A Much Needed Transfiguration

In the bible books of Matthew (ch 17) and Mark (ch 9) is a story of what is call the “Transfiguration.”

Essentially, Jesus takes Peter, James and John (his top 3 disciples) and goes up a mountain. While they are there, Jesus is transfigured from a normal looking dude into someone whose clothes were whiter than the best Clorox available and Matthew says that Jesus face shone like the sun.

Then the story says Jesus was talking to Elijah and Moses. Elijah if you recall, was scooped up into heaven in a chariot of fire without ever having to die, while Moses died on a mountain with a great view of the promised land that he wasn’t allowed to enter.

Of course Peter in his usual fashion began running his mouth out of confusion and disorientation, and suggested that he make a tent for each person. WTF?

The conversation between Jesus, Moses, and Elijah was not recorded but there is some sense that maybe Peter, James, and John caught wind of it because Jesus told them to keep it all on the down low.

This got me thinking about how Jesus’ disciples were invited to see Jesus transfigure into something totally “OTHER.” It was as though it wasn’t sufficient for those three to simply rest on the present representation of Jesus as a man from Galilee, who healed the sick and argued with religious people.

Today, the modern church has a pretty set notion of who Jesus is, and the parameters of acceptance are so rigid that any departure from their system if ground for heresy. I’m speaking of the Jesus with long flowing hair (likely with a lot of product in it) who wears a dress and his arms are lifted in an invitational way beckoning people to “bring it in” for a group hug.

For example. A friend of mine who grew up in the South in a strict Southern Baptist tradition has rejected a lot of the fundamentalism and the associated bigotry and institutional power plays that were a part of that system. She met a Yogi many years ago and learned yoga and has been introduced to aspects of Buddhism and Hinduism. When I asked her about Jesus she said that he was likely a Yogi too and that he had to be in order to destroy 2000 years of bad Karma for the people.

Now most fundamentalists will immediately dismiss this as invalid, just as my friends parents do to this day. This is because the modern church wants nothing to do with a Transfiguration. They don’t want to see Jesus as anything but a soft-spoken story teller who will one day open up a can of whoop ass on this vile, disgusting, sinful world.

But for my friend and many others, Jesus has been transfigured. He is seen as something “other.” Why is her faith that Jesus removed 2000 years of bad Karma any less valid than the fundies who believe Jesus died on the cross for their sins.  Both people are removed from the events by more than 200 decades so in both cases it is all about how Jesus’ death is “APPROPRIATED.” In both cases his death is applied and celebrated, so I ask you, how can one invalidate the other?

No modern person has a real, flesh and blood experience with Jesus, at least not in the same way as the early disciples. Each person who follows Jesus must do so on faith, which means they must somehow apply what they believe is true about his teaching. Modern people are all virtual disciples. Our contact with Him is remote, filtered through years of oral tradition, church history, and cultural changes. But He becomes powerfully vivid and alive in people who experience a “TRANSFIGURATION” where he isn’t a flesh and blood person, but a living Spirit. A voice that speaks from the inside instead of the outside. He brings light (that means influence) and it transforms how we think and choose to live, all without ever shaking his hands.

This means that the expressions of a Transfiguration are limitless.  I think we will all be better off the sooner we open our hands to the countless ways that this messianic story is told in the lives of people.  We all experience a frail humanity of pain, suffering and persecution. We fail and are broken. Yet despite all of this, we can arise out of the dead life and into higher ways of living, and service to our fellow man. We can become more, be healthy and make the world a better place. This is nothing less than the messianic story being written in modern times. It’s high time we recognize the work of Christ today and how it has transfigured from the cold, dead, statues of the past.

Besides, do we really want a Jesus in a dress?

A year without Church

I have not attended a church service in over 14 months.

Now depending on your worldview, my statement above produces something within your thinking. Given that I have spent the majority of my life in weekly attendance to church, I can assure you that your assumptions about me are also the assumptions I’ve held about others. Things like:

  • He must be backsliding.
  • He is one of those disgruntled, angry rebellious types.
  • There is some sort of spiritual deficiency.
  • He’s deceived, in sin, lost or on the road to apostasy.
  • He must be going to the wrong church.

