John O'Hara

Here's an article I read by John O'Hara, a Pastor in Oakland, on the subject of Grace and the Thanksgiving holiday. I know I know, a little late, but still worth the read as we think about how much grace we've been given, deserve, and still need.

By John O’Hara, re-posted from Oharaville:

The holidays, for many of us, feels like that circus act in which a trapeze artist walks across the big tent on a tightrope. Balance is the name of the game.

How do we enjoy a great meal when we have to sit so close to the people who know best how to push our buttons?

How do we balance the horrors of AmerIndian history with the abundance and blessing of living in the most prosperous nation on the little blue planet?

How do we balance the heartfelt desire to provide gifts to our loved ones with a teetering financial crisis?

Yes, the holidays are a tightrope act. Part of the draw is waiting to see who will make it across to the other side with poise and grace.

Grace. It’s a term tossed around so liberally, I fear it’s lost a bit of its’ newness and shine. It’s an idea that desperately needs a volumizing conditioner — something to remind us of its’ mystery and beauty, something that will get it to bounce off our shoulders and turn some heads. Grace is classically defined as unearned favor. I’m beginning to realize that this, or any attempt at definition is far from adequate. And that’s because grace isn’t really grace until the hot glow of her presence has fallen on your own sorry disposition. Grace is merely a theological construct to well-fed, First-World consumers who don’t give a second thought to the fact that, this Thursday, they’ll literally eat like kings while others in this same world literally starve. Grace is a cheap vocabulary word to Americans who simply assume that they live in the greatest nation on earth and take as a matter of fact that God-shed-his-grace-on-thee without diving even momentarily into the complexity of our blessing and how it came about (largely through plague, genocide, slavery, and unjust labor practices).

Being godawful and pathetic, selfish human beings doesn’t disqualify us from blessing. It makes us good candidates for grace—the kind of grace that Jesus was referring to when he said that we’re blessed when we’re hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because we will be filled.

Then there’s what happens when we become recipients of that grace: when we choose to stand in the shoes of “the last, the lost and the least” among us, and recognize that we ourselves are not exceptional specimens of humanity but rather lucky and mostly dishonest, we can appreciate with true humility and appreciation what grace has been afforded to us, and be a little more willing to extend that favor to people with whom we might otherwise feel don’t deserve it.

So the bad news is, you’re a member of the human family. The good news is, you’re a member of the human family. Have a Grace-filled Thanksgiving … remember to love the least like you’re one of them.

Because you are. And Father loves you extravagantly.

John O’Hara is an emerging pentecostal and Associate Pastor at Sequoyah Community Church in Oakland, California.


Advent Conpiracy

This Christmas is a bit unique for Steph and I. We are really battling with what it means for the celebration of Christmas, also known as the celebration of an event that changes the world....to continue to change the world.

Advent Conspiracy from Morning Star Church on Vimeo.

May you conspire to be part of the healing and change Christ began through the greatest event in human history.


Psychology of L's and C's...

Jonathan Haidt drops some serious psychology about the differences of morals between Liberals and Conservatives. His theory is that it goes much deeper than politics or religion, but into the sheer make-up and history of our mental functions. It helped me understand myself a little bit more. It's a little long but worth the view. Here's what the TED website has to say..

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies morality and emotion in the context of culture. He asks: Why did humans evolve to have morals -- and why did we all evolve to have such different morals, to the point that our moral differences may make us deadly enemies? It's a question with deep repercussions in war and peace -- and in modern politics, where reasoned discourse has been replaced by partisan anger and cries of "You just don't get it!"

Can you feel the Rythm of God?


Father/Daugher Talk

This is an email that I received recently from a pastor at our church. It was attempting to show some insight into the Conservative mind. It seems pretty accurate but I have to ask the question: "is this a biblical attitude?"

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat, and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs, in other words, redistribution of wealth.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs. The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Taken a back, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, 'How is your friend Audrey doing?' She replied, 'Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over.'

Her wise father asked his daughter, 'Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.'

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, 'That's a crazy idea, how would that be fair! I've worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!'

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently,
'Welcome to the Republican party.'

If anyone has a better explanation of the difference between Republican and Democrat, I'm all ears.

I have to ask, is earning all we have and then keeping it all instead of giving it all away; the kingdom of God idea that Jesus brought to earth? The words of Jesus are resonating through my head "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." If all things are Gods, we give up all things.

(It is important to point out that I am a registered republican)


Severe Weather

At a time when it seems like the news can only portray politics as messy and the economy shaky, here's something that may reshape the idea of how news anchors deliver their info. Enjoy...


Prop. 8. Really?

In November we will all go to the polls to vote for a new President, Mayor (in Fresno) and on most people's minds, Proposition 8. For those that don't know Prop. 8 is an item on our ballot that will help define what marriage is according to our state. It is attempting to reverse the effects of the recent law passed by the California supreme court allowing same-sex couples to marry.

