Friday, February 27, 2009

Losing my Religion AND Loving God’s Church

I just read another article about how the church is missing it. Last week I read a book about how the church is failing. There are quite a few blogs (in the hundreds of thousands) that carry the same sentiment. (Inhale deeply). Since my Blogs are consistently titled “Killing Churchianity” or “Losing my Religion,” you’d think I’d be thrilled.

But I’m not. In fact, I’m done for a while.
Reading blogs, books, and articles about how the church is missing it, I mean. I’ve had my fill, at least for a bit. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pastor, and I love my church. Wow. There it is. I love my church. I said it out loud. I love my church. It feels like I’ve come out of some kind of theological closet. I LOVE my church.

Now, I don’t love her in a completely unqualified way. I don’t love everything about her. But I’m trying to love her in a completely unconditional way. In other words, I’m trying to love this Bride of Jesus like I imagine Jesus loves his bride.

And maybe that’s really at the core of this. The church is the Bride of Christ. The picture given to us by Scripture is that of a Bride. She’s not perfect. But Jesus himself loves her, Jesus himself is washing her, growing her, perfecting her, and loving her in His gentle, persistent, washing-dirty-feet kind of way.

So. Let’s place it in human terms. If my best friend is getting married, and suddenly: books, blogs, and articles are written about how fat his bride appears, how dumb his bride seems, how irrelevant his bride dresses, or how hypocritical his bride acts…I might find myself in more than a few fist-fights. HE loves her, and that’s really all that matters.

People who are a whole lot smarter than I am (minds I truly respect, and friends I honestly love) are skilled at voicing frustrations with the Church, and attacking with precision her myriad shortcomings. But you would NEVER treat your wife with that kind of disdain. If you did, I’d conclude you hate her.

Maybe your argument is that since we ARE the church, we can be self-critical. And certainly the Apostle Paul is a case study in this (feel free to start in Corinthians and work your way through). But I would argue that if ALL of our self-talk is critical, then we have a problem with self-loathing. And we’ve again missed the heart of Jesus for His bride.

So let’s bring a little love to the discussion.
There is incredible loveliness and victory to be found in the Church, all over this nation, and all over the world. There is noble sacrifice and generosity. There are sincere people struggling toward pure hearts and holy living. As Giglio says, “The Church is KILLING it all over the globe!” There is also a good deal of mess, because the Church is full of messy, broken people. But that’s not the Headline in this fallen world, that’s just the Setting. The REAL story is that Jesus loves her, anyway.

Can I get a witness? Anybody else want to come out of the closet and love their church?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The First shall be Last, or Divine Justice

This week I traveled over to the Big Island with my family. We were set to stay in my Parents time share, plane tics were buddy miles, and we were humbly aware that without the generosity of others we wouldn’t be able to rent a car, enjoy a place, or get fare over to the Island. So when we realized that our plane seats were the very last ones on the plane, you know, the ones that don’t recline right next to the bathrooms, it wasn’t a big shocker to us. We’re just happy to be on the plane.

When we landed, and the plane halted at the gate, the stewardess made an unusual announcement…for some reason, we would de-plane from the rear. Being in the last row, we would be first to set foot on Hawaiian soil. (Cue Monty Python voice: A blessing! A blessing from the Lord!) I thought, amused, this is at least one parable of how sometimes the last shall be first.

As we were all standing in the aisle, waiting for the rear door to be opened, a lady pushed past us. Since we were all holding our carry on bags, the aisle was crowded, and she fairly shoved her way through my family in her haste to get to absolute rear of the plane, so that she would be the first off. Several people that she had pushed past were frowning and grumbling. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, like maybe she was late for a heart transplant, or really needed to pee. But, I won’t lie, it was still an exercise in patience for me.

So now, we were no longer going to be first to de-plane, she was. She had shoved herself forward and was now waiting, as we all were, for the plane doors to open.