I’ve never really fit into the cultural church mold. But believe me I have tried. I went to seminary. I was employed by several churches as a pastor on staff. I’ve served as youth pastor, associate pastor, executive pastor, deacon, and elder. I’ve taught countless studies, preached many sermons, and gorged at many potlucks. I was a church planter, an urban missionary, on mission, missional. I was evangelical, spirit led, and spent years in community groups. I’ve done it all. I’ve seen it all. I was completely embedded in the church and without a doubt that made me weird to the rest of the world.

Every good thinker has very critical questions that are asked about the church. However most of them are not welcome.  If a church says it is there to reach the city, to save the lost, or to free people from their bondage, then it is fair to ask: “Where is this “reached” city that live in such complete freedom?” From my vantage point within the church I rarely saw people living free, I rarely saw a genuine convert, and the city certainly didn’t care if we were there.

And so you can see how this type of questioning creates a rub for those who want to keep things as they are, those who want to keep it on life support.  But what if you really believe that there is a better way?

  • What if you believe the REAL CHURCH is not about “going”, but about “Being?”
  • What if you believe the REAL CHURCH actually has transformative power?
  • What if you believe the REAL CHURCH is diverse and encompasses people of all tribes, tongues, nations, and world views?
  • What if you believe the REAL CHURCH cannot be quarantined into a statement of beliefs, a particular theology, or religious construct?

If you believed such things, then passing on the Sunday show is not based in rebellion, but integrity.

This past year I have learned so much and not once has God left me without biblical instruction, leadership, opportunities to serve and give, causes for celebration and worship, nor have I lost the slightest bit of community. In fact all areas have actually enlarged and are more intentional and sincere.

In fact, one of the biggest surprises was that there has been no deficiency in my life or the lives of my wife and kids.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the Sunday show isn’t helpful to some people. I know there are many sincere people for whom the Sunday experience brings them to a proximity with God they don’t get elsewhere. For me and my family, that was not the case. I had the same experience with Cub Scouts. I’m sure it really helps some kids get things they can’t get at home, but my experience was that I could teach my child way better than the scout leader or children’s church.

So why do people go?  Is it guilt? Is it a cultural expectation? Is it habit? Is it the economic, institutional or social power? Certainly.

Is it the teaching?–You can get that online anywhere?

Is it the fellowship?-You have next door neighbors and people in your community that you are asked to serve, what’s wrong with them?

The worship?-Is worship really only possible on a Sunday morning?

There is no biblical mandate for attendance.  So, ultimately the only reason people go is because deep down in their heart they feel better about themselves if they go to church. They believe God favors them if they go.  And if we believe that, then we cannot escape the rise of pride in our heart at the “DISTINCTION” between those who go and those who don’t.  It’s the whole  Star-Bellied Sneetch thing.

Going can make a person judgmental.  But the same can be said for those who don’t attend.

  • Do the successful really need more sermons delivered over a jumbo-tron?
  • Do the homeless just need to sing some songs about Jesus in order for life to be ok?
  • Do the lonely just need a good bible study?
  • Does the broken family need a community of people to know about their problems?

You see, I think deep down we all know that when anything happens in a church setting that benefits another person, it is because another person truly cared and acted selflessly.  It is only when we give ourselves to others that any magic could happen.  It is the only time the successful ever finds help, the homeless gets a room, the lonely find friendship, the broken find hope.

Guess what. That happens all the time outside of Sunday morning. It is a function of the REAL CHURCH.

Deep down we all know that the Sunday show is just a scaffolding that holds up people and tries to connect people to serve one another.  Perhaps the church is a crutch, and for those who insist it is not I would challenge you to a year without it propping you up. Then you will see the genuine state of your spiritual health, not the inoculated state.

