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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

the both and

Mourning the deaths of black lives and mourning the deaths of police officers are not mutually exclusive.  We can grieve the loss of each life along with grieving the fear and the hostility that exists between people groups.  We can honor the lives, families, and professions of both at the same time while working for justice. 

This afternoon, I went to the home of a friend who messaged me and asked me to come over to help her process an idea she has.  Ruby started by sharing the heavy burden she's had over this past week, and how she's been torn up, losing sleep, and so troubled by the events in our country over the past seven days. 

Through tears and passion, she shared a spiral of notes with a vision she's getting to organize a local event with the goal of bringing the community and law enforcement together to help the Cedar Valley demonstrate that we desire to know one another and live as good neighbors.  She wants officers to know that not everyone is against them.  She wants to show support and appreciate them.  She wants to bring the community and the police department together to meet one another, eat together, play together through games and activities, and to hear a few voices speak a vision of a unified community of individuals that are for one another. 

In the next breath, Ruby spoke about how afraid she is for her family.  Her husband is black, and she spoke about how sweet and loving he is, but how he is in such danger due to fear and assumptions.  She wants officers to know him  so that when he drives to work at 5:30 a.m. each morning, there's a friendly wave rather than suspicion.  She told me how she and her husband teach their children protocol for police interaction, but she still fears for them regardless of this. "We need to get to know one another, become familiar with one another."   

As I listened, the both/and was so clear.  Ruby was both for the lives and the work of law enforcement and for a day when she won't have to fear that her husband and children will be wrongly judged because of the color of their skin.  She even talked directly about not being an either/or but a both/and person.   

I too am thankful we have police officers in our towns and cities across our country. It would be terrible imagining our society without them. (except for on Union Rd. when I want to get home   I am thankful for the work they do, the danger they put themselves in daily, the difficulties they face, and the sacrifices they make to keep people from harm and to maintain a sense of safety and lawful order in our communities.  I have gone to events to support our police chief, I have loved cheering on Spencer, a police officer who comes to our neighborhood meetings and who used to be one of my youth group kids at church, and to see one of my past fifth grade students, Bryce, serve as an investigator.  We have many officers who go to our church.   They are individuals committed to faith, family, work, city, country.  I would mourn the loss of their lives if they would die in the line of duty or outside of duty.

At the same time, I can deeply grieve the loss of lives of black men, women, and children across our country through the centuries to today.  Lives cut short due to a whole number of tragedies and injustices, including but not limited to, being a victim of a shooting by a police officer.  

I can grieve the racist operating system that we developed when we packed black bodies in the bottom of ships to bring to our nation to enslave and then determined that they were only 3/5 a person.  This operating system has been internalized throughout our history and influences how we see and experience ourselves and our neighbors today.  

Our lives are lived out in individual relationships to be sure.  But I believe we do live them out as software within a hard drive that has always been broken.   I believe that in the complexity and confusion of our time, we really can be both/and people....honoring and loving black lives and police officers, grieving for black lives and police officers, and working with black, brown, and white lives, police officers and citizens, to rewire the hard drive.   

Sunday, July 10, 2016

a list of personal insights from a Christ follower about the days in which we're living

Today, I spent two hours washing the walls of an indoor porch I'm preparing to paint.  As I washed and worked, my mind was busy considering several blog posts I have within me regarding the days in which we're living.  I will outline a list here and spend some time over the next month expounding on them.  They are in no particular order.

1.   Mourning the deaths of black lives and mourning the deaths of police officers are not mutually exclusive.  We can grieve the loss of each life along with grieving the fear and the hostility that exists between people groups.  We can honor the lives, families, and professions of both at the same time while working for justice. 

2.  Just as the Dallas police officers ran toward the gunfire this past week, we must run toward the pain in our communities.  

3.  Prayer must become a primary strategy and practice.  "Apart from me you can do nothing." - Jesus

4.  Young white moms are waking up, learning, growing passionate, taking risks, and leading others.  This is not exclusively true, but I do observe a movement within this demographic. God began to move me away from a serving mindset into a deeper, incarnational vision when I was a young mom of preschoolers.  Not sure what exactly it is about this, but I'm paying attention.  

5.  Falling to the Center.  There's a lot of uncertainty and change taking place.  It may feel like things  are out of control and falling apart, but what if, in fact, this falling is taking us directly into the Deep toward the Center- Jesus?  I think this 1 minute 50 second video is a great picture of what's happening:

6.  We must learn history and learn from history.  We need to learn about American history from an African-American vantage point (as well as other minorities) if we are to understand what is happening today and why it's happening.  We must pay attention to and dialogue about patterns throughout history that will help us to recognize systems at play and will help us identify how the Church has tended to respond  throughout history so that we can move differently toward the future.  

