living the way

Jesus’ message is nothing if not practical. He never leaves his teaching circling a theological airport or lost in abstraction. His message is always targeted on how we live and choose in this very moment. These audio messages intend to help us live our spirituality where rubber and road meet.

Unalienable Rights

Dave Brisbin | 7.2.17
Fourth of July should be a time to reassess, take stock of the last 241 years, see where we are, where we came from. We live in an age of cynicism. Our culture doesn’t revere tradition or founding principles anymore, but does that mean there’s no truth, no relevance there to guide us herenow? When we carefully read a document like the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson is telling us that human rights derive directly from God–but not political contracts or laws. Laws only exist to serve the people, and when they don’t, it is the right of the people to abolish them…yet people will suffer oppression and evil as long as they possibly can before finally acting—partly out of fear and partly out of prudence. Revolutions should never be taken lightly, and what operates in nations and governments is reflected in our personal lives. 

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Jesus is calling us to a personal revolution, one that will question and upend all of the intellectual concepts and religious contracts to which we’ve signed, if they no longer serve the purpose of spiritual liberation. And we will resist such upheaval for as long as we can until the day we realize that our desire for those God-given “unalienable rights,” is finally greater than our fear of the disruption of our interior revolution.

Falling Opinions

Dave Brisbin | 6.11.17
One of the hardest aspects of working in a church setting is watching people come and go—people you like, those you thought of as friends move on and leave you often feeling hurt or abandoned. Natural to feel that way—hard to make the emotional distinction between friendship and ministry. But what is really hurting us? Really, it’s our expectation, our opinion of how things should be. Any community is in constant motion—never static. Any community as we view it is just a momentary snapshot in time that will be morphing into something else in the next moment.

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To be able to live richly in any community or family or workplace is to expect what is real and not what we wish to be so. As Sengtzu famously said: If you wish to see the truth, hold no opinions for or against. It’s the same message Jesus is giving us when he tells us not to judge. Judging is another way of trying to impose our opinions. If we’re ever to enter the quality of life that is Kingdom, it will only be when we let fall our opinions and let our moments be what they really are
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When Dad Acts Like Mom

Dave Brisbin | 5.14.17
Mothers’ Day: I was recently asked that though we know God loves us, how can we know he likes us? Great question, one that goes to the heart of our human experience. On Mothers’ Day, and by way of answering, it’s always good to be reminded of the ancient Hebraic understanding of the roles of mother and father that is coded right into their language. To understand father/Ab, as “strong house,” the support and structure of the family, and mother/Em as “strong water,” the glue that holds the family together, is fundamental to their life in family, tribe, and nation. But it also reveals their view of God as well. 

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Though God is always referred to in the masculine, Hebrews never understood their God as male, but with key divine concepts such as wisdom and kingdom referred to as feminine, they saw God as a balance between the justice and mercy, accomplishment and relationship that father and mother represent. We can know, understand that God loves us through reading, study, and ritual practice, but we will never know God likes us, enjoys our company, feels personal devotion to us until we experience him as loving mother. Jesus portrayed his Father in just such a way in the parable of the prodigal son—and until we have experienced enough moments when dad acts like mom, we will never know we’re liked as well as loved.

Fear’s Rules

Dave Brisbin | 5.7.17
The cross of Jesus is such a big and central message in Christianity that we need to spend more time on it. So continuing the discussion from the previous week’s message, “Lamb of God,” and in answer to the perennial questions—why is the bible so violent, and why would God sacrifice his son?—we’re looking at deeper ways of understanding Calvary that neither compromise the sacrifice of Jesus nor the love of the Father. In typical midrash fashion (see the message “Deeper Reading” for more on midrash), the New Testament writers portray Jesus on the cross using three deeply embedded images from the Old Testament: the Passover Lamb, the Lifted Up One, and the Scapegoat. To fully understand how Jesus’ first followers understood his sacrifice on the cross, we need to know how these three images functioned in the spiritual lives of the people and how they applied to the spiritual truth of Jesus’ sacrifice. 

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As we dig deeper, we find that all three point us toward a deep gaze at ourselves, at our intrinsic nature as humans that necessitate a laying down of blame, resistance, justification, and anything else we use to deflect our own pain and personal responsibility. When we really understand what Jesus became when he became the “sin of the world,” we can begin to understand the nature of a sacrifice that will really set us free and save us to love as the Father loves.

