Thursday, May 17, 2007

The End

The email devotional and other content will no longer be posted here.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Does This Sound Right?

The following is a copy of the Thomas Question email devotional. You can subscribe to the email edition from our website and you can also tune into our podcast.

I try to serve people in unusual ways wherever I go. It’s part of an attempt to “be the missing part” which is what I think Christians were meant to be. For example, whenever I see someone else’s baby smile at me, I try not to smile back. I want to be one of the few people willing to help them realize at their tender stage of life that they are not the center of the universe. The sooner they realize that, the better for all of us. It’s just one small way I try to help.

As another example, I try not to simply “beep” the horn when a driver has had a lapse of judgment or awareness in some way. Instead, I try to “help” them know for sure they’d made an error and be firmly resolved to “do better” in the future. A “beep” simply does not suffice. So I following them closely for a period of time with my horn applied in one long, blaring message which says “I want to help you be a better driver!” It’s just one of the many ways we can all help serve each other. Was that you I “helped” on the expressway this morning? I hope so.

Obviously this kind of thinking is more than a little “cracked”. But it’s not far off from some of the ways we attempt to self justify our strange or indulgent behavior. Pastors who were meant to be “lead-foot washers” end up surrounded by perks and exclusivity. “In order to be lead foot-washer,” they think to themselves, “I should be accorded some special privileges to get this most important job done.” That’s more than just a little ironic.

Another example has become a famously familiar phrase: “Just because I have to love you, doesn’t mean I have to like you.” The problem is, if we’re all truly open and honest, those two things include each other.

Given enough time, most of us can think of some truly imaginative ways to validate almost any habit or impulse. “It’s just the way I was made” is probably in the lead position. But when you read the words of Jesus (the red ones in your New Testament), it doesn’t take long before you get this sense that He knew this about us. In John 2:23 it says of Jesus that, “When He was in Jerusalem for the Passover festival, may believed in His name because they saw the signs that he was doing.” But then it says this in verse 24, “But Jesus on his part would not entrust Himself to them because He knew the heart of man…”

We are our own worst enemy, and the darker side of our human nature can take on the shape of whatever it’s poured it into. We can do the right thing for wrong reasons, the wrong thing for right reasons and then we can layer these things one upon another until we no longer know which is which. All of us are subject to our own “sweet talk”, and no one can “check the math” on your deepest thinking and self justification. Only you can “hold your feet” to the “fire” of change. Have you checked your deepest motives lately? Have you asked yourself tough questions? The adventure of change is worth it. Become a different person from the inside out and you may be surprised at how your possibilities are multiplied.

We’re in the midst of a series right now that grapples with these and other issues by asking the question, “What is true beauty?” So what is true beauty? What is worth wanting, chasing, building, having, protecting and desiring? What are the distractions that set a heart free? What are the urges we won’t have to fight – because they drag us closer to freedom and not further from it. If you missed last Sunday, you can visit our website for the new series intro or tune into the podcast.



True beauty, fighting fire with fire, the desires we don’t need to fight and the relationship between change and beauty.

Special guest Rick Hiebert – church planter, communicator, pastor, leader, motorcycle owner.

From our series “Church Exposed”, remember: Christianity is meant to be activated, not simply thought about; it is best confirmed or disproved by acting on it, and the trigger for all this is kindness to God and kindness to others. We are attempting to be a church that’s pulled that trigger.

You could think of each Sunday service as a 75 minute reprieve from your practice of Christianity. Then, at the end of each service, we get the chance to take up this ancient art all over again starting in the lobby. I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

An Idea about Gas Prices

The following is a copy of the Thomas Question email devotional. You can subscribe to the email edition from our website and tune into our podcast.

What causes stop and go traffic? You could call it the “multiplied tail light effect”. One person applies their brakes, then the next person (who’s traveling too quickly and following too closely) needs to apply their brakes aggressively. The person behind them (also traveling too quickly and following too closely) needs to apply their brakes even more aggressively and the lane comes to a halt. Now you have a stop and go traffic.

According to James Surowiecki in The Wisdom of Crowds, all of this would occur far less often if we simply slowed down and left a little more room between us and the car ahead. The flow of traffic would stabilize at a lower (but constant) speed, and we’d all move through choke points with far less aggravation. Which leads to a phrase I want to use: “if only”. “If only” we’d all slow down and back off, our world would be a much better place.