I consider myself a true conservative, by "true conservative" i don't mean keeping things they way they are now, (like most conservative people) but instead allowing things to be what they were originally intended for, such as the true meaning of scripture, where it came from, what it is meant for, how it was written and most importantly, how we interpret it. In politics, I prefer to stay true to the constitution, and most importantly, realizing that the Constitution is not scripture, as most conservatives tend to think.

There is a fear among all Conservative type people that prop. 8 will pass and soon all people that are homosexual will rule the world. (I know that sounds far fetched but if you hear any of our local pastors or republican leaders talk about it you would think that's what we were really voting on) I would argue the contrary. I have known a few people that are part of the homosexual community in my short lifetime and I would tell you immediately that they are more about freedom than anything else. They would like the freedom to marry who they want and freedom for heterosexual people to marry who they want, is this constitutional? That is for you to decide.

Back to my original point...why do most conservatives think that so many negative things will happen if prop. 8 fails? Why do they think that churches will be forced to hire people from the homosexual community even if the church believes that God created marriage to be between 1 man and 1 woman? (for this to happen a civil rights act allowing all faith-based non-profits to hire within their core beliefs would have to be overturned) Why do they think that we will be called bigots and discriminators if we still choose to stand for our convictions? Why do they think churches (and all other non-profits) will have to start paying taxes if we don't hire people that are homosexual? If you have been a part of the conservative community for a while as I have you would know that this is what they do. Conservatives like control over everything, if they don't have control they feel absolutely out of control of our world. So in this case their worries are about people doing exactly what they do without the same values. In some ways it has been rather humorous to watch.

Of course you have to decide how you will vote, and I would urge you, as everything else you vote on, to weigh the facts and vote your convictions. There are many other factors to take into account with this proposition but I would urge you that the fear of the homosexual community taking over the world and forcing everybody to hire gay, support gay and be gay is not one of them.

One of the question we as christians must be asking ourselves is: what is God up to? After we discern this, we join him. This is a much better question to ask than "how do I vote?"

May you choose to move within the Rhythm of God. May you choose to see others as he sees them. May you choose to see the world as he sees it. May you join him in the restoration of our world, whatever that may be.


Picture; Small

It was a Monday, it was hot. I was just leaving my office after a good day. It was nice to have a good day, if we don't have those once in a while we just all go insane. I was about to leave to go pick-up my wife so we could spend the rest of our night eating pizza and watching movies to celebrate mothers day with my mother-in-law at her parents house. I got in my truck and was just tuning in my iPod for the short drive home. I figured that today felt a little bit like a sermon day so as I scrolled through my podcasts and found Erwin McManus, a very well known and respected pastor in the Los Angeles area.

As I was pulling out of the parking lot I rolled down my windows, despite the heat, for some reason I've always preferred my windows down no matter how hot or cold the outside temperature is. As I rolled them down a woman who had just walked in front of my truck on the sidewalk looked backwards and very friendly said "you wouldn't happen to have $0.50 for the bus would you?" Reluctantly i answered "no" even though that was a total lie, but we've always been told not to give people on the street money right? I asked her where she had to walk to and she answered "all the way to f***ing Clovis", which is a neighboring town, just down the road. We said "goodbye" and I continued driving home.

All the way home verses that I had read and memorized multiple times are running through my head. Verses like James 2:14-16 "What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?" I felt guilty, I wanted so bad to turn my truck around and go giver her a ride. Sure $0.50 would've been nice to give her, but Christ also commands us to go a second mile when someone requests you go only 1. If we continue to read on in James we would all realize that faith=actions, lack of actions=no faith, at least faith that cannot save anyone.

At this point, I'm already feeling pretty bad, not bad enough to turn my truck around and go pick her up, but bad none-the-less. Then my head begins to take me through Mathew 25:34-40: "Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

I actually passed up Jesus asking me for bus money. I felt so guilty the rest of the night, I never actually had the courage to turn around, pick up this woman who needed a ride to a place near my house on a day when the temperature was topping out at 103 degrees. I didn't even have the courage to turn around and hand her $0.50 and then make an excuse like "I found some".

As a pastor that is part of a team of pastors at a well-known mega-church, we constantly push our congregation to be Jesus to their neighbors, truly love their neighbors, serve others and comfort them when they are in a dark place. All this, yet I didn't do it when the opportunity was knocking, knocking very loudly. Pastors are great at seeing the big picture, we create visions and execute them with our people, yet that day, I missed the small picture. I think they call these people hypocrites.

We can see the big picture all we want, we can continuously ask the questions of what Jesus wants of our church, we can discuss theology and what it means to be emergent and missional and truly imitate Christ, but if all this talking doesn't lead us as individuals and communities to be a part of the small picture and be part of it often, all we are doing is actually..well...worthless.

I challenge you to look for and be a part of the rhythm of change in the small pictures. If we change enough small pictures, we sure as hell will change the big picture.


What is the Prius good for?

This really isn't much of a post. I was sent this video by a friend (all thanks to John Wiens) and well...until now I had not yet encountered a video that I feel expresses my hatred for the Prius...and yet my love for a good firearm.