And then another announcement. It turns out that, for whatever reason, the forward door in the plane would be our exit, after all. I noticed distinctly that smiles lit up on all the faces that this woman had shoved past in her haste to be first off. And now, since she was truly in the very rear, not only would she NOT be first: She would be dead last. It was as if a Hallelujah Choir began singing from the Heavens. God is real, even in the mundane.

The doors then opened, and people began to move towards the exit. But I couldn’t help noticing a leisure-ness about the process. People moved relaxed, languid. It seemed that there was a collective response against the pressure to hurry. The aloha spirit was already in full force. At least, I might have deplaned a bit slower than normal. Mostly to help the lady behind me practice patience.

I’m a pastor. It’s my job.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Blog to My Homies

This “Expert” Blogger is in need of serious assistance! What you are about to read will sound like a complete contradiction in terms, so prepare for paradox. Here goes: Jodie and I have recently begun blogging on a nationwide Christian blog-community site called Conversant Life. You can find them at

They’ve picked me up as a blog “expert” in the realm of belief. I do believe, so I’m not worried necessarily about the “belief” part of it, but it’s the “expert” part that puckers my giblets.

Because it’s a nationwide deal, there are quite a few more folks that are browsing the blogroll daily, so the potential for drawing a crowd and strengthening God’s kingdom is good. However, right now, when you go to my conversant blog, I only have one friend.

So, the person who has never checked out Mike Howerton’s blog before will go there, see his lonely friend, who, by the way, is the administrator of the site, and conclude that I’m a hopeless, no-one-cares-what-he-has-to-say, non-expert. Now, maybe that person will decide that AFTER they have read my blog, and I get it. That’s fair. I just don’t want them to conclude that BEFORE they read anything, just because I’m a cyber-dork with one friend who doesn’t really count because he runs the thing.

Here’s the other perk…you can check out my wife’s witty, fun, touching, poignant blog as well! I am amazed that her posts are so consistently more thoughtful than my own! Become her friend too!

Feel free to leave comments, suggestions, prayers, and thoughts! YOUR two cents is a BIG deal to me! Know how much I THANK you for being in this thing with me…again, it’s all for HIS glory!

Here it is again:

I'm Hosting Saturday Night Live!

Ok, not really. But here is my picture if I ever host SNL. I’m that prepared, in case I get asked.

And here is my wife’s picture. She’s a total and complete hottie. Look at those eyes, for crying out loud!

Just for fun, I’d like to propose an exercise in creativity: IF YOU were hosting SNL, what are the 5 favorite skits that you want to be written into? Since this is pure fantasy, the rules are that you can use any season that you want to, use any SNL cast that you love, and write yourself in however you’d like. Since I’m obviously hosting first, here are mine:

1. In the old John Belushi skit where he flips Cheeseburgers as a Samauri, I’d come into his restaurant and order a taquito.
2. Dana Carvey in Church Lady (of course), and I’d be a Deacon on “her” show.
3. Andy Sandburg in a Digital short, and since Chronic(what?)cles of Narnia is sort of overdone, I’d like to be in the video where he punches people who are trying to eat. I think it’s called “Punching while Eating” or “Follow your Dreams.” I’d like to be in the zombie dance at the end.
4. The one where Natalie Portman brings her boyfriend Jeff home to her uber-weird European parents (“sit in the Hair Chair, by Moby”), and they can’t pronounce his name (“Gwaaarrrrfff?”). I’d be happy to be the younger brother serving yogurt.
5. I’d like to be Lawrence Welk in the recent one hosted by Anne Hathaway, where she and her sisters sing. Kirsten Wiig might be the most amazingly inappropriate singing sister in entertainment history.

There you have it! My top 5! Now it’s time to share yours! So, on this FRIDAY (day before Saturday!) let’s here it! What are your favorites?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Grace City

This morning I hit the trails with Scout (my shelter-mutt), and just about every part of my body froze. It was oddly beautiful, however, this frosty winter morn, listening to inspiring songs of praise to our vast, creative God, and I forgot my discomfort almost entirely (or simply became numb, I couldn’t tell which).