Now let’s allow ourselves a few more “if only’s”. If only we’d all switch to energy efficient light bulbs and turn a few of them off… If only we’d carpool, reduce, re-use and recycle… Just imagine. If only we could get one more hour of sleep… Imagine that…

And try this one for fun… Every once in a while, we get angry enough about the random, inexplicable nonsense of rising gas prices to organize a one day boycott. The problem is, we can’t do without the gas we didn’t buy. So the very next day, we go to the gas stations we boycotted and buy yesterday’s gas as well as today’s. All the while the oil executives giggle to themselves and think “Silly consumers! You’ll pay what I tell you to pay because you have nowhere else to go!” But if only we’d wake up just a little bit more and organize a slightly different kind of boycott. Let’s boycott one gas company for life and put them out of business. If only. Maybe then they’d listen!

There is a problem with “if only”, however, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed. “If only” just doesn’t happen very often. It’s because change – real, daily, sustained change – is tough. It’s so tough, in fact, that even the smallest things (like the one’s we’ve been talking about) lie just outside our collective grasp. If only…

So listen: real change occurs in small, gradual increments. Building a better world isn’t complicated, it’s just difficult. So be patient with yourself. You can be what you were made to be and you’ll get there over time. Just put one step in front of another and think of steps small enough that you can start taking them today.

Starting this Sunday, we’re spending the next several weeks looking for those things in life that represent “true beauty”. So what is beautiful? You can visit our website to see the new series intro video (it should be up in the next few days). And you can also contribute your own ideas, questions, comments, directions, opinions and suggestions. What do you think is beautiful? (just use

I hope to see you there and I hope you bring someone with you.

The final segment in our series, “Church Exposed” searching for the “trigger” on our faith, our future and ancient Christianity. Tune into the podcast to catch up.
The first in our new series, “Beautiful”. Why should we care about “beauty” in the first place?
Two Sundays ago, Rob and Tracy Dunham were with us to help lead in worship. They’re adopting a pair of siblings from over seas. There are few things more meaningful – and more Christ like – than to give someone else a chance at a whole other life. We contributed as a church and want to give you the chance as well. If you’d like to be involved, let us know (just use

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Stabety Stab

Special Note: If you’re in our digital congregation, be sure to see the “news” section below.
The following is a copy of the Thomas Question email devotional. You can subscribe to the email edition from our website and tune into our podcast.
I can’t say enough about the theme of last Sunday, so let me ease my neurosis with a few more “stabs” at it: progress (the fact that you’re moving) is more important than position (the fact of where you are in the journey). Let me say it another way: The fact that you took a step is more important than the size of it. After all, Jesus said His “Kingdom” is best understood by kids and sex trade workers (see Matthew 18:3 and 21:31). Why? We can only infer that it’s because (1) young people know they have something to learn and (2) “broken” people know they have something to fix. So, it’s better to be young, broken and open than wise, polished and “settled”. Progress is more important than position.

Think about it this way: a mortgage makes it possible for you to turn hundreds of much smaller steps into one giant purchase you could likely never make all at once. The same principle holds true for any large change or any great “dream” you hope for. They key is to find a way to break it into hundreds of smaller “payments” so you can start making it happen now. Progress is more important than position. Find a way to think of steps small enough that you can start taking them today and you’ll get there. Anything else is just wishful thinking.

Think about it this way: there are two ways to “build” a mountain (or a mountain sized change!). You can grab a shovel, decide to get it done and die trying to build it in a day. Or, you can drop off a single shovel full of dirt, as often as you can while on your way to other things. In other words, you build a small, daily, sustainable habit while on your way to other things, and one day you’re surprised at the mountain that’s come of it. It’s the same principle: the fact that you took a step is more important than the size of it.

Like I said at the beginning, I can’t say it enough. It’s like the race between the tortoise and the rabbit. Small steps actually taken beat huge leaps only ever thought about. Bury the bunny, embrace the turtle, take a step.

All of that was last Sunday, this Sunday we’ll take it a step further. So far this series has been about what as in what is a Christian, what is a church, what is the cross, “what”… This Sunday, we’ll round off the whole series (“Church Exposed”) with a look at how. If I could say only one thing to people at any stages of their journey, this would be it. Gee. No pressure.

I hope to see you there, and I hope you bring someone with you,

Aka “the podcast crowd”… We’re rebuilding our website over the next few months because we’re serious about investing as much in you as we do in our local congregation. I’ve been continually surprised at what can come of these “digital connections”, from Carolynn who connected through facebook to say “hi” along with her friends listening in New Zealand, and Mike who found us online, listened to 5 podcasts and showed up last Sunday, and Phil who’s given some feedback on our upcoming series on “Beauty”, and the many more who’ve contacted us over the past months. Drop us a line – let us know your story – just use and let it be more than just a podcast.
I asked that question on April 1 (if you missed it, tune into our podcast) and I don’t want to let it go. Every time you extend yourself, you make change possible and the process of creating change is what turns life into an adventure. Let’s take a risk this fall… Could you dream with us? Could you help with the resources that make those dreams possible? When you give towards a dream, you “own” the outcome. Why not own it with us?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


The following is a copy of the Thomas Question email devotional. You can subscribe to the email edition from our website and tune into our podcast.

