Wednesday, March 4, 2015

the least are the greatest

Yesterday, I was sitting in a weekly Bible study at our partner church, Harvest.  A small group of us was listening to "Shaking the System", a sermon by Rich Nathan on how to confront systemic sin. Somewhere about 2/3 of the way into listening, R. came in with a friend and sat down.  I know R. from summer picnics in the park and occasional conversations at Harvest.   In warmer weather, I see R. about town on her bike.  I know she has lived on the street, and I'm also aware that mental illness is present; she'll sometimes use a small child's voice and other times, a deep, masculine voice.  

R. and her friend sat and listened to the remaining part of the teaching with us.  Afterward, we always take turns around the group to share a reflection from the teaching.  R. raised her hand first, and though she didn't respond to the teaching, her words were pure and true and good.  She told the group that she wanted to say something about Jesus.  And how Jesus doesn't want people to go hungry.  And how Jesus would have us pray for our sick friends.  

Somewhere in the middle of another person's sharing, R. raised her hand again, and as Judy called on her, R. asked if she could give the closing prayer when we were done.  "Of course," Judy said.

After some heavy sharing regarding the tough nature of systemic sin, R. walked up front and prayed us out.  The prayer was childlike and from the heart.  The presence of the Kingdom of God among us. I am so thankful for our partner church who welcomes R. as a contributing member of the community.  Who values her input and and her faith.  This is but one encounter that teaches me so much about the hospitality of Jesus, humility, the upside down Kingdom, and the intrinsic dignity and value of each human being in our community.  Thank you, Harvest friends, for your faithfulness and for the gift that you are.    

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Evangelical Immigration Table

We are so thankful for Matt Soerens and Liz Dong's visit to Orchard Hill Church last week to share with us about God's heart and His Word concerning immigrants, along with current immigration statistics, laws, and stories which exposed the need for immigration reform in our country.  Learn more through Evangelical Immigration Table's website here.


Our national immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis in America. Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions. This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate at the federal level at a tragic human cost.
We urge our nation’s leaders to work together with the American people to pass immigration reform that embodies these key principles and that will make our nation proud.

As evangelical Christian leaders, we call for a bipartisan solution on immigration that:
  • Respects the God-given dignity of every person
  • Protects the unity of the immediate family
  • Respects the rule of law
  • Guarantees secure national borders
  • Ensures fairness to taxpayers
  • Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents

Monday, March 2, 2015

holiness reconsidered

Andy Stanley is teaching a new series called "Brand: New", and in Week 5, he talks about the old Temple Model definition of holiness meaning "to set apart and remove yourself from"...but the Jesus Model meaning to get in there and "get your hands dirty".  How can the reconciling love of Christ be manifested and worked out without us mixing it up and getting dirty with our neighbors in the world?  

John Paul Lederach speaks beautifully on this in his book Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians:

"Over past centuries, some Christians, including Mennonites, my home denomination, have chosen to embody atonement and holiness by the motto, "We are in the world but not of the world."  (see John 17:11,16)  We use this text to support notions of nonconformity.  We say this means that we choose not to live conformed to the pressures around us but rather by the standards and ethics of the kingdom of God (see also Romans 12:2).  

In practice, this has often been applied as removing ourselves from the world, pulling back, and isolating our communities from the world.  Because of our concern for holiness, we try to control the environment around us so that we will have less opportunity to fall and fail.  In our practice we have placed the emphasis on the "not of the world" portion of the motto.

Ironically, God through Jesus seems to have approached holiness and atonement with an emphasis on the "in the world" part of the motto.  The world is a messy, violent, and broken place.  God's model child, Jesus, was needed in the world to provide the distinctive direction.  This would be something different from the way people were acting and carrying on.  By God's example through Jesus, "to be in but not of the world," means that we move toward human troubles and choose to the live in the messiness.  That way the alternative of God's reconciling love can be made known.