Lamb of God

Dave Brisbin | 4.30.17
No matter what questions we ask of religion or church, scripture or theology, the subtext, the question we’re always really asking is the same: with all life’s pain, uncertainty, absurdity…do I matter? Am I safe? Whether we’re asking about heaven, hell, salvation, law, or any esoteric point of theology, what we’re really looking for is assurance, confidence in our own acceptability. That’s the human condition. And so it also is as we ask about the cross, about what it really means, and how Jesus as Lamb of God, an innocent blood sacrifice, impacts the nature of a God who Jesus tells us is absolutely all loving. Is there a way to understand the Lamb and the sacrifice in such a way that God’s loving nature is not compromised? 

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The answer lies in the context of the cross. Just as the letters of Paul are always answers to questions that are left unstated, we can’t understand how his answers are true until we know the context within which they are true. The context of the cross, the unstated question, is salvation—but our beliefs about salvation affect the way we see the cross’ answer. Understanding what the ancients who wrote our scripture believed about salvation, understanding what the “sin of the world” is that the Lamb takes away, and how we come to the cross ourselves to journey with Jesus will point us in a new direction where love and sacrifice connect without compromising either.

Thin Disguise

Dave Brisbin | 4.9.17
Palm Sunday, What is the real message behind Palm Sunday. Sunday school graduates can all remember that Palm Sunday gets its name from the palm branches that the people waved in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem beginning the week of his passion and death. Some of us will remember that the palm fronds symbolized the people welcoming him as a victorious king and how that unnerved the watching Jewish and Roman authorities. But how does that translate to us, two thousand years and a world away from those events. Why is it preserved in our sacred text and what can it teach us?  

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Entering in to the mindset of each of the various players in the story—the people, the Jewish and Roman authorities, Jesus’ first followers—looking at the symbolism of palms and donkeys, reading the alluded prophecies, looking at the real meaning of hosanna, mixed with Jesus’ pronouncement over Jerusalem as he entered the city and wept, we find the crux of the message here. That every moment is Palm Sunday in our lives, that every moment Jesus rides in on the colt of a donkey defying whatever expectation we have of him, inviting us to see him for what and who he really is so that we never again miss the hour of our visitation.

Footwashers at Heart

Dave Brisbin | 4.2.17
On the fifth Sunday of Lent, looking at Lent as a positive-negative: an affirmative stripping away of anything that distracts, obscures, or keeps us away from God’s presence, the image at John’s last supper of Jesus stripping his garments, tying a towel around his hips and moving from friend to friend at table, washing feet gives us another Lenten principle in preparation for new life. It is extremely difficult for us as modern Westerner to appreciate just how mind blowingly outrageous and offensive Jesus’ actions would have been to his friends. There is no relevant analogy for us to bring home the shock of a revered teacher, rabbi, a spiritual master and healer doing what even Jewish slaves were not obligated to do–what was relegated to Gentile slaves. It was dirty, impure, and humiliating work, underscored by Peter’s initial refusal to allow Jesus to wash him. 

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Something this profound either bounces off our cultural force fields and doesn’t penetrate at all or we quickly moralize it to say that God wants us to be humble and in service to each other, which also misses the central point: that Jesus sees himself as the servant of everyone and anyone in his path, that he exists to serve and pour out everything he has, and as he and the Father are one, that our Father in heaven is a servant as well. The outrage we may feel if the creator of heaven and earth were to bow to wash our feet begins to welcome us to Peter’s world. But as Jesus told him: if we can’t accept who our God really is, we can’t have any part of him and remain unprepared for the new life on the other side of that acceptance.

My Piece of the Puzzle

Frank Billman | 3.26.17
On the fourth Sunday of Lent, looking at Lent as a positive-negative: an affirmative stripping away of anything that distracts, obscures, or keeps us away from God’s presence, Pastor Frank examines what it means to find our place in community. Using Paul’s beautiful simile for the body of Christ of a human body with all its parts forming a unified whole, identifying, becoming aware of our place, function, meaning, and purpose in our community in the various bodies in which we work and play and love is essential to being able to find acceptance of the present moment, to realize that we are exactly where we should be, doing exactly what we should be doing. 