It’s important to stress this right off the top: nobody complained, this is not in response to criticism and I have no axe to grind. It’s something I want to talk about for my own reasons – and hopefully because this bit of transparency might show something about this Kingdom. I said “bloody” at least 5 times that my wife noticed this past Sunday. Not the worst verbal transgression, I’m sure, but also not something I’m crazy about, either. Far from doing it on purpose, this is just something that’s worked it’s way into my daily vernacular and I think it can serve as a microcosm for a discussion about change and journey.

So let me ask you something. Do you ever get tired of waiting for a new you to emerge? Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in one of those whack-a-mole games you see on the midway at some county fair. You’re supposed to use a big sponge hammer to “whack” each mole back into it’s hole for a prize. The problem is, every time you knock one down, another takes it’s place. You could call it the “rat race of human change”. Focus on one thing and another pops up where you’re not looking. You end up trading one problem for another. Do you ever get tired of waiting for a new you to emerge?

I have a list of principles I cling to when it comes to the human journey and the desire for change. While in the context of my own introspection this week, I thought I’d share them with you.

First: it’s hard to separate who you are some of the time from who you are the rest of the time. The mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. The words you think are the words you’ll find yourself saying when you’re guard is down or your energy is low or life simply does it’s thing. We all fancy ourselves capable of being able to operate in multiple modes. But in the spirit of James 5:12 (“Let your yes be yes and your no be no”), I think it’s desirable try to be one person all the time. Who you really are will poke it’s mole-ish head up whenever you’re not looking.

Second: that being said, we’re all on a journey and that journey will take one entire lifetime to complete. You can either be discourage by that and say “It’ll never end” or you can come to terms with it, turn it into an adventure and get on with the point of change that’s right in front of you. You can bet that God has an escalating agenda of change for you. It won’t stay the same. The
stakes will rise – and so will the challenge. What may be buried near the bottom of that agenda will eventually find it’s way to the top. It’s His gift to us. Len Sweet has called it “the gift of the struggle”. Have you found any gifts in your struggle? Can you trust God that they’re there?

Third: grace is the inexhaustible resource by which we will always have one more opportunity than we’ve used up. Well, almost. Let me qualify that: one more opportunity than we’ve used up as long as we haven’t moved into a pattern of open and wanton abuse. My understanding of grace is that there’s room for imperfection – there’s just not any room to treat it lightly. As long as we care to change and as long as we care to try, you’ll find one more opportunity than you’ve used up.

Let me end with a simple, direct quote from Galatians 6:9. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” Do you ever get tired of waiting for a new you to emerge? Don’t worry. It’s on the way.

This past Sunday was as important a message as we’ll ever get into regarding the vision of our church. It doesn’t matter if you ever come on a Sunday or not, you can still join us for the journey. Take a listen and see if it’s something you’re interested in.

As important a message as we’ll ever focus on when it comes to the vision of our church. What are your possibilities as a person and our possibilities a church? In fact, while we’re at it – what is a church anyway? If you missed it, you can tune into the podcast.

So far in this series, we’ve asked: what is a Christian, what is the cross and what is the church… This Sunday we’ll look at what you can do about it.

Our next series starts in May and is entitled “Beautiful”. We’re looking for stories of things which you think capture true beauty. Hit reply and let us know.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Serendipity or Something Else?

The following is a copy of the Thomas Question email devotional. You can subscribe to the email edition from our website and tune into our podcast.

Dr. Spence Silver was the king of glue in his time (the late 1960’s). Working as one of 3M’s storied engineers, he set about the task of finding the next great strong-bonding glue, but failed. His new acrylate adhesive was described as both “flabby and weak”. Not the most desirable adjectives in the glue business – or many others for that matter.

What happened next, however, is a matter of story telling legend. All too often failure ends in itself. An unexpected outcome occurs and we stop in our disappointment and call it a “mistake” and a “waste of time” and go “back to the drawing board”. But in this case, failure led to breakthrough. Instead of hiding his failure, Dr. Spence shared it with co-worker Arthur Fry and Post-it notes were born. Who ever would have thought that for Dr. Spence and Arthur Fry, their career’s most important moment would be embedded in a single fortunate mistake?

It’s amazing what you can find, while on your way to other things, just as long as you have an open mind and open eyes. Sometimes what you aim at is a distraction and an impossibility. Sometimes your failures are the best things that could ever happen to you if you have the courage to turn them into something else.

Specifically, it makes me feel both daunted and assured when it comes to the prospect of my own future. I feel assured because it’s encouraging to think what you can turn a failure into. At the same time, I feel daunted because I also wonder how any of us can plan for the future when some of our most important breakthroughs will be the result of some serendipitous accident.