From such a view, atonement and holiness are not about establishing proper ritual and merely maintaining individual purity.  Atonement and holiness are about entering relationships and starting dynamic social processes that help create the space for a new humanity to emerge.  We choose to journey toward and with those who have experienced the deepest division and separation because this is God's mission and Christ's example."  p.129-130 Reconcile John Paul Lederach  

Keep moving me toward, Lord!  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

try pie meets cookie cart

Try Pie is busy looking back at its first 3 semesters of existence and looking ahead on how to build on its vision, values, and strengths.  Some of the team drove to Minneapolis yesterday to tour a social enterprise that's been building and growing since 1988.  The Cookie Cart employs up to 200 teens, 15-18 years old, and they specialize in teaching students jobs skills, financial literacy, and excellent customer service.  We had a great tour led by DeMarquez, a sixteen year old who just graduated from the program, and Hayat and Cynthia, who were newer to the program and were learning tour-giving skills from DeMarquez.  We also had a lot of Q and A, and of course, we sampled their yummy cookies.  Baking bright futures!  Thanks, Cookie Cart, for your inspiration and dedication to teens! Check out their program here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

new relationship

My team at work is finishing up reading and discussing Reconcile: Conflict Transformation For Ordinary Christians by John Paul Lederach.  What a necessary book for me to read in a world so torn apart by conflict.  

Toward the end of the book, Ledrach references Ephesians 2:13-16, and talks about a new humanity through Christ.  

"In the life of Jesus, holiness is defined more than anything else by his persistent movement toward people, their pain, and the formation of a new relationship.  

In this text (Eph. 2: 13-16), Paul declares that through Christ, through a person who reaches out across lines of hostility, through his very flesh and person, enemies meet and are held together. Thus they form a new humanity, a new relationship.  What we find here is the most necessary part of the mission methodology: movement into relationship.

From the perspective of God's purpose, the example of Christ Jesus is clear.  It is not possible to pursue reconciliation except through people who risk the journey to relate across the social divides.  In this way they help make present the reconciling love of God.  In other words, through people who reach across the lines of hostility, a new relationship between enemies becomes possible."  

This passage speaks to and challenges my relational poverty.  To the degree that I stay apart from or move away from people I consider other or enemy, is the extent that I keep the reconciling love of God from doing a new thing with both of our lives.  Jesus, help me to risk on this journey of moving toward.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters

Reading this morning about the 220 Christians abducted in Syria. Praying that the Spirit of God will cover and carry each and every one of them and their family members with His strength, hope, and love today.  Praying for God to intervene in His supernatural and miraculous ways in the lives of persecuted Jesus followers and their persecutors around the world.   


Romans 8:35-39

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

prepare the way

Every time I've driven out West to see my brothers in Montana and Oregon, I've looked out the car window as we travel through the mountain passes and wondered how on earth any Native American or pioneer made it through the mountains and rough terrain on foot. While traveling 70 mph along well paved interstate, our headlights shining the way in the dark, and our vehicle creating a fairly sound enclosure of comfort, rest, and safety, I am quite certain I would have gotten lost and succumbed to cold, fatigue, hunger, injury, or a mountain lion had I been on foot with no road.    

My reading of Scripture today reminded me of those drives through the mountain passes out West. Orchard Hill is focusing on the last 27 chapters of Isaiah through Lent this year.  I have decided to spend time in those chapters as well, in order to align teachings at church, the Daily Scripture delivered in my email, and my own study and meditation time.  Today I read Isaiah 40.  I almost highlighted the whole thing.

I love the imagery in Isaiah 40:3-5.   Can you hear it? A voice calling in the wilderness preparing the way for the Lord.  God’s Word speaks of making a straight highway through the desert, about valleys being raised up and mountains and hills made low; the rough ground being made level and the rugged place a plain.  I picture a straight and flat paved road running straight through treacherous terrain…much like that drive along Interstate 90.   This is the way of the Lord…the road that allows sure footing, a clear and traversable path.   Verse 5 ends with: “the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it together. “ How awesome is that?  This level way through the wilderness, this straight path with dangers all around it, is a well-lit highway…lit by the glory of the Lord.  And not only will all people see it…we will see it together.  Somehow, that word together stands out as significant to me today.

Prior to these three verses are the opening verses 1 and 2 that speak of comfort and grace and peace and tenderness and mercy and forgiveness and abundance for a weary Jerusalem.   And right after speaking these hope-filled words in the opening two verses, the Bible talks about this highway, this way that is being prepared.  This way of grace and life and blessing and God’s glory. This way of Jesus.

Jesus, I desire to walk in your way.  You offer it to us.  It does not mean that we won’t experience bumps in the road, valleys and mountains, ditches and desert times.  We will, but they will not overtake us.  They will not consume us.  They will not cause us to get lost nor to fall and not get up.  We will find sure footing, strength, direction, and light on the way you have provided through these landscapes.  May we keep finding our way back to you if we fear we might succumb.  "In the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God!"