As I crested a large hill, I ran beside some wide open horse meadows, and suddenly I could see the whole of Seattle in the distance. Downtown standing official and industrious, an emerald skyline, with the Space needle off by itself looking smallish, and rather left out of the party.

And the image that came to my mind was one used by my friend Judd to describe the city he lives in and loves, Las Vegas. Instead of Sin City, Judd refers to Vegas as Grace City. The biblical truth being thus: where sin abounds, grace abounds more. Since most of my body experiencing some form of frostbite at this moment, this image of God’s grace was entirely unexpected.

With the whole of the city spread out before me, I found my heart filled with a crazy love for Seattle, a kind of holistic, Daddy-loves-his-kiddos, emotionally charged love for the people of the most beautiful city I know. And it made me remember again that Jesus loves Seattle. He loves it all. He loves you, Freemont! He loves you, Downtown! He loves you, Kent! He loves you, Mill Creek! He even loves you, Renton! Not only does He love it all, but Jesus came for Seattle.

And as a Pastor, I want to make sure that my ministry is motivated by the same love that Jesus has. Of course, there is sin…it abounds in this fallen city, certainly. But that’s not the final word, nor the amazing part of the story. The final word is grace. The amazing part of the story is that the unlovely is offered unfailing love by a God who is unlimited love.

Today I stand knee-deep in grace.
Today I pray God’s grace on a beautiful city in desperate need of it.
Today I pray grace for you as well.

May His grace find you in an unexpected moment, and may He receive your praise for it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The JOURNEY is about lives...

I am SO thankful that I get the honor of being a part of a great church. It is an amazing thing to be involved in a movement where God touches hearts, where people experience forgiveness and love, where the truth is actually setting people free. This last weekend was a complete and total party, as we got together and focused wholly on how GOOD God is. We focused on how good his gifts to us are. And we praised God for the gift of Jesus...who came to seek and save lost folks like US! My favorite thing in the whole world is to see, to actually SEE tangibly how God's invasion transforms lives...

So here are a few lives that have been touched by Jesus. It's a short video, but the good news is that it's entirely true. These men and women aren't perfect...none of us are. But each life here has been invaded and changed by a loving Savior named Jesus...the journey is about lives.

And Jesus is crazy about the life called YOU.

Cardboard Testimonies from Overlake Christian Church on Vimeo.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009


There are so many lessons about our spiritual lives that can be mined from pet ownership.
Here is the truth about the dog I adopted from the local shelter.

His whole life nobody had wanted him, nor claimed him to love.
He is overweight.
Scout has chewed a hole in his tail, and it sort of stinks.
At the vet yesterday, they hooked him up with a cone that prevents him from chewing his tail, and it makes him look like a canine version of Little Bo Peep. Plus they shaved his tail, so he looks slightly like a giant black rat. With a bonnet. And the medicine stings when it’s applied to the wound.

Here is the point: unloved and unlovely. And my family has claimed him. And we love him so much that our hearts hurt a bit at his obvious discomfort and loss of dignity. So we’re doing all we can to help him heal as quickly as possible. Even if it stings.

God has seen us unloved and unlovely. And He has claimed US. And his Heart is moved at our obvious brokenness. So God works in us individually and personally, to help us heal as quickly as possible. And it might sting.

The point is, God is the true Skillful and Loving master. My prayer is that you allow Him to touch you with His healing love today. Because HE loves you. Really.

Even more than we love our stinking rat dog.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Cost of LOVE

I just wanted to share a little video love from Sunday...
This is what you call a bucket o' love.
Bottom line: Love ya!
Can't wait to see you at OCC this weekend for a LOVE celebration!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I think it was W.C. Fields who once said, “I can resist anything but temptation.” Since the dawn of time, that seems to be the irresistible lure. Certainly, as a parent and dog-owner (yes, I just placed those two roles in the same category…I live in Seattle) I see ample examples of my children (and my dog) wrestling with temptation. So far, I’m working in the realm of “given,” no arguments here. It goes without saying, I also see how I struggle with temptation myself.