7.  The traditional missional models of the white evangelical church will not be adequate for the future.  

8. Justice work without Jesus as center is a recipe for disaster.  It will always be a human power struggle unless we enter into the power of Jesus and the new beloved community promised in His power alone.  Jesus without justice work is also a recipe for disaster.  
9. "See, I am doing a new thing" Isaiah 43:19  God gave me this verse back in 2006 when I knew He was calling me differently.  Categories, boxes, polarization, dualistic mindsets are being challenged and deconstructed.  God wants to do a new thing through Jesus.  We can no longer think in terms of Jesus OR Justice, evangelism/discipleship or social justice.  The Good News of the Gospel is wholistic in every way.

10.  As followers of Jesus, we have to begin to reflect deeply about security and safety from the world's standpoint and from a Kingdom of God standpoint.  

11.  Abiding in Christ is necessary for the rejection and difficulty to be encountered on this way.  

12.  For me, this journey is leading me to discover life and freedom and a knowing that I cannot unlearn, unknow, or take back to a previous worldview or way of life.  I often think of the movie "The Matrix" when I consider this.   

Looking forward to unpacking these reflections in future posts-

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 3 What Jesus Knew: Our God-bathed World (pp. 91-95)

Jesus is the smartest man in the world

"Our commitment to Jesus can stand on no other foundation than a recognition that he is the one who knows the truth about our lives and our universe.  It is not possible to trust Jesus, or anyone else, in matters where we do not  believe him to be competent."

"And can we seriously imagine that Jesus could be Lord if he were not smart?  If he were divine, would he be dumb?  Or uninformed? Once you stop to think about it, how could he be what we take him to be in all other respects and not be the best informed and most intelligent person of all, the smartest person who ever lived?"

"At the literally mundane level, Jesus knew how to transform the molecular structure of water to make it wine.  That knowledge also allowed him to take a few pieces of bread and some little fish and feed thousands of people."

"He knew how to transform the tissues of the human body from sickness to health and from death to life.  He knew how to suspend gravity, interrupt weather patterns, and eliminate unfruitful trees without saw or ax."  

"In the ethical domain he brought an understanding of life that has influenced world thought more than any other....And of the greatest testimonies to his intelligence is surely that he knew how to enter physical death, actually to die, and then live on beyond death.  He seized death by the throat and defeated it.  Forget cryonics!  

"All these things show Jesus' cognitive and practical mastery of every phase of reality:  physical, moral, and spiritual.  He is Master only because he is Maestro.  'Jesus is Lord' can mean little in practice for anyone who has to hesitate before saying, 'Jesus is smart.'"  

"He is not just nice, he is brilliant.  He is the smartest man who ever lived.  He is now supervising the entire course of world history (Rev. 1:5) while simultaneously preparing the rest of the universe for our future role in it.  (John 14:2).  He always has the best information on everything and certainly also on the things that matter most in human life."  

Monday, July 4, 2016

some recommended messages

I spent over 16 hours over this 4th of July weekend painting and cleaning an apartment that we rent out.  Our last tenants just bought a house and moved out last week.  To help keep me company, I listened to the following messages while I worked.  All good, so I thought I'd share them as recommendations:

Churches should certainly spend some time teaching about personal faith and life.  I call these messages "Jesus and me" sermons.  A great "Jesus and me" series is Kyle Idleman's 3 part Cumulative Effect series.  I actually listened to all 3 messages 3 times while I worked.  So good.

Cumulative Effect Part 1

Cumulative Effect Part 2

Cumulative Effect Part 3

You might see more from me regarding the 52 day challenge mentioned in the parts 2 and 3.

Churches should also spend time teaching about corporate faith and life.  I call these messages "Jesus and we" sermons.  A "Jesus and me" Gospel alone is inadequate and makes our God and our theology so small.  We don't understand mission without a "Jesus and we" emphasis.  I listened to 2 great "Jesus and we"sermons yesterday in John Ortberg's latest series at Menlo Park:

Overcoming your Shadow Mission/The King

Overcoming your Shadow Mission/Esther 

And finally, before hitting Pandora to listen to music for awhile, I listened to one more sermon out of Community Christian Church.  I was curious how they would approach the subject of voting for president in their sermon:  "Choose your President"...the last part of their Decision 2016 series. Check it out to find out for yourself!

Choose your President