When you add faith to the mix, however, the dynamics are changed greatly. We no longer have to trust to chance or circumstance or “serendipity”. Instead, we can hope in a “loving arrangement” of possibilities around us. says in Matthew 6:33 that we are to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness first, and then the other components of our lives will fall in line. We don’t have to hope for success or successful accidents. We can rely on the principles we choose along the way.

So I have a question for you. What if Christ embedded your life’s best outcomes on the other side of a set of moral choices? Dr. Spence and Arthur Fry found Post-it notes by accident. But what if our life’s biggest breakthroughs will come as a surprise on the other side of simply doing the “right” thing as often as we can? Who knows what life He may have in store for you as you seek to practice a life honoring others, telling the truth, finding compassion, protecting faith, all these things… We place so much emphasis on aiming at some dream dreamed – a grand destination. But maybe we ought to be aiming instead at the values we practice along the way. Just a thought.

This Sunday, we're continuing in our series on "Church Exposed". We looked last at what a church is and what a Christian is - we'll look next at what these things mean for us in particular at The Thomas Question. You can visit our website for directions or tune into the podcast through the week.

I hope to see you there and I hope you bring someone with you.

The shock of the cross and the invitation to live Easter today. Click here to tune into the podcast.

Why The Thomas Question?

The challenge has always been about meaning the stuff beneath the words. We’re seeking to build a church from the lobby out, based on community by a group of people who “mean it”. As a result, we value one step sincerely taken more than 3 dozen done in any other way.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What He Did Easter With

The following is a copy of the Thomas Question email devotional. You can subscribe to the email edition from our website and tune into our podcast.

I suppose it’s a natural side effect of what we’re all about as a church. We’re designed to be a point of connection between a normal life and the life that may be possible on the other side of Christ. As a result, a lot of our discussion has to do with the “why” of Christianity – as in why it deserves a second (and perhaps more passionate) consideration. However, there are times I find myself wanting to set the “why” discussion aside so we can simply dive into the “what” of Christianity. It’s what this series is all about.

This world view has absolutely taken me by storm over the past 18 years – and every day that storm builds a little. I can’t live, write, speak or get enough of it, and it’s such a potent philosophy that I feel it can more than speak for itself. This Sunday will be one of those Sundays when we set aside the “why” for the “what” – and there is perhaps no better Sunday on which to do it.

The Easter story is stunning when you move beyond a surface appreciation for the details of the story: Judas’ betrayal, Christ’s calm resolve, Peter’s emotional outburst, three hours of agony, the quite collapse of the disciples’ moral followed by that shocking Sunday morning turn of events. And perhaps the most stunning part is not so much what He did in the Easter story but what He did it with. He did it with a normal human life – one not unlike our own. Stunning.

It reminds me of a kind of scene you often see in films like The Bourne Identity. Special agent Jason Bourne is always coming face to face with well equipped and highly trained “bad guys” while having less than ideal resources of his own. In one case, he faces a particularly nasty, knife wielding bad guy with nothing more than a ball point pen. At another place, he does the same thing, this time with nothing more than a tightly rolled magazine. As an audience we find ourselves stunned not so much by what he does (he wins, after all) but we find ourselves more amazed by what he does it with (ball point pens and tightly rolled magazines seem like a poor match for guns and knives).

So what do you think it means that Jesus “did” Easter with nothing more than one normal human life? After all, He was fully God but also fully man and tempted in every way as we are tempted. Yet in that one act over the course of a single weekend, He didn’t just alter history, He altered a whole universe of possibilities for you and I. And He did it with a normal human life – one not unlike our own. What do you think that means? What’s the message within the message? What’s the message to you?

Let’s get into it this Sunday. Join us for a one hour communion service starting with Starbucks at 9.45 (you can visit our website for directions) or tune into the podcast through the week.

I hope to see you there and I hope you bring someone with you.

For the next few weeks we’re looking at Christ, Christians, Christianity, churches, church plants and The Thomas Question from the inside out. What is the most honest voice about what all these things were meant to be. Join us!

We have a large and growing digital congregation which is as important to us as our local crowd. If that’s you – drop us a line (just hit reply). We are constantly talking about new ways we can connect with you and you with each other. If you feel particularly daring – say “Hi” through youtube. We’d love to know your name, your face and your story. Maybe you could even do announcements for us. If that’s you, let me know. Who knows where it will go?

What does giving to a church plant do? It invests in ideas that are on the edge of what the church could become in the next 10 to 20 years. We are the R&D of the church world – the lab where new things are cooked up. We can try what more established churches cannot – we can risk what more established churches will not. We’ll be talking more about what a vision of the future could look like for us. Giving your time, attention, prayer and resources can make that vision come to pass.