If we live is such a way that we take our broken and yet triumphant humanity and tell our story to inspire others in the world, then we ARE the Church.  Wether you know it or not, and regardless of how you tell your story, you are telling the story of the cross. It is your living story that others are changed by–it is the only thing that has ever changed anything. It is God in human form, our Imageo Dei, that people connect to.

This is why I don’t go to a Sunday show called church. I believe it highjacks me from giving my life away from and being the body of Christ to the world who needs me. I do not lack anything from my shepherd, “I shall not want.”

The next time someone says they don’t go to church. Maybe it’s because they have already become it. Ultimately the only people who really care about church attendance are those that attend.

It’s not about our PLAN…It’s about this…

Many of you know that I follow the coaching and instruction of many of the top leaders in the personal development space. Right now almost everyone of them is drafting off of people’s New Year resolve to help people come up with the best possible plan for success in 2014.
Now, I don’t disagree that we all need a feasible, strategic plan against which we can measure our progress. I guess my skepticism is that it is way too easy to simply blame last year’s plan for last year’s progress.
This seems to ignore the many diligent people who actually do execute on their plans yet still find themselves not seeing the progress they are seeking.
Is that you?
After listening to hours of strategic planners, enthusiastic millionaire visionaries, attending seminars, reading books and hearing preachers talk about second chances, I have identified something that I offer to those I coach.
Today I give it away to you freely.
Ready?? –Here it is:
Confused? Let me explain.
We all want something. We are all going after certain things and turning away from other things. This comes from our cause and effect reality and from learning how we have benefitted our lives in the past.
But planning to “Go After” one thing or “Turn Away” from another thing doesn’t actually move us forward, it is really just a planning to do what we already ARE doing.  See the problem?
A plan doesn’t help us if we have not identified the underlying BASIS for our plan. This means we must consciously apprehend our true motivations.
In my coaching, most people do things out of either FEAR or PRIDE.
No matter what our PLAN is, if it comes out of fear or pride it will always yield the same or similar result.
The unchangeable rules of the universe (which I believe are established by a benevolent God) are such that if we add 2+2 we will always get 4. Until we change the variable (“2”) we will not get a different result.  In this case, until we alter our motivations, we will not see anything but the result of our present motivations.
  • Do you want wealth? Why?
  • Do you want healthy relationships? Why?
  • Do you want status or influence? Why?

Is it possible that the only motivation we really have is to have an easier, more comfortable, pain free life? If so, then we are no better than a cat who always sleeps in the sunny spot. If that is your motivation, then just be honest about it and then live in such a way as you can maximize your personal pleasure in life. Of course that will put you square in the face of morality at some point. Then what will you do if your motivation has to be tempered because it conflicts with other peoples similar motivation?  Not a recommended life plan.

Can’t you see, that the reason people fall time and again for “Get Rich” schemes are that they have never resolved the motivation for why they want wealth. People fail in diets because they haven’t grasped why they want to lose weight. People jump from relationship to relationship because they don’t know why they want one. The fact is…

  • They are running from something in their past.
  • They seek to spend it on themselves.
  • They want power over other people.
  • They want liberation from a life full of captivity.

If we do the INTERNAL work of uncovering our true motives, then we will have the OPPORTUNITY to actually change them.

Once the motivations of our hearts are sincere. Once they are HUMBLED–Our PLANS change!

  • Motivation for POWER & CONTROL is replaced with INFLUENCE.
  • Motivation for WEALTH is replaced with CONTENTMENT.
  • Motivation out of FEAR is replaced with ACCEPTANCE.
  • Motivation for LIBERATION is finally SATISFIED.

This is the seed from which the best possible plans sprout.  This kind of plan ALWAYS succeeds! IT NEVER FAILS! This kind of plan is based in prosperity and abundance, not scarcity and competition.

Thus a person with purer motives ceases to pursue rewards because their very life is already rewarded.

I challenge you this year to take some time FIRST to find your motivations. If you do and you change them, then the outcome will be a radically different PLAN than you started with.

The byproduct will be the most successful year of your life.

Make sure you pick a coach who can actually help you do this.

I can’t wait to hear what happens in your life.