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And if we realize there is another part we are hardwired to play, to begin the process of change that will bring our lives into clearer focus—without losing the balance of now and promise of radical change that is the hallmark of the Hebrew bride and our metaphor for kingdom life.

Overturning Tables

Dave Brisbin | 3.19.17
On the third Sunday of Lent, looking at Lent as a positive-negative: an affirmative stripping away of anything that distracts, obscures, or keeps us away from God’s presence, we use Jesus’ cleansing of the temple to give us our next Lenten principle. When Jesus rampages through the Temple court overturning tables, he is, in effect, calling into question a given in the daily life of first century Jews: that the Temple, the Temple priests, the Temple system were as good as God, were their means to connection with God and community. Jesus underscores the obvious—says right out loud what any thinking person could see but was afraid to say: that the system had become corrupt and instead of being a means to God’s presence, had become a hindrance, a limitation, a wall between the people and their God. 

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Making the principle personal, what tables to do we need to overturn in our lives? What “givens” that we take for granted as established truth do we need to question to discern whether they are still leading or have ever led us to the experience of God’s presence? And not just truths or institutions or people external to us, but what internal beliefs, attitudes, and patterns of behavior need to be overturned as well? Giving ourselves permission to begin the process of questioning, the courage to be disoriented and disturbed as we clear the courtyard in preparation for new life.

Prayer Muscles

Dave Brisbin | 3.12.17
On the second Sunday of Lent, looking at Lent as a positive-negative: an affirmative stripping away of anything that distracts, obscures, or keeps us away from God’s presence, we naturally turn to prayer. What is prayer really? And specifically, what is the continuous prayer to which Paul calls us? Using the Hebrew bride as the bible’s metaphor for the balance of living a balanced life of awareness and presence, we can start to look at prayer in the same way. Not a constant stream of words pronounced verbally or mentally, but a continuous awareness of our place and position and relationship to everyone and everything in any given moment—all infused and sourced in unseen Presence. 

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But is there a difference between mere mindfulness and prayer. How do we know the difference, practice the difference, and above all how do we develop the ability to pray without ceasing? It begins with intent, the intent of our mindfulness and awareness—what is it we are intending to be mindful of and present to? It has to do with our intent leading us an actual structure that we honor with the discipline of showing up day after day and moment after moment. It’s not complicated, just a patient and dedicated building of our prayer muscles.

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Everyone is recovering from something… Admitting this is the first step in spiritual life, because any unfinished business in our lives–trauma, unforgiveness, fear-based perceptions–fosters compulsive behavior and keeps us from connecting spiritually and emotionally.

Since we’re all recovering, we accept everyone right as they are—no expiration dates or deadlines. We don’t tell anyone what to believe or do. We present points of view that we hope will engage seekers in their own journey; help them unlearn limiting perceptions, beliefs, and compulsions; give opportunities to get involved in community, building the trust we all need to find real identity, meaning, and purpose. In other words, to engage the transforming Way of living life that Jesus called Kingdom…non-religiously understood from a first century Hebrew point of view.

 

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Embedded in the fun and laughter of each of our gatherings and events is the connection and accountability as well as the structure, discipline, and opportunity for service that authentic community is all about. We help create programs for physical support, emotional recovery, and spiritual formation that can meet any person’s needs. Such programs work at two levels: first to address a person’s physical and emotional stability—clinical, financial, relational,professional—anything that distracts from working on the second level: true spiritual formation centered around the contemplative way of life defined by an original Hebrew understanding of the message of Jesus.

Rather than telling people what to believe or think, we model and encourage engagement in a personal and communal spiritual journey that allows people to experience their own worthiness of connection and acceptance, to find the freedom from underlying fears that brings real meaning and purpose into focus.

 

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Seeing ourselves as a learning and recovery community that worships together, the focus isn’t on Sunday morning alone, but on every day of the week as we gather for worship, healing and support workshops, studies, 12 step meetings, counseling and mentoring sessions, referral services, and social events. We maintain a food pantry for those needing more support, a recovery worship gathering, and child care for those with little ones.

Our Sunday gathering starts at 10AM and our Recovery gathering on Tuesdays at 7PM. Both gatherings include worship with one of the best worship bands in the area. See our monthly calendar and our Facebook page to stay in touch with what is happening each week. You can also sign up on our elist for email enews updates.

 

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