The other night, Jodie and Caleb were having a mommy date, and they had decided to curl up with some popcorn and watch the deeply theological movie, Back to the Future. But Jodie needed to do a quick store run first. So before she left, she made Caleb PROMISE not to start the movie until she got back. Which he did in wide-eyed faith. Five minutes after she left, Caleb and I are in full blown wrestle-mode, pictures rattling on the walls, and in a panting moment of stillness I throw out the question, “Hey Bud, you wanna start the movie now?”

A heartbeat of silence. Then Caleb yells, “NO!!!” I say, ok, ok, settle down. I just thought I’d throw a little temptation your way. And he smiles, “DAD, I’m not like Adam and Eve.”

Oh, buddy.
In the first, unfortunate, place, we all are in many respects JUST like Adam and Eve.
In the second, delightful, place, this is the reason Jesus came. To forgive us when we stumble, to clean us up, and to set us into a right relationship with God. This is the reason Jesus is called Savior. We find ourselves in the embarrassing position of needing to be saved.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. Psalm 130:3,4 NLT

Because it turns out it’s true…we can resist anything but temptation.

What the Holistic Practical Stewardship?

For the last 5 weeks we’ve been nailing the idea that there is an exciting, dynamic and dangerous road of faith we can all walk, a road that allows us to see the radical provision and blessing of God. It is the Steward’s road. Since the only Steward in recent cinematic history is the Steward of Gondor, and since he falls off a cliff in a flaming bundle of insanity, there’s a reason why the term Steward has some questions around it. So for the last 5 weeks we’ve been unpacking these questions and this lifestyle at OCC…

We’ve also been providing TOOLS for folks to approach their whole life as God’s steward. This Sunday EVE, from 4-6pm, we offer yet one more tool. Stewardship EXPERT (and I mean that literally) John Frank will be at OCC, teaching a Seminar on Holistic Practical Stewardship. That means how to practically look at all of your life and make good value decisions on how to spend your time, how to use your talents, and how to employ your treasure for God’s glory.

We want to make sure we’re being as “rubber-meets-the-road” as possible in this challenge! Please plan on coming this Sunday (Feb 8th) and join John Frank and myself for some real and practical ways to make value decisions.

By the WAY, Sunday’s Services will be a CELEBRATION of the kind of blessing God has for those who pursue faithful stewardship! Bring some friends and party with us at OCC: 9:20, 11am, or 6pm! Rock on!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Unconditional Surrender

As a dude who speaks every Sunday, about topics spanning the spectrum from sex to Jesus, there are days when I wake up and realize what I should have said. Or what I wanted to say. Or I’ll find someone who said what I was trying to say so much better than I actually said it. So here is a quote from a really old British guy, whom I think is brilliant. His name is John Stott, sometimes referred to as the protestant pope, and on the issue of surrender writes:

“Our attitude to our fallen nature should be one of ruthless repudiation. For ‘those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires’ (Galatians 5:24). That is, we have taken this evil, slimy, slippery thing called ‘the flesh’ and nailed it to the cross. This was our initial repentance. Crucifixion is dramatic imagery for our uncompromising rejection of all known evil. Crucifixion does not lead to a quick or easy death; it is an execution of lingering pain. Yet it is decisive; there is no possibility of escaping from it.
“Our attitude to the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is to be one of unconditional surrender. Paul uses several expressions for this. We are to ‘live by the Spirit’, to be ‘led by the Spirit’ and to ‘keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16,18,25). That is, we are to allow him his rightful sovereignty over us, and follow his righteous promptings.
“Thus both our repudiation of the flesh and our surrender to the Spirit need to be repeated daily…” (John Stott, Authentic Christianity, pp 83)