Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 4 Who is Really Well Off?  - The Beatitudes  (p. 115-122)

This section of Willard's writing reminds us that Jesus, through the Beatitudes, and other biblical passages, emphasizes that the Kingdom of God is readily available to all people, including individuals who tend to be disregarded and discarded in society.

"The Beatitudes serve to clarify Jesus' fundamental message: the free availability of God's rule and righteousness to all of humanity through reliance upon Jesus himself."  

"Thus by proclaiming blessed those who in the human order are thought hopeless, and by pronouncing woes over those human beings regarded as well off, Jesus opens the kingdom of the heavens to everyone."    

In Luke 4 :18-19, when Jesus opened and read the scroll, he read from Isaiah, and told the people that He was the anointed one to "proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to announce that captives are released, that the blind have their sight, that the oppressed are empowered, and that this is a time when the Lord's favors are open to people.

"Clearly this is the same type of list found in the Beatitudes of both Matthew and Luke.  It is a list of people humanly regarded as lost causes, but who yet, at the hand of Jesus, come to know the blessing of the kingdom of the heavens."

When John the Baptist was imprisoned, he sent one of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one who was to come.  Jesus responded, 'The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are revived, and the poor hear some real good news.'

"Note here the list of 'hopeless cases' that are blessed through the sufficiency of God to meet them in their appalling need.  The personal ministry of Jesus from his present kingdom brings them beatitude."

Many biblical writings "celebrate this theme of God's hand lifting up those cast down and casting down those lifted up in the human scheme.  The reigining of God over life is the good news of the whole Bible: 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" Isaiah 52:7

We simply cannot not pay attention to Jesus's proclamation and demonstration of making the 'firsts' last and the 'lasts' first throughout his life and teachings.  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

move toward the pain

We must run toward the pain in our communities. 

A few weeks ago, at a peaceful protest  against police brutality in Dallas, TX, a gunman opened fire killing 5 police officers and injuring 7 more.  As gunshots rang out, protest participants ran from the area, while police officers ran toward the gunfire.  

This image reminded me of a story regarding the Early Church:

"The Antonine Plague (165–180 AD), also called the Plague of Galen, was a pandemic now believed to be smallpox that was introduced to the Roman Empire by soldiers returning from Syria. Five million people died as it ran its course. In the following century, the Plague of Cyprian (251–266 AD) spread from Africa throughout the known world. It was transmitted person-to-person by physical contact and by touching or using clothing and items infected by the sick. Half of all people who encountered the disease died.
During each pandemic, government officials and the wealthy fled the cities for the countryside to escape contact with those who were infected. The Christian community remained behind, transforming themselves into a great force of caretakers.
On Easter Sunday in 260 AD, Bishop Dionysius of Corinth praised the efforts of the Christians, many of whom had died while caring for others. He said:
Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves, and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains.
The early Christians’ dedication to caring for their neighbors as themselves during times of plague and sickness, whether the sick were believers or not, showcased the integrity of their unique message of love for others. These Christ-like actions had great social impact and attracted outsiders to the faith." (by Kathy Baldock "Canyonwalker Connections")

Christ himself incarnated into the pain of society.  He was born and walked and lived and loved among the poor and the oppressed.  As His followers, we are called to move with Him toward our society's pain and problems.  The power of love demonstrated through presence, proximity, and powerlessness. As we live in relationship with Christ, we must ask ourselves how he is calling each of us to move toward the pain.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 4 Who is Really Well Off?  - The Beatitudes  (p. 106-114)

I pulled The Divine Conspiracy off my shelf after John Perkins' visit in February. More than ever, I'm considering the invitation to life in the Kingdom of God and training as a student of Jesus. I've invited my co-workers into the 10 chapters of The Divine Conspiracy over the course of 10 months of 2016.  This is my third time through the book; Dallas Willard has much wisdom for us related to life in the Kingdom of God.  

Jesus the Master Teacher

"The secret of the great teacher is to speak words, to foster experiences, that impact the active flow of the hearer's life.  That is what Jesus did by the way he taught.  He tied his teachings to concrete events that make up the hearers' lives.  He aimed his sayings at their hearts and habits as these were revealed in their daily lives.  

Now, Jesus not only taught in this manner; he also taught us, his students in the kingdom, to teach in the same way.   He taught about teaching in the kingdom of the heavens- using, of course, a parable.  'So every bible scholar who is trained in the kingdom of the heavens is like someone over a household that shows from his treasures things new and things old' (Matt. 13:52)  By showing to others the presence of the kingdom in the concrete details of our shared existence, we impact the lives and hearts of our hearers, not just their heads."  - Dallas Willard

I love how Jesus used real everyday situations and questions to challenge assumptions and worldviews.  He often compared and contrasted the kingdoms of this world vs. the Kingdom of God through pictures and stories.   He used everyday occurrences to point to the values and the ways of His Father's Kingdom as opposed to the values and the ways of this world.   We can look for everyday, concrete happenings to do the same.   

Sunday, July 17, 2016

a few more recommended messages and podcasts...

I watched Leonce B. Crump Jr.'s sermon from July 10 today.  Recommended for any white person who is trying to learn, seeking understanding.  This is a 45 minute sermon by this pastor of Renovation Church, Atlanta:

Watch a 5 part conversation at the Verge Network.  Really critical.  Part 1 Understanding the Problem  10 minutes  Part 2 The Illusion of Progress   6 minutes  Part 3 What is your Racial I.Q.?  36 minute panel  Part 4  Why colorblindness is toxic; a conversation with Propaganda 5 minutes  Part 5  Why we should stop using the term white guilt; conversation with Soong Chan Rah

Thursday, July 14, 2016

the role of Christ's Church in these days

Last Sunday, July 10, 2016, Andy Stanley and John Ortberg interrupted their sermon series to respond to the awful events of last week and to address Christ's call to His Church in the midst of these days. 

I'd also like to find and post a few sermons from leading black pastors.  Please comment and reference any that you have found to be impactful.

Andy Stanley interviews 2 black men for about an hour. Important conversation.

John Ortberg shares a short message, asks the congregation to pray in small huddles, and Condoleezza Rice closes in prayer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 4 Who is Really Well Off?  - The Beatitudes  (p. 97-106)

"The Beatitudes, in particular, are not teachings on how to be blessed.  They are not instructions to do anything.  They do not indicate conditions that are especially pleasing to God or good for human beings.  

No one is actually being told that they are better off for being poor, for mourning, for being persecuted, and so on, or that the conditions listed are recommended ways to well-being before God or man.  Nor are the Beatitudes indications of who will be on top 'after the revolution'.  They are explanations and illustrations, drawn from the immediate setting, of the present availability of the kingdom through personal relationship to Jesus.  They single out cases that provide proof that, in him, the rule of God from the heavens truly is available in life circumstances that are beyond all human hope."  -Dallas Willard  

gathering tomorrow for "The Stranger" documentary

Tomorrow, July 14, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Harvest Vineyard Church, 715 E. 4th St. Waterloo. 

CCDA Connect is showing "The Stranger", a 45 minute documentary highlighting biblical teaching related to immigrants, sharing compelling stories of immigrants who are also evangelical Christians, and addressing some common economic and political misconceptions, The Stranger seeks to mobilize evangelical Christians to respond to immigrants and to immigration policy in ways that are consistent with biblical principles.

Share with anyone whom you think might be interested!

Nurys Lopez, pastor from the Spanish-speaking church, La Cosecha, will be with us, and also Ann Grove who is an advocate and friend to many of our Burmese neighbors.