga and tambourine as if it was a full drum kit. The parish sang to the rafters songs of praise to a God that apparently surrendered His voice to ours.

I come to lowly church halls and lofty cathedrals for what purpose? I search the Scriptures to what end? To check my head? My heart? No, my soul. For me these meditations are like a plumb line dropped by a master builder — to see if the walls are straight or crooked. I check my emotional life with music, my intellectual life with writing, but religion is where I soul-search.

The preacher said, “What good does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” Hearing this, every one of the pilgrims gathered in the room asked, “Is it me, Lord?” In America, in Europe, people are asking, “Is it us?”

Well, yes. It is us.

Carnival is over. Commerce has been overheating markets and climates ... the sooty skies of the industrial revolution have changed scale and location, but now melt ice caps and make the seas boil in the time of technological revolution. Capitalism is on trial; globalization is, once again, in the dock. We used to say that all we wanted for the rest of the world was what we had for ourselves. Then we found out that if every living soul on the planet had a fridge and a house and an S.U.V., we would choke on our own exhaust.

Lent is upon us whether we asked for it or not. And with it, we hope, comes a chance at redemption. But redemption is not just a spiritual term, it’s an economic concept. At the turn of the millennium, the debt cancellation campaign, inspired by the Jewish concept of Jubilee, aimed to give the poorest countries a fresh start. Thirty-four million more children in Africa are now in school in large part because their governments used money freed up by debt relief. This redemption was not an end to economic slavery, but it was a more hopeful beginning for many. And to the many, not the lucky few, is surely where any soul-searching must lead us.

A few weeks ago I was in Washington when news arrived of proposed cuts to the president’s aid budget. People said that it was going to be hard to fulfill promises to those who live in dire circumstances such a long way away when there is so much hardship in the United States. And there is.

But I read recently that Americans are taking up public service in greater numbers because they are short on money to give. And, following a successful bipartisan Senate vote, word is that Congress will restore the money that had been cut from the aid budget — a refusal to abandon those who would pay such a high price for a crisis not of their making. In the roughest of times, people show who they are.

Your soul.

So much of the discussion today is about value, not values. Aid well spent can be an example of both, values and value for money. Providing AIDS medication to just under four million people, putting in place modest measures to improve maternal health, eradicating killer pests like malaria and rotoviruses — all these provide a leg up on the climb to self-sufficiency, all these can help us make friends in a world quick to enmity. It’s not alms, it’s investment. It’s not charity, it’s justice.

Strangely, as we file out of the small stone church into the cruel sun, I think of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, whose now combined fortune is dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty. Agnostics both, I believe. I think of Nelson Mandela, who has spent his life upholding the rights of others. A spiritual man — no doubt. Religious? I’m told he would not describe himself that way.

Not all soul music comes from the church.

Bono, the lead singer of the band U2 and a co-founder of the advocacy group ONE, is a contributing columnist for The Times.


2 new podcasts uploaded

For those keeping score: I just uploaded two new podcasts. Find them here.


better than a bunny

As a child, I loved getting a chocolate bunny at Easter. Not the hollow kind, but the solid five-pound bunny rabbit that would take a good part of one month to eat. I’m not sure how many of those I actually finished. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak ...”

But Easter is so much more than chocolate bunnies or grown men dressed up in bunny suits.

Easter is a celebration of God’s most awe-inspiring miracle: his ability to bring life out of that which was dead. When Jesus’ burial tomb was discovered empty, angels from heaven asked his followers: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” In other words, Jesus is no longer dead -- he’s alive!

The miracle that happened on the first Easter Sunday has happened millions of time since then. In small towns and places like San Diego, all across the world, God has brought the dead back to life. No tombs required. Those who have found themselves dying from despair or shame have found new life through the Risen Son.

Now that’s better than any five-pound chocolate bunny.



As some of you know (especially my Facebook friends), I have finished writing my first novel. I began writing last fall, after I started commuting to work on the trolley. Every morning and evening I spend about 45 minutes each way on the trolley. I began reading novels to help pass the time and started ripping through them. San Diego's Central Library is only three blocks from my office and I would walk there on lunch and swap out books.

After a few months of reading other people's writing, I decided to write my own. Most of the novel was written on my Sprint smartphone(s) -- the latest being an HTC Touch Pro. It has a slide-out, full QWERY keyboard with both function and CTRL keys. I did do some writing on my laptop, but the majority of the book was written with my thumbs and an occasional finger.

The novel is currently being read by three potential literary agents. Of course, there were many more rejection letters/emails than acceptance letters/emails. But I am very encouraged by the number who wanted to see the manuscript -- and how quickly. Now, I am in the active waiting period.

So ... I started a second novel. This one has been written exclusively on my HTC Touch Pro. It's about a travelling evangelist who knowingly rips people off. Quite fun to write.

I always knew my thumbs would amount to something.



Rediscover the basics of the Christian faith. Our new teaching series starts Easter Sunday and will explore such basics as Jesus, the church, our journey, and our mission. Rediscover the essential truths of a healthy, mature faith.

Sundays at 10:30 at LifePoint Christian Church in San Diego.